Monday, April 30, 2012

The Costs of Our Non-Food Food Supply

There's a shocking and sad story ("Obesity-Linked Diabetes in Children Resists Treatment") in today's New York Times concerning the spread of Type 2 diabetes in children and how it is more difficult to control in kids than in adults.

The first two paragraphs:
"Obesity and the form of diabetes linked to it are taking an even worse toll on America’s youths than medical experts had realized. As obesity rates in children have climbed, so has the incidence of Type 2 diabetes, and a new study adds another worry: the disease progresses more rapidly in children than in adults and is harder to treat.

“'It’s frightening how severe this metabolic disease is in children,' said Dr. David M. Nathan, an author of the study and director of the diabetes center at Massachusetts General Hospital. 'It’s really got a hold on them, and it’s hard to turn around.'”
"The findings could signal trouble ahead because poorly controlled diabetes significantly increases the risk of heart disease, eye problems, nerve damage, amputations and kidney failure. The longer a person has the disease, the greater the risk. So in theory, people who develop diabetes as children may suffer its complications much earlier in life than previous generations who became diabetic as adults."
Think for a second about the physical, emotional and economic damage done to the children, families and society. And yet we allow government subsidies of all the foodstuffs (it's not food) that are causing the problems? And yet we allow the companies that are producing these foodstuffs to advertise indiscriminately on television and online? When will we realize our future is bankrupt?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Jack LaLanne: The Early Death or Are We Failing Ourselves?

Our monthly dose of Jack LaLanne focuses on Jack's guilt at failing his father and his fear of failing his audience. But is Jack's true message "Are we failing ourselves?" Something to think about, courtesy of the self-improvement aisle.

(If you are receiving The Delicious Truth via email, click here to watch the video.)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Give Me Life, Liberty and Lots of Real Fat from Real Food

I love asparagus, they are in season now and there's a good chance I'll figure out a way to eat some every day for the next two months.

Yesterday's lunch: A fried egg over roasted asparagus with overwintered arugula (from my garden) and a chunk of whole wheat sourdough bread (from Bread Alone). Not in the photo are the Kerrygold cheddar cheese I grated over the egg and the chunk of Smjör butter I put on the bread.

Two of my essential core beliefs in regard to food, nutrition and health were served with lunch as well:

  1. We do not get fat from real, full-fat versions of real food.
  2. If God wanted us to eat egg white omelets, he/she/it would have made eggs without the yolks.
Stay away from food with chemicals and the world will be a better place.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Many "Safe and Suitable Ingredients" Not on Ingredient Lists

A reader left a comment to my post last week about the warning label on 2,4-D, a widely-used pesticide.

I won't succumb to a point-by-point shouting match, as that doesn't get anyone anywhere. I will, however, highlight one comment that brings up a bigger issue I've been meaning to address.

The reader wrote, "It's not food therefore doesn't require a full list of ingredients."

Unfortunately, food doesn't require a full list of ingredients either. Far from it. Click here (please, if you are ever going to "click here," now is the time to "click here") to view a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) list of "safe and suitable ingredients used in the production of meat, poultry, and egg products," many of which don't have to be labeled.

I believe the safety of these ingredients is immaterial. Rather, the obfuscation so prevalent in our food (and drug) supply is shocking. Tom Laskawy, writing in Grist, mentions the list and sums up the issue perfectly:
"Helena Bottemiller of Food Safety News dug up this United Stated Department of Agriculture document, which lists dozens of chemicals that processors can apply to meat without any labeling requirement. Things like calcium hypochlorite (also used to bleach cotton and clean swimming pools), hypobromous acid (also used as a germicide in hot tubs), DBDMH (or 1,3-dibromo-5,5-dimethylhydantoin, which is also used in water treatment), and chlorine dioxide (also used to bleach wood pulp), to name just a few.
"All these chemicals can go on meat. Not that you’d know it, because both the industry and the USDA keep it on the down-low. In fact, they work together on this. The USDA requires processors to label certain approved antimicrobials, such as salt, spices, and even lemon as ingredients, but not their hard-to-pronounce brethren. Why not? Perhaps because it might shock and disgust consumers to know how thoroughly their meat must be chemically disinfected before it can be sold. USDA’s head of food safety Elizabeth Hagen told Bottemiller recently that, 'Just being honest, I don’t think your average consumer probably knows a lot about how food is produced.' She’s right. We don’t know the half of it — and the more we find out, the angrier many of us get."

