Friday, October 29, 2010

"Is the Pink Ribbon a Bad Idea? Maybe"

There is a story on the Rodale News website that complements the post here on Wednesday, which discussed the connection between environmental factors and breast cancer.

Rodale interviewed sociologist Gayle Sulik, who, in her new book, "examines how all those pink ribbon marketing campaigns associated with breast cancer may be doing more harm than good."

Sulik makes many interesting points that, I think, need addressing. Click here to read the entire interview, but here's one of Sulik's beliefs:

"Right now, the biggest area that needs to be addressed is the environmental links to breast cancer. There's already a lot of focus on behaviors that influence risk factors—eat right, exercise, limit alcohol intake—but only 30 percent of all breast cancer cases are found in people who have these known risk factors. So, for 70 percent of the cases, we don't know what causes it. That creates this false impression that by doing certain things, you'll prevent breast cancer. But in 70 percent of cases, there's a lot of evidence that the environment is having a lot of influence."

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Why Does Colored Plastic Wrap Exist?

I just came across a product that, I believe, has no reason to exist. I understand the concepts of market share, shelf space and brand recognition, but what legitimate purpose does colored plastic wrap serve?

I have to do a little research, but my guess is that the colors derive from petroleum-based colorants.
Isn't it logical to think that the synthetics in the colors eventually find their way into our water supply after breaking down in landfills?

These colored wraps remind me of the more popular printed paper towels I wrote about last year:

"Can someone give one good reason why we need petroleum-based dyes on paper towels? Talk about waste for no reason! If we are relying on printed paper towels for kitchen beautification, we have larger interior design issues. One national brand’s web site advertises that 'with a whole range of designer prints, cleaning is now stylish.' Whatever."

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Breast Cancer-Synthetics Connection Further Revealed

Earlier this month, the Breast Cancer Fund, which works to “identify and eliminate the environmental causes of breast cancer,” released a report entitled “State of the Evidence: The Connection Between Breast Cancer and the Environment.”

Its message is right in line with a lecture I attended last year at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and with what the President’s Cancer Panel reported in May. Here’s the lead paragraph from the Fund’s press release announcing the study:

"A report released today by the Breast Cancer Fund presents a comprehensive summary of the scientific data on the environmental causes of breast cancer. The report catalogues the growing evidence linking breast cancer to, among other factors, synthetic hormones in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and meat; pesticides in food; solvents in household cleaning products; BPA in food containers; flame retardants in furniture; and radiation from medical treatments."
Sure, there are unavoidable genetic issues involved in cancer, but more and more evidence is linking the unfathomable spike in cancer rates since World War II to the toxins mentioned above.
"The report states that a woman’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is 1 in 8—representing a dramatic increase since the 1930s, when the first reliable cancer incidence data were established. Between 1973 and 1998 alone, breast cancer incidence rates in the United States increased by more than 40 percent. Strikingly, the increasing incidence of breast cancer since the 1930s parallels the proliferation of synthetic chemicals. Today, approximately 85,000 synthetic chemicals are registered for use in the United States, more than 90 percent of which have never been tested for their effects on human health."
I’ll discuss the study in more detail in upcoming posts, but click here to read the report.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

One Mother's Opinion of "Ice Cream" Trucks

A friend e-mailed me the following in response to yesterday's post.
"I couldn't agree with you more regarding the 'ice cream' trucks. They shouldn't actually be allowed to call them that. They should call them 'cancer trucks' or 'crap on wheels.'

"What makes me just as crazy as what they serve is where they are allowed to serve it. There was an 'ice cream'
truck and 'frozen Italian ices' cart parked in front of my son's school every day from spring through summer. Both served to torture the children and to infuriate some parents.

"The pathetic truth amounted to the fact that they were goldmines. Both sold garbage to kids whose parents were either too uneducated to know better or too lazy to care about their health and the future of their children. Very sad indeed."

Monday, October 25, 2010

Of Generational Knowledge and "Strawberry" Sundaes

I couldn’t make this up. (Actually, I could, but I didn’t.)

This spring I wrote about an “ice cream” truck that parks in front of my apartment building. It drives me crazy to see innocent kids eating the stuff. I mutter to myself all the things I am dying to say out loud, but never do.

Another mumbling bout occurred this weekend when a family (grandfather, father, mother, two kids) was sitting on the stoop of my building. The kids were eating “strawberry” sundaes.

Just as I was thinking, “I can’t believe they are letting the kids eat that,” the grandfather (about 65) stole a spoonful from his grandson (about 5).

