Tuesday, October 26, 2010

UNDERSTANDING TERMS ON A LABEL ISN'T GOOD ENOUGH ANYMORE



Organic
All Natural

Those terms on a label seem pretty clear, right? Don't be too sure.

Over the years, struggling to understand ingredient lists, reading what I can on how things are processed, whether or not something starts natural and remains so after processing, how products earn their "organic" labels, so on and so forth, I've learned that just being able to read a label and know what the ingredients are isn't good enough anymore.

MY SIMPLE STEPS FOR UNDERSTANDING INGREDIENTS:

No purchase is life or death, unless we are talking medicine, which we aren't. So before you make a purchase you should read the label and then:

1. Find out what the ingredient is (i.e. formaldehyde in shampoo). Formaldehyde is an organic compound with the formula CH2O...
2. Where does it come from? Formaldehyde is a by-product of combustion from gas. Formaldehyde is produced industrially by the catalytic oxidation of methanol...
3. What is the role of this ingredient in the shampoo I'd like to buy? Preservative.
4. Are there any health concerns associated with this ingredient? Carcinogen. There is scientific evidence that formaldehyde causes nasopharyngeal cancer in humans...

Searching out information on formaldehyde might seem a daunting task but actually that was the easy part. Now try looking into the words "All Natural" and/or "Organic." Trying to understand those two can be exhausting. After all, most natural ingredients are no longer "natural" once they are processed for use and organic... that term deserves even more scrutiny.

I recently came across a company that claimed to sell organic soy candles. I immediately remembered an article I'd read stating more than 90% of soy beans are genetically modified. The wheels in my head turned and I wondered, how can something be organic if it is GMO? Isn't that against "organic" labeling standards? This candle company didn't say they were using non-GMO soy wax. Maybe the producer of these organic soy candles assumed consumers knew that if it is organic then it isn't GMO? Hmmm... So I did a little search and it turns out that not only is there no such thing as non-GMO soy wax to be sold in the U.S. there aren't organic soy candles either. Turns out, the processing required to turn soy into a wax renders it NOT ORGANIC (yup, chemicals are involved).

I had to wonder then, why are so many people selling either "organic" soy candles or "non-GMO" soy candles. Surely I must be missing something. I understand the part where you can't process organic soy beans into wax without rendering them non-organic but what about non GMO soy wax. Try googling and you will get dozens of companies that sell non GMO soy wax candles and yet several candle supply sites I've visited claim there is no availability of non GMO soy wax on the market yet. Being the skeptic that I am, I assumed those suppliers just aren't willing to pay the price for this non GMO soy wax because, after all, why would people misrepresent their product. So I searched and searched and searched for one single company that sold non genetically modified soy wax to candle makers and I haven't found a single one. I did find these tid bits of information though:

"Soy refineries that have an excess of soybeans produce soy wax by “cracking”, hulling, flaking and extracting the oil from the beans using the solvent hexane. It is not by most natural food standards a natural or pure product because it contains synthetic chemical solvents. No European countries bother making wax out of tiny soybeans. Soy refiners can’t certify that their wax is “non-GMO.” The DNA of the soybeans has been modified with DNA from other organisms. Genetically modifying the seeds make the plants more resistant to weed killers. We worry about the people spraying the chemicals. Grains, beans and oils that are GMO either have been or will soon be banned in European Union countries. Soy wax will never be certified organic because it is chemically distilled and then hydrogenated which also introduces synthetic chemicals. Soy is a commercial row crop that does not encourage biodiversity or sequester carbon. All the tillage is not sustainable for the soil." SOURCE OF QUOTE

Question:
Are there any organic or non-GMO soy waxes?