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Need More Flavor & Nutrition? Frozen Peas to the Rescue

Frozen peas add flavor, nutrition and color to many dishes.
Spring is here and we'll have a parade of fresh vegetables to cook with over the next six months. Yet, despite that, I'll make sure to always have a bag of frozen peas in my freezer.

Even when you seemingly have nothing to cook with, frozen peas can easily come to the rescue and add flavor, nutrition and color to a variety of dishes. The best part? In certain situations, the frozen peas don't need to be thawed.

Last night's tomato sauce of strained tomatoes, onion, garlic, a chopped sausage and some parsley needed something else, so I threw in a heaping handful of frozen peas at the end of the cooking process. The residual heat was enough to thaw and warm the peas.

More ideas: Combine thawed frozen peas with any cooked grain or pasta for a quick grain or pasta salad. Add frozen peas to scrambled eggs. Add frozen peas to a chicken soup. Add frozen peas to your smoothie.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Spring Is Here: Time to Eat Your Asparagus

I ate asparagus this weekend for the first time in 10 months. Don't get me wrong; I love asparagus, but I also enjoy eating with the rhythms of the harvest calendar. Local asparagus will be available until (roughly) the end of June and I'll make sure to eat enough to last me until this time next year.

Wanting to taste their true flavor, I put the asparagus on a baking sheet and cooked them in the oven (350 degrees) until they just started to soften. I took them out of the oven and let carryover cooking finish the cooking process. I want my asparagus to be bright green—not school cafeteria green—when I eat them. I seasoned with a touch of unrefined sea salt and fresh lemon juice; nothing else was needed.

Click here to read instructions on how to make asparagus soup, which I wrote about last May.

Click here to view the harvest calendar for fruits and vegetables in my region. Obviously the exact timing and duration will be different in different areas, but the patterns of what's available when is basically the same no matter the region.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Reminder: Don't Like Something? Speak Up; It Works!

Companies do listen, courtesy of Bloomberg:
"Starbucks Corp. (SBUX), the world’s largest coffee-shop chain, plans to stop using an extract made of dried insects [it's completely safe] to color some Frappuccinos and pastries after an online campaign asked for the ingredient to be removed.

"The retailer said today its U.S. stores will phase out by June use of a red dye derived from cochineal insects, a tropical bug found in Mexico and South America. The colorant will be replaced with lycopene, a tomato extract, the Seattle-based company said in a statement on its website.

"More than 6,500 people signed a petition asking Starbucks to stop using the insects because it isn’t vegan, kosher, and consumers “don’t want crushed bugs in their designer drinks.” The extract had been used in the company’s Strawberries & Creme Frappuccino, Strawberry Banana Smoothie, raspberry swirl cake, birthday cake pop, mini donut with pink icing and red velvet whoopee pie, according to the statement."
And a blog post yesterday (on a Starbucks website) by Cliff Burrows, President, Starbucks U.S.:
"As I first shared on March 29, we’ve learned that we fell short of your expectations by using natural cochineal extract as a colorant in four food and two beverage offerings in the United States. Our commitment to you, our customers, is to serve the highest quality products available. As our customers you expect and deserve better – and we promise to do better.

"After a thorough, yet fastidious, evaluation, I am pleased to report that we are reformulating the affected products to assure the highest quality possible. Our expectation is to be fully transitioned to lycopene, a natural, tomato-based extract, in the strawberry sauce (base) used in our Strawberries & Crème Frappuccino® blended beverage and Strawberry Banana Smoothie. Likewise, we are transitioning away from the use of cochineal extract in our food offerings which currently contain it (Raspberry Swirl Cake, Birthday Cake Pop, Mini Donut with pink icing, and Red Velvet Whoopie Pie).

"This transition will occur over time as we finalize revisions and manage production. Our intention is to be fully transitioned from existing product inventories to revised food and beverage offerings near the end of June across the U.S.

