Thursday, August 30, 2007

Bagged Spinach Recall

Less than a year after the E. Coli spinach recall, a California company on Wednesday recalled more than 8,000 cartons of fresh spinach after a positive test for salmonella contamination. This just confirms my resolve to buy local, unpackaged produce from farmers I know and trust.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Baby Carrot Recall

Baby carrots from Los Angelos Salad Company are being recalled because they are contaminated with the bacteria Shigella. The product was sold under two different labels:

The first is "Los Angeles Salad Genuine Sweet Baby Carrots" distributed by King Soopers in Colorado; Ralphs in California; and Publix in Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina and Florida. These were sold in plastic bags in 7 and 8 oz. sizes, with Sell By Dates up to August 16, 2007.

The second label was "Trader Joe's Genuine Sweet Baby Carrots" distributed by Trader Joe's in Arizona, California, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon and Washington in 7 oz. plastic bags with Sell By Dates up to August 8, 2007.

Infection by the bacteria Shigella can cause diarrhea, fever, nausea and vomiting, with the illness usually lasting from four to 14 days. Infections can be passed from person to person.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

More on plastic

I've been getting a lot of questions about plastic - why exactly is it bad; are any types safe. Here's some information:

Although the FDA has approved all plastics currently being used to package food, they might not all be safe - like the softer plastics, called thermoplastics, including polyester, polystryrene (styrofoam), nylon, teflon, and PVC. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is of the greatest concern because it is used for water pipes and many types of food packaging, including plastic cling wrap.

PVC's molecules are know carcinogens that affect the liver, have been linked to birth defects, and interfere with hormonal activity. Some researchers believe they're also linked to increased incidences of breast and prostate cancers.

Now if those molecules stayed in the packaging, there would be no problem - however, they leach from some types of plastics into our food and drinks. With heat or fat, even more chemicals are released.

There are seven types of plastics used in packaging and fortunately, there is a recycling number on the bottom of containers to identify which type is being used.


#3 PVC or vinyl: Used in plastic wraps, food containers, soft bottles, wrappings for meat and cheese. It is made with chlorine and releases dioxins which have been linked to cancer (including breast and prostate), hormonal imbalances, high blood pressure, heart disease, autoimmune disease, weight problems, and chronic fatigue. Phthalates, which make the plastic flexible and used in products ranging from shampoo to floor coverings, have recently been cited in a study that linked their exposure to smaller genitals in infant boys and an increase in testicular cancer about adults.

#6 Polystyrene or styrofoam: Used as takeout containers, plastics cups, and cutlery. Its components leach into fatty foods and are believed to interfere with hormones.

#7 Misc. category that includes polycarbonate (PC): Used for most clear-plastic bottles, including 5-gallon water bottles and baby bottles. When heated, they release BPA, a hormone disrupter that imitates the femail hormone estradiol which may be linked to breast and ovarian cancer. The US Centers for Disesase Control and Prevention found BPA in the urine of 95% of Americans tested.


#1 Polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE)
#2 High-density polyethylene (HDPE)
#4 Low-density polyethylene (LDPE)
#5 Polypropylene (PP)

But to play it really safe, go for non plastic options like glass or stainless steel as much as possible.

And if anyone discovers a stainless steel water bottle that DOES NOT LEAK - please let me know.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Danger of plastics

While scientists and environmental activists have been concerned about the dangerous effects of chemicals in plastic for some time, finally an official goverment agency may recommend action. According to an article in the August 9th LA Times, a federal panel of scientests concluded that an estrogen-like compound in plastic could be posing risks to the brain development of infants and children. BPA, a component of polycarbonate plastic, can leach from baby bottles and other hard plastic containers, food can linings, and other consumer products (including water bottles.)

The biggest risk, according to the panel, is for fetuses, pregnant women, infants, and children. Low doses of BPA cause structural changes in the brain that trigger learning deficits and hyperactivity. There is also some concern that it harms the prostate gland and causes premature puberty. Some studies found altered brain development, precancerous changes in prostates and mammary glands, low sperm counts, and damage to the uterus but Plastics industry reps say the experiments were flawed and inconclusive. Many animal studies that found reproductive effects were rejected because the animals were exposed through injections rather than diet.

Hopefully, the final report will trigger a review of BPA by California officials under Proposition 65, which requires warnings on consumer products that pose risk of cancer or reproductive harm.

In the meantime, avoid using plastic food containers as much as possible. Never put hot food in plastic or use plastic dishes in the microwave. I don't use plastic to store any liquids. I use glass or stainless steel - even for water bottles. I also try not to purchase any liquid food packaged in plastic but that continues to become harder and harder to do. Foods like juice, peanut butter, and ketchup are more and more frequently available only in plastic containers.