What followed, though, made my day.

“Do you like it?” the grandfather asked.

“Yes,” the grandson said.

“Well, it’s poison,” the grandfather said.

“Why is it poison?” the father (about 35) asked in a tone both innocent and incredulous.

“It’s all chemicals,” the grandfather said.

The father gave a blank stare.

About to enter my building, I paused. For a nanosecond I thought about saying, “He’s so right; no one should eat that,” but I didn’t.

What's sad is the realization that unless a long conversation ensued, the family's next generation won’t have a grandfather who knows that a “strawberry” sundae from an "ice cream" truck is all chemicals.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Dangerous, Voluntary Nature of Food Safety

As was reaffirmed recently by the recall of 500 million eggs, the risk for food-borne illness in this country is high. The oversight of food production and packaging is fraught with concerns.

According to the lead story in today’s Washington Post, the root of the problem stems from who controls oversight.

"The voluntary quality control system widely used in the nation's $1 trillion domestic food industry is rife with conflicts of interest, inexperienced auditors and cursory inspections that produce inflated ratings, according to food retail executives and other industry experts."
Yes, you read correctly. The system is v-o-l-u-n-t-a-r-y. I’m confident that those calling for the blanket shrinking of government would change their tune if a family member became violently ill because a food company was cutting corners (to make an extra penny per strawberry) in its self-policing regimen.

There is a conflict of interest inherent in the auditing process, according to The Post, and we are the victims:

"Industry experts say that under the best circumstances the audits can be useful. But a key failure is that auditors are typically paid by the companies they are inspecting, creating a conflict of interest for inspectors who might fear they will lose business if they don't give high ratings."
And, The Post writes, the mindset is self-perpetuating:
"Industry experts say the flaws in the current system will be difficult to fix as long as companies see food safety as an expense that cuts into profits.

"Suppliers 'will hunt down the fastest, cheapest, easiest and least-intrusive third-party auditor that will provide the certificate' that will allow them to sell their product, [David] Acheson, [former assistant commissioner for food protection at the Food and Drug Administration under President George W. Bush] said. 'Until that model flips, there will continue to be a false sense of security in terms of what these systems offer.'"
What catastrophe is needed for us to realize that a $1 dozen of eggs is so much more expensive than $1?

Click here to read the article.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

How to Roast Pumpkin or Squash Seeds

Pumpkins and winter squash are in season now and I bought a buttercup squash the other day. I baked it plain (I’ll explain how in an upcoming post), but just as delicious were the squash’s seeds that I roasted.

Here’s how to do it:

Preheat oven to 375. Clean out the seeds from the squash or pumpk
in. Rinse and remove as much of the flesh that sticks to the seeds as possible. Dry the seeds as much as you can and put them on a baking sheet. Add a little oil (I used olive), salt and pepper to the seeds and mix to coat. Put seeds in oven and roast until they are golden brown and crisp, about 15 minutes. Eat when cool; store leftovers in airtight container at room temperature.

For different flavors, add dried spices (cinnamon, chili powder, cumin, etc.) when coating the seeds with oil.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

San Francisco's Possible Ban on Fast Food Toys

It looks as if another American city is attempting to one-up New York City, which recently proposed a ban on the purchasing of sodas using food stamps.

San Francisco’s board of supervisors will vote in early November on a measure that will stop fast food restaurants from using toys as marketing gimmicks (i.e. Happy Meals at McDonald’s).

The same arguments (on both sides) used in the New York discussion will be heard for the San Francisco proposal.

But this is also about marketing aimed specifically at kids, which I believe should be banned. This marketing is not innocent; rather, it is based on high-tech, calculated research designed to sell as many toxic cheeseburgers and snacks as possible.

Here’s wishing the Quinoa Growers of America had the budget to fund such research.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hotels Going Local . . . Really Local

Local and seasonal food is all the rage, and now hotels are joining the game by maintaining their own gardens, making their own cheese and producing their own honey.

Hotels are a year or two behind schools, which have been adding gardens as educational tools at a quickening pace.

As the proliferation of farmers' markets has shown, the quality of our food will only get better as our expectations and knowledge improve.

Click here to read an article about hotel gardens.

Monday, October 18, 2010

More on the Possible Food Stamp-for-Soda Ban

Should there be a ban on the use of food stamps for purchasing soda and other sugared drinks? Click here to read an article from yesterday's New York Times about the subject discussed here earlier this month.

