Heavy Metal Dogs

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I ran across a disturbing article that got me thinking about food safety.  Trump’s plan to gut most of the regulatory agencies including the FDA puts corporate profits ahead of the interests of the people.  Fortunately, one hot dog maker recalled something like 200,000 pounds of franks after alert consumers found metal in some of the weenies.  There is no report on which metals were found, whether heavy, precious or rare earth elements, but I can assure this, metal won’t easily melt when boiled, broiled or grilled.  It would not have been the intent of the makers of Nathan’s Hot Dogs to provide the consumer a bit of crunch or a metallic aftertaste.  But what would stop an unregulated company from using whatever meat could be procured cheaply, say, horse, dog, chipmunk, squirrel, possum, house sparrow, cat, or rat? For that matter, might we one day find recycled cell phone parts in our hot dogs in the form of rare earth metals that make the meat look fresher and last longer sporting a half-life shelf life of nearly a thousand years? Imagine a heavy metal dog with an expiration date of 2112 guaranteed to produce noble gases.

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Rice and Bean Supplements

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From time to time over the past few years, I’ve bought vitamin and herbal supplements, stuff like ginseng for energy, ginko biloba for memory loss and echinacea to ward off colds – I’m not getting any younger and I figured my body needs all the help it can get.  Ever the cautious consumer, I read reviews to find reliable brands and felt confident that I was buying the purest, most potent supplements available.  Of course, I could not know for sure, since herbal and vitamin supplements are not regulated by the FDA, but the labels gave assurances of quality control “independently” verified.

As you must no doubt be aware, supplements are not cheap and are quite popular these days.  It’s a multi-billion dollar industry. People believe the products work, and maybe they do…but CAVEAT EMPTOR:  your favorite supplement may not contain the plant you thought you were taking. In an article posted on MarketWatch,  DNA testing prompted by the New York Attorney General’s office determined that many of the supplements examined did not contain any botanical material, and almost 4 in 5 did not contain the ingredients listed on the label.  Some of the contaminants and fillers found included rice, beans, wild carrots and houseplant.  I don’t know about you, but I’d rather buy than swallow a houseplant, although my cat might think differently.  And I’d rather eat a burrito wrapped in a flour tortilla than swallow a bite sized rice and bean burrito capsule. But that’s just me.

Save the World With GMO-free Insects

March Against Monsanto Boston

photo, concept, artwork: Pampi and Lore

The UN says insects might just be the answer to solving world hunger.  Well, as creepy as it sounds, insects are less creepy than genetically modified Monsanto seeds.  I’d rather eat a cricket than corn from a cob the size of a tree trunk.  Yesterday, protesters marched against Monsanto seeds in 436 cities in 52 countries demanding, among other things that food products with GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) be labeled, something the FDA does not currently require.  The U.S. Senate recently rejected an amendment to a farm bill to permit states to require labeling on GMO products.  The vote wasn’t even close as senators from heavily subsidized farm states opposed it with help from the biotech corporate lobby.  The irony here is that GMO seeds that can be engineered to be disease free and resistant to drought, herbicides (other than than the ones produced by the major players) and probably even fire too, threaten nature as much as they do humans.  GMO seeds, like imported fishzilla, killer bees, jumping carp and shiny ladybugs, have a tendency to go rogue and invade the native species.  GMO seeds have a competitive advantage over native crops and could literally drive them out of existence.  Soon corn and soybeans will be the only crops left on the planet.  Get ready to eat lots of popcorn, corn-on-the giant cob, cornflakes, cornbread, corn nuts and grits washed down with Kentucky bourbon.  Is this the answer to world hunger?

Frankly, I’d rather eat honey and a variety of plants, but GMO seeds even threaten our bees.  As goes the bees, so goes our honey, plants and our planet for that matter. According to the New Agriculturist, “bees pollinate one sixth of the world’s flowering plant species and 400 agricultural plants” like beans, carrots, onions, cherries, apples and tomatoes. There is evidence that GMO pollen poisons bees.  And if GMOs poison bees, imagine what it could do to humans and insects.

Which brings me to insects.  I really would rather eat a cricket, grasshopper or termite than a potentially poisonous food source grown in a laboratory.  And the many millions of people on the planet who are starving or severely malnourished deserve healthy food, not a chemically created food experiment.  According to the UN study, insects are healthy, highly nutritious and in abundant supply.  In fact, in some cultures, insects are prized: ants, grubs, waterbugs, crickets, beetles, and scorpions to name a few.  And to raise insects for consumption leaves a much lighter carbon footprint than the production of animals.

