Email this page
to a friend

Subscribe to Debra's
FREE newsletters
Enter your
email address:

Debra Lynn Dadd
Debra's List
Debra's Bookstore Debra's Bookstore
MCS Recovery
Sweet Savvy Sweet Savvy

Home Safe Home

Green Living
Q & A blog

Talk with Debra

About Debra



Want a fast, personal answer to your question?

Call Debra for a
paid telephone consultation
10am-4pm eastern, Monday-Friday.




Ask a question...Answer a question...
Share the wealth of your experience...


December 03, 2009

Miracle Maid Cookware w/ Gemcoat finish

QUESTION:

I'm trying to move away from the Teflon pans I currently own.

I have a few pieces of Miracle Maid cookware with the Gemcoat finish bought in the early 70's. Well used and worn in some places. The color is charcoal inside and out.

I've searched but do not have a definitive answer about what this was made from. I 'think' it's aluminum, but don't know what the Gemcoat finish is. The books that came with it (yes, I still have them), don't specify what it's made from.

I still have the large pot with steam insert and pans, a griddle (Lektra Maid) and a large coffee pot. I don't know if it's safe to use any of this stuff.

Does anyone have information on this?

POSTED BY FWM :: FLORIDA USA :: 7:36 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I don't know anything about this finish and it appears this company may no longer be in business. If you are unsure and the pots are well worn, it may be time for new cookware.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Dry food storage ideas

QUESTION:

Hi, I am trying to find a chest or a small cabinet to store my dog's dry food inside the bag. I am currently using an old large rubbermaid chest, and am worried about the plastic. I am looking for something fairly large - it could be a small cabinet or chest size for a 40 lb bag of dry food. Any ideas ? Thanks for your help.

POSTED BY LISA :: MINNESOTA USA :: 7:29 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

We store our cat food in a small galvanized steel garbage can, which you can buy at most hardware stores. It has a lid which keeps the cat food fresh and a handle that makes it easy to move if needed.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


November 27, 2009

Lead free tagine

QUESTION:

I am interested in purchasing a tagine for Moroccan cooking, and am wondering if anyone has purchased any brands they recommend and have tested them for lead?
Thanks!
Julie

POSTED BY JULIE BURNS :: CALIFORNIA USA :: 4:05 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Ah...I love tangines. I have one I purchased many years ago in Germany that was handmade, so I don't know any brands to recommend.

Readers?

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 1 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


November 23, 2009

oven bags

QUESTION:

I've been elected to make Thanksgiving dinner this year and was wondering if anyone has experience using the Reynolds oven bags and if they are safe to use. The box doesn't state what they are made of, so it makes me wonder, especially with all the bad stuff we've learned about plastics lately? I think if it works like it says it does, it would save on the soap and water necessary for clean-up after a traditional roasting.

POSTED BY CHARLOTTE :: FLORIDA USA :: 5:59 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I wasn't able to find out what they are made of either.

I wouldn't heat my food in an unknown plastic in the oven.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 2 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Is Armetale Serveware safe?

QUESTION:

Hi Debra,

Do you know anything about this product?:

www.armetale.com/index.php?pID=59

I generally stay away from anything aluminum but a friend has a whole collection of these and loves them - and the site says it is a blend of 10 metals, predominately a "non-toxic aluminum alloy".

I'm curious to see what you have to say! Thanks, Sarah

POSTED BY SARAH :: CALIFORNIA USA :: 2:54 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

The website also says: "ARMETALE products are crafted from a non-toxic aluminum-based alloy. ARMETALEmetal has been analyzed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and an independent third party laboratory and conforms to guidelines for the safe handling of food and beverages."

They don't list what the other metals are, but the alloy may stabilize the aluminum so that it doesn't leach. I called their Customer Service and asked outright if it leached aluminum and was told that it meets FDA guidelines, this product has been around for more than 100 years, it's tested regularly and there are no harmful metals in it. Then she said, "People's main concern about aluminum is Alzheimer's and studies have shown that Alzheimer's is not associated with aluminum exposure." She never actually answered my question about leaching aluminum.

I have no reason to believe there is any harm, I am just cautious about anything metal touching food at this point.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 2 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


November 05, 2009

Mortar and Pestles

QUESTION:

Hi, Im looking for a safe, lead free mortar and pestle. American Masala of Wade Ceramics, England makes one that is porcelain. I can not find anywhere if the product is lead free or not and wonder if you may know. Thank you for your help

POSTED BY LISA :: MICHIGAN USA :: 12:05 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I don't know about this particular brand, but I have seen mortars and pestals made from stone, which would be lead-free because there is no glaze.

For info on specific products, contact the manufacturer.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 1 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


November 02, 2009

Stainless Steel Leaching into Food and Beverages

Since I receive so many questions on this blog pertaining to products made from stainless steel, I thought I'd give you some background about what stainless steel is and how it leaches into various foods and beverages.

Steel is used to make a wide variety of industrial, construction, and consumer products. The largest use by far for consumer products is to make auto bodies and “tin cans” (actually made of steel with a very thin protective coating of tin), although it is also used to make appliances, cutlery, flatware, razor blades, cookware, water bottles, and many other items.

What Steel is Made From

Steel, by definition, is made primarily from iron. Iron is a naturally-occurring metallic element. It is rarely found on the surface of the earth because it oxidizes readily in the presence of oxygen and moisture, and disintigrates into rust. Iron used in products, such as cast iron, is made from the iron ore hematite, from which oxygen has been removed by heating to high temperatures. So when a product is made primarily from iron, it will naturally rust.

Pure single crystals of iron are very soft, so other metals are added to strengthen it. These are called "alloys". Alloying iron with small amounts of other metals and carbon produces steel, which can be 1,000 times harder than pure iron.

There are two basic types of steel: carbon steel and stainless steel.

The type of steel used to make auto bodies, cans, cutlery, and woks is plain carbon steel, produced by the Basic Oxygen Furnace process. You can easily tell that it is carbon steel because it turns black over time and easily rusts when exposed to air and moisture. Made simply of iron with 0.1 to 1.2 percent carbon and even less manganese, carbon steel can be recycled and often contains a minimum of 25 percent recycled content whether it is so labeled or not. The Electric Arc Furnace process, which is used to produce steel shapes such as railroad ties and bridge spans, uses virtually 100 percent recycled steel.

Most consumer products made from steel, however, such as cookware and bakeware, cooking utensils, and flatware, are made from stainless steel, which has a special ability to resist stains and corrosion (so it doesn't rust or turn black). The average stainless steel object is made of about 60% recycled material of which about 40% originates from products consumers have recycled and 60% comes from manufacturing processes. (The Recycling of Stainless Steel" International Stainless Steel Forum. 2006)

In metallurgy, stainless steel is defined as a steel alloy with a minimum of 11% chromium content by mass. The addition of chromium prevents the corrosion that causes rust, and also prevents stains, thus the name "stainless steel."

The chromium--and this is an important point with regards to metal toxicity--forms a layer of chromium oxide over the steel when exposed to oxygen. This layer is impervious to water and air, protecting the metal beneath. This layer quickly reforms when the surface is scratched, so when a food or beverage or your body comes in contact with stainless steel, what it is actually contacting is chromium.

There are more than 150 grades of stainless steel, of which fifteen are most common. In addition to chromium, nickel and manganese are added to some alloys.

More than 70% of stainless steel production is of the 300 series, which produces a particular crystalline structure called "austenitic." These contain a maximum of 0.15% carbon, a minimum of 16% chromium and sufficient nickel and/or manganese to retain their crystalline structure.

These stainless steels are named by their chromium and nickel content. The common composition of 18% chromium and 8% nickel is known as 18/8 stainless. 18/0 and 18/10 are also available.

The most common grade is Type 304, which is 18/8 stainless steel.

The second most common is Type 316, called "surgical stainless steel" for food and surgical stainless steel uses. In addition to chormium and nickel, surgical stainless steel also contains molybdenum to prevent specific forms of corrosion and help maintain the cutting edge. Three hundred sixteen surgical steel is used in the manufacture and handling of food and pharmaceutical products where it is often required in order to minimize metallic contamination.

Type 440 is used to make knives, as it holds a sharp edge well.


<
Content of Common Stainless Steels
Cr (Chromium), Ni (Nickel), C (Carbon), Mn (Manganese), Si (Silicon), P (Phosphorus), S (Sulphur), N (Nitrogen)
SAE  % Cr  % Ni  % C  % Mn  % Si  % P  % S  % N
304 18-20 8-10.50 0.08 2 0.75 0.045 0.03 0.1 -
316 16-18 10-14 0.08 2 0.75 0.045 0.03 0.10 2.0–3.0 Mo
440A 16-18 - 0.60-0.75 1 1 0.04 0.03 - 0.75 Mo
440B 16-18 - 0.75-0.95 1 1 0.04 0.03 - 0.75 Mo
440C 16-18 - 0.95-1.20 1 1 0.04 0.03 - 0.75 Mo


Leaching of Metals from Stainless Steel

Despite the fact that stainless steel has an outer protective layer that reforms almost immediately when the metal is scratched, iron and nickel do leach through this layer, resulting in the leached of all three metals into food and beverages.

I searched for studies that would show leaching of metals from stainless steel and found one that I could purchase for $34, so I bought it: Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology: Leaching of Heavy Metals (Chromium, Iron, and Nickel) from Stainless Steel Utensils in Food Stimulants and Food Materials.

It's from 1994, but stainless steel is stainless steel.

They tested a variety of stainless steel tumblers and bowls used in India, some new and some used.

Foods of various pH were tested for the leaching of iron, chromium, and nickel.
item pH
Distilled water 7.00
5% Sodium carbonate 11.50
5% Acetic Acid 2.11
Tea 6.65
Coffee 6.50
Milk 6.88
Curd 4.30
Fruit juice 4.20
Lemon pickle 2.55


Their findings:
  • Iron, chromium and nickel were all found to leach into both alkaline and acidic foods and beverages, while none of the metals leached into distilled water.
  • Leaching of iron, chromium and nickel was observed from both new and old utensils.
  • Leaching of iron occurred in all foods.
  • Leaching of nickel occurred in curd, fruit juice and pickle (more acid)
  • Leaching of chromium occurred in milk, coffee, and tea (only slightly acid)

Thus, the study concluded "stainless steel utensils may put reasonable amount of iron and chromium trace element in diet. The concentration of nickel leach out in food products probably do not constitute hazard to consumer as the amount of nickel eleaced out is lower to that of recommended values of EPA (0.02 mg/day)."

It also noted, "There are many factors which probably effect the release of iron, chromium and nickel in food. These will include stainless steel surface area of contact, physical nature of surface area, pH of food products, its temperature, time and contact, agitation, chemical composition of steel alloy and presence of organic chelating constituents like citric acid, tartaric acid and oxalic acid."
>
So there is a wide spectrum of possible leaching that could occur.

My philosophy is to apply the "precautionary principle" and avoid potentially toxic chemicals whenever possible. Since cookware and water bottles exist that do not leach these metals, I prefer to use and recommend those that do not leach toxic substances.

Here is a whole list of other studies that have data on the leaching of metals into food and beverages:

Brittin Helen, C and Nossaman, Cheryl E (1986) Iron content of food cooked in iron utensils. J Am Diet Assoc 86:897-901

Buhler DR (1973) Environmental contamination by toxic metals, heavy metals in environment: Seminar Conducted by Water Resources Research Institute,
Oregan. EHC, Nickel (1991), WHO, Geneva, 108

Inoue I, Ishiwala H and Yoshihira K (1988) Aluminium levels in food-simulating solvents and various food cooked in Alpans. J Agric Food Chem 36:599-601

Joel Kuligowski and Kopal M Halperin (1992) Stainless steel cookware as a significant source of Ni, Cr and Fe. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 23:211-215

Krishnamurti CR, Vishwanathan Pushpa (1991) Toxic metals in Indian environment. Pub. Tata MCGraw Hill Publishing Co. Ltd., New Delhi, India.

Mosironi R (1973) International Studies on Trace Elements in etiology of cardiovascular diseases. Nutr Rep Int 7: 51-59.

Offenbacher Esther, G Pi-sunyer, F Xavier (1983) Temperature and pH effects on the release of Cr from stainless steel into water and fruit juices. J Agric
Food Chem 31:89-92

Ohkubo Noboru, Kate Takashi, Koshiola Kyoko, Miyazaki Genichi (1983) Dissolution of Cr from stainless steel tablewares. Hokuriku Koshu Eisei Gakkaishi 10:
22-23.

O'Neill NC, Tanner MS (1989) Uptake of Cu from brass vessels by bovine milk and its relevance to Indian Childhood Cirrhosis. J Pediatr Gastrointerol Nutr
9: 167-172

Reilly C (1985) The dietary significance of adventitious Fe, Zn, Cu and Pb in domestically prepared food. Food Additives and Contaminant 2:209-215
Stoewsand GS, Stanner JR, Kosikowski FV, Morse RA,

Bache CA and Lisk DJ (1979) Cr and Ni in acidic food and by product contacting stainless steel during processing. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 21: 600-603.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (1991)

Toxicological profile for nickel, Agency for toxic substances and disease Registry,Atlanta, Georgia.

Van-Schoor O, Deelstra H (1986) The influence of home preparation and eating habits on daily Cr intake. Trace Elem Anal Chem Med Biol Proc Int Workshop 4th
(Pub 1987, 165-168)

Venugopal B and Luekey TD (1978) Metal toxicity in mamnals I I . Chemical toxicity of metals and metalloids. Plenum Press, New York.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 18 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


October 05, 2009

Information on Fat

QUESTION:

I'm not sure if this question fits the guidelines, but I don't know where else to get an answer I trust. I'm looking for a website similar to your sweet savvy website about fats. I'd like some good solid information on which fats are good for you and which aren't that is based on a naturalistic point of view. Search engine results aren't very helpful. Thanks in advance.

POSTED BY JIE T. ELINS :: UTAH USA :: 1:57 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

The best book I've read on fat is Eat Fat, Lose Fat by Dr. Mary Enig. This book is endorsed by the Weston A. Price Foundation, whose food recommendations are rooted in traditional foods eaten by pre-industrial societies.

Though the book is heavy on coconut oil, it clearly explains the different fats and explains which fats not to use and why, and which fats are beneficial and why.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


September 04, 2009

Food and Drink Containers

QUESTION:

Help! I'm suffering from TMI (too much information) overload!

I am trying to find the best portable food and drink storage materials for my family. For liquids, we were using SIGG, but I recently learned their bottles contained BPA through 2008 and now I'm returning them to SIGG for the "new" bottles with BPA free liners. Who knows if this new liner is truly safe either, as I've lost some trust in SIGG. I've heard Kleen Kanteen is good, but will they corrode or leach without a liner? I like the glass Love Bottle, but that is not practical for my daughter to bring to school. My daughter, husband and I all bring our lunches to school/work and glass is heavy and breakable.

We want to get rid of our old plastic, but what is safest? I've looked into Lunch Bots and Kids Konserve, which are both stainless steel, but do we have to worry about leaching chemicals? I've seen the new Oxo Pop, which is BPA/PVC/phthalate-free plastic; the Fresh Snack Pack made of EVA; and TellFresh made from Polypropylene. You mentioned polyethylene, but I can't find a product made from this material.

3GreenMoms makes moisture proof pouches but I wonder about mold. Plum Creek makes cotton snack bags, but those won't work for fruit or veggies which is most of our diet. What's going to be the safest option for my family? One study I read says stainless is best, then I read something else that says stainless is bad and BPA free plastic is best. I'm in a quandry!

POSTED BY SARAH :: COLORADO USA :: 11:12 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I'm sure everyone is going to have a different opinion on this.

I'll just reiterate that glass is the least toxic food storage material.

All of the plastics are going to leach something into the foods and beverage, though I can't tell you at this time how much or what. I'm working on researching this.

Stainless steel leaches metals.

So if you don't use glass, then you need to decide if you want to eat and drink plastics or metals.

I'm still working on determining, which is safer--plastic or metal. Neither is completely safe.

I understand that glass may not be the practical choice. But perhaps you could rig up some padding that would help with breakage. We carry glass containers wrapped with towels held on with rubber bands. Haven't had a broken one yet. You could then put a pretty little bag around it if you need it to be more attractive.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 6 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


September 02, 2009

Stainless steel vs. hard anodized cookware

QUESTION:

I have sifted through the previous Q & A on your website as well as throughout other web searches. I need to replace my scratched skillets and sauce pans. I'd like to buy a set so that I can make it as cost efficient as possible. It seems that there are risks associated with both stainless steel as well as the hard anodized aluminum if they are scratched. If my family has no known allergies, can you recommend which route to take?

POSTED BY EP :: COLORADO USA :: 5:49 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

If these were my only two choices, I would go with the anodized aluminum. It's my opinion that it probably leaches less than the stainless steel.

I understand about cost efficiency. For myself, I consider the long term effects of good health. I may save money today by not purchasing the more expensive healthier product, but down the road, poor health not only results in more medical expenses, but loss of income and the priceless enjoyment of life. I'm not independently wealthy, but creating a healthy environment is the number one most important thing to me. If I need to cut back on something, I cut back on something else and spend the money I have on healthy products.

Xtrema Cookware, made from ceramic. It is better for health and the environment.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 1 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


August 31, 2009

Cuisinart Green Gourmet frying pans

QUESTION:

I was wondering if your pans are still living up to your expectations after having used them for awhile. I was looking to buy one for cooking eggs but noticed a lot of negative reviews after people used them for a few months. Thanks. I really appreciate your efforts.
Carol

POSTED BY CAROL :: MISSOURI USA :: 11:28 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I have two (different sizes) and I still love them. But remember, I only use them for cooking eggs, so I haven't used them as much as other might.

What kind of negative comments are being made, and where? If I know your specific concerns, I can tell you my experience.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 7 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


August 11, 2009

Is mycoprotein safe?

QUESTION:

Quorn meat substitutes contain the ingredient mycoprotein. Has anyone heard of this? I have read several reviews stating that Quorn products are the best substitutes for meat and I really wanted to try it out. But this ingredient concerns me...

POSTED BY NEW VEGETARIAN :: ILLINOIS USA :: 8:41 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Mycoprotein is a fermentation of a fungus microorganism and certain nutrients, mixed with egg white and seasonings.

It's a manmade concoction that doesn't appear in nature.

I'm skeptical of manufactured foods.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 2 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


August 03, 2009

MOVIE REVIEW: Food, Inc

Over the weekend, my husband and I went to see "Food, Inc: How Industrial Food is Making Us Sicker, Fatter, and Poorer-And What You Can Do About It," and we were very glad we did.

Whether you have been eating organic for years or are new to organic foods, you’ll learn something from this very informative film. We learned more than we knew.

Through first-person interviews mixed with shots of real-life farms and processing plants, Food, Inc. clearly shows the difference between industrial manufacturing of food and organic agriculture.

Today, mega retailers like McDonald’s and Wal-Mart define how our food is grown and raised because they are the largest customers. Do you think you are eating better food because you’re not eating at McDonald’s? Think again. The only difference between the food you eat at McDonald’s and the food on your plate that you purchased at a supermarket is that you cooked it. The same food from the same processing plants goes to fast food chains and supermarkets. And that food is produced for profit, not safety or nutrition.

Food, Inc shows some unsavory footage, but it’s not too bad. What is great about this film is that you can see with your own eyes the difference between how industrial food and organic food is created.

At heart, this film is a feature-length commercial for organic food producers. Though the film reveals a side of the food industry that may make you want to never eat again, it also presents the solution: choose organic, eat seasonal, buy local, prepare your own food at home...all the things I have been writing about for years.

While Food, Inc begins with alarm, it ends with hope. It reminds us that we have power as consumers to change the system with the decisions we make every time we purchase food.

Worth seeing if you want to know what's currently happening with our food supply.

For more information on the movie, visit the official Food, Inc website, where you can watch the trailer, find a local theater, learn more about organic food, and get a reading list.

And here's the companion book: Food Inc.: A Participant Guide: How Industrial Food is Making Us Sicker, Fatter, and Poorer-And What You Can Do About It

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 3 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


July 29, 2009

Pizzelle maker

QUESTION:

Hi,

I would like to buy a pizzelle maker but so far I have only seen ones that are made with a non stick coating or aluminum.