As I've mentioned, I am in favor of the ban proposed for New York City. I don't want my tax dollars subsidizing the big food, drug and health care companies. Plus, the evil marketing campaigns by the soda companies need to be somehow countered.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Help! I Have Brain Freeze and Can't Get Up!

(Update, 1:25 p.m. - Another brain freeze after lunch today.)

I made lemon verbena ice cream yesterday and ate some for dessert last night. It's one of my favorites, especially because I only make it once or twice a year.

(Lemon verbena is an herb with a lemony, grassy flavor. It's difficult to find in stores but luckily I grow it in my garden.)

The ice cream was great (if I may say so myself), but the second spoonful brought on a severe case of brain freeze. Coincidentally, there was a short article (the "Really?" column) in The New York Times earlier this week which discussed the phenomenon.

Click here to learn everything you'll ever need to know about brain freeze.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

How to Cook Razor Clams (Easily)

Since I had only eaten razor clams once before, I immediately bought a pound (for $4.50) when I saw them for sale at the Union Square farmers’ market yesterday.

I had never cooked them before, but I figured they’d cook similarly to mussels or clams. Luckily, I was correct.

I melted a lot of butter in a pan and sautéed some minced garlic. I then added some white wine, the clams and chopped parsley. The clams opened pretty quickly (in about
five minutes), the telltale sign that they are cooked. I removed them and let the liquid cook (and thicken) some more.

While the sauce was finishing, I took the clams from their shells and chopped them. I put the clams in a bowl and
then poured the sauce (butter, white wine, garlic, parsley) over the clams. I added some unrefined sea salt and fresh lemon juice, which made the dish taste even better.

I put some Asian salad greens from my garden in the bowl and enjoyed a great dinner. Thinking about it, I should have bought two pounds.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Change for Milk and Dairy Labeling?

A recent Federal court ruling dealing with the labeling of milk in Ohio could have far-reaching implications.

Much of our milk comes from cows that have been administered hormones (known as rbGH or rbST), which increases milk production.

Dairy items coming from cows not administered hormones (all organic and some conventional) will surely advertise that, but will also have a statement declaring that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has determined no marked difference between milk derived from cows with or without hormones.

The ruling by the Sixth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals has two important aspects.

First, the court ruled that Ohio milk can be labeled hormone-free without the usual accompanying disclaimer, completely overturning the Ohio state law that didn’t allow any hormone-free claims at all.

Second, the court countered the FDA’s no-difference-between-milks finding: "[The] evidence precludes us from agreeing with the district court's conclusion that there is no compositional difference between the two types of milk."

For further information about the case and its meaning, read informative articles in Food Safety News and Rodale News.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Kids in the Garden, Part 2

After a successful screen debut two weeks ago, our favorite child stars are back for a return engagement, this time co-starring Mr. Broccoli.

Monday, October 11, 2010

"The Catch" or "How Did That Lobster Get on My Plate?"

Ever wonder, when eating at a restaurant, where the food on your plate comes from?

I don’t eat out much, but I was thinking this the other day at lunch when one of our dishes contained baby lettuces that were so bland and sterile they had to be from a plastic bag.

This infuriated me, especially because there were two farmers’ markets within easy walking distance where delicious, in-season greens were waiting to be bought.

Coincidentally, yesterday’s New York Times Magazine ran its annual food issue and contained a related article. While produce delivery is pretty straightforward, “The Catch” by Barry Estabrook profiled the intricate business one woman, Ingrid Bengis-Palei, has built supplying high-end restaurants with shellfish.

Click here to read the story and understand one of the reasons why top-flight restaurants charge the prices they do.

Friday, October 8, 2010

No Food Stamps for Sodas = A Great Idea

New York City and New York State have petitioned the United States Department of Agriculture “to bar New York City’s 1.7 million recipients of food stamps from using them to buy soda or other sugared drinks,” according to a news story in yesterday’s New York Times.

The New York City and New York State health commissioners also laid out their arguments in an Op-Ed piece.

(Read both articles if you have a chance.)

I understand some feel the government too intrusive, but I think intrusive is making everyone pay taxes to subsidize the soda companies’ bottom lines and their executives’ bonuses.

I have no problem paying taxes to fund the food stamp program, but I don’t want this money buying sodas and sugared drinks. And don't think I (WE!) don't pay again
in the form of even more taxes and higher health insurance premiumssince the sicknesses caused by the sodas have to be paid for.

As Thomas Farley and Richard Daines, the two health commissioners, write, “obesity-related illnesses cost New York State residents nearly $8 billion a year in medical costs, or $770 per household. All of us pay the price through higher taxes.”

Of course, the soda industry will fight this with all its might.