"We thank you for your continued feedback, support and comments, and we encourage you to continue to share your thoughts here as well."
If you don't like something, sign an online petition, send an email and make a phone call. It works!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sofía Gatica, Goldman Environmental Prize Winner

The Goldman Environmental Prize is "the world's largest prize honoring grassroots environmentalists." Here's the video story of Sofía Gatica, one of this year's six winners. May more of us have her fight and dedication. (If you are receiving The Delicious Truth via email, click here to watch.)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Our Two-Tiered Food System: Nutrition and Health or Not

In yesterday's New York Times, Frank Bruni wrote a column ("... And Love Handles for All") asking if our society's growing obesity is our destiny, as determined by how we evolved and the ease in which food is now obtainable:
"Densely caloric and all too convenient food now envelops us, and many of us do what we’re chromosomally hard-wired to, thanks to millenniums of feast-and-famine cycles. We devour it, creating plump savings accounts of excess energy, sometimes known as love handles, for an imagined future shortage that, in America today, doesn’t come."
I understand Bruni's argument, but I disagree with it. I believe that we have a two-tiered food system in this country and the divide has nothing to do with elitism. Instead, the secret to better eating and health is having a knowledge about our food supply (simply put: understanding that not all chicken, butter, strawberries and chocolate cake are the same) and being able to incorporate this knowledge into one's daily routine.

I firmly believe that one person can eat the same diet—but in two different versions—and have two completely different reactions. Is it that much of a stretch to think that our bodies respond to a strawberry sprayed with pesticides differently than to one without? Is it a crazy idea to think that if we eat butter made from milk from grass-fed cows we are getting significant nutrients that provide untold benefits that are not available in butter made from milk from corn- and soy-fed cows full of hormones and antibiotics?

Some of the comments to Bruni's column (especially the ones labeled "NYT PICKS") are excellent and touch on issues discussed here regularly. Here's one that makes complete (common) sense:
"I visited an excellent naturopath recently. He explained 'when we are well nourished we don't gain excess weight.' By well nourished he meant taking in the levels we need of minerals and vitamins. Unfortunately, our soil is so de-natured and the meat, eggs and vegetables we eat so devoid of mineral and vitamin content that most of us are seriously under-nourished. Cravings are the result, because we're starving for the nutrition we need, even as we take in more than enough calories. He recommended eating a diet consisting entirely of vegetables, organic and home grown when possible, and grass fed/free range meat and eggs. No hormones, no antibiotics, no cages. Watch the energy return and the cravings subside. Of course, we have to get our digestive tract back on track for digestion to take place. Years of antibiotics and bad food destroy the gut. We stop digesting our food, literally, when we don't have the right bacteria in our bodies. We stop taking in the vitamins and minerals we need, and we stop making them ourselves. There's a great deal more to losing weight and good nutrition than calories and carbs."

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

My Out-of-Nowhere Chicken, Fat, Quinoa and Kale Lunch

Sometimes delicious lunches or dinners can be spontaneous creations. The other day, right before lunchtime, I was sautéing chicken thighs to make a curried chicken salad for the following night's dinner.

After cooking the thighs (dark meat has more nutrients than white meat and, in my opinion, is tastier and juicier), I realized I'd be crazy to not utilize the chicken fat and bits of meat on the bottom of the pan.

I had some cooked quinoa in the refrigerator so I added that to the pan. I warmed the quinoa in the chicken fat while scraping off any stuck chicken. I also added some kale, arugula and fresh lemon juice, plus some pieces of the chicken I had just cooked. I mixed everything together, tasted and reseasoned.

The concoction was one of the most satisfying lunches—out of nowhere!—I've had in a long time. Don't be shy; throw stuff in a pan. There's a good chance it'll taste pretty good.

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Closer Look at 2,4-D, Our New Best Friend

Last week I discussed the widely employed pesticide 2,4-D. It's use will probably increase in the near future, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture is poised to approve a genetically engineered version of corn (created by Dow Chemical) that is resistant to 2,4-D.

Since corn is in almost everything we eat (either as a filler or sweetener, plus in our livestock's feed), this doesn't bode well. Oh, you eat only organic corn? Don't for a second think that pesticide residue doesn't end up in our water supply.

