Category Archives: FoodFacts.com

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!

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!

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!

The Many Faces (er..Ears?) Of Corn … nutrition facts brought to you by FoodFacts.com

According to the USDA 2010 crop production summary corn for grain production is estimated at 12.4 billion bushels.1 With so many bushels of corn sold, you’d wonder what all the corn is being used for? As it turns out, corn is a versatile crop with a wide variety of uses. The national corn growers association states that there are more than 4,200 different uses for corn products.  Corn can be used for both food and non-food products. Non-food uses can include pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, while food uses can be as transparent as high fructose corn syrup or as ambiguous as sodium erythorbate (since that same product could come from a different source like, sugar canes or beets). This FoodFacts.com blog article will focus on corn derived products and ingredients which we may not realize use corn.

NONFOOD PRODUCTS:

Antibiotics: Over 85 different types of antibiotics are produced using corn.  Penicillin is one of the antibiotics made using a corn product – corn steep liquor, as it has nutrients needed for penicillin to grow. It was formerly considered a waste material, corn steep liquor became a crucial ingredient in the large-scale production of penicillin.

Aspirin: an oxidized starch paste, which dries to a clear, adherent, continuous film, is spread in a thin layer over the aspirin.

Paper Products: Paper products use raw starch in the manufacturing process. The properties of high paste viscosity and strong gels are useful in specially coated papers. Pyrodextrins are also used for paper manufacturing for the adhesive property on remoistenable gums for postage stamps and packaging tape.

FOOD PRODUCTS:

Beer: Beer manufacturing is a process of treating malt to convert and extract the barley starch to fermentable sugars using the amyloytic enzymes present in malt followed by yeast fermentation. However, demand for lighter, less filling beer, especially in the U.S., has permitted use of more refined carbohydrate sources of two types: a) dry adjuncts, primarily dry milled corn grits, broken rice, refined corn starch, and more recently, dextrose and b) liquid adjuncts, namely corn syrups.

Citric Acid: Used as preservative, pH control, and to add a tart flavor to foods. Citric acid can be found in fruit sauces, jellies, canned goods and many other types of foods. Citric acid can be derived from fruits, however in view of the fact that the isolation of citric acid from fruits is very expensive, it is commercially produced from sugar with the help of bacteria and yeasts.  (See the 331 page list of food items that use citric acid as an ingredient: http://blog.foodfacts.com/search/index.cfm?type=ingredient&query=citricacid)

Iodized Salt: Iodine, an essential nutrient, is found in iodized salt. It was originally added to salt to prevent goiters. Corn derived dextrose is also added to iodized salt to help retain the added iodine.

Many (understatement perhaps?) products can be made from corn. It is used as food for humans and feed for animals, as well as nonfood uses in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, detergents and more. As science has a tendency to do, it will most likely find many more uses for corn.

See this poster for more products which use corn: http://www.ncga.com/uploads/useruploads/cornusesposter.pdf

http://usda01.library.cornell.edu/usda/nass/CropProdSu//2010s/2011/CropProdSu-01-12-2011_revision.pdf
http://www.ncga.com/uploads/useruploads/woc-2011.pdf
http://www.gfo.ca/AboutUsMain/Community/ConsumerResourcesforCorn.aspx
http://herbarium.usu.edu/fungi/funfacts/penicillin.htm
http://www.food-info.net/uk/qa/qa-fi13.htm

Expiration date: Never? … nutritional information brought to you by FoodFacts.com

We’ve all seen foods that have seemingly endless shelf lives. If these foods never expire, how are they be digested by our systems? Today, FoodFacts is going to take a look at what our bodies are capable of digesting and what happens to food we don’t digest.

The digestive system involves many different organs (from the mouth to anus) whose primary function is to break large molecules of food into smaller molecules of food and convert them into energy  and nutrients that our cells can use to sustain healthy bodily functions. Each organ in our digestive system has a primary function which lends itself to the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, proteins, fats and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). For example, digestion begins in our mouths when we mechanically break down food using our teeth and the enzymes in our saliva (salivary amylase) start breaking down starches. In our stomachs, carbs, proteins and fats are broken down using gastric acid  (pH 1.5 – 3.5, by comparison, vinegar is around 3/4) and enzymes which denature proteins, digest lipids and further breakdown fats. This continues in the small intestines, where, with the exception of fiber) the macro (carbs/proteins/fats) and micro (vitamins and minerals) nutrients are absorbed.  In certain cases, such as lactose intolerance, the body does not have the enzyme (lactase) to break down the sugar (lactose). Bacteria in the intestines break down lactose, resulting in painful gas and stomach cramps (among other symptoms).

With the exception of fiber, substances that are not nutrients – such as additives and/or preservatives in foods – cannot be broken down by the body, as we do not have the enzymes to break them down.  Some foods, which are undigested, remain in the large intestine for a much longer period of time rather than being excreted.  These foods stay in our large intestines, incompletely digested and  are eliminated in our waste after being broken down by microbes in our intestines. Foods that stay in the large intestine could restrict motility, block absorption of other nutrients into our cells and /or result in malodorous excrement.