Answer:
The short answer is no. Only a very small percentage of the total US production of soy wax is organic. About 98% of the soybean harvest has been either genetically modified (GMO) or non-GMO mixed in with GMO soybeans. All of the soy wax in the US is made by just four companies, and none of them currently process organic soy oil into candle wax at this time.
We will carry certifiably organic non-GMO soy wax if and when it becomes available.
SOURCE OF QUOTE

FACT
Are soybeans used to make soybean wax GMO-free (GMO = Genetically-modified organism)? Probably not. According to the United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service (USDA-NASS), 91% of the soybeans planted in 2009 and 93% of the soybeans planted in 2010 were resistant to herbicides or insects or both through biotechnology. (Reference: Acreage 6-30-2010, from http://www.nass.usda.gov )


So I now know that soy wax is not pure and natural (thanks to that chemical processing) and it is questionable as to whether or not the wax is non-GMO (I'm still looking for those suppliers) which means it certainly fails miserably in the organic category. Conclusion? Why would a company label something organic or natural when it isn't? There are only two reasons:

ONE: DELIBERATE MISUSE OF A LABEL TO MAKE A SALE
All mislabeling is deliberate if the producer of such product knows what they are doing is wrong. The moment you call your product something that it isn't or say it has or does something that it doesn't, you are consciously mislabeling.

Here is one obvious "wrong" that companies often perpetrate that consumers should be getting wise to.

ORGANIC: If a product contains one organic ingredient and the label reads "organic" shampoo, lotions, lipstick, etc... across the front, that is deliberate mislabeling. One organic ingredient doesn't make a product organic but one non-organic ingredient does render a 99% organic product not organic.

One direct misuse of the word "organic" that comes to mind is on a honey label. There is no such thing as organic honey, something we covered in my beekeeping course at the U of M. Bees travel far and wide (up to 2 miles) to forage for nectar and pollen. We can't control where our bees choose to venture. Sure, we can treat honeybee diseases naturally but they still pick up pesticide laden pollen on their legs and bring it back to the hive. I like this article on honey labeling gone wrong CLICK HERE.

"Like other foods from free-roaming, wild creatures, it is difficult -- and in some places impossible -- to assure that honey bees have not come in contact with prohibited substances, like pesticides," said Chuck Benbrook, chief scientist for the Organic Center, a national advocacy group for the research and promotion of organic food.

Recent U.S. Department of Agriculture research, he said, shows that the average hive contains traces of five or more pesticide residues.


As for that "natural" honey. All honey should be natural. It comes straight off the frames from the hive. Labeling it "natural" is just... funny, and... ALL beekeepers know there isn't such a thing as "organic" honey.

TWO: MISLABELING OUT OF IGNORANCE

ALL NATURAL:. I used to believe that labeling something all natural when only natural ingredients were used was honest labeling but the more I've researched the less I believe this to be true. As manufacturers of a product it is our responsibility to know where our ingredients come from and how they were processed. Consumers assume we do this type of homework. I know I use to believe companies like Johnson & Johnson, Gillette, Procter & Gamble, etc... did this type of research so why should small body product companies be held to a lesser standard? The problem is, we can do extensive research into the ingredient we are buying (i.e. oils, colorants, fragrances, etc...) but our research will only be as good as our suppliers allow it to be. Just because I read about essential oils, what parts of a plant they are extracted from and what that process entails doesn't mean that my supplier carries that pure type of essential oil. So how honest we are really depends on the knowledge we've acquired through research and also how honest our suppliers are. If I label something as phthalate free only to learn that my supplier was dishonest about their essential oils being phthalate free, am I to blame for this mislabeling? No. If I use an essential oil that I know for a fact is ALWAYS solvent extracted (using chemicals like petroleum ether, methanol, ethanol or hexana) am I responsible for lying on the label when I call it "All Natural?" Absolutely!

The case of non-GMO soy wax is a good example of possible honest labeling by a company when the supplier may not be forth coming. It is quite possible that some of these candle companies have purchased what they believe to be non-GMO soy wax (they've trusted their supplier). We've read that 93% of soybeans in the U.S. are GMO which implies that 7% of soybeans are not. We could dig deeper and find out how much of the worlds soybean crops are actually processed into wax but that still doesn't tell us if that non-GMO soy wax is truly non-GMO. Only the supplier knows that or should know.