Tracey Halliday, a spokeswoman for the American Beverage Association, argued in the news article, “This is just another attempt by government to tell New Yorkers what they should eat and drink.”

Ms. Halliday, it’s actually a great attempt by the government, since it’s obvious that action is needed to counter the insidious marketing by the American Beverage Association and its members in their attempt to tell New Yorkers what they should eat and drink.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Monsanto, Roundup Ready Crops and Our Health

Not that I wish ill will on anyone, but reading “After Growth, Fortunes Turn for Monsanto” in The New York Times on Tuesday made me smile just a teeny, weenie, little bit.

Monsanto, depicted in the documentary “Food, Inc.” as a ruthless corporate behemoth, finds itself, according to the article, in some financial trouble:
“Monsanto, the giant of agricultural biotechnology, has been buffeted by setbacks this year that have prompted analysts to question whether its winning streak of creating ever more expensive genetically engineered crops is coming to an end.”
(In an era of complete fiscal absurdity, take Monsanto’s possible losing streak with a grain of genetically modified salt; financial trouble for Monsanto means net income of $1.1 billion in the fiscal year that just ended, down from $2.1 billion a year ago.)

Why do so many consider Monsanto so evil?

For starters, Monsanto sells genetically engineered crops (grown from Roundup Ready seeds) that are resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup pesticide (main active ingredient: glyphosate). This means that farmers can spray their land with Roundup—which kills every weed in sight (or used to, but that’s another story)—and know their Roundup Ready crops will survive intact.

This wouldn’t be so bad if glyphosate wasn’t so dangerous. A recent study showed direct links between glyphosate and embryonic abnormalities in frogs and chickens. The researchers saw obvious correlations between these animal defects and human birth defects recorded in areas subject to the spraying of Monsanto’s Roundup.

Considering Monsanto’s market share of the conventional corn and soy grown in this country, we should all be very worried. And not to scare the bejesus out of you, but understand that genetically modified corn and soy are omnipresent in almost all non-organic packaged and processed foods, plus make up a large percentage of the feed given to our non-organic livestock.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

How to Make Egg Salad

Egg salad is another one of those foods that takes little time and effort to prepare and, when made at home, is much tastier and healthier than the prepared versions.

How to make egg salad:

Put the peeled hard-boiled eggs we made yesterday into a mixing bowl and gently break apart with the back of a fork or spoon. For consistency, add something creamy, whether it is mayonnaise (not light!), yogurt or sour cream. That is the most basic of egg salads, but further additions (your choice) such as Dijon mustard, hot sauce, scallion, red onion, celery, shredded carrot, parsley, dill, basil, salt and ground pepper will add flavor, color and nutrition.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

How to Make Hard-Boiled Eggs

Hard-boiled eggs are great for breakfast, lunch or a snack. Cook five or six at one time and you’ll be able to make enough egg salad (instructions tomorrow) for a couple sandwiches.

If possible, use organic eggs or ones bought from a farmer who lets his chickens roam and eat grass, insects, larvae, etc. (They'll have more flavor and nutrition.) Commercial eggs from factory farms can spell danger.

I’ve heard many different ways of making hard-boiled eggs, but this is how I do it:

Put eggs in a pot. Add enough cold water to pot to cover eggs by about an inch. Turn on heat, bring water to a boil. When water starts to boil, lower heat, bringing water down to a simmer. Continue to cook eggs for nine minutes. Remove eggs and immediately place in a bowl of very cold water (the colder the better), which will stop the cooking process. Peel and eat immediately or store in refrigerator unpeeled for about five or six days.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Mattel's Toy Recall

Being that I don’t have kids, I’m not buying toys that often. But a recent article from Rodale News shows that toy purchasing can be as hazardous as food shopping.

Click here to read the story that begins:
"This time, it's not Salmonella or tainted tomatoes, but Dora the Explorer tricycles, Little People, and inflatable balls that have government regulators overseeing a massive recall. Thursday morning, toy maker Mattel announced a massive recall involving over 10 million Fisher-Price products sold in the U.S. and Canada that are sending kids to the hospital for stitches, bleeding, and potential choking hazards."

Friday, October 1, 2010

"Told to Eat Its Vegetables, America Orders Fries"

Click here for the latest update on American vegetable consumption, courtesy of a recent New York Times article.

Unfortunately, according to the article:

"Despite two decades of public health initiatives, stricter government dietary guidelines, record growth of farmers’ markets and the ease of products like salad in a bag, Americans still aren’t eating enough vegetables."