Author Archives: Lisa

FDA Offers Grilling Tips

 

Photo from U.S. FDA

FoodFacts.com would like to discuss grilling season.

With grilling season just around the corner, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last month released a pamphlet with grilling tips for the safe preparation of foods.

E-coli and salmonella are two of the most well-known and common food-borne illnesses in existent, and both illnesses are often contracted through the incorrect preparation of foods. This is especially common in the summer, when grilling is a common means of cooking and the heat outside is high, resulting in a higher chance of bacteria growing within food.

So how can you keep you and your family safe during this fun, but risky, time?

It all begins before you even begin cooking, with proper cleanup and preparation of your work area. Cleaning your food items is also a must, specifically fresh fruits and vegetables.

The means in which you transport your food is also important, and transporting foods in an organized manner could be beneficial. Keeping your cold foods cold, specifically in a cooler with the temperature at 40°F or below, is necessary for preventing bacteria growth. Keep the coolers closed, and don’t cross-contaminate foods such as poultry, seafood and raw meat.

What about the actual grilling process, though? How do you keep your foods safe?

When grilling, it is important to marinate your food safely – keep it in the refrigerator, rather than the counters or outside. Keep already grilled food hot until it is served. Also, and this is very important – cook food thoroughly. To find out proper cooking temperatures, please refer to the FDA link at the bottom of this blog. Finally, when cooking, keep utensils separate to prevent cross-contamination. It might be a good idea to wash utensils after each use to be extra safe.

So, folks, there you have it. Separation, refrigeration, and proper cooking temperatures are the basics.

With that said, we’re wishing you a happy and healthy grilling season from FoodFacts.com!

FDA: http://www.fda.gov/food/resourcesforyou/Consumers/ucm109899.htm

Added Sugar All Around

 

Photo from Forbes

FoodFacts.com would like to explore added sugar today.

Last week, on our Facebook page, we highlighted clever marketing ploys employed by companies to sell food. One of the most common things we found in those products, however, was added sugar. So while people may think they’re buying healthy when purchasing foods they find have no sugar in it, they might not be purchasing products that are as healthy as they might think.

The fact of the matter is that added sugars can be very hard to spot in food labels, so consumers may not actually know they are purchasing products with added sugar.

While manufacturers are required to state the total amount of sugar per serving on all products in the Nutrition Facts Panel, they are not required to state how much of that sugar is in fact added sugar. Quite the loophole, isn’t it?

So why focus on added sugar? Well, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that people cut back on added sugar, due to the increase in obesity and heart disease. The AHA suggests no more than 100 calories per day (roughly 6 teaspoons or 24 grams) of added sugar for most women, and 150 calories (9 teaspoons of 36 grams) for most men. All added sugars are all a source of extra calories, no matter what name they go by. According to the Mayo Clinic website, Americans typically consume about 355 calories of added sugar per day. That’s about three times the recommended amount!

Some names of added sugars are common and well-known, such as high-fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, honey and molasses. But others are not… Here’s a list of some of the names for added sugar that you might just see on the food labels of your favorite foods.

-         Agave necter

-         Cane crystals

-         Cane sugar

-         Corn sweetener

-         Corn syrup

-         Crystalline fructose

-         Dextrose

-         Evaporated cane juice

-         Fructose

-         Fruit juice concentrates

-         Glucose

-         Invert Sugar

-         Lactose

-         Maltose

-         Malt syrup

-         Raw sugar

-         Sucrose

-         Sugar

-         Syrup

Did you know about these? How much of it surprises you?

Have a happy and healthy weekend, from FoodFacts.com!

Do you REALLY know how much sugar is in your food?

FoodFacts.com just recently discovered this, and we figured we would share it.

Thank you Cousin Marilyn for sending in this information!

4.2 grams = 1 teaspoonful of sugar = 1 cube.

**Each cube is a teaspoonful.**

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As always, wishing you the best from FoodFacts.com!

All the Cows Go Mad — The Latest on Mad Cow Disease

 

Photo from CNN.com

FoodFacts.com would like to address the news of confirmed “mad cow disease” case in California.

Think back to a little less than a decade ago, when “mad cow disease” was first mentioned in the United States. The widespread panic that ensued following a presumptive diagnosis of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as “mad cow disease,” in Washington took over news headlines for weeks.

In 2006, the phrase “mad cow disease” came up again, when a cow in Alabama was confirmed to have BSE.

And then today, news broke that South Korea had suspended the sale of beef from the US following the confirmation of BSE in a dairy cow in California.

Some people may fail to remember why the panic ensued back in 2003 and 2004 – just that the term “mad cow disease” resulted in fear across the country. But the fear is valid, given the deaths of 150 in the 1980s and 1990s in Britain that were cause by BSE.

What is BSE and why should we fear it? What does it do?

BSE is a fatal neurological disease in cattle, and is related to something called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob in humans, which is an incurable disease that results in the decrease of mental function and movement, and eventually, possibly death. Humans can contract the disease following the consumption of beef from an infected cow.

Should people be concerned? According to public health officials, people in the United States have a very low risk of consuming beef from an infected cow or contracting the illness, and no extra precautions need to be taken.