What does it all mean? Those of us that create body products for sale or personal use are at the mercy of the companies we buy our ingredients from so I would say it is essential to develop a good relationship with your supplier. Individuals who buy their products off the shelf at the supermarket or from an online small business shop are at the mercy of their own knowledge. Sadly, this doesn't amount to much in a world full of greed, manipulation and shady labeling practices. As consumers we have to put some faith in those we buy from and also do a little research of our own because there isn't a higher power or Federal Agency that is staffed well enough to oversee and enforce all the regulations. We aren't going to see GMO on the label but if we see non-GMO on the label, we can almost assume the counter part of the product we are buying has GMO ingredients (Corn anyone???).

If after reading this post you have no idea what I am babbling about. Let me just say this... learning about GMO's this past month has me miffed and I'm on a mini crusade to help people understand the importance of truth in labeling.

Now I will close as I am famished and want to eat my salad that I've been craving. The one I'm hoping is truly ORGANIC like the label says (BTW/beware of organic food you find on the natural food store that comes from China... it isn't organic). Grrrrr!

Non GMO Shopping Guide
Essential Oils:Premium Quality

Saturday, October 16, 2010

DO YOU WANNA KNOW ME?

I love being tagged and tagging people for these self-revealing posts. Since so many of us have gotten to know each other solely through our blogs it is always nice to share a little about yourself and read a little about others.

So here is a bit about me (thanks to the tag I received from Nakin Soap)

1. What is your biggest pet peeve?
Hypocrisy: saying one thing and doing another. We see it everyday. Politicians are such hypocrites, business people are hypocrites, but it is slightly more annoying when friends practice hypocrisy but only because we have come to expect it from business people and politicians. My favorite hypocrites are celebrities. You know... those environmentalist movie stars that live in 20 million dollar homes and fly around the globe preaching to the "little" people about how we can live more environmentally friendly lives. LOL! Now you know my pet peeve!

2. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Honestly, after much travel, I would love stay right here in Minnesota. I love my state, I think it is beautiful, I would prefer a different city with much more land but I definitely want to stay here. Disclaimer: I reserve the right to change my mind on that one since I may visit England someday and prefer to live there. LOL!

3. Have you ever been searched by the cops? Security guards, yes... cops, No. BTW/I think being searched is very humiliating but I'm opting for the body search over those airport scanners they are using now.

4. What is the one thing on your mind right now?
My kids.

5. Favorite song right now.
Closer to Fine by the Indigo Girls. It has been my favorite song since 1991. What can I say... it speaks to me :)

Closer To Fine on You Tube

6. What talent do you wish you had?
I wish I could tell stories fluidly the way my grandfather did. Not write them... actually tell them.

7. Favorite drink.
Lime water.

8. In one word, how would you describe yourself.
Sagittarius. That is all one would really need to know to understand me :)

Now I will pass this tag on to some of my blogging buddies. Please don't feel like you have to do this, it is just for fun and if you don't have the time or inclination, that is ok too.

Amy at Great Cake Soapworks

Teresa at Homestead Notes

Carrie at Under the Willow Gifts

Jennifer at Jenora Soaps

Thursday, October 14, 2010

NOPE, THOSE AREN'T POTATOS

I've been wanting to make this apple butter for a while now but I tend to avoid things if I sense I may be risking failure, especially when it comes to food :( Well, I went apple picking with the intention of using some of the apples for this very purpose and it had already been over a week since we went apple picking so I figured it was time to give this yummy sounding recipe a try.

I chose the title for this post after my kids kept asking me why I had so many potatos in the slow cooker. LOL!



I'm sharing the recipe here because it turned out wonderful with very little effort. Just threw all of the ingredients into the slow cooker and although it said it would be done 10 hours later it was done inv7 hours. (my apples were small, not medium).

We blend ours with cream cheese and put it on a toasted english muffin in the morning. Yum! Yum! Yum!

