Neutraceuticals World – An Interview with Grow Green Industries Founder and CEO, Mareya Ibrahim

Mareya Ibrahim is “The Fit Foody,” hosting Fit Foody Fridays on San Diego’s Channel 6 news with bite-size health and wellness tips and a chef, writer, educator and award-winning inventor. She also is the founder and CEO of Grow Green Industries, a company dedicated to eco solutions for food safety and is the co-patent holder of a range of products for commercial and consumer applications, including Eat Cleaner, eatFresh and eatSafe. Eat Cleaner is the only consumer line of food wash and wipes that is lab proven effective in cleaning produce and extending shelf life, naturally.

The patented line of products has been featured on QVC and won the Disney iParenting Award for best new product in 2010 and the 2011 World’s Best Technologies Gold Prize. Ms. Ibrahim is a featured TV chef on ABC’s “Recipe Rehab,” the only competition-style network cooking show produced by Everyday Health. She is also the Clean Eating expert for and can be seen in more than 30 segments. Her back page column, “The Fit Foody,” appears in Edible Orange County Magazine. She is also the founder of the Cleaner Plate Club, a newsletter, blog and YouTube channel that shows families how to eat cleaner every day while protecting their plates and encourages everyone to “Think Before You Bite.”
By Sheldon Baker Health E-Insights: How dirty is the food we eat?
Ms. Ibrahim: That’s a loaded question! That said, potential contaminants are rampant. Forty-eight million Americans are impacted by food-related issues each year, with 125,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths from foodborne illnesses according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the FDA, leafy greens are the riskiest food to eat based on related food borne illnesses and recalls. Food travels an average of 1,500 miles before it reaches us and gets handled extensively. Let’s not forget, fresh produce grows in the ground. That said, this is not about a scare tactic; it’s about awareness. Like people using soap and hand sanitizer for their hands, we created a food safe cleanser to clean everything that comes into contact with edibles. We are all about eating as many fruits and vegetables as possible. Just do it carefully.
Health E-Insights: How did you decide to start Eat Cleaner?
Ms. Ibrahim: I started the company with my father, Dr. Shawki Ibrahim, after his recovery from cancer. He is an environmental scientist and I’m an 18-year veteran of the natural foods industry. We were very aware of the potential contaminants on our food, particularly fresh produce, and the lack of insurance consumers had in protecting their plates. After four independent lab studies, we determined that water is just not effective in addressing agricultural bacteria and pesticide residue, particularly if produce has been waxed. Also, most produce is touched by more than 20 sets of hands before we eat it, and it just gets a simple rinse with, usually, tap water. Rinsing with water is not enough. As a mom of two young children with a father whose immunity was lowered after his bout with cancer, I wanted to create a product that would put a simple, natural, effective, safe product into consumer’s hands. Over time, the brand has evolved into a real lifestyle brand, helping to educate people on how to eat cleaner, safer, longer lasting fresh food every day.
Health E-Insights: How did the television segment come about?
Ms. Ibrahim: I have been a featured guest on San Diego 6 news for a few years now, which evolved into my weekly Fit Foody Friday segments—sharing a tip on healthy eating or fitness in a bite size way. I was then connected to the former executive producer and co-creator of The Biggest Loser who is the producer of ‘Recipe Rehab.’ They share the same vision of educating families on eating cleaner foods; and with my experience on air, it was a natural fit. Health E-Insights: What would I find in your refrigerator right now? Ms. Ibrahim: Non-fat coconut milk, soy chorizo, sliced turkey breast, grilled chicken breast pre-cooked for salads, organic ketchup and Dijon mustard, 10 different kinds of hot sauce, sunflower butter, Ezekiel sprouted grain bread and tortillas and tons of cut-up fresh produce—carrots, cuke, arugula, romaine lettuce, brussels sprouts, celery, seasonal berries, cantaloupe and nopales.
Health E-Insights: If you were a type of food, what type of food would you be?
Ms. Ibrahim: Arugula. An exotic name but an approachable, versatile, vibrant green, packed with a lot of flavor and a spicy edge. Health E-Insights: What can you tell me about your plans for growth or new products? Ms. Ibrahim: In 2012, we introduced two new products for commercial food manufacturers and processors: eatSafe, a food grade wash and eatFresh, an all-natural additive that helps extend shelf life. In 2013, we will introduce a new eatCleaner powder wash product for consumers that is biodegradable and allows you to wash a sink-full of produce easily. eatCleaner is the only wash formulated to clean and extend produce shelf life naturally, so consumers can ‘pre-wash’ their produce, making it more convenient to eat. Half the reason why people throw produce away is that it goes bad too quickly, leading to environmental issues and money down the drain. We want to encourage more produce consumption with eatCleaner. I will also be doing more TV programs like ‘Recipe Rehab,’ showing families that ‘eating cleaner’ is not a sacrifice—you can enjoy all your favorites without compromise. I’m also working on a book to help families eat cleaner every day.
Health E-Insights: Which is most important to your organization—mission, core values or vision?
Ms. Ibrahim: They are all important but we believe a mission or vision built without core values is a sand castle. At the core, we are passionate foodies, parents, grandparents, scientists and earth-loving people who want to help others enjoy cleaner, safer food for better health, without hurting the environment. Everything we support and give back to connects with children, the environment and sustainable agriculture.
Health E-Insights: What has been your biggest accomplishment so far?
Ms. Ibrahim: So many things! But I’m really proud of the fact we won the World’s Best Technologies Gold Prize in 2011, beating out more than 290 other companies from around the world. I’m also very proud to be a featured chef on ABC’s ‘Recipe Rehab.’ Being able to take my adoration for a healthy lifestyle to network TV is pretty darn cool—and my kids think it’s pretty awesome, too.
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