Wishing you the best from all of us here at FoodFacts.com!

Mutated Gulf Seafood — Are Consumers Safe?

Photo from Donald Waters/AP Photo

FoodFacts.com will be exploring the effects on seafood following disasters such as oil spills today.

 

Back in 2010, theGulf of Mexicosaw an oil spill unlike any seen in decades. For months, the news covered the BP oil spill, examining the environmental effects of the spill that flowed for months following an explosion of an oil rig.

 

Roughly two years later, the effects on the fish and seafood in the waters are finally being seen, with mutated fish and eyeless shrimp being discovered in the very same waters the oil streamed into.

 

For obvious reasons, this is cause for concern among consumers. The fact that mutated and sick fish reside in those waters begs the question to be asked: are consumers at risk if they purchase seafood that came from the Gulf?

 

Scientists can’t point the finger to the oil spill as the definite cause of the deformities. However, given the history, many are convinced that the fish and seafood are showing illness and mutations as a result of the spill.

 

Rest assured, according to the Food and Drug Administration – the deformities presented in the seafood and fish do not pose any risk to the consumers as sick fish are not permitted to be sold, according to FDA regulations. Furthermore, the FDA has said that numerous testing has been performed and is continuing to be performed even today to be sure.

 

If that wasn’t enough to try and alleviate consumers concerns, the FDA also makes a point of explaining the amount of seafood that would need to be consumed to even reach the level of concern the FDA has regarding the issue, and that amount is even more than eating 9 pounds of shrimp per day for 5 years.

 

So is there cause for concern? As mentioned in previous blog postings, that is all up to the individual consumer and their trust in the government. But regardless of the concern level of Gulf seafood currently, a person should ALWAYS pay attention to seafood safety.

 

That being said, FoodFacts.com would like to wish you and yours and a happy and healthy weekend!

Dioxins — Any “eggscape” from them?

 

Picture credit to FoxNews.com

FoodFacts.com would like to take some time to look at dioxins.

 

Recently, it has been revealed that in Germany, the highly poisonous chemical was found in eggs from a couple of farms in levels that was above the permissible level set.

 

Needless to say, the farms found with those eggs have been sealed off and are not permitted to sell more eggs. That doesn’t mean that eggs containing dioxins haven’t been sold already, though.

 

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency webpage, dioxins are a “group of toxic chemical compounds that share certain chemical structures and biological characteristics.” [1] They can be released into the environment in many different ways, including forest fires and certain industrial activities.

 

While many people fail to realize it, most every living creature has been exposed to dioxins in some way, shape or form over time. Dioxins are not reported to be harmful at small levels, but long-term exposure or high levels could result in numerous adverse health effects, including but not limited to cancer. Exposure to high levels of dioxins have also reportedly led to reproductive and developmental problems, according to studies, and an increased risk of health problems such as heart disease and diabetes. While there are no known health effects on those who have consumed dioxins in small doses, more research does need to be done on those who are exposed to low levels of it over long periods of time, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

 

This isn’t the first time the issue of dioxins has been brought up with regards to Germany. Back in January of 2011, the European Union issued a health alert when officials discovered that animal feed had been tainted with dioxins, which was in turn fed to animals like hens and pigs and contaminating eggs, poultry and pork. Following that health alert, new measures were implemented to keep dioxin ingredients out of animal feed. Because of those new measures, and tests performed, officials do not believe the cause of this exposure was due to animal feed, and are still looking into the cause of the exposure.

 

Is there cause for concern? In Germany, there is reportedly no danger to the public. But it certainly makes everyone wonder what chemicals might be in their foods.

 

According to the United States Food and Drug Administration, there are always measures being taken to lower dioxin levels in foods. Furthermore, there are regulations in place regarding dioxin emissions when it comes to industrial sources. And over time, reduced dioxin emissions will result in reduced levels of dioxins in foods. That being said, cause for concern more or less rests on your faith in the government and their efforts.

 

FoodFacts.com would like to extend our best wishes!

 


[1] Dioxin. Environmental Assessment. United States Environmental Protection Agency. <http://cfpub.epa.gov/ncea/CFM/nceaQFind.cfm?keyword=Dioxin>

Food for Thought: Pink Slime

FoodFacts.com will be tackling the topic of pink slime today.

 

Pink slime, also known as lean finely textured beef (LFTB), has been making headlines recently compliments of the controversy surrounding its usage in fast food and school lunches. This meat filler, as some may know, is used in roughly 70% of all ground beef.

 

Pink slime is nothing new – it’s been used for years in meats. However, not many people may know as much. It earned the nickname “pink slime” several years ago, when a microbiologist referred to LFTB as such in an email. The topic has recently been picked up thanks to a campaign against pink slime by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.

 

What is pink slime? In short, it’s ammonia-treated beef. While many people think cleaning products when they think ammonia, ammonium hydroxide was actually cleared for usage in food products back in the 1970s. It is used in meats to remove things such as salmonella and e-coli.

 

As many of you, especially our Facebook followers, are aware, the foods we consume typically contain ingredients we may have never even considered or known about. This is just another example of not really knowing what exactly is going into our bodies.