12 medium cooking apples
1 1/2 cups packed light or dark brown sugar
1/2 cup apple juice
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves

1. Mix all ingredients in 5-6 qt slow cooker
2. Cover and cook on low heat setting 8 - 10 hrs or until apples are very tender (in my case it was 7 hours)
3. Mash apples with potato masher or large fork.
4. Cook uncovered on low heat setting 1-2 hours, stirring occasionally, until mixture is very thick. Cool about 2 hours.
5. Spoon apple butter into container. Cover and store in refrigerator up to 3 weeks.

Thank you Betty Crocker :)

CORPORATE INTERESTS = VOMIT IN MY MOUTH

I read this today and I must admit, I'm less and less surprised by this garbage. When is there going to be a turning point? Like I've said a million times before, always read behind the research. Just because it says "scientist so and so said" doesn't make it valid.

According to an article in the New York Times, the mystery of Colony Collapse Disorder has been solved! The part that bothers me the most about this is how many people will actually believe it. When people believes lies they behave accordingly. This article puts honeybees at more risk.


The New York Times recently declared the case of Colony Collapse Disorder, the great bee die-off, "solved." But the reporting hyped the science and left out important conflicts involving the lead scientist.



many scientists believe that a novel class of pesticides called neonicotinoids -- which are insect neurotoxins -- has played a major role in CCD worldwide. An Italian entomologist at the University of Padua, Vincenzo Girolami, has research currently undergoing peer review showing that bees can be exposed to lethal levels of these pesticides through the use of seeding machines that sow neonicotinoid-coated seeds. These devices throw up a toxic cloud of pesticide as they work: bees fly through the cloud and either die or take the pesticide back to the hive. Once inside, even at low doses, it can cause disorientation or, as Girolami calls it, "intoxication" of whole hives.

The maker of this pesticide is Bayer CropScience. What does a corporation do when it discovers it may have developed and marketed a dangerous and potentially devastating product? Here in America, you confuse, you obfuscate, and you buy off scientists.


READ FULL ARTICLE HERE

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

NATURAL COLORANT FOLLOW UP

Now that I'm back to blogging I will also be back to posting about natural colorants in soapmaking. To start off I wanted to do a follow up on the natural colorants I already covered. I didn't think this was very important but recently I discovered that some soapmakers are actually claiming to have used natural colorants and are saying they don't work well or if they do work, they don't last. Since I've been using the natural colorants for years (some longer than others and some not at all) I thought a follow up on their success or lack there of as a natural colorant in soap was in order.

Alkanet Root: Ambra asked me how this colorant aged and so this picture is for her :) I blogged about this colorant in July. It ages well! The picture is from today. BTW/I hated this soap. The colorant was great but the EO combo I used ended up making the soap smell like coca cola. I had several people sniff it and all had the same response... "COKE."

Yuck! Who would want to use a bar of soap that smells like coke? :(



Honey: this bar of soap is more than a year old. It was a honey oatmeal soap. Honey holds as a colorant. I think it faded slightly but only SLIGHTLY! I do think you have less control with honey as a tan color than you do with hibiscus.



Parsley: I do not have this soap to reference but I will say this...I find parsley to be kind of tricky. I've had it last a long time to not lasting at all. I'm thinking it definitely depends on the fragrance used. I've used parsley in recipes that were the exact same aside from the fragrance. It seems recipes with EO faded the fastest and recipes with synthetic fragrances lasted the longest.

Hibsicus: You get various shades of tan depending on how much hibiscus you use so I've used two soaps here for reference. The round soap is the darkest because I used twice as much hibiscus. This soap was made back in May 2010 and the picture is from today. The lighter tan soap was made in early spring 2010 and as you can see, the color is still holding very well, hardly any fading. I used only half as much hibiscus in the lighter soap as I did in the darker soap. This colorant does very well over time!



I apologize for picture quality. I took these with my cell phone. That is my new thing, to blog with the cell phone. LOL!