But I digress. Let's take a close look at a section of the label of a product containing 2,4-D and marvel at the lunacy of:
  • "KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN DANGER-PELIGRO" (But it's not dangerous if it's in their food and water? And if it's so dangerous, why are we using it in the first place?)
  • "OTHER INGREDIENTS" (I don't care if the other ingredients are completely harmless; why aren't they identified?)
  • "See inside of label booklet for additional Precautionary Statements, First Aid, and Directions for Use." (How many people are looking at the booklet inside of the label?)
I would bet the ranch that the chemical industry has gamed the system so "OTHER INGREDIENTS" don't have to be listed because of "proprietary information concerns." And the "inside of label booklet" reminds me of how the drug companies make it very, very difficult for the public to see the trial results showing how ineffective most drugs are.

What a shame.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Sure Bets: Death, Taxes and Problems with Our Food Supply

I happily pay $6 for the dozen eggs I buy every Saturday at the farmers' market. The flavor and nutrition are supreme; comparing conventional supermarket eggs to these gems is like comparing a youth basketball player to Michael Jordan. It's a different universe.

Nicholas Kristof, in yesterday's New York Times, adds another reason to opt for the better-quality eggs: treatment of the hens.
"Supermarket eggs gleam with apparent cleanliness, and nothing might seem more wholesome than breaking one of them into a frying pan.

"Think again. The Humane Society of the United States plans to release on Thursday the results of an undercover investigation into Kreider Farms, a major factory farm that produces 4.5 million eggs each day for supermarkets like ShopRite.

"I’ve reviewed footage and photos taken by the investigator, who says he worked for Kreider between January and March of this year. In an interview, he portrayed an operation that has little concern for cleanliness or the welfare of hens."
Click here to read the rest of Kristof's column ("Is an Egg for Breakfast Worth This?"), which expounds further on the topic.

Click here to read Helena Bottemiller's news story in Food Safety News about the investigation.

Also, here's the video The Humane Society released. (If you are receiving The Delicious Truth via email, click here to watch it.):

Thursday, April 12, 2012

FDA Shortchanges Public in New Voluntary Antibiotic Policy

Yesterday the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a new policy regarding the administering of antibiotics to livestock. (Over 70 percent of antibiotics used in this country are given to healthy animals to get them bigger faster.) Unfortunately, it’s a voluntary program that falls far short of the outright ban many pine for. The positive? The issue's increased visibility will only lead to heightened awareness and consumer backlash to the practice.

Here's the lead from the New York Times article about the move, plus two reactions to the FDA's announcement by proponents of an outright ban.

New York Times:
"Farmers and ranchers will for the first time need a prescription from a veterinarian before using antibiotics in farm animals, in hopes that more judicious use of the drugs will reduce the tens of thousands of human deaths that result each year from the drugs’ overuse.

"The Food and Drug Administration announced the new rule Wednesday after trying for more than 35 years to stop farmers and ranchers from feeding antibiotics to cattle, pigs, chickens and other animals simply to help the animals grow larger. Using small amounts of antibiotics over long periods of time leads to the growth of bacteria that are resistant to the drugs’ effects, endangering humans who become infected but cannot be treated with routine antibiotic therapy.

"At least two million people are sickened and an estimated 99,000 die every year from hospital-acquired infections, the majority of which result from such resistant strains. It is unknown how many of these illnesses and deaths result from agricultural uses of antibiotics, but about 80 percent of antibiotics sold in the United States are used in animals."
Center for Science in the Public Interest Food Safety Director Caroline Smith DeWaal:
"The Food and Drug Administration's new policies intended to reduce the overuse of important antibiotics in animal production are tragically flawed. They rely too heavily on the drug industry and animal producers to act voluntarily in the best interest of consumers. Protecting public health is an authority and a responsibility that rests squarely with the FDA.

"The announcement at least indicates that the agency recognizes a 'public health imperative' to tackle this problem. Decades of misuse have led to some common pathogens, like Salmonella, becoming more virulent and less treatable. The FDA knows it can no longer afford to ignore antibiotic resistance.