Does anyone know if they make one with cast iron or anodized aluminum. I have been searching the internet but so far no luck.

Thank-you,
Anne Donahue

POSTED BY ANNE :: FLORIDA USA :: 6:23 AM
CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


July 27, 2009

Starfrit Alternative Frying Pan

QUESTION:

Hello,

I was wondering if you new if the Starfrit Alternative Eco Pan made from natural ceramic powder is actually a healthy alternative to cook with? They say it has no Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) or Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).

Thanks

POSTED BY SAVANNA :: ALASKA CANADA :: 12:35 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I haven't actually seen this pan, but the description says "100% ceramic powder" and "99% recycled aluminum" so it sounds like it is a ceramic coating fused to an aluminum pan.

A 100% ceramic coating would be safe. Other ceramic coatings I am familiar with are lead-free.

Anyone have any experience with these pans?

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


July 20, 2009

washing produce the correct way

QUESTION:

Its very confuning on the issue of washing your produce the correct way, some say you should wash it whole and others say you should cut it up first. Can you please explain each one of the steps you should take after you buy produce. Which things should i use to clean them with? Also how much should i use? Thanks

POSTED BY DE :: NEW YORK USA :: 1:45 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

It's actually different for different types of produce.

I only use filtered water to rinse my produce, I don't "wash" it with any substances to remove pesticides, because I buy organic.

To rinse lettuce, for example, you need to pull the individual leaves apart because dirt gets lodged between the leaves near the root. Carrots you need to scrub the skins or remove them. Leeks you need to cut up because they have a lot of sand in them, then soak in a bowl of water. Any good cookbook will give instructions for washing produce.

I think it's best to wash produce when you first bring it home, so it is handy and ready when you want to eat it. Especially lettuce, as you don't want wet lettuce for salad. You can put clean vegetables in the crisper of your refrigerator, wrapped in a cotton towel.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


July 09, 2009

Books About Safe and Unsafe Food and Vitamins

QUESTION:

In Q&A: Where to Find the Most Natural Vitamins, Les from Hawaii mentioned some books that contained information on what is wrong with conventional vitamins, and I wrote and asked her for the titles. Here is her reply:


HI Debra- I did pull the books out this morning and have them here - will list them out.

1. Twinkie, Deconstructed: My Journey to Discover How the Ingredients Found in Processed Foods Are Grown, Mined (Yes, Mined), and Manipulated into What America Eats, by Steve Ettlinger. This was MOST disturbing and the first I had read and learned about how our foods are manufactured, including vitamins. I have yellow sticking throughout this book - Ch 4 has the most - this was a very disturbing book to read...pg 31 I have marked as explaining role of China in vitamin industry. Am sure there are other references but am trying to get this done before the kids arrive! The ENTIRE book is worthy of your reading - yikes!

2.Genetically Engineered Food: A Self-Defense Guide for Consumers - by Ronnie Cummins and Ben Lilliston. It includes very important info on GMO (which is not required even as yet, to be labeled on foods - YIKES - and includes not only pertinent info on the industry itself, but what to buy and how to shop wisely. Again, many yellow stickies in this book!

3. The End of Food: How the Food Industry is Destroying Our Food Supply--And What We Can Do About It, by Thomas F. Pawlick - again, I have yellow stickies throughout - ch 5 I think is very important, and second part of book gives "Solutions".

4. Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser. VERY interesting and enlightening - again, YIKES. Lots of yellow stickies in this one also.

I also have three books on food not read yet - but here they are, strongly recommended for me to read due to reactions to things like canola oil (rapeseed - genetically modified entirely now, for food industry - CANOLA OIL - it was GM to begin with because the rapeseed itself gave many people who used it bad cardiac irregularities - some acid in it - now GM to be a lower level and cause fewer problems. However, many remain sensitive to it - and one local bakery told me that he doesn't know of ANY bakeries here who DON'T use it - because Canola oil allows all that is in it to remain well in suspension, not separating out - it is great for baking! Well, not great for me as it gives me premature ventricular contractions (PVC's) when I eat anything with that in it!!)

1. America's Food: What You Don't Know About What You Eat, by Harvey Blatt.

2. In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto - by Michael Pollan (author of another good book, The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals - I don't have that here in my pile as I have loaned it to a neighbor, but I DO have the book - also good reading!!)

3. Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition, and Health, by Marion Nestle. This book was the 2003 winner of the James Beard Foundation Award. As you well know, lobbyists literally rather run how our government decides things, many times - this book is a behind the scenes look at how in the heck that happens. The preface says on pg ix, "Because the book raises concerns about the food industry that are rarely discussed in academic or public circles, I have attempted to document the sources of my information more than might seem absolutely necessary." Thus, his notes about all this go from page 387 - 442.

You had asked for VITAMIN books per se - I am sure I can find some good ones for you, but they would be on more positive notes - ie, what is good - what I was looking for all along are the HIDDEN things we don't know about. For example, I had NO idea that much of what comes into our drug stores and which we take as medication, is not made in this country, but overseas - because it is CHEAPLY done there - and as a nurse, I have severe contention with generic drugs - they are NOT the same as the Brand ones, of course, but on top of that, the generics from company to company are not the same either - some work well, others don't. And of course, our pharmacies bid for the CHEAPEST generic for x-period of time, and that is what you get when on drug plans nowadays, if generics are available - and many plans are now also NOT allowing some drugs we HAVE been safely on, to even BE paid for by the plan--you have to pay the full VERY expensive price - or take some other drug that THEY say can also work for you!! What a scam this all is!

Anyway, hope this helps - more than you actually asked for, but within you will learn A LOT - I know your diet is very good, and I LOVE your website and all you do - you are an inspiration!

If others have found other books to be helpful to them in learning what is actually in our food, and what is SAFE, that aren't here, I would love to hear about them!

Les

POSTED BY LESLIE ADAMS :: HAWAII USA :: 10:23 AM
CATEGORY — FOOD :: 5 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


July 06, 2009

PTFE-free nonstick coatings

QUESTION:

Would you use 'green' pans that have a PTFE-free nonstick coating? I have been seeing these in a few stores and Walmart in particular is selling a non-stick pan using NP2 technology that is suppose to be eco-friendly.
Thanks for your input.

POSTED BY MIEMIEMUIS :: FLORIDA USA :: 2:10 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I'm a little wary of this coating. I've noticed that not all "green" nonstick coatings are the same. I personally do use the Cuisinart Green Gourmet pans sold at Bed, Bath & Beyond, but none of the others. I just can't get enough information on the finishes.

All I can find on NP2 Technology is this press release: AkzoNobel Develops "Green" Non-Stick Coating for Cookware. It talks about being green because it uses less energy in manufacture and eliminates "non-biodegradable components" but doesn't say anything about how toxic the finish might or might not be.

Readers, any experience with these pans?

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


June 24, 2009

Those baby carrots we all buy

QUESTION:

Debra,
I received an email about those baby carrots that are so convenient. The ones I buy are labeled Organic. The email said that during processing baby carrots were rinsed w/chlorine, and then w/potable water. I wanted to know what the implications of that would be from a health standpoint. They're a standby for most mothers who want their children to eat vegetables.

POSTED BY POLLY :: CALIFORNIA USA :: 2:50 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Where are all these emails coming from about food rinsed in chlorine?

I would say it's a good certainty that this is true for non-organic carrots.

It's probably not true for organic carrots, though these may be rinsed in chlorinated water.

Just make a general assumption that any produce you purchase prewashed in plastic bags probably has some chlorine residue on it. Your best option is to buy organic produce and wash it yourself in purified chlorine-free water.

I can't tell you what the health effects might be of eating produce washed in chlorine. It would probably be about the same as drinking chlorinated tap water.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 1 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


June 22, 2009

Chlorine in Chicken Processing

QUESTION:

Hi Debra, love your website, I am on your site everyday. I recently found out that after chickens are slaughtered they are rinsed with water and then they are dipped in a chlorine wash. Perdue, Tyson and even Giant Eagle's Nature's Basket brand are treated with chlorine. Is this safe?

I just switched to Whole Foods house brand, it is not organic, but is free range, airchilled. Is organic chicken and free range chicken dipped in a chlorine solution? I am not even sure if it is safe, maybe it is, i am just so confused about why every thing is so polluted with chemicals. Perdue assured me there is no residue on the finished product.

Please tell me if it safe to eat chicken and turkeys that are processed this way. USDA recomends a chlorine wash, that is what the companies told me. Please help me understand. Thank you.

POSTED BY LINDA :: PENNSYLVANIA USA :: 6:43 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

OK. Here is the link to the USDA National Organic Program: http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/nop. This is the place to look up any questions you have about what is allowed in organic food and what isn't.

The Regulations are in the right hand column, under General Information. Click on "Regulations." The Regulations also reference the "National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances" which is above the Regulations, under "I Want Information On."

Chlorine is not a prohibited substance in organic food production, however, the amount of chlorine in the water must not exceed the amount of chlorine allowed in the Safe Drinking Water Act. So it seems that straight chlorine bleach could not be used, although I couldn't find that specifically in the Regulations.

A "chlorine wash" is a low-concentration chlorine bath used to kill micro-organisms that may cause illness. The idea behind organic chickens is that they would be raised to be healthier and with better hygiene, therefore not needing the chlorine wash.

I read a blog where people were complaining about the chlorine smell on chicken and others were recommending buying organic.

We buy Coleman organic chicken and have not noticed any chlorine smell.

Whole Foods should be able to tell you all about their chicken and whether or not it has a chlorine wash.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 5 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


June 15, 2009

Eleanor Hoh's Cast Iron Wok

QUESTION:

Have you had any experience with Hoh's light-weight, truly round-bottomed cast iron wok that is supposed to sit ok on most gas stoves even without a ring? Or with the flavors of foods in woks make of different materials?

I'm wondering if this wok would be a good addition to my kitchen, because I miss my stir fries (I made almost everything in a steel wok on a ring on a gas stove in college) but have been less than satisfied with the flat bottomed steel ones I've used since then on non-gas stoves. Now I have a gas stove but a ring won't sit on the square slots properly.

If I want to get back to round-bottomed wok cooking, my choices are:

Try her cast iron wok on my gas stove, OR
Get a propane stove that accepts a round-bottomed wok (she sells one) and use it with the round-bottomed wok of my choice, whether carbon steel or cast iron.

Hoh's website says that food in cast iron tastes better, and that round bottomed woks that are nice and wide make it easier to control temps on different foods within the same pot and that less oil is needed in a round bottomed wok.

Input? Opinions?


POSTED BY LAURE :: TEXAS USA :: 10:21 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I personally have no experience with this particular wok. I have no objection in general to using cast iron.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 2 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Mineral oil on eggs

QUESTION:

I just returned from my local farm market. The lady I buy eggs from said she rubs them with mineral oil to make them shiny and keep them from absorbing odors from the refrigerator. I said to her "isn't mineral oil petroleum based?". She said no, it's very safe and she implied it's a common practice to rub the eggs with mineral oil. I didn't want to argue without more info, so I came home and goggled. Yes, eggs are washed with mineral oil, food grade of course, FDA approved.

Here's a description from www.eggcartons.com - it explains why this is done:

The surface of an egg shell is covered with thousands of microscopic holes which makes it quite porous. A natural coating referred to as the 'bloom' helps seal the holes, preventing bacteria from entering. As the egg ages, the bloom is worn away, which allows moisture to slowly escape and air to enter, forming the 'air cell'. Bacteria may also enter, and contamination may result. When eggs are washed to remove germs that may be on the surface the bloom is also removed, so a thin coating of oil is applied to take the place of the bloom. This works in the same way as the bloom, keeping the contents fresh for longer periods. The bloom also provides eggs with a natural luster or shine. Mineral oil not only protects your eggs as a sealant but it also restores the luster, the shine of the egg.

Food Grade Mineral Oil makes a great egg shell sealant. One method to preserve eggs is to warm the oil so it is as warm as your hands can work comfortably. To apply the oil, dip clean cloth in it and wipe the egg so that every bit of the shell has been coated. We carry a hand spray (see additional items) use of this hand spray makes coating eggs quickly and more efficiently. After coating the eggs place them (small side down) in egg cartons or egg trays and store in a cool place. The eggs should keep at least 6-8 months.

This food grade mineral oil is an odorless, tasteless, crystal clear, food grade white mineral oil. It meets or exceeds requirements of US FDA regulation 21 CFR 172.878 and CFR178.3620(a) for direct and indirect food contact. It meets or exceeds standards of the US Pharmacopoeia (USP) and the National Formulary (NF). It meets standards for approval as H1 and 3H lubricants for use in food processing plants under the jurisdiction of the USDA. This product is also Kosher approved. It is the lightest viscosity of mineral oil we offer. Great for use in Cosmetics, Health and Beauty, Bee Mite Control, and Many More Applications.


Debra - I eat a lot of eggs. Isn't the mineral oil absorbed thru the shell into the egg itself? Should I be searching for eggs not washed and treated with mineral oil? Or am I over reacting?

Thanks for your time. You provide an invaluable service that I am truly grateful for.

POSTED BY CINDY :: NEW JERSEY USA :: 9:43 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Thanks for opening up this question. I didn't know there was mineral oil on eggs.

Yes, mineral oil is made from petroleum. There are apparently different grades of mineral oil with different levels of purity. Small producers such as your egg lady at the farmer's market may or may not understand this. If she didn't know mineral oil is made from petroleum, she may not know the difference between food grade mineral oil and the stuff you buy at the drug store.

In Guidelines for Certification of Organic Eggs and Meat Birds by Vermont Organic Farmers (VOF) Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont, I found the following:


Egg Washes (205.605)

Due to the porous nature of egg shells, egg cleaners are considered to be food additives and must be on the National List of allowed non-agricultural substances (205.605).

Chlorine solutions used to sanitize eggs, if at levels added over 4ppm, must be followed by clean water rinse at no more than 4ppm residual chlorine levels.

The following egg wash ingredients are allowed for use in organic egg production:
􀂃 Sodium hypochlorite
􀂃 Potassium hydroxide, sodium hydroxide
􀂃 Hydrogen peroxide
􀂃 Sodium carbonate
􀂃 Peracetic acid (Peroxyacetic acid)

Other additives/ Egg coatings: Mineral oil is not listed on the National List Section 205.605 and therefore may not be used to coat eggs after washing. Organic vegetable oils would be allowed for this purpose.


To me, the above means that whatever you put on the shell of the egg will get into the egg. Chlorine (sodium hypochlorate) is allowed, but so are other substances, so we don't know which is used unless we ask. So eggs may be chlorinated. Hydrogen peroxide would be fine. Sodium hydroxide is lye, not toxic, but caustic (an eat through skin). Sodium carbonate is washing soda (OK). Peracetic acid, in simple terms, is like a mix of vinegar and hydrogen peroxide, so that would be OK.

Note it says that mineral oil may NOT be used on eggs because it can permeate the shell. This, however, is only the regulation for this particular organic certification group in Vermont. I tried to find the national USDA standard for eggs, but couldn't find them easily (readers, if you can find these, please post a link).

I would venture to say that non-organic eggs are most likely coated with mineral oil. Organic eggs probably are not. But it's best to ask this question of your egg producer, and also what they wash the eggs with. Here's where is IS a good idea to buy eggs at the farmer's market, because you can ask the farmers directly. It's OK with me if you want to print my response here and take it to that farmer who is putting mineral oil on her eggs. Does she sell them as "organic"? I don't know how much mineral oil actually gets through the eggshell. I don't think you're overreacting. Obviously, these organic farmers think it is enough of an issue to not allow it. It's considered a "food additive."

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 1 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


June 02, 2009

non organic milk in glass bottles or organic milk in plastic?

QUESTION:

I really wanted to switch my family to organic milk in glass bottles, but my only choices at my markets around me are non organic milk in glass bottles, or of course organic milk, even local organic milk, in plastic or paper cartons.

So, do I take organic milk and add the chemicals that the plastic leaches or do I take the non organic milk (assuming some pesticide residue) in the safe glass container?

POSTED BY FOUR IN FOUR YEARS :: WASHINGTON USA :: 8:02 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I would call the company that produces the organic milk and ask them about their cartons. They may be using a safe plastic, such as polyethylene, which does not leach. Please contact them and write back and tell me what they say (in a comment to this post).

Personally, I would choose the organic milk. I don't drink milk, but I do use cream. I buy grass-fed cream in paper cartons. We don't have it here in glass. But whenever I have the option, I buy the glass.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 4 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


May 18, 2009

salad spinners

QUESTION:

Are there any plastic salad spinners that are safe to use? That do not off-gas or have BPA or phalates in them?

POSTED BY MARC :: FLORIDA USA :: 7:25 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I do not know the type of plastic used to make salad spinners, however, there is a safe alternative, suggested by Martha Stewart. She says, if you are away from home at your summer cabin and do not have your salad spinner with you, simply place the wet lettuce in the middle of a clean kitchen towel, pull the four corners together, take it outside, and spin it over your head. Of course, you need to be outdoors to do this.

I simply wash my lettuce in advance, wrap the damp lettuce in a clean cotton kitchen towel and put it in the crisper. This way it is clean, dry, and ready for me to make a salad immediately at any time, and requires no additional plastic equipment.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Ideal Coffee Maker

QUESTION:

The ideal coffee maker would be glass and (for me) stainless steel and use paper filters, since there appears to be research that paper filters remove some esters which can promote higher cholesterol. Were it not for the paper filter issue, a French press would be ok, but something automatic (e.g., electric) would be even better.

POSTED BY DAVID MYROW :: THERAPLACE :: WWW.THERAPLACE.COM :: NEW YORK USA :: 7:23 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Then I would suggest a Chemex Coffee Maker, which is all glass and uses paper filters.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


April 20, 2009

Bamboo Steamer

QUESTION:

Debra,

I recently purchased a bamboo steamer at a high-end cooking store, thinking it would be better than stainless steel for me on an energetic level. The brand name is Helen Chen (not Joyce Chen) and it is well made does the job beautifully steaming multi levels if needed. It is also a good alternative to the microwave for reheating food.

My concern is this. The directions say to line the steamer with parchment paper or put food on a plate. They say it is to keep the steamer clean. I don't care about stains on the steamer but I am concerned that the bamboo itself could be treated or toxic. It is made in China and I usually avoid cookware from China. I am starting to wonder if I might be safer with stainless though I do love this piece of kitchen equipment both practically and asthetically, not to mention the waste of investment.

I would like your opinion or information about the safety of bamboo for cooking, especially bamboo imported from China.

thank you

steaming in Montague

POSTED BY LH :: MASSACHUSETTS USA :: 4:49 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I have seen nothing regarding any hazardous exposures from Chinese bamboo steamers. I have one myself and use it often.

I imagine that these are not made industrially. They are probably handmade in some little village out in the countryside, far away from industrial chemicals.

If anyone has an evidence to the contrary, please let me know.

I love my bamboo steamer for all the reasons you love yours.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Himalayan Salt

QUESTION:

Dear Debra

I would like to first thank you for your wonderful web site. I appreciate all the information you share with us on healthy and nontoxic ways to improve our lives.

I would like to ask a question about the Himalayan salt that is posted on your website. I was reading the element ingredients listed on their website and a few of them really jump out at me:
Lead, Radium (radioactive) Aluminium, Nickel, Arsenic, Antimony,
Cadmium (toxic even in low doses).

Please comment on how these elements are healthy for people with MCS who are constantly trying to avoid these toxic elements in their environment. Thank you.

POSTED BY PAA :: NEW YORK USA :: 4:12 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

First, there are no "ingredients" (something that enters into a compound or is a component part of any combination or mixture) in Himalayan salt except the salt itself, which is mined from underground salt deposits formed from primal seas.

Himalayan salt is a naturally occurring mineral that contains many elements, nothing is added to or removed from the salt by man. And so it contains the full spectrum of elements provided by nature. The amount are extremely small. Trace amounts.

And yes, all of those elements exist in nature. Throughout nature. Nothing in natural is "pure" in the industrial sense that it is one element only.