Now I know the consumption of insects is mostly taboo in Western culture, but in the not too distant future, I can envision restaurants specializing in insects that cater to an environmentally conscious crowd who are against GMO seeds and devoted to eating healthy while saving the planet.  I have some menu ideas for the enterprising U.S. restauranteur:

Appetizers

Fried Cricket Bits

Beetle Tartare

Entrees

Chipotle Grasshopper:  served with spicy termite oil on a GMO-free sesame seed bun

Barbecued Grubs:  grilled and served on a bed of lightly seasoned sea urchins

Dessert

Starfish:  soaked and served in flaming sangria drink topped with chocolate covered ant sprinkles and anise seeds

Toxic Notebook

Before my wife went out to run some errands, she asked me if I needed anything and I said, yes – a spiral bound notebook.  She went to this place called Building #19.  It’s like a dollar store warehouse, full of deeply discounted books that no one wants to read, knock-off hand sanitizers and recycled toothpaste.  I don’t like these stores much and don’t trust the quality and safety of the products.  My fears escalated when my wife brought home my notebook made in India with this warning:

Good lord!  I have nothing against the good people of India, but how is it that they can make a product so toxic for general consumption or export.  Yes, I know, most everything causes cancer, which is the second leading cause of death in the U.S., but one would think that the sale of consumer products with known carcinogens, especially something like a notebook that is so widely used by children would be prohibited.   And I’m curious about the warning, particularly, “known to the State of California to cause cancer”… Do these chemicals only cause cancer in California? Do other states disagree or are unaware that these chemicals are toxic?  Where is the FDA or the CPSC in all of this?  How is it even possible to buy a toxic spiral notebook?  I want to take notes, not take down garden weeds.  And how do I dispose of this notebook?  Do I throw it out with the regular trash, recycle it or wait until hazardous waste drop-off day?

Congressman PDR – What’s in a Name?

Congressman Paul Davis Ryan.  Darn.  I was hoping his initials were PBR, which would be rather fitting for a man from Wisconsin and the original home of Pabst Blue Ribbon.  Davis.  Maybe that’s a typo, and his name is actually Bevis, or Bates or something.  But my fact checker says that he is in fact Davis.  So he’s PDR, not PBR.  But that’s ok, because PDR helps me point out something alarming about the Congressman.  Google PDR and you know what you get? PDR.net, a drug information company that publishes the Physicians’ Desk Reference and works hand in hand with the FDA to provide safety alerts and information.  However, Congressman PDR has not lived up to his initials.  Do you know why?  Here’s why – just take a look at his voting record:

  • Against FDA appropriations
  • Against the FDA Modernization Act
  • Against FDA regulation on tobacco labeling, ingredients and warnings
  • Against Food Safety regulations
  • Against the Mine Safety Act
  • To limit regulation of Farm Dust
  • To repeal EPA standards for cement manufacturers
  • To repeal prevention and public health funds
  • To repeal Obamacare
  • Against funding to combat Aids, Malaria and TB.

That’s some record there Congressman PDR.  If your vision comes true to dismantle health care, clean air and food safety regulations, more people would have to rely on the Physicians’ Desk Reference and Web MD to self-diagnose and self-medicate, provided they can afford the drugs.  I am sure this would give rise to snake oil salesmen and women, unregulated elixirs and home remedy advice.  Here’s one, next time you get a headache, rub some cauliflower on your temples.  Oh, and rub some on your forehead to improve memory.

Are Peanuts Safe?

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Not yet, though the source of the Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak is limited to a single peanut processing plant in Georgia which has been shut down according to a recent FDA peanut recall fact sheet.

While major brands of peanut butter sold in supermarkets like Peter Pan, Skippy and Jif are safe to eat, some cookies, ice-cream, candy and snacks made with peanuts are not – as of April 18, 3912 products in all have been recalled.  And the number could increase as the FDA continues its investigation into the unclean practices of the Peanut Corporation of America  (PCA) plant in Blakely, Georgia.  So be careful!

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Unclean indeed.  In April of 2008, Canada refused a shipment of peanuts from PCA found to contain metal shavings.  Yum – extra crunchy!

And reports have indicated that some lots of PCA product had initially tested positive for Salmonella, and then retested negative, and were shipped to companies and retailers anyway.  On learning of the negative retests, owner and president Stewart Parnell sent an email saying, “ok, let’s turn them loose”.   This statement and others in which Parnell complained about the costs associated with delayed shipments of peanuts has led to a criminal investigation of PCA.  When Parnell was called to testify before the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations on February 11, he refused to talk, citing his fifth amendment right against self-incrimination.  PCA has now filed for bankruptcy protection.

The  Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that 600 people have become ill since the fall and 9 deaths have been linked to the outbreak.

Companies that have purchased tainted PCA products have issued voluntary recalls and the FDA has asked retailers to pull its stock of PCA products on the recall list.  The FDA also urges consumers to discard any peanut butter products found on its searchable peanut product recall database.  It might be easier to just trash your stash of peanut based treats.

on the recall list

on the recall list

We love peanut butter at our house, but I’m not taking any chances and have already tossed out all the peanut butter we had around – including a jar of Extra Crunchy Jif.  We’ve chucked trail mix, peanut butter crackers, snack bars and cookies – even Rocky Road ice-cream which could contain a stray peanut or two – you never know.

Hey, if you have a dog and dog treats in the house, check the database – even doggy biscuits and doggy snacks containing peanuts could harbor Salmonella!  So wash your hands after handling any canine treats, just to be safe.

The horror of it all.  When will it end? googoo