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Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

Weekly Roundup: Candy Is A Treat, BPA Ban, And Deadly Celery

Candy is reexamined, BPA is declared toxic in Canada, and a deadly celery listeria outbreak kills five.

BPA = Toxic (in Canada) | Celery Listeria Outbreak | Candy’s Honesty

Canada Bans BPA, Food Containers Get Safer

BPA in milk jugs

Photo: www.bluewaikiki.com (flickr)

Canada has just declared BPA toxic. BPA is found in many items (such as these milk containers) so it affects nearly all consumers.


The Canadian Health and Environment Ministries recently declared bisphenol A (BPA) as a toxic substance which poses substantial danger to human health. With this declaration, Canada became the first country in the world to ban BPA. This decision is relevant to the United States, where several states have already banned the chemical from containers and there is a rising movement to buy goods that are BPA free.

In small quantities, BPA does not pose a major threat to adults, because a healthy person’s endocrine system is able to flush out the toxin found in BPA. Children, babies, and fetuses are not able to efficiently dispose of BPA, though, which leads to brain development problems, cancer, birth defects, learning problems, obesity, and even the early onset of puberty. For these reasons, several states have already banned BPA from baby bottles.

However, the problem with BPA is its presence in a huge array of food and liquid containers, as well as some surprising places like DVDs, sunglasses, receipt papers, cigarette filters, refrigerator shelves, and many more. It is so ubiquitous that even though adults can rid themselves of the chemical, the constant exposure to BPA makes the endocrine’s actions irrelevant. In fact, 93% of Americans have detectable levels of BPA in their urine.

The danger of BPA has been in the news often, but legislation to ban it from American markets will face a long battle with plastics lobbyists. Until a decision is reached, Kristin Wartman, a nutrition educator at Bauman College and Civil Eats correspondent outlines some steps you can take to protect yourself from this toxin and other endocrine disruptors:

  • Eat fresh, whole, organic foods as often as possible to reduce your exposure to pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and artificial bovine growth hormones.
  • Avoid processed foods and beverages, which often contain additives like artificial sweeteners and MSG, and are often in packaged in plastic.
  • Store food and beverages in glass containers only.
  • Do not use non-stick or plastic cookware.
  • Only use natural cleaning products and natural brands of toiletries.
  • Don’t use artificial air fresheners, dryer sheets, fabric softeners, or other synthetic fragrances.
  • Replace your vinyl shower curtain with one made of fabric.
  • Filter your tap water.

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Deadly Listeria Cases Linked to Contaminated Celery

Celery

Photo: MissTessmacher (flickr)

A deadly listeria outbreak found in celery caused Texas to shut down a San Antonio produce plant.


Only weeks after the egg salmonella outbreak, another deadly foodborne illness has hit the country. Sangar Produce & Processing in San Antonio was recently shut down by the state of Texas after an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes in celery made ten people sick, five of whom died.

Health inspectors cited unsanitary conditions at the plant, which again echos the ghastly state of the Iowa chicken farms. A food safety overhaul bill has been stalling in the Senate for months which would give the Food and Drug Administration the increased ability to examine food producers and trace contaminated products as well as the power to force a recall. The bill is supported across party lines, but critics say that it needs to be stronger.

Celery and other produce of the Texas company were sold to hospitals, restaurants, and schools.

With an ever-expanding population and greater demands for food, regulating food safety will be a continuing challenge.

Read More:

  • Texas Shuts Down Celery Plant After Five Deadly Listeria Cases reported (NPR)
  • Celery Processor Tied to Outbreak Disputes Tests (Food Safety News)

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Candy: The Only Honest Sweet

Candy

Photo: terren in Virginia (flickr)

Unlike most foods, candy is up-front about its sugar content.

Candy is a treat, and revels in its decadence. Walking down a candy aisle is like attending a parade: everything is bright and colorful, luxurious and gaudy, reveling in childish delights. Even the sizes are “Fun” and “King.”

However, according to Dr. Samira Kawash, a professor at Rutgers University and the author of the Candy Professor blog, transparency is candy’s best trait.

“Candy is honest about what it is,” she said. “It has always been a processed food, eaten for pleasure, with no particular nutritional benefit.”

It is undeniable that eating high-sugar foods like candy in large quantities is unhealthy, but candy’s acceptance of its role as an indulgent, limited pleasure has an impact on consumers. Even that person who only buys 90% dark chocolate would say it isn’t socially accepted to eat a candy bar as a meal.

But how about having a store-bought breakfast bar in the morning? Soda with lunch? An energy drink after exercising?

Most industrial food products have high fructose corn syrup or other added sugars to a degree that rivals candy’s ingredients. The problem is this added sugar is so disguised that many people don’t exercise the same control with their processed foods that they do with gummy bears.

Take beverages, for instance. Although most people consider drinks supplemental to their meals, Americans consume 46% of their added sugars from juice and sweetened drinks alone. When compared to the 6% of added sugars that Americans eat through candy, it is clear that candy’s honesty about its sugary content significantly influences consumers to limit their candy intake.

Candy plays many roles as a simple treat, a boutique specialty, a frustrating temptation, a vintage obsession, or simply a stress reliever, and its publicly accepted role of health villain helps candy-lovers limit their candy intake. However, if other processed foods will not embrace candy’s sugar content transparency, we should turn our critical treat eye towards the rest of the disguised sweets on the market.

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Julie Rooney

Julie Rooney is a vegetarian, musician, and artist who primarily works in video and new media. Currently she is the director of Low Road Gallery, a non-profit contemporary art gallery located in Greencastle, Indiana.

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