Thursday, December 17, 2009

It's GRAS don't worry

Hey do you know what GRAS is?

The chemical concoction used to create that yummy buttery flavor in microwave popcorn is GRAS....

image Assoc. Press


Yeah, confidence is high!

The FDA defines GRAS as .........."A food substance that is not subject to premarket review and approval by FDA because it is generally recognized, by qualified experts, to be safe under the intended conditions of use."

A few years back there was a big bru ha ha regarding the substance "Diacetyl". Per the FDA Diacetyl is GRAS. I remember moms chatting in the checkout line and buying air poppers. Many popcorn makers changed their formulations and their labels to be "Diacetyl free". If you go to the company websites you'll see their proclamations about being diacetyl free.

Yippee we can all buy the easy microwave treat again!

Think again.......
Per Andrew Schneider in his article "Just when you thought it was safe to Make Popcorn" (Dec 09)

Two years ago, Orville Redenbacher soared from the graveyard and announced in weeks of TV ads that his popcorn was now free of diacetyl. That's the chemical in artificial butter flavoring that has been blamed for sickening hundreds of workers, killing a handful and destroying the lungs of at least three microwave popcorn addicts.
Almost every other popcorn maker followed suit. But now, government health investigators are reporting that the "new, safer, butter substitutes" used in popcorn and others foods are, in some cases, at least as toxic as what they replaced.

Per Schneider....

Even the top lawyer for the flavoring industry said his organization has told anyone who would listen that diacetyl substitutes are actually just another form of diacetyl.

So what is the Obama administration going to do about it? Nothing meaningful, at least for a year, it said this week, stunning unions, members of Congress, public health activists and physicians who have pleaded for government action to protect workers and consumers from the butter flavoring.

"We've been very clear to flavor manufacturers, food companies and regulators that these so-called substitutes are diacetyl," said John Hallagan, general counsel for the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association.

Hallagan said that his trade association discouraged using these materials and calling their products "diacetyl-free."

So, let me get this straight, the dude who's the lawyer for the Trade Assoc. for the Flavorings Industry is on record advising manufacturers to behave ethically regarding this very dangerous substance that our kids shovel down their throats.

In addition NIOSH and OSHA the government agencies responsible for protecting workers are on record stating these substances are unsafe for workers. Lawsuits have been filed and won for workers and eaters.....


The first consumer lawsuit over Popcorn Lung Disease—bronchiolitis obliterans—has been settled between FONA International Inc., formerly Flavors of North America Inc., and a Denver Colorado man who developed the disorder after consuming two bags of microwave popcorn daily for years, said EMaxHealth.

In March we wrote that a jury ruled in favor of a plaintiff in a Popcorn Workers Lung Lawsuit. In that case, the Associated Press (AP) wrote that a federal jury in Iowa ordered a flavorings manufacturer to pay the victim—who died the day prior due to complications from Popcorn Workers Lung—and his wife $7.5 million for causing his injuries.

As usual the wheels of bureauacracy are turning very slowly and our government is not responding with lightening speed to protect us.

Here's what ConAgra foods says in a press release dated Dec 07 ConAgra Foods Introduces Orville Redenbacher's(R) and ACT II(R) Microwave Popcorn with a New Great Tasting Butter Flavoring with No Added Diacetyl

Dietitian Carolyn O'Neil Discusses the Benefits of Popcorn for Holiday Celebrations and Anytime Snacking Occasions

OMAHA, Neb.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Dec. 17, 2007--ConAgra Foods today announced that it has reformulated its Orville Redenbacher's and ACT II microwave popcorn brands with a new butter flavoring that has no added diacetyl. These newly reformulated products are arriving on store shelves now.

