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."