Refined table salt does not contain those elements, or any other. It is pure sodium chloride. But it also makes people sick. Himalayan salt, on the other hand, with all it's natural elements, has been scientifically tested and found to be exceptionally iife enhancing.

I personally have been eating "The Original" Himalayan Crystal Salt for, oh, about four years, I think, and my body loves it.

Just a side note...I recently found that my body had elevated blood pressure. I stopped eating in refined salt entirely (no restaurants or processed foods containing salt) and it my blood pressure went to normal in a few weeks without doing anything else. All this time I was eating Himalayan salt. Then I went to San Francisco for six weeks and all I ate was restaurant food. And now, returning home, I found my blood pressure was up. But I'm not concerned...I just stopped eating in restaurants.

So it's clear to me that my body prefers Himalayan salt.




Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 4 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


March 23, 2009

Coil Coating on Bakeware

QUESTION:

Hi Debra,

I was recently shopping for some new bakeware (cookie sheets) and I noticed something I've never seen before. The bakeware was steel and was coated with a non-stick "coil coating". I've never heard of this and I haven't been able to find out exactly what it is. The bakeware was cheap though and but I wonder is this coating would be applied to higher quality bakeware too. Any thoughts?

Thanks,
Dana

POSTED BY DANA :: OHIO CANADA :: 11:55 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Basically, coil coatings are high performance liquid coatings (paints) applied to metal before it is formed into a product. "Coil coating paints are applied to continuous steel or aluminium strip in a range of colours, cured in seconds and re-coiled for delivery to the user...The process reduces environmental impact as it applies paint with little waste, usually burning solvents to provide energy for curing the paint. End-users of coil coated metal do not need environmentally demanding pre-treatment and paint plants."

There is a very simple, yet detailed explanation of "coil coatings" atwww.beckers-bic.com/BIC/bicweb.nsf/key/CoilCoatings. There is even an animated illustration of how coil coatings are applied at www.beckers-bic.com/BIC/bicweb.nsf/key/CCA.

So I am assuming that this bakeware has had a paint applied using the coil coating method.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


February 26, 2009

Natural Aluminum Bakeware

QUESTION:

I own Nordic natural aluminum bakeware. Is it safe? I just replaced all my teflon coated bakeware and am now wondering if the aluminum is safe. If not, what is safe to use as bakeware? I've tried glass from anchor hocking and don't like the way it cooks things like brownies. Also, what is a cookie sheet alternative.

POSTED BY RENEE CUPPS :: OHIO USA :: 10:18 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I called Nordic Ware to find out what "natural aluminum" means and they said it is just heavy duty aluminum without any finish on it.

I asked them about the dangers of aluminum exposure from aluminum cookware, and they pointed out, rightly so, that acidic foods react with the aluminum cookware to release aluminum, but ingredients in cookies, cakes, etc do not.

Personally, I use glass on those infrequent occasions when I bake brownies or cakes, and aluminum/steel baking sheets for most everything else. But I line these baking sheets with either a silicone baking mat or unbleached parchment paper, so the food doesn't actually come in contact with the metal (and the pan is easier to clean).

For a very thorough discussion of the health effects of aluminum and sources of aluminum exposure in products, see Q&A: Aluminum Cookware and Alzheimer's Disease. This will help you sort out for yourself whether you want to use aluminum bakeware or not.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


rice cooker

QUESTION:

My rice cooker does a great job of cooking brown rice. However, the rice is cooked in a hard plastic container. While I think it's a lot safer than Teflon, I've become concerned about the plastic leaching into the rice. (However, I've used it for about 16 years, so maybe anything that's going to leach has already leached.)

Ideally, I'd like to buy a 2 to 4 cup rice cooker with a glass or stainless steel inner liner where the rice is cooked. Unfortunately, most of them have a non-stick inner liner.

Miracle has one that's all stainless, but I read a review that it has to be worst rice cooker they've ever used because it spews sticky stuff all over the counter and on the floor, the rice burns on the bottom, and brown rice doesn't cook completely no matter how much water you add. The Vitaclay cooker is made from clay, but after reading reviews about mold growing in the clay, electronic problems, clean-up difficulty, etc., not to mention its cost, I'm hesitant to buy one.

Does anyone have a rice cooker they can recommend?

Thanks a lot!

Carol

POSTED BY CAROL :: TEXAS USA :: 5:19 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I cook my rice in my old Visions pot. That way I can see when the rice has absorbed all the water without opening the lid. It also doesn't require having another appliance.

Readers, any suggestions on rice cookers?

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 6 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


February 23, 2009

Tetra Pak

QUESTION:

Hi Debra, I've been searching tetra paks to see if they're a non-toxic alternative to canned soups (I can find a lot of soups in the organic section in tetra paks). I can't find any information on toxicity levels though, whether something nasty is going to be leaching into my food from these. Can you help? Thanks!

POSTED BY LINDA :: GREEN IRENE :: WWW.GREENIRENE.COM/LINDAMAUMELLE :: ARKANSAS USA :: 10:50 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Tetra Pak is a brand name for aseptic packaging.

Aseptic packages are made with three materials:

* Paper (70 percent) -- provides stiffness, strength and the efficient brick shape
* Aluminum (6 percent) -- forms a barrier against light and oxygen, eliminating the need for refrigeration and preventing spoilage without using chemical preservatives.
* Polyethylene plastic (24 percent) -- forms the seal on the innermost layer that makes the package liquid-tight (so this is what is next to the food), and a protective coating on the exterior keeps the package dry.

According to the Aseptic Packaging Council the polyethylene layer next to the food is low-density polyethylene (LDPE). Also according to the Aseptic packaging council the LDPE has been tested and found to not contain bisphenol A (BPA), nonylphenol, and phthalates.

A couple of weeks ago, in Q&A: Food Grade Polyethylene Containers a reader wrote, "We are a tiny manufacture (>50K) of a liquid organic product. Some of our product was stored in high-density polyethylene food grade containers, while another batch was stored in low-density polyethylene, food grade containers. All the product in in HDP containers was ruined. The product in the LDP is fine."

So I don't see a danger to health from aseptic boxes for food or beverages.

There are some other benefits too.

* Retains more nutrients than canning and no preservatives are needed--The aseptic system achieves room-temperature shelf stability through how the food is processed and how it is packaged. Aseptic processing is a major advance over traditional canning techniques. In contrast to canning processes which requires products to be heated in the container for up to 50 minutes, aseptically processed liquid foods and beverages are sterilized outside the package using an ultra-high temperature process that flash heats and cools the product before containers are filled. Time (generally 3 to 15 seconds) and temperature (195° to 285° F) are tailored to place the least amount of thermal stress on the product, while ensuring bacteriological safety. The sterile food product is then placed in an air-tight sterilized package with a within a hygienic environment. This preserves the food without chemical preservatives or refrigeration.

* No refrigeration required --Aseptic packages are the result of a beverage and liquid food system that allows perishable food products to be distributed and stored without refrigeration for periods up to six months or more. It is used to preserve and package everything from milk, juice, and drinks of all kinds to scrambled egg mix, tomato sauce, soups, and other liquid foods.

* Convenience -- because aseptic packages are portable, lightweight, and shatterproof, you can take them anywhere.

* Food Safety -- the aseptic process and carton together ensure that the liquid food or beverage inside is free from harmful bacteria and contaminants.

Environmentally, however, aseptic packaging has its pros and cons.

Aseptic packaging is a good choice for the environment because it has a low packaging to product ratio -- aseptic packages are typically 96 percent product and only 4 percent packaging material by weight -- and they are tremendously energy efficient. Drink boxes save energy at every stage of their lifecycle.

* Empty packages are stored flat or on rolls, rather than pre-formed like glass, metal and most plastic containers. As a result, one standard semi-trailer truck can transport 1.5 million empty drink boxes versus only 150,000 glass bottles.

* Filled drink boxes conserve energy in transport. Their brick shape is space-efficient, and because they are light weight, more product can be shipped in fewer trucks than heavier beverage packages.

* Because drink boxes preserve their contents without refrigeration, no refrigerated trucks, special warehouses, or retail freezers or coolers are needed. This saves both electricity and gasoline.

The downside is that at this time, aseptic packaging has limited facilities for recycling, and drink boxes that are not recycled will sit in landfills for centuries, because they are not biodegradable.

With the consumer benefits that aseptic packaging provides, and the environmental advantages in material and energy savings, it makes sense to increase the recycling opportunities for this type of packaging.

Currently, aseptic packages are collected in curbside and drop-off programs along with other polyethylene-coated beverage cartons. For information on aseptic recyclers, check with your local recycling facility.

To prepare aseptic packaging for recycling, simply squash the box to save storage space. Rinsing will prevent the development of odors during storage.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 1 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


February 10, 2009

Nami Non-Stick Glass Ovenware

QUESTION:

I know, I know. The words "non-stick" should send me running for the hills, but I'm wondering if you've heard about these Nami Non-Stick Glass dishes. They claim to be "Naturally Non-Stick" and that the coating is "healthy and chemical free", but I can't find anything that gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling about them.

POSTED BY CJSTEWART :: FOR MY KIDS, LLC :: WWW.FORMYKIDSONLINE.COM :: TEXAS USA :: 11:16 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

NAMI is the name of the non-stick finish, not the bakeware itself. I've been unable to find out what the finish is made of, however, a review notes the label says not to use hard utensils because it will scratch the finish. Read the reviews at Green Apple Nonstick Glass Bakeware, reviewed. Glass, itself, is pretty nonstick without any finish at all.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


January 20, 2009

Sulfur Dioxide

QUESTION:

I have a 14-month-old and am always looking for ways to include fruits and veggies in her diet. I have been looking at dried fruits (peaches, apricots, etc), but even the non-sweetened fruits at my local market are made with sulfur dioxide. Can you comment on if this ingredient is safe for children and/or adults?

Thank you

POSTED BY K. CHRISTENSEN :: ARIZONA USA :: 8:45 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I don't consider sulfur dioxide to be safe, though it is widely used. Enough people are allergic to it that it's presence in food must appear on the label. There is a very thorough report on the health effects of sulfur dioxide and how to avoid it at: Food Intolerance Network Fact Sheet: Sulphites.

You can find dried fruits without sulfur dioxide online and at your local natural food store. The main reason sulfur dioxide is used is to preserve the color of dried fruit. Untreated dried fruit is shriveled and dark, treated dried fruit is plump and colorful. Dried fruit treated with sulfur dioxide is more visually appealing, but untreated dried fruit tastes better.

I always like to keep everything as close to nature as possible.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 2 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


January 06, 2009

Pine Nuts

QUESTION:

Dear Debra, i love using pine nuts in many of my recipes. However, they all seem to come from china. What's up with that ? Can't we produce them here in the usa? Where would i be able to find them if so?

POSTED BY EC :: FLORIDA USA :: 7:54 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Pine nuts can be grown in the USA and are. Pine nuts are native to China, labor is inexpensive, and Americans want cheap prices, so that's why you see so many Chinese pine nuts here.

Pine nuts are actually native to southwest America. You can buy pine nuts from New Mexico Pinon Nut that are "harvested from the private and indian lands and national forests of New Mexico, where the pinon trees grow in abundance."

Another good website is Pinon Penny, which sells New Mexico pinon nuts and jumbo soft shelled Nevada pinyon pine nuts. This site also has a lot of information about pine nuts. These same varieties are also sold at Liston Pine Nuts.

Mediterranean pine nuts are a different variety, popular in Italy. These are sold online at Nuts Online.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 3 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


December 22, 2008

Toxic Tupperware?

QUESTION:

I am interested in knowing if there are toxins in old Tupperware containers. Some I am still using are 30 years old or older. Thanks--LLM

POSTED BY LLM :: IOWA USA :: 2:19 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

The rule of thumb is, the older the plastic, the more it has offgassed...the conclusion being there is less and less plasticizer to offgass over time, so the plastic becomes safer and safer.

I'd say 30-year-old Tupperware is probably pretty safe, and certainly safer than newer plastic containers.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 4 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


December 19, 2008

low mercury tuna??

QUESTION:

I'm confused about tuna; I downloaded a fish guide to help choose fish caught in an environmentally friendly manner, but also contain the least amount of mercury. There is 'tuna' listed in all three categories - worst choices, OK choices, and best choices. Tuna, albacore (Canada, U.S.) was listed in best, as was Tuna, skipjack (pole/troll) and Tuna, yellowfin (U.S. pole/troll). Is there a way to tell or find out what 'tuna's' would fall under this category? So far the best I've been able to distinguish (and can't always) is whether it is albacore or skipjack tuna. Any ideas on how to find out where and how it was caught, thus ensuring the lowest mercury count possible - or do I need to just give up on tuna altogether?

POSTED BY MLS :: WASHINGTON USA :: 3:13 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Good question!

Personally, I don't eat tuna at all, so, readers, what is your experience with this?

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 5 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


December 17, 2008

nuwave oven

QUESTION:

I was looking into buying a nuwave oven for my cooking classes and home use for the time and energy savings, and found that the dome is made from polycarbonate containing BPA.Would this leach out into the food or into the air during use?

POSTED BY DEB ROSE HAYES :: MASSACHUSETTS USA :: 1:48 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I don't know the answer to this. I know it will leach into food. My best guess is that it might because heat causes things to be released from plastic. But I don't know of any studies on this.

Readers?

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 1 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


plastic outgassing of microwave oven

QUESTION:

My husband recently bought a new microwave. The only plastic parts are the door. It has a strong plastic smell when it heats up that gives me a headache. What can I do to speed up the outgassing?And no, my husband can't live without his microwave, so giving it up isnot a possibility.

Thanks
Pat

POSTED BY PATRICIA HETZLER :: GEORGIA USA :: 1:41 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Heat speeds the outgassing of plastic.

But I can't post this without commenting that you and your husband would be much better off to not eat microwaved food. See if you can wean him from it by giving him foods cooked on the stove or in the oven, or raw.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 1 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Whole milk vs. fat free/skim

QUESTION:

I heard recently that IF we are going to drink cow's milk, it is better to drink whole, despite the higher fat, as it is 'less processed' than fat free. Is there really much processing between the whole and fat free stage? Or is most the harmful processing done at the pasturization level?

Also, I heard that adding straight colostrum (which you CAN buy in Oregon) will help add back some of what was lost during pasturization.
Any thoughts???

POSTED BY MLS :: WASHINGTON USA :: 1:32 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

It's not the processing itself that is harmful, but the end result.

The reason to drink full fat instead of fat-free milk is two-fold: the fat contains valuable nutrients, and it's important to eat the whole food as nature intended. When we eat foods from which parts have been removed, we miss vital pieces.

Pasturization destroys enzymes that aid in digestion as well as some vitamins.

Adding colostrum will help add back some of what was lost in pasturization, but it's better to drink the whole milk in it's original form rather than piece together parts.

Back in the days when milk was sold whole and raw, it was considered a health food and used recommended by doctors.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 1 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


December 16, 2008

Grill pan

QUESTION:

Hi Debra,

I am looking to buy a light-weight (very important to me, which is why I don’t want cast iron) easy to clean grill pan to replace my George foreman. I read all your posts about cooking materials but am still somewhat confused. So, I know to avoid nonstick teflon type products such as the george foreman, but I don’t understand why you recommend avoiding stainless steel grills as well and seem to prefer anodized aluminum, which I thought could leach.

I found a calaphon one nonstick grill pan that is anodized aluminum- from what I have read on your site this would be safe and preferable to stainless steel? From more recent posts you mention that you actually prefer the Cuisinart green gourmet line- it seems to be the same concept as the calaphon anodized aluminum- why is one better than the other?

Lastly, how do you clean your green gourmet? Calaphon says to clean there using a scotch-brite pad and comet cleaner- and specifically says not to use baking soda.

Thanks for answering this question and developing such a wonderful q and a forum!

POSTED BY LA :: IDAHO USA :: 1:19 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

My understanding is that stainless steel leaches and anodized aluminum does not. Cuisinart green gourmet is completely different from anodized aluminum.

When a cookware label says it is made from anodized aluminum, it means that the aluminum was dipped into a hot acid bath that seals the aluminum by changing it's molecular structure. Once anodized, the aluminum will not leach into food, and so would not contribute to aluminum exposure. Anodized cookware is safe.

Cuisinart green gourmet has a nonstick finish made from ceramic material. It is extremely slippery glass-like material. How do I clean it? I just wipe it out with a soapy sponge. Nothing sticks to it.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 2 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Kettles

QUESTION:

Hi Debra and everyone,
I have been shopping for a new tea kettle. I just want a simple stove top type. All the kettles I see are made in China. For instance, Copco kettles abound at stores in our area. Does anyone know if Copco kettles are non toxic, or if the enamel kettles or stainless steel kettles can be assumed to be safe regardless of where they are made in general? I prefer not to risk shattering a glass pot. If both enamel and stainless steel kettles are equally nontoxic, is one more durable or rust resistant than the other? Thanks very much for any help you can provide.

Cheryl

POSTED BY CHERYL :: FLORIDA USA :: 11:59 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

The first thing I want to say is that not all products made in China are toxic or contaminated. There is a lot of press on a small number of toxic and contaminated products from China, but there are many more products that are fine and safe. I personally know businesses that manufacture in China that are making good products. So "china" does NOT equal "toxic."

About enamel and stainless steel. Elsewhere we've already discussed that stainless steel leaches. In fact, the first I read of this was years ago from Rodale Press, where they discovered that stainless steel water distillers were leaching metals into the boiling water in the distiller. So I would not use stainless steel kettle or pot for boiling water.

An enamel kettle is fine if the enamel is on the inside of the kettle. If it's on the outside, it doesn't protect you from the metal on the inside that the water is in contact with. If it's stainless steel or aluminum, I wouldn't recommend it. I looked at the Copco website and all their kettles are either stainless, enamel on steel or aluminum.

Personally, I heat my water for tea in a Visions glass pot. I don't see the need for an extra piece of cookware just to boil water. Let's be efficient with the resources of the Earth and have cookware that multi-tasks.


Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 1 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Toxic contaminants in wood?

QUESTION:

Hello,
I noticed that you prefer wooden cooking utensils, but I was wondering, since wood is porous and would thus absorb any toxins it might have been exposed to in manufacture, how can we be reasonably sure they are free of toxins? Most likely, they will be made in China, is that okay in terms of toxicity? I hear a lot about wood conatining all sorts of toxins to the extent that we have held off buying a new dresser because of the chemically treated wood. What do you think, Debra and everyone? Thanks for all your help on so many topics. This site is a precious resource!

Cheryl

POSTED BY CHERYL :: FLORIDA USA :: 11:49 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I'm going to take your questions one at a time.

I prefer wooden cooking utensils because wood is a renewable resource, and they don't scratch.

Yes, wood is porous and does thus absorbs any toxins it might have been exposed to in manufacture--IF it has been exposed. Wooden cooking utensils are intended for use with food and need to be nontoxic.

I'm not sure most likely wooden utensils are made in China. I just bought a set of wooden tongs at Williams-Sonoma that were handmade in America. Often I buy my wood utensils from woodworkers at crafts fairs, or at high-end cooking stores like Williams-Sonoma or Sur La Table. Some cheap wooden utensils may be made in China, but not these. I've never had a problem with fumes outgassing from a wooden utensil, or being made ill by eating food prepared with wooden utensils. Toxic chemicals from wooden utensils has just never been an issue in my experience.

Some wood IS treated with toxic chemicals for very specific purposes, such as pressure-treated wood to be used outdoors. Some furniture made from wood contains toxic chemicals if it is not solid wood, but is plywood or particleboard. I've purchased many pieces of solid wood furniture and never had a problem with toxic chemicals in the wood.

Some woods, such as pine and cedar, have resins that some people are sensitive to. But otherwise, wood itself isn't toxic.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Non toxic mugs

QUESTION:

Hello Debra and all,
Is it safe to assume that any mugs made in the United States and claiming to be lead and cadmimum free are non toxic? If I have been told that the coloring they use on their pottery is colored with "highfired stoneware glazes, all nontoxic" or that the color pigments in glazes are made of metal oxides embedded in zirconium crystals, which makes them non-soluble and non-toxic. (Yellow for example contains Vanadium (one of 26 elements found in most living organisms) and blue contains Cobalt (the basis of vitamin B12), does this seem safe? Ah, even the morning coffee or tea has become an issue! Thanks for any insight and your time.

