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A set of colorful Brix meter ads is running on Real Food Media family of blogs. The blogs touch on many aspects of food safety and quality that may interest fans of NaturalCheck. We encourage you to visit them.

The ads were produced by Sandrine Hahn’s Visual Communication. Sandrine also runs a non-profit called Nourishing our Children promoting healthy eating and healthy food systems for children and just about everybody. Check it out!

Water is important to us all!

Water is important to us all!

Limp Rules on Toxins and Safety, an article in the New York Times, tells a story about a culture that takes more risks than many of us care to take. If you are in the cultural minority when it comes to concern about safety, then you need tools to look out for yourself and your family when government and other institutions are not providing them. Knowledge is one – just look at the change in plastics since BPA studies were published. Working to strengthen laws and regulations by supporting your favorite advocacy group is another. Easy, affordable testing is a third. In that spirit, NaturalCheck will issue a new set of drinking water test kits for use at home by Earth Day. Please stay tuned…we hope you like them.

Luscious red strawberries sitting at a farm stand in Towson on Thursday. Asked for a taste. Man said, “Ask the manager?!” What was that about? So, we asked the manager. “Ok to try one,” he said. How was it? Bland as can be. Tossed it on my Brix meter and found a level of 7. This is one notch above poor. Why’d it look so good, then? Guess looks can be deceiving. Needless to say, we did not buy the strawberries.

Walked the rest of the market with a friend. She wanted to see how a Brix meter works. Found some average raspberries, Brix=10. We couldn’t figure why the produce would be so middling right in the middle of the summer. Was it all the rain? Was it the quality of the soil? Need to talk some more with the growers, but also don’t want to pressure anybody when other customers are waiting.

My friend is a nutritionist.
She’s thinking of adding a class on Brix and better nutrition for her clients. She needs some new comparison numbers for kale and wheat grass and other things people are juicing. Do you have any Brix comparisons that are not on the Reams chart to share? Please post a comment if you do! Would be good to share the results.

Did you know you can keep up with NaturalCheck and add your voice to the conversation? Lots of new options are available:

1. NaturalCheck is on Facebook.
2. Twitter: add to your Follow list.
3. Blog: you can make comments to blog entries on this News page.
4. RSS: click on the RSS button on this page and add NaturalCheck to your personal news page.

Choose the ones that are right for you, and please stay in touch. More and more, ideas are flowing between companies and their customers. We’d love to hear from you!

15! That’s the great BRIX level of garden peas found at the farmers’ market at Whole Foods in Mt. Washington, MD last Wednesday. You’ll find them there next week, too, at the Pond View Farm stand. Ask for Leo and Sandi Hartlaub. There was lots going on at this market, including a chef cook-off, so didn’t get a chance to ask what the Hartlaub’s do to get such outstanding results. That will have to wait for the next visit.

For me, BRIX is an even better measure for veggies than for fruit. I confess – I am an urbanite and use BRIX as my training wheels. Since I tend to cook veggies like peas, I am not so familiar with their flavor when they are raw. Maybe some day, but for now a 15 = buy them fast!

On a quest for the best strawberry, I took my BRIX meter to my local farmers’ market. What’s a BRIX meter? It’s a device that measures sugars and other nutrients in a few drops of juice. It looks like a little telescope. When you look through the eyepiece, it tells you the quality of your food on a scale of 0 to 32.

I had no idea how the farmers would respond to my request to test their strawberries. So, I promised to buy the ones with the highest BRIX! The samples were already there for tasting.  I just wanted folks to know what I was doing. After all, it might look a little weird to bite a strawberry in half then rub a little juice onto the BRIX meter, which is exactly what I did!

This week, the “BRIX BLUE RIBBON” award goes to Three Springs Fruit Farm! Three Springs has stands at farmers’ markets in MD, PA, and VA. Their berries had the highest score of the day with a solid 10. Better than the 6 logged by another farm stand. A 10 is average for strawberries, but high enough that the fruit was sweet and palatable. I am guessing that as summer progresses, the numbers will rise. Ben Wenk of Three Springs tells me he achieves better berries through the quality of his soil and by testing three varieties to see which grow better. I should have told him that at NaturalCheck, we love testing, too.

Join the quest for the best produce! Email us at or comment here with the best BRIX you can find. Haven’t tried a BRIX meter yet? No problem. NaturalCheck has two varieties for you to choose from.

Wouldn’t it be great to know where to find the best produce? A few volunteers in the same town could post results online for thousands to share. What do you think?

Examples of tests with negative results

Examples of tests with negative results

Six more samples have been tested. Results for betalactam antibiotics were negative for five and indeterminate for a sixth:
NEGATIVE – Earth’s Best Organics
NEGATIVE – Nestle Good Start Supreme with DHA & ARA
NEGATIVE – Similac Advance with Iron (with Early Shield)
NEGATIVE – Similac NeoSure (liquid)
INDETERMINATE – Similac NeoSure (powder)
NEGATIVE – Wal-Mart Parent’s Choice with Iron

The indeterminate result may be caused by an ingredient in the formula that blocked the test. NaturalCheck rapid tests for milk have a control line that shows if the test is working. The line did not appear for this sample. We anticipated 90% plus performance with baby formula since there are many difference recipes, some with ingredients like cane sugar and corn syrup that are not found in milk. So far, 14 out of 15 samples produced clear results, so the rate has been 93%.

We are seeking a number of other brands for testing. Please share details of the project with friends and relatives. A list of samples needed is in the announcement below.

Many thanks to volunteers who have helped bring the project this far!

Nine samples have been tested so far. The results are encouraging as all nine tested negative for the presence of betalactam antibiotics.

NaturalCheck is still seeking a number of brands so please consider sharing details of the project with others in your community. A list of samples needed is in the project announcement below.

NEGATIVE – BJ’s with Lipids
NEGATIVE – Earth’s Best Organics with Iron
NEGATIVE – Enfamil Gentlease
NEGATIVE – Enfamil Nutramigen LIPIL (liquid)
NEGATIVE – Kroger Organic Milk-based Infant Formula (Private Selection)
NEGATIVE – Nature’s One, Baby’s Only Organic
NEGATIVE – O Organics manufactured for VONS
NEGATIVE – Safeway, O Organic Milk-based Infant Formula with Iron
NEGATIVE – Similac sensitive (lactose free).

According to the article, “Food Problems Elude Private Inspectors” (NYT, March 6, 2009), “An examination of the largest food poisoning outbreaks in recent years — in products as varied as spinach, pet food, and a children’s snack, Veggie Booty — show that auditors failed to detect problems at plants whose contaminated products later sickened consumers.” The article adds that the F.D.A. “has proposed a voluntary certification program that would toughen audit standards and alert federal authorities of problems — an idea that has met stiff resistance from the food industry.” The full text of the article is available here.

NaturalCheck is looking for 20 samples of milk-based baby formula to test for the presence of antibiotics. Testing is free. We just ask you to cover the cost of shipping.

Want to be notified when all test results are available? Please sign up for News and Updates.

Email us at if you would like to submit a sample for testing. Please first check the list below to make sure that your brand has not already been VOLUNTEERED or TESTED. We’ll send you details on how and where to ship.

Why are we asking for volunteers? There are many brands and it would be difficult to acquire them all without the help of people across the country.

Why are we testing? Scientists are concerned that antibiotics in milk could cause bacteria resistant to the same antibiotics used to treat people. If people are exposed to these bacteria, effective treatments would be harder for doctors to find.

Did we miss any brands? Please let us know! We’ll add them to the list.

Thanks for considering being part of this project!

List of Baby Formula Brands

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