Some such ingredients would be Tertiary Butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) and butylated hydroxyanisole. These are preservatives keep food from spoiling, and probably from being properly digested. While these (and other) ingredients are considered safe for human consumption by our government,  it isn’t necessarily a good choice for our bodies. Stefani Bardin, a TEDxManhattan fellow, shows us how our ramen noodles  are digested in our stomach (spoiler alert: it doesn’t). http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/09/ramen-digestion_n_1263825.html?icid=maing-grid7|main5|dl12|sec1_lnk3pLid%3D134120  

Perhaps it is best to leave foods with long shelf lives on the shelves.

Unhappy Meal … Bad food isn’t just harmful to your body, it may be harmful to your mind too!

9227396-portrait-of-sad-woman-with-burger-over-white-background1Foodfacts.com wants to pass this information along to our community, as we feel it can really help influence your eating habits and your life.  A Spanish study published in the U.S. in early 2011 confirms that consumption of foods high in trans-fats and saturated fats increases the risk of depression.  There had been previous studies linking fast food and junk foods to the disease and this most recent study confirms them.

Importantly, researchers also showed that products like olive oil, which is high in healthy omega-9 fatty acids, can fight against the risk of mental illness.

The study followed and analyzed the diet and lifestyle of over 12,000 volunteers for over six years.  At the beginning of the study, none of the participants had been diagnosed with depression.  By the end of the study, 657 of the volunteers were new sufferers.  Those volunteers with an elevated consumption of trans-fats which are defined as fats present in artificial form in industrially-produced foods and pastries) presented up to a 48 percent increase in the risk of depression in comparison to those volunteers who did not consume these fats.  It was noted that the more trans-fats were consumed, the greater the harmful effect was produced in volunteers.

Simultaneously it was found that the impact of polyunsaturated fats which are composed of larger amounts of fish and vegetable oils, as well as olive oil, was associated with a lower risk of suffering depression.

It was noted that the test group for the study was composed of a European population that enjoys a relatively low intake of trans-fats, making up only about .4% of the total caloric intake of the volunteers studied.  Regardless of the normally low levels of trans-fat consumption of the test group, there was an increase in the risk of depression of almost 50%.   It was noted that the U.S. population derives about 2.5% of its caloric intake from these trans-fats.

Depression rates have been rising worldwide in recent years.  This important study points to the possibility that that rise may be attributable to the changes in fat sources of Western diets.   Gradually we have been substituting beneficial polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats derived from nuts, vegetables and fish for the saturated and trans-fats found in meats, butters and other mass-produced food products like fast food.

FoodFacts will continue to follow this and other similar stories and keep you updated

More cantaloupe recalls…

cantaloupe-listeria-outbreak

Foodfacts.com will continuously update you on the latest food recalls! Make sure to check back daily for more updates pertaining to the deadly cantaloupe outbreak.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – October 6, 2011 – Fruit Fresh Up, Inc. of Depew, New York is recalling approximately 4,800 individual packages of FRESH CUT CANTALOUPE AND CUT MIXED FRUIT CONTAINING CANTALOUPE because they have the potential to be contaminated with listeria monocytogenes, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women. Fruit Fresh Up, Inc. was not advised of the possible contamination of the cantaloupe it acquired from an independent wholesale vendor until last Thursday, September 27th.

The recalled FRESH CUT CANTALOUPE AND CUT MIXED FRUIT CONTAINING CANTALOUPE was distributed in Buffalo, New York and surrounding areas in retail stores and through catering orders.

The fresh cut fruit subject to this recall was sold between August 31, 2011 and September 11, 2011, and consisted of the following products: Cantaloupe Chunks, Cantaloupe Slices, Gourmet Fruit Salad, Small Fruit Salad, Small and Large Fruit Salad with Pineapple, Fruit Salad with Kiwi, and Fruit Trays. The packaging in which these products were packed has best-if-used-by dates ranging from September 4th through September 11th. No illnesses have been reported to date in connection with the cantaloupe processed by Fruit Fresh Up, Inc. Before cutting whole melons for packaging, Fruit Fresh Up, Inc. uses stringent procedures to minimize the risk of contamination. The rind of the whole cantaloupe is thoroughly washed with a sanitizing solution before cutting, and after the seeds are removed, the flesh is washed with this same solution before it is cut or sliced. Despite these procedures, which greatly minimize the risk of contamination, Fruit Fresh Up, Inc. is recalling these products out of an abundance of caution.

The Fruit Fresh Up, Inc. recall is part of a larger recall involving cantaloupe traced to Rocky Ford cantaloupes produced by Jensen Farms in Holly, Colorado. The Food and Drug Administration confirmed that listeria was found in samples taken from a Denver area store and the Jensen Farms packing facility. The melons were shipped to at least 17 different states across the U.S. between July 29th and September 10th. As of Wednesday there were a total of 96 illnesses, including 18 deaths, related to the contaminated cantaloupe sold by Jensen Farms. Jensen Farms earlier issued a voluntary nationwide recall of its cantaloupes after news of the multi-state outbreak. Jenson Farms has ceased production and distribution of the product while the FDA and the company continue their investigations as to what caused the problem.

Consumers having the recalled Fruit Fresh Up, Inc. product in their possession should return it to the place of purchase for a full refund or destroy it. Fruit Fresh Up, Inc. is located at 2928 Walden Avenue, New York 14043. Consumers with questions may contact the company at (716) 684-4300, Monday thru Friday, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.

(Food and Drug Administration)