"The problem of antimicrobial resistance, and the contribution of animal agriculture to that problem, is urgent and global. The United States needs to take a leadership role in bringing comprehensive, effective action, in both the agricultural and medical spheres, to bear. The time for half-measures and voluntary steps has passed."
Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Congress's champion for a ban:

“This is a step in the right direction, but much more must be done. Antibiotic-resistant diseases now kill more Americans than AIDS and this issue needs to be treated with the seriousness it deserves. Of course if an animal is sick it should be treated, but the misuse of antibiotics in animal feed is destroying the effectiveness of antibiotics and limiting our ability to treat human illnesses.

“‘Nonbinding recommendations’ are not a strong enough antidote to the problem, particularly when we know that banned antibiotics are still being detected. So today’s announcement is a step forward but much more must be done to ensure the safety of our food supply."

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Kerrygold Dubliner Cheddar: Cheap, Nutritious & Delicious

The blanket, much-repeated refrain that eating well is prohibitively expensive is, fortunately, wrong. The latest example to disprove this myth involves delicious, nutritious cheddar cheese—made from milk from grass-fed cows—that I bought at Whole Foods.

Whole Foods gets a bad rap for being overpriced, but if you stay away from the cheese counter (the one I bought was prepackaged) and certain specialty packaged items, the store can be a gold mine for quality products at very fair prices. (As I've written previously, 365 Organic, the Whole Foods house label organic brand, provides great deals.)

Back to the cheese. I paid $2.84 for a 7-ounce package of Kerrygold Dubliner cheddar cheese, which comes out to $6.50 per pound. That's a steal for grass-fed cheese, which is full of omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, conjugated linoleic acid and beta carotene.

It's even more of a steal when we consider that Kraft Singles American Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product (excuse me?) sells for $3.99 for a 12-ounce package at a supermarket near my local Whole Foods. That's $5.32 per pound for what, exactly? I would have a tough time calling it "food," and what nutrition could our bodies be possibly deriving from it? Surely nothing that you'll read if you click here, which describes the nutritional benefits of grass-fed meat and dairy products.

In addition to Whole Foods stores in several states (i.e. New York, Massachusetts, Florida), Costco sells the Kerrygold cheddar at a similar (if not cheaper) price. Buy 10, keep them in your refrigerator (hard cheeses like this one have very long shelf lives) and tell your friends!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

EPA to World: "Are You Ready for Some 2,4-D?"

From the "You Thought the Use of Pesticides Was Bad Now, Just Wait" file, courtesy of the New York Times, via the Environmental Protection Agency:

(Click here to read the entire article; I've copied only a handful of paragraphs below. Make sure you have your sense of irony when reading! Actually, I've made it easy and made bold anything that sent my internal sense-of-irony-and-utter-disgust meter into haywire.)
"The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday said that the widely used herbicide 2,4-D would remain on the market, denying a petition from an environmental group that sought to revoke the chemical’s approval.

"First approved in the late 1940s, 2,4-D is one of the most widely used weed killers in the world. It is an ingredient of numerous home lawn-care products, and it is used by farmers.

"Dow Chemical is thought to be the major manufacturer, though the E.P.A. has also approved versions from Nufarm, an Australian company, and Agro-Gor, a joint venture of PBI/Gordon of Kansas City, Mo., and Atanor of Argentina.

"Use of the chemical is expected to grow substantially in the coming years because Dow is seeking federal approval to sell seeds of corn genetically engineered to be resistant to 2,4-D.

"Farmers planting that corn would be able to spray 2,4-D on their fields to kill weeds without hurting the crop. Now, 2,4-D is not used much on corn, the nation’s most widely grown crop.

"The group cited various studies suggesting that exposure to 2,4-D could cause cancer, hormone disruption, genetic mutations and neurotoxicity. It also said the E.P.A., in previous assessments, had underestimated how much people, especially children, might be exposed to the chemical through dust, breast milk and skin contact.

"In its ruling, the E.P.A. said that while some studies cited suggested that high doses of the chemical could be harmful, they did not establish lack of safety, and in some cases they were contradicted by other studies.

"The agency in particular cited a study, financed by the 2,4-D manufacturers and conducted by Dow, in which the chemical was put into the feed of rats. The study did not show reproductive problems in the rats or problems in their offspring that might be expected if 2,4-D were disrupting hormone activity, the E.P.A. said.