POSTED BY CHERYL :: FLORIDA USA :: 11:43 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I think that it's important to consider the source of this information about the finish. If you are speaking with the potter or someone who works for the potter, then I would consider the information reliable. If this is being said by a clerk in a retail store, I wouldn't believe it for a minute. They often don't know the correct information. And even customer service at a large manufacturer may not know.

In today's market, it's always best to check any ceramic ware with a LeadCheck kit. They are only $5 at any Home Depot.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Bone china

QUESTION:

Hi Debra,
I wonder about getting an English bone china teapot - are they safe to drink from and are their any environmental issues with their production? Thanks!

POSTED BY JULIE BURNS :: :: WWW.MYDETOXBIZ.COM :: CALIFORNIA USA :: 11:36 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

"China" is a common name for porcelain, an ancient ceramic material perfected by the Chinese (thus the name "china). Examples of porcelain date back to the 7th century.

There are three types of porcelain: hard paste, soft paste and bone china.

Hard paste porcelain is made from kaolin and petuntse.


Kaolin (hydrated aluminum silicate) is very pure, naturally-occuring clay. It's name is derived from the name of the mountain in China from which the first kaolin that was sent to Europe was mined. In addition to being used to make pottery and glazes, it is also commonly used in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.


Petuntse is a historic term for a wide range of rocks containing mica or feldspar. Today it is commonly called "pottery stone."

These are fired at high temperatures, with or without a glaze, and produce a hard, translucent porcelain.

Soft paste porcelain contains the kaolin and petuntse of hard paste plus frit.

Frit is a combination of various materials such as white sand, nitre, alum, salt and gypsum.
The frit in the mixture liquefies and turns to glass, which fuses to the porcelain. Soft paste is not as strong as hard paste porcelain.

Bone china is made from hard paste porcelain, plus bone ash, which is actually the primary material. It is the toughest of the porcelains--hard, resilient, and an ivory white in color. Bone china was created in 1800 by Josian Spode, and it remains the standard for porcelain manufactured in England today.

Bone ash comes from the bones of animals. All tissue is removed from the bones and they are fired at temperatures of up to 1000 degrees. The resulting ash is crushed to a powder and mixed with water before being added to the porcelain mix. Animals are not killed for their bones. Bones are a by-product of the meat industry, given a productive use instead of being discarded as waste. Using all parts of the animal for productive purposes is a practice that goes back to indigenous cultures worldwide.
After making the porcelain, it is glazed to give a smooth, shiny finish. As with any other ceramicware, there is the possibility that the glaze may contain lead. It's always wise to use a LeadCheck kit to test any ceramicware for lead before using it. Please don't assume from this statement that all ceramicware glazes contain lead. I've tested all my ceramicware and none tested postive for lead.

I'm not aware of any environmental issues associated with it's production. It's an old, pre-industrial process that uses natural and renewable materials, and recycles a material that would otherwise go to waste.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 1 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


December 08, 2008

Safe tea kettle?

QUESTION:

Is there such a thing as a safe electric (cordless) tea kettle? so many reviews from Amazon talk about plastic parts, metallic taste, etc.

Do I need to go to a stove-top model? If so, do you recommend glass or steel? Enameled cast iron? (although I hear you have to empty it out each time)

I drink a lot of tea, so I need something safe, quality and preferably fast (hence the cordless) although the other two criteria are more important.

Thank you so much.

POSTED BY ELLEN :: PENNSYLVANIA USA :: 1:40 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I just heat water for tea on the stovetop in a glass pot (yes, I know, some have been known to shatter).

I haven't looked at cordless electric teapots. I try to minimize and multitask my kitchen things.

Readers?

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 7 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


December 01, 2008

enamel teapots

QUESTION:

Anybody have any idea if this type of tea pot is safe to use? The bottom is stainless steel. Cathy

POSTED BY CR :: CALIFORNIA USA :: 12:19 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Test all ceramicware with a LeadCheck test kit, which you can purchase in the paint department at Home Depot for about $5.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Is ovenware made in China safe?

QUESTION:

There is plenty to be concerned about when purchasing products from China. Contaminated foods and goods are known to have been produced there and then exported to many countries. I recently found "ovenware"(similar to Pyrex) that was made in China and wondered if it was safe to use! I purchased it at a Target store about 1-2 years ago. It is a white ceramic, glazed on the inside, outside and handles with the underside an unglazed finish. There is a black label indicating it is "dishwasher, microwave, freezer, and oven safe and made in China". It sets in a light weight silver metallic carrier/tray. Your opinion is appreciated.

POSTED BY JRW :: CALIFORNIA USA :: 12:13 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

First, we can't assume BROADLY that all products or even a specific type of product made in China or anywhere else is safe.

Certainly we have all heard reports of atrocious bad practices in China, but that doesn't mean that ALL products made there are unsafe.

Like any other ceramicware, I would test it using a LeadCheck test kit, which you can buy for about $5 in the paint department of Home Depot.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Is cooking in stained glass cookware safe?

QUESTION:

After reading Dr. Marcela's article on stainless steel found on your website, I think it is time for me to buy Vision cookware. I read that to produce stained glass, lead is used. Will lead leak into food prepared in stained glass cookware (Corning Vision)?

Is it practical to buy glass pans? I read that food would stick and that glass cookware is one of the stickiest (food also stick on stainless steel; cast-iron is very non-stick). Also, I am afraid that it might shatter. I think having water in pots is safer than stir-frying in glass pans (which may be dry). I am still afraid that glass cookware may break and shatter any time. Thanks

POSTED BY YH :: MICHIGAN USA :: 11:03 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

First of all, colored glass doesn't contain lead. See Q&A: Colored Glass and click on the "Colored Glass Chemistry" link to see what is used to make different colors of glass.

Lead is used in the solder that holds the glass together to make colored glass windows. But it is not in the glass itself.

I myself have used Corning Visions cookware for over twenty years without a mishap, though others have reported otherwise (see Q&A: can visions cookware and pyrex shatter while cooking?). I do not stirfry in it, but use pots for things like warming soup, boiling eggs, etc.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 2 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


November 25, 2008

Raw and Pasturized Milk

QUESTION:

Milk has come up in some of the blog comments this week, and I have been learning more about milk recently, so I wanted to pass along a bit of what I am learning.


First, the milk we think of as milk is not "real milk" as it comes from the cow. It is processed to kill bacteria (pasturized), remove fat (low fat and skin milk), and incorporate fat (homogenized). Real milk separates (sold as "cream top" where the cream is floating on the top), contains all it's fat, and is loaded with enzymes and nutrients that are destroyed by heat during pasturization.


In times past, milk fresh from cows fed on pasture grass was used as a cure for many diseases. Today's milk doesn't have that healing quality.


Unfortunately, it is illegal to purchase raw milk for human consumption in most states. However, we can buy cheese made from raw or "fresh" milk (cheese made from pasturized milk says "pasturized milk" on the ingredient list).


For more information on raw and pasturized milk and their health effects, go to the Real Milk website. They are campaigning to have real milk widely available in the US.


Raw milk cheeses are sold in most natural food stores. For mail order sources, see Debra's List: Food: Cheese.

POSTED BY DEBRA LYNN DADD :: DEBRA LYNN DADD :: DLD123.COM :: FLORIDA USA :: 12:04 PM
CATEGORY — FOOD :: 14 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


November 24, 2008

Yogurt Culture

QUESTION:

I've just recently been given a yogurt maker and I am excited to have fresh yogurt on a daily basis! The only catch is that I live in Hawaii on the big island and can't find yogurt starter at the few health food stores we have here. Does anyone have any recommendations for an eco-friendly site that does not have an incredibly high shipping rate?

POSTED BY ABBY REBECCA :: HAWAII USA :: 9:32 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

You can just buy a carton of yogurt and use that as your starter. Make sure though, that the carton says "contains live cultures." Many yogurts do not and therefore will not create new yogurt.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 1 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


November 18, 2008

Food Steamer

QUESTION:

Hi Debra,

I am searching for ideas on a non toxic food steamer but cannot seem to find anything. Can you please suggest one or point me to the post that can? I have a one year old and I am desperate to start steaming organic broccoli for her but not in our old plastic steamer (that I confirmed with Oster is a #6.)

Anyhow, thanks in advance.

POSTED BY B :: CONNECTICUT USA :: 9:22 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

There are two simple nontoxic steamers.

One is a stainless steel folding rack that coils up and then opens to fit most size pots. You can get it practically anywhere cookware is sold.

The other is a covered bamboo steamer that is used to make Chinese food. You can buy these online if you don't find one locally. Try an oriental food store, if you have one where you live. Just search on "bamboo steamer". They come in different sizes.

I have both and far prefer the bamboo steamer. In fact, I don't use the stainless steel one at all any more. It's going in my upcoming garage sale.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 4 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


November 04, 2008

takeout food containers

QUESTION:

Hi Debra,

My husband and I live in New York City and find ourselves ordering takeout all the time. The piping hot food often arrives in plastic containers. Should we be concerned about the plastic leaching into the food?

Many thanks,
Rita

POSTED BY RITA :: RITA NISSAN :: :: NEW YORK USA :: 11:08 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

YES. It depends on the type of container. Styrofoam is the worst.

Heat in general makes plastic outgas. Hot food really makes it leach.

If you are putting leftovers in plastic containers, you should always wait until the food cools.

See if you can find out what types of plastics are used in the take-out containers you most frequently get. Then at least you will know what you are eating and can look for better alternatives.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


October 27, 2008

borosilicate glass tea kettle

QUESTION:

Hi! I'm not sure if my previous post of this question made it through (computer glitches here lately). I saw a borosilicate glass tea kettle for sale in the Lehmans catalog. Do you think this is safe? Is this just regular glass, or something different? What kind of tea kettle is the safest for my family?Thanks so much!

POSTED BY DONNA :: NEW YORK USA :: 3:42 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

This is a tempered glass. It is nontoxic.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


October 24, 2008

red ceramic MORINGA from Brazil

QUESTION:

Moringa is a a bottle made of red ceramic that holds and keeps the water cool through the summer months and gives a nice , rain water and earthy taste to it. I am afraid of contaminants leaching into the water. Do you know anything about it?

Thank you.

POSTED BY DALIA :: TEXAS USA :: 6:47 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I've never heard of this.

In general, with ceramic pieces, you want to make sure it is not finished with a glaze that contains lead. The most suspect of leaded ceramics are imported pieces that are brightly colored.

Where do you get a MORINGA?

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


October 23, 2008

Vitamins

QUESTION:

Debra,

Thank you so much for the tremendous service this blog provides. My husband's doctor told him that he's Vitamin D3 and Vitamin C deficient. I'm trying to find the best, non-toxic, organic vitamins available, but I'm totally overwhelmed by what's out there. Are there any brands of vitamins that you recommend?

Many thanks,
Rita

POSTED BY RITA :: NEW YORK USA :: 12:16 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

In general, I look for vitamins made from whole foods. Some brands I recommend are listed at Debra's List: Food: Supplements.

I think it's always best to get vitamins from natural sources, if it is at all possible to get enough. Most vitamins are made synthetically from petroleum, the chemical structure is the same as the vitamin in nature, but it isn't made organically with all the co-factors.

Sunlight is the best source of vitamin D3, and fish and eggs.

Cranberries and citrus, which are in season now, are good sources of Vitamin C. You can just buy the raw cranberries now (in October-November-December) and whiz them up in a blender with water to make fresh cranberry juice. If you buy vitamin C tablets, be sure to get ones that say on the label that they are from a food source, such as oranges or acerola cherries. Otherwise, it's synthetic.

Buy organic if you can and make sure the vitamins do not contain additives such as artificial colors and flavors.

See these other posts for more on vitamins:

Q&A: Dietary Supplements

Q&A: Where to find the most natural vitamins

Q&A: Is there formaldehyde in gelatin capsules?

Q&A: Looking for Vitamin D3

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 2 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


October 20, 2008

milk cartons

QUESTION:

Hi Debra:

I LOVE your blog and read your posts every week, and I am always learning something new from you! Thank you!

I have a question for you about the plastic lining in paper milk cartons: does that plastic lining pose any health threat? Do you recommend buying milk in paper cartons or in plastic jugs? I currently do both, but would be interested in your take on this.

Thanks!

Lawren Coope

POSTED BY LAWREN :: GREEN GUYS AND GALS :: GREENGUYSANDGALS.WORDPRESS.COM :: COLORADO USA :: 3:15 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

It actually doesn't make much difference in terms of what is in contact with your milk. The plastic is polyethylene, whether it is in a plastic bottle or a paper milk carton.

Here's an article that explains how milk cartons are made from start to finish: How Products Are Made: Milk Carton.

Environmentally, actually, without doing a full lifecycle analysis, I would say that the plastic milk bottle would have less of an environmental impact. Since it is just one material, it's easier to recycle. And no trees are used to make the plastic bottle, as are used for the paper carton.

Back in 1989, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that highly toxic dioxin was leaching from the bleached paper used to make milk cartons. This came from the interaction of chlorine bleach with the wood pulp in the paper. The FDA said the milk was safe, but it directed the manufacturers of the cartons to shift within three years to processes that would drastically reduce the leaching, and manufacturers agreed.

A study done in New Zealand found that the mean concentration of dioxin in breast milk in the 1988 survey was 5.12 ng/kg fat and for the 1998 survey was 1.22 ng/kg fat. That's an 80% reduction. Which shows that there has been an overall reduction of dioxin exposure.

Should we assume that today there is no dioxin leaching from paper milk cartons? I don't think we can make that assumption. I called Organic Valley, a national provider of organic dairy products and they said that they do not use bleached paper in their milk cartons, so no dioxin. However, we don't know if other, particularly non-organic products, use unbleached or bleached paper. You would have to call the manufacturers of the milk available in your area to find out. One could make a reasonable assumption that if the dairy product within the carton is organic, the carton is probably made from unbleached paper. But I would call to find out.

There is, of course, no dioxin leaching from polyethylene or from glass bottles (which is my personal favorite packaging and what I buy whenever it is available to me).

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 1 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Lead in Old China

QUESTION:

Older relatives have given us various decorative collector china plates, tea cups and saucers (some "chintz" patterns) through the years. I've been wondering if "lead" could be on the surfaces of some or most of these lovely pieces. If a person only touches these when they are dry, would the lead transfer to the fingers? Only very occasionally would they be washed. Does water release the lead from the surfaces onto the fingers? In short, can a person become exposed to lead from old china (that is never used for food or drink) by simply touching them?

POSTED BY SVE :: WASHINGTON USA :: 12:10 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

IF there is lead in the finish, yes, it could get into your body by simply touching them.

You can verify if there is lead by testing with LeadCheck swabs.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 1 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Dishwasher Safe

QUESTION:

I just bought some Teavana "Five Jewels" teacups. Teavana says they aren't dishwasher safe. Does this mean the glaze is toxic, and won't stand the test of the dishwasher's heat?

Teavana wouldn't tell me. They said they thoughts it was mostly to prevent damage to the cups, as they are a high quality product. Hmm...what should I do? Return them?

Does non-dishwasher safe cups just mean that they would easily break in the machine? If so, I don't care. They were only $30. I just don't want them to be toxic. I'll await your sage advice! You rock and I love this website!

POSTED BY P :: MICHIGAN USA :: 11:41 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

"Dishwasher safe" is one of those words that seems self-evident until you start thinking about it.

I always thought it meant safe to use in the dishwasher, which to me meant that it wouldn't break or melt or be damaged in any other way by the harsh conditions of a dishwasher.

The only definition I could find was: "Safe to use in dishwashers (especially, without melting, dissolving, or pitting)."

I don't think dishwasher safe has anything to do with releasing toxic substances from the glaze. I think in this case it simply means they will probably break in the dishwasher.

You SHOULD ask them if the glaze is lead-free, or check them with LeadCheck swabs. A small package can be purchased at Home Depot in the paint department for only $5.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 2 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


October 06, 2008

slow cookers

QUESTION:

Hi,

I have a Rival crock pot (slow cooker) model # 3100/2. I bought it used from an elderly woman in the late 80s. I got some of the lead test swabs and am happy to say it is clear of lead. It's green with a burnt seinna glaze inside. I don't know if these can be found anymore. Maybe on Ebay. This makes me very happy as I use it frequently to make bone broth ala "Nourishing Traditions" cookbook and since I'm so reactive to even vitamins this is how I get my minerals. I slow cook them for 3 days all cut up so am glad I'm not adding lead into the broth!

Best, Edy

POSTED BY EDY :: CALIFORNIA USA :: 1:55 PM
CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


October 03, 2008

Imitation Crab Meat

QUESTION:

Hello Debra,

Someone please tell me...What is Imitation Crab Meat (what is it made from)???
Thank you!Mary G.

POSTED BY MARY G. :: NEW YORK USA :: 4:31 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Here is an answer from Ask Yahoo!.


The flaky, red-edged faux crab in your seafood salad or California roll is most likely made of Alaska Pollock. Also called Walleye Pollock, Snow Cod, or Whiting, this fish is abundant in the Bering Sea near Alaska and can also be found along the central California coast and in the Sea of Japan. Pollock has a very mild flavor, making it ideal for the processing and artificial flavoring of imitation crab. While Pollock is the most common fish used to make fake crab, New Zealand Hoki is also used, and some Asian manufacturers use Southeast Asian fish like Golden Treadfin Bream and White Croaker.

The processing of imitation crabmeat begins with the skinning and boning of the fish. Then the meat is minced and rinsed, and the water is leached out. This creates a thick paste called surimi. The word means "minced fish" in Japanese, and the essential techniques for making it were developed in Japan over 800 years ago. Surimi is commonly used in Japan to make a type of fish ball or cake called kamaboko. In 1975, a method for processing imitation crabmeat from surimi was invented in Japan, and in 1983, American companies started production.

Many ingredients are added to the surimi to give it a stable form, appealing texture, and crab-like flavor. Sugar, sorbitol, wheat or tapioca starch, egg whites, and vegetable or soybean oil can all help improve the form of the surimi. Natural and artificial crab flavorings are added, and some of these flavorings are made from real crab or from boiled shells. Carmine, caramel, paprika, and annatto extract are often used to make the crab's red, orange, or pink coloring. Imitation crab is cooked, which helps set the surimi and give it the final texture and appearance. Nutritionally speaking, surimi is not that different from real crab, although it is lower in cholesterol.
Just eat the fish itself. We don't need more sugar, sorbitol, wheat, soybean oil, and artificial flavorings. If you want crab, eat the real thing.

You know, it's not just the unhealthy additives. Manufacturing these kinds of food products also uses a tremendous amount of energy and water that are not necessary for us to receive nourishment.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


September 30, 2008

BPA in canned veggies versus frozen

QUESTION:

Hi,
Given that fresh, local and organically grown veggies should be my number one choice and usually are, when I have to choose between canned or frozen in a plastic bag, wouldn't the frozen be healther due to less exposure to the plastic of the bag(leaching BPA and possibly phthalates, etc)?

Since the veggies in a can are in liquid and touch the entire can and can be heated quite a bit in transport and storage it would seem that the frozen which does not have constant contact to the sides of the bag and is kept frozen (hence avoiding heat induced leaching) would be healthier?

What do you think? Thanks!
Jennifer

POSTED BY JENNIFER :: COLORADO USA :: 9:45 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

You are correct. Frozen is healthier.

I personally eat frozen vegetables and fruits in addition to fresh because it widens the choice of organic foods I have to choose from.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 1 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


nylon cooking utensils

QUESTION:

Hi,
I am upgrading my cookware and have bought some anodized aluminum pans. The set came with black nylon spoons, spatulas etc. and I am wondering how safe it is to cook with those utensils. I have another set of these types of tools from Caphalon. While I would love to upgrade everything to bamboo and silicone utensils, that will take time---but I am concerned about the safety of the nylon utensils.