"Microwave popcorn has been one of America's favorite snacks for years because it is delicious and convenient. Orville Redenbacher's and ACT II have all of the nutrition benefits of a whole grain, zero grams of trans fat per serving, and now no added diacetyl flavoring," said Stan Jacot, vice president of Marketing for ConAgra Foods' popcorn business. "Our flavor experts have reformulated all varieties of Orville Redenbacher's and ACT II microwave popcorn to address any consumer perceptions about diacetyl and to make our popcorn factories as safe as possible. We want to assure our consumers they can continue to enjoy their favorite popcorn with complete confidence."

Be sure to read the entire article here...............there's more

In response to continued worker complaints about diacetyl in flavoring, NIOSH conducted a health hazard evaluation at the General Mills bakery mix facility in Los Angeles. In a report made public last week, NIOSH said that investigators found concentrations of butter flavoring agent 2,3-pentanedione in liquid buttermilk flavoring and during production of a bakery mixes. A "safe" level of diacetyl has not been established, and even low levels of diacetyl are potentially hazardous, the report said. It concluded that "the toxicology of other flavoring ingredients, including diacetyl substitutes, can result in deeper lung penetration and perhaps greater toxicity.'"

Guess what guys times up, game over, THAT's IT! Boycott the darn stuff. Don't buy it!!!!

Beware of butter products that are just too yellow (it's in there too).

The response from the manufacturers and our government is too little too late as far as I'm concerned.

BOYCOTT = Decreased Profits = Corporate Response and change!!

It's the only way. Ladies and Gentlemen start your air poppers!

Friday, December 11, 2009

WARNING....calories ahead!

FRIDAY FIX................................SNOWY CROWNS.

Here I am in my kitchen wearing my new designer frock, classic pearls, and, although you can't see them, oh-so-cute high-heeled pumps. Trust me, they're there. This is my customary attire for baking holiday cookies, you know. OK, so I'm really wearing chewed slippers, ratty sweats stained with God-knows-what, and I haven't washed my hair in three days. Welcome to 2009!!!

Anyway.... if you want to take a break from reading about endocrine disruptors (thanks MaryAnn for a GREAT post) and get a jump on holiday baking, here's one of my favorite festive cookie recipes. It's an adaptation of a recipe from a vintage book, a little spiral-bound number published by the Wisconsin electric company, (in which I found this charming photo) sent to my mother by her mother, Catherine "Birdie" Knappe of Milwaukee. There's even a notation in Birdie's handwriting, on page 24, above a recipe entitled "Sour Cream Cashew Drops." It says "mailed to Lisa, Feb. '63." Of course I have no recollection of this. Rather an odd choice of cookie for a little kid, would you agree? Then again, maybe cashew drops are thoroughly yummy. I should make them sometime and find out.

But I digress.... here's the recipe. The finished product is similar to a Linzer tart, but without the nuts. The dough is like a shortbread and a lot simpler to make than the traditional Linzer tart dough.


1 cup butter
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Cream butter. Add sugar gradually. Cream until light. Blend in sifted dry ingredients. Roll in a ball and chill for about an hour. Roll out dough 1/4 inch thick on floured surface. Cut with linzer tart cutters*, making tops with half the dough and bottoms with half of the dough. (If you don't have Linzer tart cutters, use a 1 1/2 inch round cutter. The down-side of this is you'll have to figure out how to cut little holes, about the size of your thumbnail, in the centers of half the rounds. I've used the backs of icing decorating tips). Note: If the dough gets warm--and it will as you roll and cut repeatedly--it will get sticky so you will have to add more flour and/or chill it again.
Place tops and bottoms on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes, until cookies are very lightly brown on the edges. Remove bottoms and tops to separate plates. Spread about 1 teaspoon of seedless raspberry jelly on each hot bottom (that sounds funny!) I like jelly that has fruit and juice only, without added sugar. When the tops are completely cool, dust with confectioners sugar, and GENTLY place the tops on the bottoms, and push down very lightly. This is the tricky part, and no matter how careful I am I always crack one or two tops, so I always bake a couple of extras. Makes about two dozen--I think--I've never really counted! My advice? Double the recipe--you can even freeze half the dough if you don't have time to bake them all--or they'll be gone in a flash. These are delicate and tender and crumbly and fruity and simply irresistible. They were my mom's favorite cookies, and my in-laws love them, too. I hope you enjoy them as much as me and my relatives do!