"Some studies have shown a higher risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma among farmers who use the chemical. But E.P.A. reviewers have said the farmers might have been exposed to many things, making it difficult to state that 2,4-D was the cause.

"2,4-D was an ingredient of Agent Orange, a defoliant used in the Vietnam War that is said to have harmed many Vietnamese civilians and American soldiers. Most experts say the main health problems came from contamination of 2,4,5-T, the other major ingredient in Agent Orange."

Monday, April 9, 2012

How to Store Lettuces, Leafy Greens & Parsley

With the warmer spring weather here (or approaching), fresh lettuces and other greens will soon start appearing at local farmers' markets. Here's how to store them so they last longer.

(If you are receiving The Delicious Truth via email, click here to watch the video.)

Friday, April 6, 2012

My Dad, the Food Supply, Nicholas Kristof and an Awakening

I received the following voice mail yesterday from my dad, who, over the past several years, hasn't exactly been receptive to my beliefs about our food supply. This is worth all the stress and words that fell on deaf ears:
"What's up, son? If you get a chance, read [Nicholas] Kristof's article in the [New York] Times today about chickens and food. The more I read, the more that I see that you are right, kid."
Here are the first several paragraphs of "Arsenic in Our Chicken":

"Let’s hope you’re not reading this column while munching on a chicken sandwich.

"That’s because my topic today is a pair of new scientific studies suggesting that poultry on factory farms are routinely fed caffeine, active ingredients of Tylenol and Benadryl, banned antibiotics and even arsenic.

"'We were kind of floored,' said Keeve E. Nachman, a co-author of both studies and a scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Center for a Livable Future. 'It’s unbelievable what we found.'

"He said that the researchers had intended to test only for antibiotics. But assays for other chemicals and pharmaceuticals didn’t cost extra, so researchers asked for those results as well.

"'We haven’t found anything that is an immediate health concern,' Nachman added. 'But it makes me question how comfortable we are feeding a number of these things to animals that we’re eating. It bewilders me.'

"Likewise, I grew up on a farm, and thought I knew what to expect in my food. But Benadryl? Arsenic? These studies don’t mean that you should dump the contents of your refrigerator, but they do raise serious questions about the food we eat and how we should shop."
Trust me (and my dad), read the rest of the piece. As more and more is exposed about our compromised (some would say toxic) food supply, more and more nay saying 78-year-olds will realize that not all chickens are the same and that the food their grandchildren are eating is much different than what they ate seven decades prior.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Easy Cooking 101: Put Stuff on a Plate (You Choose!)

Here's a quick, easy, cheap, nutritious and delicious lunch I made for myself the other day without much fuss. One component was quinoa mixed with chopped red and yellow peppers, carrots, arugula, unrefined sea salt, fresh ground pepper, olive oil and lemon juice. On the side were some walnuts, a block of cheese and a piece of whole wheat sourdough bread.

The dressing is a tahini sauce. To make it, put some tahini (sesame seed paste) in a bowl. Stir in some water a little at a time; the mixture will become more liquidy. Add the amount of water (slowly!) to achieve the consistency you like. Add some lemon juice, salt and fresh ground pepper.

As I say all the time, eating self-prepared, great meals at home does not have to entail a Julia Childesque production. Use what you have and what you like. No quinoa, but brown rice? Fine! Hate peppers? Use a cucumber. Dropped the arugula on the floor? Use parsley. Have a half of avocado in the fridge? Mix it in!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Latest on Pink Slime/Ground Beef and Our Food Supply

Some of you may be aware of the uproar over Lean Finely Textured Beef (or "pink slime"), a version of ground beef that's like ground beef, but different. The issues at play—food safety and the more transparent labeling of our food—are essential ones that hopefully will receive more attention now that this issue has exploded.

Five to ten minutes spent reading several articles on the pink slime avalanche will get you caught up on the political, economic and marketing factors that have made it a great metaphor for our modern food supply.