I am assuming that I should use a non-scratching utensil with the anodized aluminum pans (although some anodized pans on the Bed, Bath and Beyond website say you can use metal) because my pans came with the nylon utensils and did not say I could use metal utensils.

Do the nylon utensils pose a negative health risk?
Thanks so much!

POSTED BY JENNIFER :: COLORADO USA :: 9:44 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Nylon is a plastic, but it is practically inert. While I prefer wooden utensils, as they are made from a natural, renewable material, I don't know of a health risk from using nylon cooking utensils.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 1 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


September 15, 2008

Wooden Spoons

QUESTION:

Hello Debra,

I was hoping for you opinion on some Calphalon wooden spoons I found at Bed and Bath. I was about to purchase them when I read that they were made in China but distributed from OH with an all natural finish. Should I be wary of the fact that it was made in China? Otherwise what brand do you recommend for wooden spoons?

Thanks for you insight!

POSTED BY ETHEL :: MASSACHUSETTS USA :: 2:40 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I have a lot of wooden spoons I've purchased over the years. Some had finishes, others didn't.

There's no problem with natural finishes like beeswax, etc. But you can easily tell if the wood is unfinished.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 1 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Success Brown Rice

QUESTION:

What do you think of Success Brown Rice?

POSTED BY LAURIE :: IDAHO USA :: 2:21 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Good that it's brown, a whole grain, but not organic. And boiling in a plastic bag releases toxic elements of the plastic into the food. Not a good idea.

If you want to eat brown rice, go to a natural food store, buy some organic brown rice, make a lot of it, and then when it is cool, put it in your own plastic bags or containers and put it in the freezer. When you are ready to serve, remove the frozen rice from the bag, and put it in a vegetable steamer. In the same ten minutes it takes to cook Success Brown Rice, you'll have organic brown rice.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


September 08, 2008

espresso machine

QUESTION:

hi
before i start contacting random manufacturers i was wondering if you have any recommendations for an espresso machine with no internal plastic parts?
thanks!
p.s. i purchased a mattress from white lotus per your rec. thanks!!

POSTED BY KPC :: ILLINOIS USA :: 5:42 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I haven't done any research on espresso machines. Readers?

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 5 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Peanut Allergies

QUESTION:

Hi Debra,

I recently found that peanut shells are used as an additive to pesticides that are sprayed on fruits and vegetables. Is it possible that this is the reason that severe peanut alergies have increased and become so fatal in the last 5 to 7 years?

POSTED BY T. RICE :: NEW YORK USA :: 5:11 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I have no idea. I would imagine that in making the pesticides, they are so processed that any remnant of peanuts would be broken down.

If that were true, I would think anyone sensitive to peanuts would not be able to eat produce sprayed with pesticides without having a reaction. My father was deathly allergic to nuts and ate pesticide-sprayed produce all the time with no reaction. However, that was prior to 2000.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Green Pro and EarthPan nonstick cookware

QUESTION:

Hi Debra, Have you heard of GREEN PRO HARD ANODIZED NONSTICK cookware or GREEN PRO ALUMINUM NONSTICK (8 gauge aluminum) w/ SandFlow nonstick innterior? They are both being sold in NapaStyle Magazine. I would love your thoughts, as I love Michael Chiarello's products, and these are both on sale. Thank you in advance for your thoughts.
Sincerely, LaNae Atkinson

POSTED BY LANAE ATKINSON :: CONNECTICUT USA :: 4:41 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I love Michael Chiarello too...I actually met him in person one day in his NapaStyle store in Berkeley, California.

I had not heard of this pan, but I called Napa Style and they are going to see if they can find out more about the finish for me. The woman on the phone went and looked at a pan for me and she said it had a "glassy" finish, not like plastic at all.

The links to this cookware are:

Green Pro Hard-Anodized Nonstick 10-piece Cookware Set

Green Pro Aluminum Nonstick 10-piece Cookware Set

The website says the nonstick finish is SandFlow, and "It’s main component is sand, one of nature’s most abundant resources...a terrific material for high heat conductivity. And, SandFlow is three times more durable than competitive ceramic nonstick coatings." It uses no harmful PTFEs or PFOAs, and requires a third less energy to apply than traditional nonstick. It is manufactured in Thailand.

I was told that Michael had a hand in developing this cookware and it was the first full set of cookware with a nontoxic nonstick finish.

I haven't actually seen this cookware, but I can tell you that sand is completely nontoxic. It is used to make glass, so if the primarily ingredient is sand, the finish is going to be very much like glass.

There are other cookware sets with the Sandflow finish.

QVC: Cook's Essentials EarthPan 7pc. Cookware Set w/SandflowCoating

JC Penny: Earthpan 10-pc. Cookware Set

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 4 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


September 02, 2008

Choosing Organics Affordably?

QUESTION:

In these difficult economic times, I am trying to make healthy choices for my family. I unfortunately, cannot afford to buy everything organic. I have a list of fruits and vegetables that I try and buy organically as well as trying to purchase only the foods that we eat EVERYDAY the same way. However, at the end of the day it seems that all of the food that I purchase ends up being very important to me. So, does anyone have any ideas as to how you are going about choosing your priority list of what to buy organic and what to let slide?

I also have two daughters approaching the age of cosmetics and I would like for them to get started on the right foot. I am looking at Miessence for this need.

Difficult decisions in difficult times!

JG
Atlanta, GA

POSTED BY JG :: GEORGIA USA :: 4:49 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Organic food CAN be expensive. Some ways to save money on organics:
* buy through a coop
* buy in bulk
* buy fresh organic foods and prepare them yourself instead of buying processed organic food products
* choose foods that have a lot of nutrition, to get more nutrients per dollar.

Your question was serendipitous, as this week I had just added a website to Debra's List that answers your question.

Environmental Working Group: Pesticides in Produce lists produce items from most to least amount of pesticides (peaches have the most, onions the least), so you can know where it's most important to buy organic.

But let me also give you a tip that is not on the list. Non-organic meat contains more pesticides than any non-organic produce, and non-organic dairy products contain more pesticides than non-organic produce too, with butter topping the list.

So here's your priority list for buying organic.
1. butter
2. dairy products
3. meat
4. produce (see Pesticides in Produce list above)

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 3 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


September 01, 2008

FDA OKs Irradiated Lettuce and Spinach

QUESTION:

Rather than dealing with the problems inherent in a disease-ridden factory-farmed food system, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced in mid-September it will allow the irradiation of lettuce and spinach. Food irradiation is the controversial practice of bombarding food with high levels of x-rays (ionizing radiation) in order to destroy disease causing pathogens. Unfortunately, in the process of irradiation, other hazards arise, like the creation of toxic free radicals, vitamin and nutrient loss, and the formation of carcinogenic chemicals.



A product bearing
the Radura symbol
has been irradiated.






While irradiated lettuce and spinach must be labeled in supermarkets, there are currently no labeling requirements whatsoever for restaurants, schools, hospitals, or nursing homes serving irradiated produce or other nuked foods such as beef. Over the past decade, OCA and our allies in the organic community have prevented corporate agribusiness and the nuclear industry from contaminating organic standards. Food irradiation is prohibited on any product labeled as "organic." There is currently a 30 day comment period for the FDA's new rule.

Tell the FDA to clean-up industrial feedlots instead of irradiating our food

http://www.organicconsumers.org/organicbytes.cfm

POSTED BY DORIAN C. :: NEW JERSEY USA :: 3:45 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I just want to add that if you see the Radura symbol, the product has been irradiated, however, not all irradiated foods have the symbol on the label.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Descoware

QUESTION:

I have a few descoware pots from the 1970's. The enamel coating is a little scratched on most of them. Are these safe to use? How can I find out if the coatings have lead in them? Thanks for any information you can give me.

POSTED BY RBES :: CALIFORNIA USA :: 2:48 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

You can find out if they have lead in the coating by using a Lead-Check kit, which is sold now at Home Depot, among other places. It's only $5. But I've never heard that enamel pots contain lead.

Chipped enamel isn't a problem, but if it exposes the metal beneath, I would stop using it. The metal isn't intended to have contact with food.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


August 26, 2008

Bulk non-plastic storage containers

QUESTION:

Hi Debra,

We bake everything homemade, and I often buy grains in quantities of 50 lbs. or more to save money.

I can't seem to find a food grade storage container that isn't plastic that will hold 25-50 lbs. at a time.

Do you know of a source?

Thanks,

Charise

POSTED BY CHARISE :: OHIO USA :: 11:25 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Readers?

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 5 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


18/0 stainless steel flatware

QUESTION:

Dear Debra,
Is 18/0 stainless steel flatware non-toxic? I know the 0 represents no nickel and that the 18 represents chromium, but does it contain other metals that might be harmful if a person eats meals with it daily?

Are there companies selling it that are more reliable than others? What, if anything, should I be watchful for in evaluating a specific set? Thanks so much!

Hope you missed the big storm there in Florida!

POSTED BY SVE :: WASHINGTON USA :: 11:14 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I actually have never considered this and you are the first person who has asked. Food has such little contact time with flatware that it wouldn't have time to leach into the food. I've never heard of any danger from flatware.

I just went to a stainless steel flatware website and they do give the type of stainless steel used for many brands.

Personally, I use silver-plate. I inherited some and have also picked up pieces over the years at auctions. At the last auction I picked up more than I could possibly use for the rest of my life for $35.

Another option is to use chopsticks and ceramic spoons. That eliminates the metal altogether.

Or...eat with your fingers!

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 2 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Bisphenol A (BPA) in our bottles and cans

QUESTION:


After Canada banned Bisphenol A, and placed it on their hazardous chemical list, I became concerned, since I know that besides being present in plastic #7 (i.e. Baby Bottles and other hard plastics), BBA is also routinely used in cans.

So I did a little research and found out that even the healthy organic canned food brands that I buy at WholeFoods ALL use
Bisphenol A, with the exception of two - namely EDEN beans, and SANTA BARBARA OLIVES.

ALL other brandd, such ast WholeFoods'very own 365 label, Amy's, Westbrae, and Muir Glen, to name a few of my favs, eacj CONTAIN Bisphenol A. I'm told that canned tomato sauce is the worst offender, with the highest levels and most interactivity between the BPA and the product, due to the acidic nature of tomatoes.

I had initially read that all Trader Joes brand cans do not have BPA, but when I contacted TJs direct to verify that actually told me that that is not the case - the ONLY Trader Joe's brand products that do NOT contain BPA are canned fish items.

It seems that some major "independent" studies out of Japan and Europe in recent days have concluded that BPA is NOT harmful, however, Canada maintains that BPA is harmful in that it can cause reproductive problems and even cancer.

I also know that some are questioning the "independence" of said studies, saying that they were sponsored by self-interested parties.


-- Since it took me quite a bit of time to find this info. I wanted to share it. AND I'm wondering if anyone has any more information on the studies themselves, and/or any information on canned products that do NOT contain BPA.

I know some companies are now making BPA-free water bottles, but I'm not aware of any other companies, besides the two that I mentioned at the top (EDEN BEANS and SANTA BARBARA OLIVES), that do NOT use BPA in their canned goods.

Let's pool our info/research and resources here.


Jean

P.S. - I will paste in what seems to be the latest official position about BPA...from the a company that uses it in their canned goods.


>--- On Mon, 8/18/08, [email protected]
> wrote:
>
>> Dear Valued Consumer:
>>
>> Thank you for contacting Muir Glen regarding bisphenol-A in
>> food packaging. Bisphenol-A is a critical component of
>> protective coatings used with metal food packaging and
>> provides important quality and safety features to canned
>> foods.
>>
>> Scientific and government bodies worldwide have examined
>> the scientific evidence and consistently have reached the
>> conclusion that BPA is not a risk to human health. Recent
>> examples include comprehensive risk assessments in Japan and
>> Europe and a review by an independent panel of experts
>> organized by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis. The can
>> coatings used in Muir Glen packaging comply with the U.S.
>> Food and Drug Administration requirements for use in food
>> contact applications. These coatings have long played an
>> essential part in food preservation, helping to maintain
>> wholesomeness, nutritional value, and product quality.
>>
>> We work closely with our suppliers to ensure that all of
>> the food ingredients and packaging materials we use are
>> fully in compliance with U.S. Food and Drug Administration
>> requirements and meet our high quality standards.
>>
>> We will continue to monitor this situation. If you have
>> any further questions, please feel free to contact us. Your
>> questions and comments are always welcome. For more
>> information on the safety of metal food containers, the U.S.
>> Food and Drug Administration press office may be contacted
>> at (301) 436-2335.
>>
>> Sincerely,
>>

>> Consumer Services
>>

POSTED BY JEANESPEAKS :: CALIFORNIA USA :: 11:08 AM
CATEGORY — FOOD :: 2 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


August 15, 2008

How do I eat a GMO-free diet?

QUESTION:

Hi Debra,

How do I choose foods to not eat genetically modified organisms?

Miko

POSTED BY MIKO :: TEXAS USA :: 4:22 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

The basic answer is: eat 100% organic. But make sure food products are 100% organic. The FDA rules say that you can label a product as "organic" if only 95% of all of the ingredients are certified organic. That last five percent often are GMO, such as soy lecithin and corn starch.

If 100% organic isn't available or practical, at least avoid the big four:


  • SOY -- soy lecithin, soy flour, soy protein concentrate, soy milk, tofu, etc.

  • CORN -- high fructose corn syrup, cornstarch, corn oil, corn flour (there is no GMO popcorn).

  • CANOLA -- canola oil.

  • COTTON -- cottonseed oil.

Soon, GMO sugar beets will be coming on the market, again not labeled. These may be found in virtually any product, as most products sweet and savory contain some form of sugar.

Preparing your own food at home from fresh ingredients lets you know what's in your food. Eating out is the biggest mystery, unless you eat at a restaurant that specifically prepares meals from organic ingredients.

Institute for Responsible Technology: Campaign for Healthier Eating in America has the most comprehensive info I've seen on where GMO foods are used and how to avoid them.

Greenpeace Shopper's Guide: How to Avoid Genetically Engineered Food, but the problem with pdf guides is that they become dated and you don't know if the information is current. Still, it has good guidelines and lists of brand name foods that were GMO-free and that have GMO-ingredients as of the date of writing.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Food Dehydrator

QUESTION:

Hi Debra, I just love your site. I have been looking into buying a dehydrator and I realized that the Excalibur the one we are thinking about is made of polycarbonate material. So would that make this a bad choice, the whole thing is made of this. Thanks, Marsha

POSTED BY MARSHA :: NORTH DAKOTA USA :: 2:43 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Polycarbonate is the plastic used to make water bottles that leach bisphenol-A. I don't know how much bisphenol-A might leach into food from a food dehydrator, but I would say less because only one side of the food touches the plastic and there are large air hole. Also, the air passing through is barely warm, so it wouldn't do much to make it outgas, and there is less contact time than a bottle of water.

I would say offhand, logically, there is probably more benefit to dehydrating organic food than danger from whatever small amount of BPA may be added.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 2 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


August 07, 2008

Food Steamers

QUESTION:

Are stainless steel food steamer inserts safe? I assume there wouldn't be any nickel, aluminum, etc. Can anyone recommend a pot insert for steaming?

POSTED BY STEVE SAVITZ :: NEW YORK USA :: 5:17 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Stainless steel is stainless steel, so steamers would have all the same issues as pans. Except short cooking time and you aren't scratching them with metal utensils.

I have a bamboo steamer and I love it! Much more organic and less industrial.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


handling of higroscopic materials like salt, baking soda

QUESTION:

Hi,

I am Jignesh. I would like to know how to handle salt & baking soda (cooking soda) to keep it free flowing all the time. What should be the temprature & relative humidity setting to store this material intect.

POSTED BY JIGNESH :: GUJARAT INDIA :: 6:43 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I don't know. I've never had a problem with these clumping.

Readers, any advice on this?

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 2 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Bread Machine

QUESTION:

Hi Debra,

I am thinking about buying a bread machine. It seems like all of the brands have a non-stick finish. Are these machines likely to get hot enough to make this a problem (I understand that the temp has to reach over 500 degrees to cause leaching, right??) What do you think?

POSTED BY NELL COVINGTON :: COLORADO USA :: 6:40 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I don't feel comfortable using non-stick finishes at any temperature.

I don't know of a bread machine that doesn't have a non-stick finish.

When I used to bake bread, I just baked it in the oven in a glass loaf pan. I don't eat bread as part of my regular diet any more.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 1 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


August 02, 2008

Dietary Supplements

QUESTION:

Hi Debra

Could you share with us what supplements you take?

I am in my mid 40s and am currently taking Shaklee's Multi Vitamins, Vitamin E and Vitamin C. Are these sufficient?

Tks
JK

POSTED BY JK :: A :: A :: SINGAPORE SINGAPORE :: 12:41 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

This is a big subject. First, everyone is uniquely individual and our individual body needs change over time depending on what is going on with our bodies. So I can't tell you if what you are taking is sufficient.

I already wrote about it at At Home With Debra: My Vitamins. Start with that for my general philosophy about supplements.

But that was a couple of years ago, and now I'm taking different supplements based on body conditions I need to take care of now.

Here's what I'm taking

- Viteyes to support eyesight

- Glucontrol for blood sugar
- Chromium for blood sugar

- Kyolic Garlic for blood circulation

- Natural Vitality Kidney Rejuvinator to support kidneys for detoxification
- Cranberry juice to support liver for detoxification

- 5,000 IU Vitamin D because I've read a lot of general health benefits
- Flax Oil
- CoQ10

I also eat Himalayan Crystal Salt for minerals.

In "My Vitamins" I mentioned taking specific Standard Process vitamins chosen by a practitioner. I've stopped doing that only because my doctor moved away and I haven't found a suitable replacement. I still value that method and those vitamins.

I do use muscle testing to test myself and research recommended supplements for my specific body needs.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 4 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


July 29, 2008

titanium cookware

QUESTION:

Hello Debra,

I was wondering whether you are familiar with titanium coated cookware. Advertised as non-toxic, inert and nonstick, it sounds like a great alternative to teflon. Titanium has been used in medicine and dentistry for a while with a great safety record. One of titanium cookware brands, that's affordable is Analon. Any comment would be appreciated.

POSTED BY LISA P :: CALIFORNIA USA :: 5:38 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I didn't see any titanium cookware on the Analon site.

Several years ago a friend asked me about titanium cookware and I did some research on it. At the time, I discovered that the brand he was considering buying was made by locking the standard Teflon-type non-stick plastic finish into a crater-like material made from indestructable ceramic and titanium. Embedding the finish in the ceramic-titanium craters prevents it from being scraped off into the food, but fumes may still be released, especially as a result of long periods of excessive heat.

I can't speak to your question about Analon specifically, as I couldn't find the product.

Other titanium cookware may be different. We need to look at each individually.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 1 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


July 22, 2008

kombucha craze

QUESTION:

I wanted to know if drinking Kombucha tea really is benefical to your health. I have recently been drinking it and I wanted to know how benefical it is if at all.

POSTED BY 123CURIOUS :: HAWAII USA :: 6:20 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I don't have any personal experience with this. Readers?

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 4 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


June 22, 2008

UHT Food Containers - Aseptic Packaging

QUESTION:

Recently, due to BPA in tin can linings. I have been purchasing my peeled and diced tomatoes in Aseptic packaging. I have also for many years kept standby milk in the same manner, not to mention juice boxes containing not only juice but soy products etc, that are commonly available today.

My concern is that the packaging is 'safe'? (At this point not even addressing the UHT Technology used to sterilize the milk)

According to the Aseptic Packaging Council the aluminum liner, which keeps the light out, thus preventing spoilage, is coated with
low-density polyethylene (LDPE). Also according to the Aseptic packaging council the LDPE has been tested and found to not contain bisphenol A (BPA), nonylphenol, and phthalates.

So, is it safe? Especially considering the acidity of tomatoes?

Thanks

Karen in Florida

POSTED BY KAREN IN FLORIDA :: FLORIDA USA :: 12:11 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

From everything I've read, LDPE is safe for food contact. I know of no information to the contrary.