*if you don't have a set of Linzer tart cutters, they're well worth purchaing. I think they're about $12. You can get them with a variety of themed center cutouts, and they also have pretty fluted edges. My set has stars, diamonds, and hearts, and I use the stars at this time of year. Garnish your serving plate with some festive greenery, and prepare to hear oohs and aahs. Gorgeous and delicious!!!


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Endocrine Disruptors and your Daily Toxic Load

image courtesy MSNBC

After reading Nicolas Kristof ‘s Dec 5th article Cancer from the Kitchen? it made me wonder why we’re not more outraged as a nation over.......... umm, well, just about

In the article, Kristof examines common chemicals that we unwittingly ingest; specifically, Endocrine Disruptors (like BPA …ya, know the yummy stuff Lisa wrote about in a previous blog post about canned foods).

Kristoff notes that younger people seem to be developing breast cancer: and that a 10-year-old in California, Hannah, is fighting breast cancer and recording her struggle on a blog.

This makes me want to cry, but it also makes me scared, angry and frustrated. This is not the first article Kristoff has done on Endocrine Disruptors.

In June there was “It’s Time to Learn from Frogs”

”some of the first eerie signs of a potential health catastrophe came as bizarre deformities in water animals, often in their sexual organs.” “Now scientists are connecting the dots with evidence of increasing abnormalities among humans, particularly large increases in numbers of genital deformities among newborn boys. “

The words hermaphrodite and intersex fish jump off the page. MALE FISH LAYING EGGS! !

Kristof……….(exerpt from It’s time to learn from frogs)

Apprehension is growing among many scientists that the cause of all this may be a class of chemicals called endocrine disruptors. They are very widely used in agriculture, industry and consumer products. Some also enter the water supply when estrogens in human urine — compounded when a woman is on the pill — pass through sewage systems and then through water treatment plants.

The NIH, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, defines Endocrine Disruptors…..

Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that may interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in both humans and wildlife. A wide range of substances, both natural and man-made, are thought to cause endocrine disruption, including pharmaceuticals, dioxin and dioxin-like compounds, polychlorinated biphenyls, DDT and other pesticides, and plasticizers such as bisphenol A. Endocrine disruptors may be found in many everyday products– including plastic bottles, metal food cans, detergents, flame retardants, food, toys, cosmetics, and pesticides. The NIEHS supports studies to determine whether exposure to endocrine disruptors may result in human health effects including lowered fertility and an increased incidence of endometriosis and some cancers. Research shows that endocrine disruptors may pose the greatest risk during prenatal and early postnatal development when organ and neural systems are forming.

Google endocrine disruptors and you'll see articles going back at least 10 years. I remember reading about the dangers lurking in plastics 17 years or so ago in Natural Health magazine. Look how long it takes for main-stream media to sound the alarm. Do people even care? Tsk, tsk and turn the page. Sometimes it can feel so overwhelming just trying to stay relatively toxin free. You may even feel crazy for your healthy obsessions at times. I say obsession because trying to stay healthy these days feels like a full-time job.

Looking at disease rates in this country has to make one wonder where we’re heading. There are so many chemicals we take in every day (and expel everyday) that affect our bodies and our environment.

Is our modern life killing us?

Maybe it’s time to take a look at your overall daily toxic load to find ways to make positive changes to save your health and the planet.

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

T.S. Eliot

Please read Kristoff’s articles on Endocrine Disruptors

Cancer from the Kitchen? Nicholas D. Kristof Dec 09

It’s Time to Learn From Frogs Nicholas D. Kristof Jun 09

Endocrine Disruptor won’t be on the label USA Today Oct 07

These nasty chemicals are in everything! They’re in you’re health and beauty products, cleaning products, sunscreens, perfumes, and as mentioned above excreted via Birth Control Pills!!!