Jennifer Young from Jenora Soaps was very generous to share some of her own natural colorant experiments with me. Here are her comments:

Can I add from my experimenting - Annatto lasts. Nettle seems to be lasting. Goat milk tan lasts. Alkanet lasts (I agree with you). Coffee, cocoa & cinnamon last. Pink Clay and Green Clay last. Carrot Tissue Oil produced the most beautiful yellow for me that DID NOT last - it turned very faint. Spirulina does not last. So far that is about it! Glad you are back! xo Jen

Saturday, October 9, 2010

GIFT BAGS ARE READY... HOLIDAY ORDERS ALREADY COMING!

The soap pixie is now offering handmade burlap gift bags (made by me of course). The bags contain an aromatherapy soy candle with matching scented soap. I finished up a bulk order of 20 gift bags recently and they all went over very well. The holiday orders are pouring in already and I'm very excited. Lots of bags, soap and candles to make.

Here is the small pic I took of my large order, as I was putting it together.



I apologize to those who keep looking at the website and seeing nothing. I must admit, I haven't devoted the time to the site like I should have but I am working on it. If you want to order anything just shoot me an email :)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A BOOK SUGGESTION FOR THE EMOTIONAL BEEKEEPER



In my opinion, and this will probably rub some beeks the wrong way, I believe there are two kinds of beekeepers; those that have an emotional connection with their honeybees and those that don't. I'm not using this post to judge, I'm just stating what I believe is the obvious.

I was reading then participating in a discussion on the beesource forum where the topic posted was "kill off your bees/colony" and the poster wanted to know how to kill off their hive instead of trying to overwinter them. The discussion that resulted came down to those who are against killing off bees and those who are either proponents of killing or don't find anything wrong with it. I think anyone who reads my blog would know where I stand on the subject of killing ones own bees.

So... I am reading this book written by William Longgood and I happen to come upon the chapter in which he talks about this type of beekeeping just days after debating the kill or not kill topic on the beesource. At one point he is quoted saying "I faced a dilemma common to people who try to manage nature, when human values conflict with nature's unsentimental imperatives. That is the part of beekeeping that I dislike and often it gets in the way. Is it more merciful to kill outright or to let creatures perish slowly and possibly painfully through want of their own kind and their own elementary biological needs? The manager becomes an arbiter of life and death. I was forced to confront a decision that was distasteful to me." As I suspected. the author doesn't disappoint, he chooses the emotional over the logical.

I use the word "logical" loosely. Killing off your own bees can be logical if you see beekeeping as pure business and nothing else but if you have any emotional connection to your bees at all you wouldn't think of killing them as logical at all. Logic isn't something an emotional beekeeper can make peace with, at least not right away. People keep bees for various reasons, some do it for the honey, others for the beeswax, and quite a few people do it out of pure fascination with bees. If you are fascinated at all by the life cycle of bees and you derive more pleasure from watching them work together as a colony than you would from extracting honey, then you would never take the "logical" approach of killing them off because it doesn't make for good nighttime sleeping.

There is an intolerance amongst beekeepers as there is with people in most aspects of life. I'll be the first to admit, I don't want to make nice with the commercial beekeeper who lit his hive on fire just because they didn't give him any honey, actually, I'd prefer never to meet such a person and I'm sure the feeling would be mutual... he wouldn't want to make nice with someone who mourns the death of a single bee. But... the point of this post isn't to slag off those who have a different beekeeping style than I do, it is purely a book review and plug.

The "Queen Must Die" is the best beekeeping book I've read thus far. William Longgood has taken the logical parts of beekeeping and exposed its emotional side. He has dissected every aspect of the hobby/business and his heart is open in every word he uses to describe these beautiful insects. As an emotional beekeeper, it is nice to see someone put into words what is so hard to convey to those who don't keep bees or those who don't care if they live or die. Plus the fact that you walk away from this book with the sense that humans could learn a thing or two from bees in how we function as a society. Longgood covers a lot of ground in this book so I recommend putting it on your reading list if you aren't the one burning your hives in the fall ;)

Bees are more than a hobby; they are a life study, in many respects a mirror of our own society." ~William Longgood

Sunday, October 3, 2010