Of course, in the larger picture, it is made from crude oil and doesn't biodegrade, but I know of no toxicity issues in it's use.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


June 17, 2008

stainless steel cookware

QUESTION:

Hi! Just wanted to share a website with you and perhaps you might post an opinion on this cookware. It is surgical stainless steel with titanium and 7-ply - also known as "waterless" cookware. Apparently you can also stack the pans and cook your entire meal on one burner - which is interesting.

www.vaposeal.com

I have enjoyed reading on your site about various pots and pans - we have the copper bottom Revere Ware from years ago when we were first married and are looking to replace the pieces. We use cast iron a lot; have some enameled pans, plus glass (Visions) but the Revere Ware gets the brunt of daily duties. It is hard to find stainless steel in any line that has welded not riveted handles. We understand that the rivet buttons are aluminum and can leach into the food considerably, depending upon the food item (plus it is hard to keep them really clean). I purchased a Classicor stainless steel pan and it is ok, although the handles aren't the best. I've heard the newer Revere Ware isn't worth your time or money at all.

I am wondering if a big part of the good things about this cookware is the fact that you cook on low heat? We do a lot of "slow cooking" so that is a bonus.

The 7 layers are:

T304 stainless steel
carbon steel
304 surgical steel
A/L Alloy/Heat Transfer
Aluminum/Fast even heat
A/L Alloy/Heat
T304 surgical steel

T304 Surgical Stainless Steel
The higher content of chromium and nickel in the T304 surgical stainless steel has many advantages including corrosion resistance, temperature resistance, ability to clean, and flavor protection. And, most importantly, it is the most sanitary surface you could ever eat from. You can be sure you are eating only food and not metal or surface residues.

Precision Ground Covers form a moisture seal to the pan to lock in heat, steam, flavor, color, and nutrients. Now you can cook with low heat and minimal use of water or oil.

The $695 is probably a good price - I have a coupon for $395 plus free S&H so it looks even better! :)

Would sure appreciate your opinion. I also noticed that they had a bakeware set - I've tried stainless steel cookie sheets but they are so thin and just don't last. We do the parchment paper and sil-pats but I've always been keeping an eye out for really good stainless steel.

Thanks for your time!

POSTED BY DIANA DARLING :: MICHIGAN USA :: 5:48 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

The clue for me is in the statement "The higher content of chromium and nickel in the T304 surgical stainless steel..." These are the metals that are toxic and can leach if the stainless steel is scratched from using metal utensils or scouring. While it says that you are not eating metal residues, I'm not sure that their advertising copywriter or even the company itself is aware of what happens when the stainless steel is scratched.

Sounds like this cookware has more than the average amount of chromium and nickel. I'd choose a different cookware.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 19 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Drying Herbs

QUESTION:

Is it okay to dry herbs (red clover) on a clean window screen? Will the metal of the screening adversely interact with the plant material? Would placing them on paper towels help?

POSTED BY LAURA :: MAINE USA :: 12:03 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Readers?

I dry herbs in small bundles, which I hang upside down in a dry area. Don't know about drying them on a screen.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 3 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


June 09, 2008

Acrylic drinkware: Is it safe to drink from?

QUESTION:

Question:

I just bought some acrylic plastic drinkware from Crate and Barrel. I am normally against plastic being used in my home, but I needed cheap, durable drinkware for outdoor use and everyday use. I realize these do not biodegrade easily, but I will use these until they fall apart (hopefully I will have many years of use out of these).

These will be used daily by my weak elderly Mother-in-law, since they are light weight and not easily broken.

Question:
The drinkware has the code #3 stamped on the bottom of the glass. What does this mean, and are these safe to drink from?



POSTED BY STEVEN :: TEXAS USA :: 10:54 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

#3 is PVC--polyvinyl chloride. I wouldn't use this plastic for drinking glasses.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 1 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


High heat cooking

QUESTION:

I have read that cooking food at high heat produces carcinogenic compounds called heterocyclic amines (HAs) that are said to form with high heat cooking.

Is this true with grilling and roasting vegetables?

Also, I always like to toast my bread. Is this safe? I am not sure if toasting falls into the same category.

Lastly, I typically don't grill meat as much as broil. I actually prefer chicken not to be moist. So I will cook it for an hour with 20-30 minutes of the toaster oven set at 450 (or broil). Is this ok since it is not bbq? The meat is typically fish or chicken breasts.

POSTED BY RS :: IL USA :: 10:40 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

First, for those of you who are not familiar with this issue, read this excellent summary from the National Cancer Institute: Heterocyclic Amines in Cooked Meats

Now, to answer your questions...

Only meats produce heterocyclic amines. It's fine to grill and roast vegetables. Likewise toasting bread.

I've been following this issue for years. In my book Home Safe Home I wrote:

One of my favorite foods is good barbecued anything, and broiling just isn't the same. Besides, humans have been cooking over fire for millennia, so I don't think a few barbecued steaks are a major cause of cancer. Univeristy of Hawaii researchers have found you can reduce the danger of carcinogens in grilled meat by eating lots of green vegetables--the chlorophyll is vegetables binds with the carcinogns during digestion, limiting their absorption. My personal solution: We have a barbecue every couple of weeks in the summer months and include a big green salad.


Note too that grilling meat is fast and hot, real barbeque is low and slow. So actual barbeque at low temperatures may be one of the best ways to cook meat after all (the article linked above says "barbeque is high temperature"--I think they meant grilling).

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


June 06, 2008

Oatmeal

QUESTION:

Hi Debra,

I have two questions for you. I make oatmeal every morning, using a full glass of milk and frozen fruit. I do this the night before. Making oatmeal takes a good bit of time and I would like to do about 4 days in advance. I am not concerned whether it taste as good as fresh off the stove but is there something I should be concerned about in terms of food safety? I am not sure if the mix of milk, grains, and frozen fruit (which I think usually has citric acid, etc on it to make it last longer), could create and environment for germs, or the milk should not be out of it's container, or some of other type of food safety concern. I know making it with water in advance is ok, but I am not sure about milk with the fruit. I store it in Tupperware. Thanks (I know this is a unique question!)

POSTED BY SUSAN :: PA USA :: 10:52 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I don't think there's a problem storing cooked oatmeal with milk and fruit in an airtight container in the refrigerator for four days. It's OK to take milk out of the carton as long as it is refrigerated.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 2 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


June 05, 2008

Safe Stainless Steel Water kettle

QUESTION:

I have been searching for a safe stainless steel water kettle (one that a magnet sticks to) with no luck in any department store. I was wondering if anyone would know of where I could find one if there are any available.

Marie, So. Calif.

POSTED BY MARIE J. :: CALIFORNIA USA :: 12:32 PM
CATEGORY — FOOD :: 4 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


June 02, 2008

paper cups and plates

QUESTION:

I frequently use the Dixie brand "to-go" coffee mugs (our cafeteria provides these). I realize that these may not be the most environmentally sound mugs, but I do reuse the same one throughout the day. I have assumed because they are made for hot products that they are microwave safe, however, I am now concerned they are made with a plastic or bleach of some sort that is not safe.

Likewise, our cafeteria at work serves us food on paper plates and bowls (the ones that are white or sometimes have designs). Are these safe to eat off of? Or are they chemicals on these plates I should be concerned about?

I have been eliminating paper goods at home, but at work, where I am on the go, I rely on our cafeteria.

Thanks!

POSTED BY KK :: MAINE USA :: 12:03 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

White paper products are mostly bleached with chlorine.

The Minnesota North Star chapter of the Sierra Club describes the problems with bleached paper:


Bleaching is done using the gas form of chlorine; therefore, it produces a lot of unwanted emissions. During the process, naturally occurring chemicals called dioxins in the wood react with added chlorine, producing a residue with dangerous and toxic dioxins. As this residue is then released into rivers, lakes, or other water reservoirs, it has a tendency to accumulate in sediments where it stays until it gets picked up by fish or any other organisms. Dioxins have a really long decomposition period and therefore they bioaccumulate in the organisms that accidentally ingest them. Dioxins have a tendency to move upwards in the food chain. Therefore, first accumulating in food products like milk and fish, they can fast travel to humans and other mammals. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the health consequences of being exposed to dioxins can result in development of cancer, damages in developmental and reproductive processes, immune system damages, diabetes, etc. For more information on dioxins please visit the Environmental Protection Agencys (EPA) web site: Dioxin (pdf).


So it's better to use unbleached paper products, for both health and environmental reasons.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 5 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


May 28, 2008

non plastic food storage

QUESTION:

I apologize in advance for so so many questions. I know people lived without plastic for many years, but now after relying on plastic for so many years it is quite and adjustment, but one that I think is well worth it!

Right now I use mainly Tupperware and was searching online for glass containers to store food in and carry my water. Unfortunately, all the glass containers and corningware type containers I have seen sold seem to have plastic lids. Wouldn’t after multiple uses the lid’s plastic chemicals leach into the food, especially since I wash my dishes in the dishwasher and wash all the dishes together?

I read that you said you carry your water in a glass container. What type of glass container do you use? The closest I have found uses a rubber to close the lid lid (like an oldfashioned milk jug). And since I don't want to use rubber, I am at lost for what bottle to look for. I know sigg is popular, but I would rather not use aluminum, since I drink so much water a throughout work day.

Also, how do you keep food moist without using plastic saran wrap to cover items? Thanks so much!

POSTED BY CP :: TEXAS USA :: 11:32 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

At the moment, I am reusing some glass marinara sauce jars with metal lids.

At home, I have those French glass jars with the clamp-on glass lid (photo and order from The Container Store
). They have a rubber gasket that I believe is natural rubber, because they break down and have to be replaced every few years. I've had these jars for years in all sizes and use them on shelves and in the refrigerator. I also have some glass jars in several sizes with metal screw-on lids that I got at Target. I can't find them easily on their website, but I have purchased them in both Florida and San Francisco, so I believe they are standard in all Target stores.

For storing water in the fridge and carrying water, I reuse glass juice bottles with metal lids. They are heavy glass. If you are concerned about them breaking, tie some padding around them, like a folded cotton dishtowel, or even a potholder. If you are crafty, you could make a padded carrier (and if any of you want to start your own business making these, I'll put them on my website).

How do I keep my food moist without using plastic wrap? Hmmmm, well, I just put it in a covered container in the refrigerator. We all need more covered containers, like covered baking dishes, you can use the cover instead of plastic wrap.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 11 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


May 26, 2008

Plastic food packaging

QUESTION:

I wonder about the safety of the plastic wrap that grocery stores put around meats (e.g., steaks and roasts). It appears to be the same type of plastic wrap that most of us have in our homes and which (I assume) contains plasticizers and other constituents of plastics that might leach into the meat. Should we be concerned? And is butcher paper any better? (It, too, has some sort of shiny, plastic-looking material on it.) I keep worrying that the meat I cook is tainted with toxic plastic. Thanks for your help.

POSTED BY HENRY :: UTAH USA :: 3:01 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Plastic wrap is made from PVC, one of the most toxic plastics. In 1998, Consumer Reports magazine announced that Consumers Union (CU) scientists had found that cheddar cheese packaged in clear PVC cling wrap contained levels of DEHA (di-2-ethylhexyl adipate). Though there is clear evidence that chemicals are leaching into foods from PVC, the toxicity is not clearly established, so the plastic continues to be allows.

For more info on this see Green Guide: PVC Cling Wrap

The most prudent thing would be to not eat foods wrapped in cling wrap, but they are so prevalent that it is very difficult to find foods in the normal lines of commerce without them.

The way to have PVC-free food is to purchased fresh ingredients from farmer's markets or through Community Supported Agriculture programs or from stores that don't wrap all the produce in plastic, and use paper bags. Then prepare all your meals from scratch at home.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 1 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


May 23, 2008

Salad dressing safety

QUESTION:

I was going to start making my own salad dressing to be more healthy and use less artificial ingredients. However I read homemade dressings can lead to botulism? I am confused on what is safe to mix and for how long- I really don’t know anything about botulism. Why is it that store bought dressings if homemade are not safe? Are dressing mixes such as good seasonings or hidden valley safe? How long do dressings (homemade, store bought, and seasoning mix ones) last safely?

POSTED BY LM :: FLORIDA USA :: 4:02 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I say, great idea to make your own salad dressings! In fact, check out my salad dressing recipes at Sweet Savvy: Condiments: Salad Dressing.

Now, about botulism, it would be highly unlikely that any salad dressing that contained an acid--such as lemon or vinegar--would cause botulism, because the acid prevents the growth of bacteria. There have been cases of unrefrigerated garlic-infused oil causing botulism, but in this case, the oil did not contain an acid.

Another problem can be mayonnaise-based dressings if they are not refrigerated. This happens when something like potato salad with mayonnaise is taken on a picnic and left out in the sun, or a mayo-based dressing is carried to lunch and left unrefrigerated.

There is no problem with making your own homemade salad dressing if you store it in the refrigerator. Personally, I make my salad dressing fresh for each salad. It only takes a few minutes and that eliminates any storage problems.

I love making salad dressing because there are so many flavors to use to make salad vegetables interesting and tasty.

So go ahead and make salad dressing with confidence!

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 3 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Soy lecithin safety?

QUESTION:

Hi Debra,

I try to limit my soy consumption because of the phytoestrogens and I have read that the grade of soy used in processed foods such as nutrition bars is not of a high quality and actually leftover product. Unfortunately, I have found soy lecithin in products almost to be impossible to avoid. Is soy lecithin a phytoestrogen? If a lot of products that I use contain soy lecithin as an emulsifier, even if it is only a small amount wouldn’t the small amount in each product add up day after day? I typically choose products with as few ingredients as possible, but many, such as bread, still use soy lecithin as the emulsifier. Furthermore, if the soy used in commercial products is not of a high quality, I would imagine the lecithin is not either. Thanks.

POSTED BY KK :: MAINE USA :: 3:48 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I'm just going to answer this from my own experience. A more definitive answer may be in the book The Whole Soy Story, but my copy is in Florida and I'm in San Francisco at the moment.

I avoid soy for the same reason--soy really messes up my hormones. However, I've found over the years that I don't need to avoid either lecithin or soy sauce. They just don't react in my body the way other soy products do. I really need to stay away from tofu, for example, and don't eat protein bars with soy (well, I actually don't eat protein bars at all).

You need to observe for yourself if lecithin seems to cause harm to your body or not, as all bodies are individual.

I know I may sound like a broken record on this point this week, but this is yet another reason to cook for yourself!

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 1 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Polypropylene food containers

QUESTION:

Debra,

In an effort not to use canned products, I have tried to switch to pacific soups which are in cartons. Here is the description of their cartons. Are these material safe? Similarly, I love tuna fish in the pouches. Are the material in tuna pouches safe? Thanks!

Pacific Soups: "The product is not exposed to the aluminum lining; rather two layers of polyethylene shield it. In total there are 6 layers that make up the aseptic package. From the outside in they are – polyethylene, paper, polyethylene, aluminum foil, polyethylene and polyethylene."

Starkist tuna pouches: outer layer to inner layer polyester, aluminum foil, polyamide (nylon), polypropylene

POSTED BY CP :: TEXAS USA :: 3:40 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Polyethylene is considered a food-safe plastic, which is not toxic and does not leach. I'm not concerned about plastic leaching into the food from either of these containers. If would be safer to eat soup packaged in this container than in a can with a lining that leaches bisphenol-A

However, I am not sure about the disposal of these packages. The aseptic packaging industry says they are recyclable, but I don't know if they are really being recycled in practice.

The best choice is to always simply not use something if it isn't necessary, and in this case, there is a lot of food packaging that could be eliminated by preparing packaged food at home. Chicken soup is extremely easy to make and much tastier, as I mentioned in another post.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 1 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


May 19, 2008

Biodegradable Disposable Picnic Ware

QUESTION:

I wanted to check to see if you're familiar with any plastic-ware, plastic glasses and paper/plastic plates, napkins & table cloths that are now on the market and are environmentally friendly products. We'll be celebrating my daughter's graduation and are looking for something that we can hopefully purchase at Target or Walmart for her party. It is casual (picnic in local park), so no glassware is allowed. I've already checked with Target and Walmart to no avail. Any ideas?

POSTED BY DEBBIE :: DEBRA LYNN DADD :: DLD123.COM :: FLORIDA USA :: 10:03 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

There are biodegradable cups, bowls, and plates made from "bagasse", which is sugar cane fiber that is a byproduct of the sugar refining process. Supplies are virtually unlimited, as a huge amount of sugar is processed internationally.

Flatware is made available made from potato starch and vegetable oil.

One place to find them is Branch. Another is Full Circle Planet.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 4 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Organic Chicken Broth

QUESTION:

After using Pacific Organic Chicken Broth I started to have a reaction to the broth. Included in the ingredients are Natural Flavors, which the company described in response to my e mail, as Plant Extracts. Due to "proprietary reasons" they would not explain what ingredients they are. Instead they asked me to give a list of things I am sensitive to and they would check if it was in the broth.

Is there an easier way to find out all the ingredients? It may be something new that I am not aware of that has caused a problem.

Their website lists all things that are NOT in the broth but does not disclose what IS in it.

Here is the website.

www.pacificfoods.com/products-broths.php

Thank you.

POSTED BY LW :: VIRGINIA USA :: 12:04 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Unfortunately, the way the food labeling laws are written, flavors can be bundled together and all that needs to be specified is "natural" or "artificial."

There's nothing toxic in this broth, but obviously it contains something you are individually sensitive to.

I suggest making your own broth. In the wintertime, I make chicken broth every week.

Here's how I do it.

1. Roast a whole chicken. Just take out any innards that may be in the cavity, wash it, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. I also sprinkle with crushed celery seeds, but this is optional. I roast it at 375 degrees until I can wiggle the legs easily. Also, if you poke it with a knife, the juice should run clear.

2. I let the bird cool and remove all the meat. Then I put all the bones and crispy skin into a big soup pot with 3 or 4 carrots, 3 or 4 ribs of celery (with tops), and 3 medium onions. You don't need to clean them or remove skins, just chop roughly into big pieces. Cover with water and bring to a boil, then simmer for about an hour. Let it sit on the stove til cool. Strain and put it in the refrigerator.

3. When it's cold, all the fat will be on top. Skim it off, and then you have delicious, fat-free, homemade chicken stock. You can freeze it in "can-sized" containers, so it's like having a can of chicken stock in the freezer. Or freeze as ice cubes. It will keep 4 or 5 days in the refrigerator.

4. If the chicken flavor isn't strong enough for your taste, just concentrate it by boiling it down. I wait and add salt when I use it in cooking.

5. When you want soup, just heat and add whatever you want--bits of chicken, vegetables, noodles.

My favorite is my version of Italian Stracciatella, which means "little rags". For one serving, I put about 3 cups of broth in a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Beat one egg and have it ready. When the broth boils, quickly pour in the egg and stir gently with a fork. The point is to cook the eggs and break up the cooked eggs into "rags" that float in the broth, not to incorporate the egg with the broth. Then I top with grated parmesan cheese and chopped green onions. Yum! This is my most frequently-eaten winter lunch and very easy to make.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 2 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


May 05, 2008

Debra's Cookware: -- Cast Iron and Porcelain

QUESTION:

I'm curious why you don't use any cast iron??? :)

Secondly, the white porcelain you have...I'm confused on porcelains and glazed stonewares. What's the difference?

Do you verify the glazes are safe? I'm curious because I'm in the process of revamping our fam's cookware...we have some Corningware French White Stoneware that looks like yours pictured...it's glazed. How does one know when to question the glaze used, or not?

The same with those Corningware Mugs that come with the "white collection"...they are glazed stoneware as well.

Confused-

POSTED BY ANGELA :: INDIANA USA :: 2:56 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I have nothing against cast iron, I think it's great. I've used it in the past and may use it again. This is just what I have at the moment.

The Corningware I have is a material called "pyroceramic" which is part glass and part ceramic. It does have a glaze that "meets the California requirements" according to the Customer Service representative. That's the legal thing they have to say.

I doubt there is any lead in these glazes. I haven't personally tested them, but Corning said they have been testing their products for years for lead and they have always been less than the California requirement.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 17 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


May 01, 2008

Non-plastic and Green Lunch Supply Alternatives

QUESTION:

Here's a question for everyone: What kinds of green and safe products exist for on-the-go lunch making? I am on the hunt for convenient system that can house food for lunches and keep them fresh without toxic leaching chemicals from plastics or other material. Seems like so much waste is generated using ziploc bags and they are also plastic which isn't good. Something that is safe for kids and the environment.

