Thursday, February 23, 2012

Organic Eggs? Yup. Toxic Hexane-Laced Cooking Spray? Yup.

It's heartening to see the number of everyday, nondescript cafes, luncheonettes and coffee shops selling organic foods and drinks. Organic coffee and omelets using organic eggs were once only the provenance of specialty organic food stores, but as demand has grown, supply has followed.

Obviously, this is great news. As we move away from the dangerous elements of our modern food supply (hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, refined sugars and other synthetic ingredients), we will feel better, we will shave our overbearing health care costs and we will become less dependent on the corrupt pharmaceutical industry.

However, realize that, for the most part, we are only in the first stage of our transformation. As we become more educated, the owner of the café I was in over the weekend will realize that there's a bigger picture, one which extends past the organic eggs in the omelet. Again, great news on the organic eggs, but the omelet would be much healthier if the cook, instead of using PAM cooking spray on the griddle, used olive oil or butter from grass-fed cows.

What's wrong with the cooking sprays and other commercial vegetable oils (i.e. Wesson, Mazola) so common in restaurant and home kitchens? A lot. The canola, corn and soybeans used are most likely from genetically engineered (GE) plants sprayed with dangerous pesticides and the actual process employed to make the oils reads like a science experiment gone awry (see below). (These sprays, by the way, are more expensive than good-quality olive oils.

I am also perplexed when coffee shops selling organic coffee offer conventional milk from cows administered hormones and antibiotics and fed a diet of GE, pesticide-rich soy and corn. Wouldn't organic milk be the logical extension of the decision to use organic coffee beans? (A price increase of five cents per cup—which would most likely go unnoticed and/or appreciated—would offset the added cost of the organic milk.)

Have faith; we'll get there.

And here's the oil-making process, as told by Eden Foods:

"The truth frequently is not pretty; nevertheless, we offer the following: Commercial or refined vegetable oils are made by crushing seed to extract oil generating high temperatures under great pressure. The crushed seed meal is treated with toxic hexane or other petroleum solvents to gain further extraction. The oil is again heated well beyond the smoke point to drive off most of the solvents. This stuff cannot taste or smell very good at this point, so they treat the oil with caustic soda (sodium hydroxide) to reduce acidity and remove burnt free fatty acids and proteins. This also destroys beneficial antioxidants like the natural preservative vitamin E which is replaced with synthetic preservatives. Next, the oil is heated again, centrifuged, bleached, and sulfuric or hydrochloric acid treated to ‘wash’ it, then micro-filtered removing everything except fat, including color. Deodorizing and de-foaming chemicals and high temperature steam further destroy nutrients. The end product is shelf-stable with a high smoke point, but severely depleted nutritional content except fat, and, at best, dubious value."


It Is Our Normal said...

A friend once told me that only butter should be used in frying or high heat cooking. That olive oil is not good for you if it is heated at a high temp. I don't have any studies to back it up, just heard from a friend. Have you heard of this?

Chef Rob said...

I've heard that too, with the caveat that if you don't let the olive oil smoke, you are OK. I'll try to find out a definitive answer.

Noel said...

First of all, stop blaming pharma industry. They are no saints (its a business) but so are the doctors and others in medical profession. Insurance companies make money out of your illness. There is Wall Street that sucks our money out at least once in every 5 years in one crisis or the other, so there are many ways you could point a finger.

Secondly, with cooking spray or oils, its a just a chemical process of extracting more and more oil. The days of only expressed oils have gone, may be due to demand or manufacturer's greed, driven by low pricing. My grandma remembers how they used to express oil and rest of the seeds were fed to the cattle, healthy oil, healthy cattle. To cut long story short, I don't see any problem with the extraction process, all hazardous stuff is removed. You do lose nutrients but thats the cost you pay for the low price.

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