Maybe we need need to make better decisions when purchasing products that affect our daily toxic load on ourselves and our environment.

I'm going to think about little 10 year old Hannah.........

Maybe NBC's catchphrase for heroes applies

Save the Cheerleader, Save the World

On a positive note..........

Something you can do right now!

Please check out products from Greenology (I bought mine at Lowes). Their Organic Bathroom Cleaner works like crazy for only three something a bottle. It really works!!! I use it in the shower and tub and It works better than that really stinky stuff that's slowly killing us!

Green up!

Mary Ann

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


If you're reading this blog, I'm sure you're aware of the flap over the chemical Bisphenol A, which is found in plastics. Well, now Consumer Reports tells us that BPA is also in the lining of food cans. Oh, goodie!

BPA is not something any of us--no matter our age--want to put into our bodies. Some studies have linked it to reproductive abnormalities and an increased risk of breast and prostate cancers, diabeter, and heart disease. Of course, there's much controversy as to what levels are considered "safe." I don't you think ANY is safe???? The FDA is trying to make this determination. Ho ho ho.

Consumer Reports' latest tests of canned foods, including soups, juice, tuna, and green beans, have found that almost all of the 19 name-brand foods tested contained some BPA. And--get this--"the canned organic foods we tested did not always have lower BPA levels than nonorganic brands of similar foods analyzed. We even found the chemical in some products in cans that were labeled "BPA-free," Consumer Reports says.

So, BPA-free is NOT BPA-free? Whaaaaat??

Ok, I'm not a big fan of canned food, but I do rely on some canned products, like beans and diced tomatoes. Who doesn't? I've been buying Eden Organic's beans, which are supposed to be BPA free, but according to this report, are in the "supposed-to-be-BPA-free-but-are-not" category. (This got me thinking: is it really that difficult to buy dried beans, and soak the darn things myself? I'd have to be organized and plan ahead, which might be more of a challenge than I think!)

Canned soups, however, seem to be the prime culprits. Consumer Reports says that better options are plastic or pouches. Of course, if you make soup from scratch, you control both the ingredients and the storage mediums. Some types, like split pea and lentil, are sooo easy to make--just follow the recipes right on the bags. Or, take a short cut with all-natural bagged soups that contain all the ingredients and seasonings you need. I just bought a couple of Bob's bean soup mixes that look like they'll be fast, easy and yummy, a win-win-win!

The complete report can be found at:


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Where have all the tuna gone?

National Geographic Photo by Brian J. Skerry

As I sat in the salon chair yesterday gazing despondently at my multiple chins, I decided it's time to get serious about losing the extra five pounds I've accumulated over the past year. I know what I need to do--stop cheating and break out the salad! No more excuses!

Ok, you're thinking....what the blazes does all this have to do with tuna? Well, I'll tell you. Tuna is one of my favorite "go to" foods for getting on track to lose weight. I like to top my lunch salads with it, right out of the can, for a nice does of healthy, lowfat protein and Omega 3's. Looks like I'm not alone: last year nearly 6 million tons of tuna were caught worldwide. That's a lot of weight-watching ladies!

Naturally, I was disturbed to see an article entitled "Tuna in Peril" in the November 16 issue of TIME Magazine. Apparently our seemingly insatiable appetite for tuna--and resulting overfishing--are causing major problems. In fact, some species of tuna have become unsustainable, even endangered. I encourage you read the article in its entirety.

Since this blog focuses on both eating healthy and sustainably, and we devote a fair amount of space to meat and poultry, I think it's time to give fish a fair shake. So here are some frightening fish facts:

Stocks of bluefin tuna (especially popular for sushi/sashimi) are especially low (National Geographic lists it as endangered). In fact, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates that atlantic bluefin that spawn in the Mediterranean could disappear from those waters as early as 2012! Yikes! But it's not just bluefin that are in peril; yellowfin and many other species are in bad shape, too. The article says, "of the world's 19 nonbluefin commercial tuna stocks, half are overfished or at risk of going in that direction, according to the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF). "

What can we do? First, be aware of where the tuna you buy is coming from, how it was caught, and where it stands (or rather, swims) on the ecological scale. According to the TIME article, "major canneries that have signed on to the ISSF, such as BumbleBee, StarKist, and Chicken of the Sea, are trying to guarrantee that the fish going into their cans come from legal and traceable sources." well, that sounds promising to me. So check labels, and look for the logo of the Marine Stewardship Council, which certifies fisheries and companies worldwide.