I am aware of Laptop Lunches, but I think the components are still made of plastic. I would like to know about any others that anyone has come across. Any help is appreciated!

POSTED BY ERIK :: DC USA :: 10:51 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Good question. Readers?

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 7 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


April 28, 2008

safe water kettle?

QUESTION:

I recently bought a new GE stainless steel kettle and the chemical taste in the water it boils is foul. I have tried and tried to boil and reboil the water, using vinegar, cleaning it over and over to no avail. Is there a 'safe' non leaching kettle available?

Tara

POSTED BY TARA :: BC CANADA :: 11:51 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Readers?

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 3 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Cast Iron Skillets made in China

QUESTION:

Hi Debra,

I recently bought a set of 3 cast iron skillets that had a "Made in China" sticker on them. After washing and using them a few times,the black finish started coming off on the towel I dried them with. The inside of the pans started to look brown where the finish had come off. Does this sound normal for cast iron? I have an old cast iron skillet that I picked up in a thrift store that is not doing this. Do you think it is safe to use the newer skillets? What with the problems of items coming from China lately, I am afraid to use them.

Thanks for your help,
Nell

POSTED BY NELL COVINGTON :: COLORADO USA :: 11:32 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I've had some cast iron skillets and I've never had any black finish come off on the towel. In fact, there shouldn't be a finish at all, only the cast iron.

Who knows what they might have added in China. This doesn't sound right to me.

The brown is probably rust, which does happen to cast iron if you don't season it. Be sure to follow the directions for seasoning the pan before you use it (coat with oil, bake in the oven, etc). Your pans should have some instructions for this. If not, search the web for "season cast iron pan".

5/1/08 Click on COMMENTS for the explanation of this black coating...

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 11 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Organic food colors?

QUESTION:

When I bake desserts with organic ingredients, I often wish that I can decorate them with whipped cream mixed with organic food coloring or apply dusted color to marzipan mini-fruits. As yet I have had no success in locating a US or Canadian company that manufactures such a product. Can you direct me to any green business that makes organic food colors? Thanks.

POSTED BY CHARLOTTE :: CALIFORNIA USA :: 11:25 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

The only ones I know of are at Debra's List: Food: Food Colors. They are natural colors, but not organic. I have a set of the colors from Dancing Deer and they work wonderfully.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 2 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


April 14, 2008

Food Dehydrators

QUESTION:

My question concerns plastic dehydrators. I have found many raw food sites using them for all sorts of healthy snacks. My questions are: 1. Is there heat involved? 2. Is it safe? Should I be worried about plastic chemicals emitting into the food!! And 3.If there is any other pro or cons on getting one?
Thank you!
Shastalor

POSTED BY SHASTALOR :: FLORIDA USA :: 2:05 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I actually have a plastic food dehydrator. I don't know what kind of plastic it is, but it doesn't seem to smell or add a plastic taste to the dehydrated food.

There is very little heat involved. That's why people who eat raw food use them to dehydrate food.

I haven't studied up on the pros and cons, but can tell you that home dehydrated food tastes much better than commercially dried foods.

Better yet, though, would be to dehydrate foods in the sun. You could make drying racks out of metal mesh and wood. Search on "solar food dehydrator" in your favorite search engine and you will find lots of instructions.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 1 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


March 31, 2008

toasters & toaster ovens

QUESTION:

My 3-year-old toaster oven has recently died on me. Any suggestions for a good quality toaster oven or toaster that will last? From the research I've done, it seems that toasters these days are pretty much disposable. Any suggestions for a sturdy model so I can reduce waste in this respect? Also, what can I do with the old one?

POSTED BY DANA :: ONTARIO CANADA :: 11:27 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I haven't shopped for a toaster or toaster oven in a while, and I don't own either one (gave up toast a while back), but from my experience shopping for other things...

You can get something cheap and flimsy or you can pay more and get something that is better built and will last. I've seen good quality cooking appliances at places such as Macy's, Williams-Sonoma, and Sur La Table.

Readers, your suggestions?

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 14 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Steam-in-bag frozen vegetables

QUESTION:

What do you know about the new frozen vegetables that come in a bag that you can microwave to steam? Is this safe?

POSTED BY EVA :: GEORGIA USA :: 11:23 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Heat releases plasticizers, so I wouldn't cook any food in any type of plastic bag exposed to heat.

The best way to eat vegetables is raw, or steamed using a bamboo or metal steamer basket, or stir-fried, or in soup (where you eat the cooking water). But raw is best.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Can bisphenol A be rinsed off of canned beans, olives, and tuna?

QUESTION:

Hello Debra,

Love your site and your book!!

Can bisphenol A (BPA) be rinsed off of canned beans, olives, fruits, tuna and other items where the juice can be discarded?

Please continue the wonderful work and for those of you who can help her financially to keep this site going, please send her a few dollars. We don't want to lose this extremely valuable treasure (the website and Debra) and she is doing it mostly for no pay. So write to her and ask for her address so you can send a check.

Thank you, Kathy Paris

POSTED BY KATHY PARIS :: WASHINGTON USA :: 11:08 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Well, to answer your question, no, you couldn't rinse bisphenol A off of foods because it would be absorbed by the foods. But remember bisphenol A is only in polycarbonate plastic and I've never seen any of these foods packaged in polycarbonate.

Thanks for your plug for contributions! Yes, I derived no income whatsoever from this blog except your contributions, so they are greatly appreciated. All the info on how to make a contribution via PayPal, credit card, or check is at Individual Contributions.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 3 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


March 17, 2008

Best Loaf Pan?

QUESTION:

I've been making homemade bread recently and have been using a Pyrex loaf pan. It works great, but I'm looking for a larger pan. I recently read on here something about coated ceramic being bad, is that right (I may have my facts mixed up)? I've found a few commercial stainless steel pans and a few enamel/ceramic pans, but I'm not sure which to choose!

POSTED BY MELISSA :: MOON BEES :: WWW.MOONBEES.COM :: GEORGIA USA :: 2:08 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Let me suggest clay pans, as they are wonderful for baking. BreadMaker.net has a good page that shows all the bread bakers made by Romertopf, one of the best brands of clay cookware.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Convenience foods

QUESTION:

Hi Debra,

I try to avoid pre-packaged convenience foods to the best of my ability, but, like most people I have a very busy life and so I can’t make everything from scratch myself. I have two questions about convenience foods I frequently use. Are the bagged lettuces and pre washed vegetables (such as broccoli) safe? I do not mean in regards to salmonella, as much as the method in which they wash the produce, etc? While I realize cleaning a head of lettuce of broccoli does not take a lot of time- things add up, so I love using these products.

Second, I try to limit all the “health” food products with soy in them, mostly because and I don’t like the estrogenic like effect soy has and I have read that the soy used in processed goods is not high quality. However, I have noticed that almost all products (even health food brand products) now use soy lecithin as an emulsifier even in an otherwise soy free product (ex: graham crackers, bread, granola bars) Does soy lecithin also contain the estrogen type effect? Do you recommend avoiding it? Thanks!

POSTED BY R.S. :: MARYLAND USA :: 1:56 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

The problems with prewashed vegetables in plastic bags could be:
1) pesticides on the vegetables
2) pollutants in the water they were washed in
3) plastic residues from the bag

The ideal would be organic produce, not in a plastic bag, washed in filtered or spring water.

In the overall scheme of things, these contaminants in packaged prewashed vegetables are relatively minor, but can add up over time and increase overall load.

If the produce is organic, it is likely they are also using filtered water, I suggest calling the manufacturer of the brand you purchase and asking them what their practices are.

Regarding soy lecithin, I'll just tell you my personal experience. i do not eat soy products like soy milk, tofu, or anything like that because when I do, it immediately and noticably affects my hormones. However, I can eat soy sauce and soy lecithin with no effects that I've been able to observe. I don't eat them every day, but I don't make a point of avoiding them.

I make a point of preparing as many foods as possible myself, rather than eating packaged foods, so I can choose what ingredeints I want to eat. It's a lot healther to eat fresh, whole foods, simply prepared, and simple preparations CAN be convenient. I've noticed that I eat a lot fewer cookies since I made a personal policy to not buy cookies, but I will allow myself to eat them whenever I make them from scratch. They taste better, too!

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 1 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


March 10, 2008

Glaze/Paint safety

QUESTION:

I know we are supposed to avoid buying pans etc with lead glaze in their paint. But how do we know if there is lead in the paint without driving ourselves crazy! For example, I called sur la table and the sales-person who answered the phone said we don't use lead in our paint (she did not check with a supervisor), so is this really sufficient or should I go a step further? What confuses me is that for example, Le Creuset Dutch ovens are painted; even corning ware white collection is painted white? But you seem to recommend both those products. However, it would seem that even if le creuset does not have lead in their paint, that over the years the pain would chip nonetheless and get into our food.

Lastly, when I go to Target or Bed Bath and Beyond, for example, they always have cute, fun designed cereal bowls or mugs. Would you suggest just avoiding these products because they could be made with lead? Thanks so much!

POSTED BY J.F. :: TEXAS USA :: 3:35 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

At this point in time, I don't trust what salespeople say. I've run into too many who really don't know the facts.

I just want to comment first on what you said. You said, "I know we are supposed to avoid buying pans etc with lead glaze in their paint." That's confusing right there.

There is lead in paint and lead in glaze, and those are two very different things. Lead is no longer sold in paint, but there may be old lead paint on walls in older buildings. There may still be lead in glaze on pottery items sold today.

So for you to ask the woman at Sur La Table "is there lead in the paint?"...the paint of what? You should be asking her specifically is there lead in the glaze of a specific item.

There is no "paint" on Le Creuset of the type that used to contain lead. Le Creuset has a baked-on enamel finish. Corningware is not painted white. The white is a pigment within the glass. It is not applied on top.

Lead in glaze has been an issue for many years. Still, one cannot assume that anything glazed is 100% free from lead--it may meet a federal or California standard which allows a very small amount of lead. Since there is no safe level for lead, and this is well known, to me no anything that comes in contact with food should be allowed to have any amount of lead in it.

Personally, occasionally I will buy some small colorful pottery. Like last fall I bought a set of small dessert dishes shaped like pumpkins from Williams-Sonoma. My food rests on it for maybe five minutes. Usually it's a rye fiber cracker with cheese. I asked them when I made the purchase and they said that none of their pottery have glazes with lead. And I believe them.

I think more research needs to be done on this lead in dinnerware issue. I'm going to be doing some, so stay tuned.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 5 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Trying to replace plastics for outdoor drinks

QUESTION:

I am searching for non-breakable stainless steel (or?) iced tea glasses for outdoor summer living and have only found a tumbler at Stash Tea. Also see that Sur La Table has Anodized Aluminum tumblers (like in the 50's)--and I'm not sure about leaching from anodized aluminum. Can anyone tell me if these are safe to use?

POSTED BY MARY ANN :: CALIFORNIA USA :: 3:22 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Anodized aluminum does not leach. Target carries those aluminum tumblers too, but don't know if they are anodized.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


February 29, 2008

How to determine safety of cookware

QUESTION:

Help! I want not just great tasting food using my beautiful pots and pans--but one that I can trust for our continued well-being.I have some wonderful pots and pots. By wonderful I mean, they are truly chef-quality. My question is are they safe?

What specific questions should I ask the manufacturer to get this question answered?

Most of my collection is 18/10 stainless steel, some with the heavy bottom, some light weight with added copper.

Though beyond the above, I have a greater concern for the ones in these fine name-brands--but are also non-stick with what I believe a life-time or 75 year guarantee.The coating doesn't seem to budge. They are from tv like Cooks Essentials, Ultrex, Wolfgang, Emmerilware..and some that are cast iron with a finish that doesn't stick. The performance is great. How is the safety?

POSTED BY LAURIE :: FLORIDA USA :: 7:30 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

First, about the stainless, it's not a matter of asking the manufacturer...you can test it yourself with magnets (see Q&A: Magnetically-attractive stainless steel cookware). But even if it passes the magnet test, if you have been using metal utensils or scouring your pans with steel wool, you've ruptured the steel and opened the way for the metals to leach into the food.

About the nonstick finish. It's not a matter of the finish peeling or chipping, but what may be offgassing from it. Most nonstick finishes are made from the same group of chemicals, unless it is a completely different technology, like Thermolon. If I were researching this, I would contact each manufacturer, and ask them the name of the nonstick finish used and find out anything you can about it. Then you can look up those finishes on the internet and find out about the chemicals used to make them. But from my experience looking at the nonstick finishes, most are more or less the same.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 5 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


February 25, 2008

Thermolon nonstick cookware

QUESTION:

This is the way to go everyone get rid of your Analon, Teflon, Circulon and all other on's.

Check it out. Google Green Pan With Thermalon

John [email protected]

POSTED BY JOHN COCHELL :: CALIFORNIA USA :: 9:34 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I did check it out. I went to http://www.thermolon.com, and they didn't have any information on what the coating is made from, so I emailed the company.

They emailed me CompositionofThermolon.pdf, which states that the composition of Thermolon is a trade secret, but it "is based on silica, which of course originates from sand." This is basically glass. Other raw materials in the coating are oxygen and carbon. During the process of making Thermolon, the carbon is eliminated. So it's basically some type of glass.

I've not examined a pan with this coating, but from the description, it seems fine to me.

It is sold on many websites. Not hard to find.

The company also wrote to me: "Thermolon has been thoroughly tested by independent Labs in the US, UK and Germany - it has even been tested by the Swiss government. All have certified it to be completely safe, with no toxins or anything harmful to man or beast."

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 17 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Plastic storage issues

QUESTION:

Hi Debra,


I have a few related plastic questions/frustrations! But first I want to say your blog is a blessing and I cannot thank you enough! All the pyrex and glass containers I am able to find have plastic lids. From what I have learned on your site, this would be bad because I would continually be rewashing those lids. Any suggestions? I know there are canning jars, but the pyex square long shape works better for a lot of products.

Lastly, in an effort to get rid of plastic, I am at a lost for what to freeze things in. I use to use freezer bags beucase it saved so much space. Since pyrex isn't good to freeze in is corningware the next best thing? I know corningware has a glaze type finish which you also warn against. Plus the lids I have for corningware are plastic as well.

What confuses me is that I read that not all tuperware containers are the plastics to avoid. Does that mean if it is not #3 or 7, Tupperware is safe to use as long as its not old? I am scared to eat of plastic utensils, drink out of water bottles, but I am just not sure if that is plastic is fine for one time use and I only have to fear it when used multiple times. Sorry for the long list of questions- life would be much simpler if our gov't had more stringent standards!

POSTED BY LINDSEY :: IOWA USA :: 7:59 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

First, remember there are many types of plastics, and not all have the same toxicity. See Q&A: The Toxicity of Plastic for a refresher on which are less toxic and OK to use. But in the long run, it's best to phase out plastics made from petrochemicals because they are made from nonrenewable ingredients that do not biodegrade.

As for the lids on pyrex containers, I don't know what plastic they are made from. I'm guessing it is polyethylene or one of the safer plastics. You could call them and find out. The rewashing of polyethylene is fine. It is the washing of polycarbonate that releases more Bisphenol-A.

Also, I think it makes environmental sense to use a product once it's made, rather than discard it to a landfill without getting some kind of benefit from all the resources that went into its manufacture. So if it's not toxic, I'd say use it.

Freezer bags is another similar thing. Since the plastic of freezer bags is not toxic, putting more food into a freezer that's already running makes more efficient use of the energy that's already being used to run the freezer.

Corningware does not, to my knowledge have the type of glaze that I warn against (which contains lead and is usually a bright color imported from another country). I personally use Corningware all the time.

If the Tupperware or any other plastic product is a 1,2,4 or 5 plastic, it is OK.

You know, it just occurred to me that the perfect container for freezing is the paper ice cream carton. And Ben & Jerry's now uses one made from unbleached paper called EcoPint. But these too are coated with a very thin layer of plastic, and I couldn't find a place to buy them.

Someone needs to make an all-natural paper freezer container that is biodegradable.

You could use glass, but need to be careful about how full you fill it because food and water expands when frozen and the glass could easily crack.

Readers, any suggestions?



Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 6 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


February 21, 2008

Food Wrap

QUESTION:

Debra, I have eliminated foil and saran wrap from my kitchen, however, I have been unable to find a good replacement for those products. What do you recommend for example when baking a chicken or roasting vegetables in the oven to cover baking dishes with when no longer using foil? The foil kept everything so moist. I feel like a heavy corning ware lid wouldn't keep things as moist.

Similarly, what do you recommend wrapping things in instead of saran wrap. I have thought of wax paper, but to hold that together I would need to use tape and am worried tape has some other chemical in it that is not better. Thanks!

POSTED BY LAURA :: RHODE ISLAND USA :: 5:06 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

In my kitchen I do use foil (made from recycled aluminum), and unbleached parchment paper.

I don't use foil to cook food on or wrap food, but I will occasionally place a sheet loosely over food that needs a cover but still needs some air circulation (like when I make roasted beets--yum!)

If I need to wrap something, like a sandwich, I wrap it in unbleached parchment paper. There are ways to wrap things that hold together pretty well. Before there were plastic sandwich bags, we used to wrap sandwiches like this (no, I'm not THAT old...we've only had sandwich bags since 1957):


1. Place the sandwich in the middle of a square of paper (so the square of the sandwich is in the same direction as the square of the paper).

2. Bring the top and bottom edges of the paper up to meet over the sandwich.

3. Fold the edges over together several times until the two sides of paper lie flat on top of the sandwich.

4. On each side, fold the edges over to form a triangle, then fold the triangle over the sandwich.

5. Then turn it over and have the sandwich sit on top of the triangle flaps to hold it closed (no tape).


I rarely wrap sandwiches, but this is how I wrap anything.

I'm more inclined to use resuable containers than wrap, or wrap something in a clean cotton towel. But I'm not packing lunches.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 4 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


February 11, 2008

Hormones in milk

QUESTION:

Dear Debra,
I am having a hard time in my limited free time finding info about rGBH and rBST in milk. I have seen the link on your site to the recently published book about the dangers of rGBH in milk. Is rBST the same as rGBH and is it also dangerous? I do understand that they are both hormones designed to induce higher milk production in cows.

I just can't find the information which tells me whether to avoid both hormones in milk or just avoid rGBH. I know some of these hormones occur naturally in the cow to create the lactation however it is my impression I should be looking for milk which states something to the effect of, "organic", "no added hormones" or "rGBH free". Also, if a milk carton says rGBH free it doesn't mean it is rBST free--are the hormones used together or do the farmers use one or the other? How do I know if I am being duped if buying a carton which says rGBH free--am I likely getting one which has rBST instead?

Also, it is my impression that both rGBH and rBST are hormones which influence milk production in cows and can not affect growth or sexual development in humans. Is this true?
Thank you for helping clear this up!
Jennifer

POSTED BY JENNIFER :: COLORADO USA :: 1:59 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I'm going to give you a short and general answer to this, as I, like you, don't have the time to look up everything.

I always look for products that are in their most natural state possible. So milk or milk products for me would be "organic," "bio-dynamic" (which is even more in harmony with nature than organic), or "grass-fed" (which makes an even more nutritious milk). It's unlikely these milks would contain any added hormones, but to be sure, you can always call the manufacturer and double check.

If the label says "rGBH free," you may be getting one which has rBST instead. "Hormone-free" would be a better choice.

I don't drink milk myself, but I do eat Natural By Nature certified organic, grass-fed cream. I buy it at my local natural food store. The label says "our dairy herds are not treated with synthetic hormones or antibiotics.

I also eat Brown Cow Yogurt, also certified organic, which says "No Artificial Growth Hormones" on the label.

I'm usually looking for indicators of GOOD on product labels, rather than looking for what to avoid.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 2 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


acrylic plastic tumblers

QUESTION:

would you have any information on acrylic plastic dinnerware? we bought some really fun tumblers from costco but when we got them home and realized what an impulsive move we made. we don't know anything about acrylic plastic and we avoid plastics especially with food...the colors were just so fun ; ) unless they are somehow safe, and we doubt that, they are going back.
thank you!