 

That being said, deciding whether or not LFTB should be eaten essentially falls on the consumer. Making yourself aware of the issue, and educating yourself on the topic itself, you should be able to make your own informed decision. Is it safe? Is it unsafe? Is it gross? Those are questions one has to answer for themselves. But the basic facts are these:

 

-         Pink slime is nothing new. In fact, we’ve been consuming it for years.

-         Pink slime is ammonia-treated beef.

-         Ammonium hydroxide has been approved for use in foods for 40+ years.

-         Ammonia is used to remove salmonella and e-coli.

 

However, just some food for thought. There are plenty of products that have been okayed for consumption (think artificial colors), which are plenty controversial because of unknown effects. That’s not to say this is necessarily bad for you, but it’s something to certainly consider.

 

As for its use in fast food and school lunches, pink slime has been eliminated from many fast food items. As for school lunches, the easiest way to avoid such products if so chosen is to send kids to school with homemade lunches. That’s not to say the controversial item won’t be removed from school lunches, but it’s an option to keep in mind to put parents at ease.

 

FoodFacts.com would like to wish you the best!

Salmonella. Are You Up to Date on the Latest Outbreak?

FoodFacts.com will be looking at Salmonella today.

 

As of April 6, 2012, 100 people have been stricken with Salmonella in an outbreak that has spread across 19 states. The specific serotype is Salmonella Bareilly. Dates for the onset of the illness ranges from January 28 to March 25, with reported cases of the disease occurring in people ranging from 4 years of age to 78. People who are reported to have contracted Salmonella live from Texas eastward, with New York having the highest number of reported cases thus far at 23, and Arkansas, Mississippi and Missouri have the lowest number of reported cases at one. The outbreak has resulted in 10 hospitalizations, but no deaths.

 

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are working together on an investigation into the cause of this outbreak, there has yet to be an official food source identified, but it has been said that the cause of the outbreak is most definitely a food source. One possibility being investigated by the FDA is sushi, as several people who were infected reported eating sushi, sashimi, or other related products in the week prior of infection symptoms showed up.

 

This particular serotype of Salmonella is actually one of the rarer ones. Symptoms of being infected with Salmonella include:

 

-         Abdominal Cramps

-         Nausea

-         Vomiting

-         Diarrhea (which can be bloody and with mucus)

-         Headache

-         Drowsiness

-         Rose spots

 

The symptoms of Salmonella infection can typically last up to seven days, with symptoms showing up anywhere from 12 to 72 hours after coming into contact with the bacteria. Most people recover without treatment, but some may be hospitalized for dehydration caused by the symptoms of the infection.

 

Some common foods that have caused Salmonella outbreaks in the past include ground beef, ground turkey, cantaloupe, and whole, fresh imported papayas, all in 2011 alone. In 2010, alfalfa sprouts and shell eggs sickened 140 people and over 1900 people, respectively.

 

So how can you protect yourself against Salmonella? First and foremost, make sure you cook your food thoroughly. The better it’s cooked, the more likely you are to kill the germs in it. Also, make sure to wash your cooking utensils and prep area thoroughly, as well as your hands often. Finally, pay attention to the news and food recalls – if you have a product listed in a recall, don’t hesitate to get rid of it. It could save you some agony down the road. There is no medication to prevent the disease, but you can cut down your chances of developing the infection by following a few basic safety tips such as the ones listed above.

 

Wishing you a safe and healthy week from FoodFacts.com!

Bug Colors. Are Cochineal Beetles in Your Food?

Here at FoodFacts.com, we have been fielding several inquiries on colors extracted from Cochineal Beetles over the past few weeks.

 

Most recently, this topic has been the talk of the town following a news report on the subject, which revealed that the coloring created from the Cochineal Beetles was used in a Starbucks Strawberry Frappuccino drink. This has caused both vegans and non-vegans alike to criticize the coffee chain, both on the ick factor and the notion that vegans are unknowingly ingesting animal products when consuming the drink in question.

 

But the use of color from Cochineal Beetles is nothing new. The colors created from the beetles are cochineal extract and carmine, the latter of which was recently the focus of a controversial ingredient day on the FoodFacts Facebook page. The colors are extracted from the female Cochineal Beetles, which are raised in Peru, the Canary Islands, and elsewhere, and provides a red, pink or purple color to the products it is in.

 

What many people don’t realize when questioning the “bug ingredients” is that such colors could illicit a severe allergic reaction in some people. Over the past several years, doctors both in the United States and outside of the country have determined that colorings could cause allergic reactions, such as sneezing, asthma and even anaphylactic shock.

 

Both carmine and cochineal extract can be found in food items such as candies, juices, ice creams and yogurts. It can also be found in certain medicines, including cough drops. Finally, these ingredients can be found in dyed cosmetic products, such as lipstick.

 

So how does one avoid it? By reading the ingredients on the packaging and knowing what colors are derived from the beetles, you should be able to avoid the products if you need to because of an allergy, or want to because of the ick factor. Knowledge is power, after all.

 

We here at FoodFacts are wishing you the best!