First, read Mark Bittman's piece ("The Pink Menace") in the online edition of today's New York Times. In addition to offering a summary of the story, Bittman believes the determination of food policy may be swinging to the consumer:
"[T]he public outcry over pink slime is justified, encouraging and impressively effective . . . And this is how it’s going to be from now on; public pressure will increasingly determine policy, and not only in food: 'Before the Internet,' says Bill Marler, a food safety lawyer, 'companies and governments simply made decisions, assuming the public didn’t need to know or even care what was in their food. That is no longer the case.'”
(This is why all of us must fill out online petitions, call food companies and contact our elected politicians.)

Second, Marion Nestle, in her "Food Politics" blog, offers a more straightforward summary.

Third, read Helena Bottemiller's article in Food Safety News that discusses the politics and economics of the controversy.

Last, below is Jon Stewart's take on the situation, (from last week, so not up-to-date, but very funny). If you are receiving The Delicious Truth via email, click here to watch.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Great Shopping Tool: Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch

Knowing which fish to buy can be very confusing. Wild fish is usually the better option (instead of farmed), but issues of overfishing, cost (have you seen the price of halibut recently?) and contaminants (i.e. mercury, PCBs) necessitate advance degrees in ichthyology, marine biology and economics just to navigate the seafood counter.

Luckily, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program has online, mobile and region-based printed tools to help consumers make more educated when buying fish and shellfish.

For example, my local Whole Foods had rockfish on sale last week. I had never heard of rockfish, so when I got home, I went to the site and entered rockfish into the search box. I am now an amateur expert:

In recent years, reduced fishing has allowed many rockfish populations to recover from low levels. Gear concerns remain, however - trawl-caught rockfish should still be avoided. Most rockfish caught by hook-and-line are generally a 'Good Alternative' and hook-and-line caught black rockfish from the U.S. is a 'Best Choice.'

Buyer beware: rockfish is often mislabeled as red snapper or Pacific snapper. There are no true snappers on the U.S. West Coast. Rockfish is also a market name for striped bass.


More than 70 species of rockfish live off the U.S. West Coast. Most rockfish are extremely long-lived, deep-water fish. Scientists estimate a lifespan of 100-200 years for some species. They are slow-growing and mature late in life and many are caught before they have had a chance to reproduce. These traits make them very vulnerable to overfishing.

"Not surprisingly, decades of heavy fishing sent rockfish populations plummeting. In addition, bottom trawling, the most widely used method for catching rockfish, damaged seafloor habitats and caught large quantities of bycatch. In recent years, fishing pressure has been reduced and many rockfish populations are now recovering."

Monday, April 2, 2012

FDA Says "No" to Possible BPA Ban

On Friday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it would not ban the use of Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical found in some plastic containers, most aluminum food cans and the majority of cash register receipts.

Evidence is growing that BPA has negative affects on our endocrine systems, one of our bodies' essential regulating instruments. Public distaste for BPA has led a handful of states and other municipalities to ban baby bottles and sippy cups made with BPA. In addition, major food companies are curtailing the use of BPA in their aluminum cans; Campbell's was the latest to join the parade.

Whether you believe BPA is dangerous or not (since I follow the precautionary principle, I avoid it), Jane Houlihan, Senior Vice President for Research of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) had a pretty funny comment, which I read in the EWG's press release following the FDA's decision:

“The next decision the FDA should make is to remove ‘responsible for protecting the public health’ from its mission statement. It’s false advertising. Allowing a chemical as toxic as BPA, and linked to so many serious health problems, to remain in food means the agency has veered dangerously off course.”
To avoid BPA, replace plastic storage containers with glass containers. (No reason to buy; recycle used jars of jelly, mustard, sauce, etc.) Also, try to avoid eating food from aluminum cans containing BPA; a handful of companies (Eden Foods, Muir Glen, Native Forest, etc.) use BPA-free cans.

Finally, be careful with receipts generated from computerized cash registers. I kind of, sort of try to touch them with only the tips of two fingers and put them in a dedicated envelope for storage. I've read that if you put the receipts in your wallet, the BPA can transfer and remain on other papers and transfer to your skin later. BPA can leach into our bodies via the skin, so make sure to wash your hands with soap (not antibacterial!) and water as soon as possible.

All of this makes hunting for a saber-toothed tiger sound that much more appealing.