Two additional suggestions from TIME:

Talk to your chef - Let sushi chefs know that customers want fish from sustainable sources.

Support marine reserves - make a donation to programs fun by Greenpeace or the WWWF.

A personal note: I've been buying Oregon's Choice Gourmet premium albacore canned tuna from my local health food store since I discovered it about a year ago. I feel good knowing that it's caught in the U.S. by a very small fishing operation in Oregon (see list of eco-best fish, below). It's pricey, but I think it's worth it. It's solidly packed in the can, and goes a long way. Not to mention the fact that it's delicious. Tough to go back to Chicken of the Sea once you've tasted this stuff!

Looking beyond the desperate plight of tuna, it makes sense to be knowledgeable--and picky--when selecting any type of fish at the supermarket, or ordering in a restaurant. Excellent resources can be found online to help guide you. Download a pocket guide to sustainable fish and keep it in your purse or wallet. I found one on the Environmental Defense Fund's site: Monterey Aquarium in California is another excellent resource.

Here's a partial list from the EDF site:

Eco-Best Fish:

Char, Arctic (farmed)
Crab, Dungeness
Oysters (farmed)
Sablefish (Alaska, Canada)
Salmon, wild (Alaska)
Sardines, Pacific (U.S.)
Shrimp, pink (Oregon)
Trout, rainbow (farmed)
Tuna, albacore (U.S., Canada)


Clams (wild)
Cod, Pacific (trawl)
Crab, snow/tanner
Flounder/sole (Pacific)
Lobster, American/Maine
Scallops, sea (U.S., Canada)
Shrimp (U.S. wild)
Tilapia (Latin America)
Tuna, canned light


Chilean sea bass
Orange roughy
Rockfish (trawl)
Salmon, farmed/Atlantic
Swordfish (imported)
Tilefish (Gulf of Mexico/South Atlantic)
Tuna, bigeye/yellowfin (imported longline)
Tuna, bluefin

So folks, next time you see bigeye, yellowfin, or bluefin tuna, Chilean sea bass, or any of the other eco-worst fish on a dinner menu, just say NO. And, it doesn't hurt to let the chef know that you'd prefer eco-friendly choices instead!

Lastly, kudos to TIME for its excellent reporting and coverage of topics like this. If you missed the excellent cover story, "The Real Cost of Cheap Food," from a few months back, check it out!

Make your voice heard!


Monday, November 2, 2009

Pending Legislation Needs Our Support

A message from the ASPCA arrived in my email box recently that deserves attention, so here's a quick post....

It's no secret that CAFO's and large poultry producers routinely pump their animals full of antibiotics, even when they're not sick. This is because they're raised and housed in such close quarters and deplorable, inhumane conditions that it's virtually impossible for them to stay healthy. Disease runs rampant. (That's why we support organic, pastured, humanely raised food sources.)

Beyond making the right food choices and putting our money where our mouths are, here's something else we can do: support the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act.

According to the ASPCA: "Championed for over 10 years by the late Senator Edward Kennedy, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA) is a federal bill that would phase out the common practice of constantly feeding antibiotics to food animals when they aren’t sick. Therefore, curbing the use of antibiotics may prove to be an incentive to raise animals using more humane and sustainable methods. This is not only an animal welfare issue, however: it is also an issue of human health. Scientists agree that the overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture is contributing to the increase in antibiotic-resistant human diseases. These illnesses are especially costly and difficult to treat."