POSTED BY HEIDI B. :: CALIFORNIA USA :: 1:32 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Acrylic is made from acrylonitrile, a special group of vinyl compounds. In my book Home Safe Home I noted that acrylonitrile is included on the Environmental Protection Agency's list of sixty-five "priority pollutants" recognized as being hazardous to human health. Scorecard: Chemical Profiles: Acrylonitrile notes that it is a carcinogen.

Take them back, please...

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 2 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


January 28, 2008

Greenbags for food preservation

QUESTION:

Can you comment on the Greenbags that are being sold for food preservation? They claim to be 100% non-toxic and biodegrabable.

POSTED BY D. :: FLORIONN USA :: 12:40 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I've been using these bags for a couple of months and I love them. Even though they are plastic, they have little, if any, odor and do not leach any plastic taste into the food. And they really do work! I used to have all my produce wilt within 3-4 days and in these bags I can keep it two weeks or longer.

The plastic bags are impregnated with natural mineral called oya, which absorb the gasses released by fruits, vegetables, and flowers when they ripen. They also control the humidity.

I don't know why you think they are biodegradable, as I don't see that on the package anywhere. But they are reusable.

This is one of those trade-off products. While I do many things to minimize the use of plastics, this one allows me to keep fresh produce on hand without running to the store several times a week. And I don't know of any other alternative.

You can get these bags at reusablebags.com
.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 5 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Non-Toxic Pressure Cooker

QUESTION:

Hi, I am looking to purchase a pressure cooker. I have read your information on safe/non-toxic cookware. Within the pressure cooker category, the offerings for purchasing a safe/non-toxic material seem much more limited than other kinds of cookware. I have found a few in anodized aluminum. I am just uncertain if this is the safest choice.

Does anyone have any experience in purchasing a non-toxic pressure cooker? If so, I would greatly appreciate you sharing the brand and type of material with me.

Thanks!

POSTED BY JGPZ :: NJ USA :: 11:02 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Readers, I haven't looked at pressure cookers in years, but they are a good way to save energy because they cook foods more quickly. I know there is a whole new generation of pressure cookers available, but haven't researched them yet.

Any recommendations?

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 4 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


January 08, 2008

parchment paper vs tin foil

QUESTION:

I recently bought a new gas grill...I currently use tin foil to bake/grill. ie wrap foil around potatoes....I assume the aluminum is very toxic and should be avoided. I have never used parchment paper, but am wondering if this is a good alternative. I read on one site to put a pc of parchment paper on top of the tin foil , put fish on top of the paper and then roll up the tin foil to seal. Is this still not healthly for me? Are there products out there such as parchment bags that seal like tin foil does. Can I put a pc of parchment paper on the gill and lay food on it to grill (for easy clean up)? will it burn? Is using tin foil really bad for you!?

POSTED BY JAB :: TEXAS USA :: 11:02 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Let me explain what parchment paper is. It's paper coated with silicone (for more on this, see Q&A: Silicone baking mats vs parchment paper). It doesn't burn when you bake on it in the oven, but it would burn exposed to an open flame on a grill.

Aluminum is something you want to avoid. I don't recommend aluminum cookware. However, the worst foods for aluminum are acid foods like tomatoes. You probably wouldn't get much exposure by wrapping a potato in aluminum foil. If this is a concern for you, bake your potatoes in the oven.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Mario Batali and Le Creuset

QUESTION:

I have a question about enamel coated cast iron cookware (a la Le Creuset).

My husband and I adore our simple cast iron cookware, but have recently read that it is not advised for those with Hepatis C, which he has.

We both love to cook are always looking for safe and effective cookware.

I am intrigued by the new Mario Batali line of "Italian kitchen" cookware, a low priced knock off of Le Creuset. I would like to know more about the current safety of both Le Creuset, made in France and Mario Batali, made in China.

At one time the lead and cadmium levels in enamel coated ware was controversial. The info I have found says that has been corrected, but being skeptical about the USA standards and enforcement, I wonder if you have any other source of info or advice.

Also, I am wary of anything made in China. I would love to try this Mario Batali cookware but wonder if it is worth the health risk. Is Le Creuset?

curious

POSTED BY LH :: MA USA :: 10:56 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I don't know the answer about lead and cadmium.

With regards to Le Cruset vs Mario Batali, as much as I love Mario Batali as a chef, I would go with the Le Creuset. Here's why. Le Creuset is a long established French company, who makes a high quality product for the discriminating French, to whom cooking is paramount. Manufacturers in China just don't have the same level of care. I'd get "the real thing." And if anyone has corrected the heavy metal problem, it would be Le Creuset.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 1 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Whipped cream dispensers-Nitrous Oxide dangers?

QUESTION:

I'm aware of the dangers of inhaling Nitrous Oxide itself. I know it is used to charge whipped cream dispensers. But I can't seem to find an answer to my question on any of the websites.

Does it harmfully affect the whipped cream itself or does it just dissipate when discharged? Are there traces of the drug in the whipped cream?

A friend wanted one of those dispensers for Xmas.

Thanks!

POSTED BY SWEET PEA :: FL USA :: 7:57 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I don't know how much nitrous oxide remains in the cream after it is dispensed, but it does mix with the cream. It is a very small amount.

I'd just like to say that whether there is any residual nitrous oxide in the cream or not, why not just use a mixer to whip cream? This kitchen gadget is just another specific-use thing that is using resources to manufacture. You can even whip cream in about two minutes with a manual egg beater. If you whip the cream yourself with a mixer, you KNOW there's no nitrous oxide.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Organic Milk Scam

QUESTION:

If you buy organic milk, you might want to read this.

From the Cornucopia Institute: "In a scandal now ensnaring some of the nations leading retailers, a series of lawsuits have been filed accusing Wal-Mart, Costco, Target, Safeway, and Wild Oats of consumer fraud for marketing suspect organic milk.

The legal filings in federal courts in Seattle, Denver, and in Minneapolis, against the retailers, come on the heels of class action lawsuits against Aurora Dairy Corporation, based in Boulder, Colorado. The suits against Aurora and the grocery chains allege consumer fraud, negligence, and unjust enrichment concerning the sale of organic milk. This past April, Aurora officials received a notice from the USDA detailing multiple and "willful" violations of federal organic law that were found by federal investigators.

"This is the largest scandal in the history of the organic industry," said Mark Kastel of The Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based farm policy research group. Cornucopia's own investigations in 2005 first alerted USDA of Aurora's improprieties.

Five lawsuits against the retailers have been filed so far. And law firms based in Seattle, St. Louis, New York and other cities have filed at least eight lawsuits against Aurora, representing plaintiffs in over 30 states.

Aurora, with $100 million in annual sales, provides milk that is sold as organic and packaged as store-brand products for many of the nation's biggest chains. Besides Wal-Mart, Target, Costco, and Safeway, Aurora serves as supplier to 15 other national and regional chains.

Independent investigators at the USDA concluded earlier this year that Aurora-with five dairy facilities in Colorado and Texas, each milking thousands of cows-had 14 "willful" violations of federal organic regulations. One of the most egregious of the findings was that from December 5, 2003, to April 16, 2007, the Aurora Dairy "labeled and represented milk as organically produced, when such milk was not produced and handled in accordance with the National Organic Program regulations."

The stores sell Aurora's milk under their own in-house brand names in cartons marked "USDA organic," and typically with pictures of pastoral farm scenes.

"That's not even close to the reality of where this milk was coming from," said Steve Berman, a Seattle lawyer whose firm is among those suing. "These cows are all penned in factory-confinement conditions."

"This is the perfect example of modern-day Agri-business bullies literally stealing the milk money from an unsuspecting public," said Washington state consumer Rachael Doyle.

For more, visit www.cornucopia.org.

SOURCE The Cornucopia Institute"

POSTED BY AMY TODISCO :: GREEN LIVING NOW, LLC :: WWW.GREENLIVINGNOW.COM :: VERMONT USA :: 7:40 AM
CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


December 18, 2007

Grocery store odors

QUESTION:

I have MCS and I am having difficulty with grocery store odors that appear to be related to the cleaners, deodorizers or sanitizers they are using on the shelves.

The problem is found in the meat and produce departments in particular. The products smell and taste fragranced.

The breads and paper products also absorb that odor.

We (two of my friends who also have chemical sensitivities) have spoken with the head office but they do not perceive it as a problem. And, of course, they do not smell the odors as they are around it all the time.

Do you have any experience with this type of problem or any suggestions for us?

POSTED BY LW :: VIRGINIA USA :: 11:02 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Readers?

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 15 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Sweet butter

QUESTION:

Does it matter if the recepie calls for unsweetened butter and i use sweetened instead?

POSTED BY LA :: MINNESOTA USA :: 9:41 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I'm not sure what your recipe actually said, but I've never seen a recipe that called for "unsweetened butter" and I've never seen such a product.

However...the word "sweet" is used in the labeling of butter, but it has nothing to do with sugar.

Unsalted butter is often labeled "Sweet butter". "Sweet cream butter" is lightly salted butter.

Also, fresh cream is referred to as "sweet cream" as opposed to "sour cream" which is fermented. Until 1940, all butter was made from sour cream. Today, because of mechanization, butter is made from sweet cream (read more about this in The Case for Butter).

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


December 11, 2007

Non plastic travel mug

QUESTION:

I am looking for a completely non plastic travel mug. I honestly dont know if such a thing even exists, but with knowing everything about plastic that we do, I'd hope it would be out there somewhere.
When I say non plastic I mean 100% plastic free, a plastic handle would be ok, just as long as no plastic touches the liquid, no plastic lids, spouts, inserts, etc. Please let me know of you can help!

POSTED BY KRISTIN :: NEW YORK USA :: 2:58 PM
CATEGORY — FOOD :: 7 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


December 04, 2007

Where to find the most Natural Vitamins

QUESTION:

I was recently in Walmart and wanted to buy some chewable Vitamin C. I stood there for a while reading the ingredient lists and trying to decide which was the most "natural." Can you buy "natural" vitamins at Walmart or are you better off going to a health food store? And what ingredients are acceptable as additives?
Thanks for any advice!

P.S. Love your newsletter! It has been very helpful to me!

POSTED BY TKC :: WISCONSIN USA :: 12:53 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Oh, this is a big question, so I'll try to give you a quick and easy answer.

What is the most "natural"? That would be 100% whole food organic supplements, as the nutrients would be closest to as they appear in Nature.

"Natural", however, in the food and vitamin industry, means only "without artificial addditives". The ingredients themselves still have pesticides.

If you are choosing vitamins at Wal-Mart, look for those that don't have artificial colors or flavors and derived the vitamin from a natural source. For vitamin C, the label should say it's from oranges or acerold cherries, or some real food.

What ingredients are acceptable additives? That's a HUGE question, for there are artificial additives )not acceptable) and natural "additives" (which may be fine). A good book to learn about additives is Ruth Winter's A Consumer's Dictionary of Food Additives.

You might want to also look for vitamins at your local natural food store or online.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 33 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


November 27, 2007

lead in lipstick and candy

QUESTION:

After reading The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics reportA Poison Kiss: The Problem of Lead in Lipstick, I was very shocked and surprised to learn that the FDA allows a limit of 0.1 ppm for lead in candy. What candy has lead in it so I do not give it to my grandchildren? Thanks for your help, Joan in Georgia

POSTED BY JOAN :: GEORGIA USA :: 11:25 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

All of the candies known to contain high levels of lead come from Mexico. Here are some links that tell what to avoid:

* Candies Known to Have High Amounts of Lead
* Centers for Disease Control: Candy and Childhood Lead Exposure
* Center for Environmental Health: Lead in Candy
* FDA Guidance on Lead in Candy

While this shouldn't be a concern for candies manufactured in the USA, there are reports of lead found in chocolate, as described in these links:

* The Green Guide: Is There Lead in My Chocolate?
* American Environmental Safety Institute: LEAD IN CHOCOLATE: THE IMPACT ON CHILDREN’S HEALTH

With regards to both lipstick and candy, remember, "There is no safe level for lead," especially for young children.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


November 20, 2007

REALSALT

QUESTION:

I have come across a natural salt called "realsalt". It's very good, and is supposed to be 100% natural. I buy it in bulk, from a health food store, but not all health food stores carry it. You can also buy it directly from their website.

This is from their website:

"Long before the earth knew pollutants of any kind, a huge, ancient sea covered what is now North America. Pure, natural salt was the main ingredient of this sea, and over millions of years, the water in the sea evaporated, leaving the salt in undisturbed deposits. At some point during the earth's Jurassic era, a range of volcanoes erupted around the ancient sea bed, sealing the salt with thick volcanic ash, protecting these precious deposits against the pollution that man would eventually introduce into the environment. Near the small town of Redmond, in central Utah, approximately 200 miles south of Salt Lake City, we carefully extract this salt from deep within the earth, and bring it to you in its pure, natural state–without any additives, chemicals, or heat processing. This is RealSalt®, full of flavor and natural goodness–the way salt was meant to be savored!"

It even contains Iodine, which, for me is essential, because of Thyroid problems.

What do you think about it?

Their website is: realsalt.com

POSTED BY MARIE :: MARYLAND USA :: 3:35 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

There's much that can be said about salt, in fact, I'm working on a little book on the subject, but for the moment, this description of salt looks fine to me.

Personally, I use "The Original" Himalayan Crystal Salt, which is also from an ancient sea, but is completely mined and processed by hand to retain it's energetic qualities. It has also been studied in Europe and found to have health benefits not found in table salt.

The Real Salt website says that it is "hand-selected" but that's all. I don't know how it has been processed.

Like anything else, there are degrees of good salt and bad salt. Refined sodium chloride table salt is the worst. Real Salt is certainly better as a whole, natural salt. Based on the information I have, I'd still put "The Original" Himalayan Crystal Salt at the top of the list.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 4 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


November 12, 2007

Why You Want to Avoid Genetially Modified Foods

QUESTION:

Debra, the link below is a video regarding Seeds of Deception by Jeffrey Smith. It is chock full of information about the real reasons why GMO is so bad for you and the FDA cover up.

Carina

Mercola.com: The Real Reasons You Want to Avoid Genetically Modified Foods

POSTED BY CARINA :: NEW YORK USA :: 6:05 AM
CATEGORY — FOOD :: 1 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


November 05, 2007

Bread Machine without nonstick

QUESTION:

Does anyone know if such a thing exists? Thanks!

POSTED BY ALEX :: SOUTH CAROLINA USA :: 6:21 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Readers?

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


corn or rice

QUESTION:

Hi Deborah,

I've heard about (and even seen a couple of times) food products packaged with corn- or rice-based plastic.

Do you know of any zipper bags made from corn or rice? I use tons of plastic bags, and I would like to find a better alternative.

POSTED BY CG :: CALIFORNIA USA :: 6:16 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I haven't seen any. Readers?

If you use a lot of plastic bags, I suggest you re-use them as many times as possible.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 2 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Corrosion on salt shaker lids

QUESTION:

Hi - I have some special salt shakers that are at least 60 years old. The chrome lids have some corrosion, which I understand is from the salt. Are these shakers safe to use?

POSTED BY JUDY V. :: CALIFORNIA USA :: 6:11 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I don't know. Chrome is plated over another metal, and I'm not sure what that other metal is.

Readers?

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 4 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


aluminum v. plastic v. glass

QUESTION:

Hi Debra:

I am wondering what you can tell us about this subject: When making decisions at the grocery store, are we better off buying plastic, aluminum or glass (i.e. buying a soft drink)? Which of these choices has less environmental impact overall? I have read that recycling aluminum takes more energy than recycling plastic, but I also realize that plastic can only be recycled so many times.

Thanks in advance for your help on this!
Lawren

POSTED BY LAWREN COOPE :: JUST TELL ME TO RELAX :: WWW.LAWRENCOOPE.WORDPRESS.COM :: COLORADO USA :: 5:21 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Ah...this brings up one of my favorite subjects: life cycle analysis!

When evaluating the true impact of a product we need to look at everything from the raw materials, through manufacturing, use, and disposal, including energy use and how far it travels.

It isn't possible yet to get this kind of data for most products, which is why I don't talk about it much.

But we can make some educated assumptions.

Aluminum is made from a non-renewable metal that is mined, which damages ecosystems and produces mining waste. Since you asked about soft drink cans, most aluminum that gets recycled (about 60%) goes back into a perpetual cycle of making soft drink and beer cans. Aluminum cans can be remelted and back on the supermarket shelves in as little as six weeks. The aluminum industry says that cans average more than 40 percent post-consumer content, though this fact is not generally noted on the label. While that's good, 60% of a soft drink or beer can is new mined metal. Aluminum is safe to drink from, and can be recycled. It is fairly lightweight, so it requires less energy for shipping.

Glass is made from sand, an abundant resource. It is melted down and formed into bottles. It is safe to drink from. The drawbacks are it is heavier to ship, and breaks. At the end of it's useful life, it can be recycled, melted down, and reformed into a new product. In Nature, the elements break glass into pieces and polish the edges--sea glass is fun to collect on the beach.

Plastic is made from nonrenewable crude oil, which produces toxic waste in its mining and manufacture. It leaches into foods and beverages. Some plastics are recycled, but plastics that end up in landfills or ecosystems don't biodegrade for hundreds of years.

Looking at the big picture, I would choose glass.

But why are you buying soft drinks? It's better not to drink all that high fructose corn syrup. Have some water mixed with fruit juice or a squeeze of lemon instead. It's simple, refreshing, quenches your thirst, and detoxes your body.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 1 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


non toxic finish for wooden spoons

QUESTION:

What is a non-toxic alternative to the recommended mineral oil for wooden spoons and salad bowls?

POSTED BY K :: WASHINGTON USA :: 5:14 PM


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


November 02, 2007

Lead in Pottery

QUESTION:

Last year I purchased hand made, lead-free pottery dishes in a nearby city. This is an improvement over some pretty, glazed porcelain-type dishes I bought at Pier 1 Imports, which I threw away after they deteriorated and I got to thinking...this can't be good! Now I'm wondering, what about the colors and finish used in the pottery? The pottery dishes I bought were both expensive and durable, oven-proof and microwave safe. They are works of art. But are they safe? I don't know much about pottery, and was wondering what you knew about it.

POSTED BY JANIS :: WASHINGTON USA :: 9:26 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

This seems to be a popular question at the moment, as I've received several inqueries about this in the past few weeks.


First, here are some posts where I've already discussed lead in dinnerware and glassware:

* Q&A: Lead in Glassware talks about choosing glassware and has some links to websites that tell about various sources of lead

* Q&A: Safe Dinnerware has a link to a list of low-lead china patterns (from 2001) and an excellent article from Environmental Defense about lead in china dishes.

Now, here's some new info.

I received a question specifically about the possibility of lead in mugs from Starbucks. Because these aren't "china", and they are made in China. Lead in pottery is an old issue that has been well-publicized and I think most conscious companies are aware of it.

So I emailed Starbucks to see if they had any comment and here is their reply:


Hello Debra,

Thank you for contacting Starbucks Coffee Company.

We are committed to providing our customers with high quality, safe and
desirable products. We have no reason to believe there are any issues
regarding our products sourced from China.

We have a rigorous quality assurance program and continually review
products before and after they are placed in our coffeehouses. If any
issue is found, we react quickly and appropriately to address it.

Thank you again for contacting Starbucks. If you have any further
questions or concerns, please email us at www.starbucks.com/customer
or call (800)-235-2883 to speak
with a customer relations representative.
So they don't definitively say "no lead" but I would think that they are aware of the problem and are watching for it.

Then I was shopping at Williams-Sonoma and wanted to buy some pottery dishes. So I asked the sales person specifically if they were lead-free and he said none of their pottery has lead. I looked on the Williams-Sonoma website and it said:

What is California Proposition 65, and how does it apply to your products?

We test all of our dinnerware, glassware and other items used for serving food to ensure that they meet FDA and California Proposition 65 requirements for lead and cadmium. In accordance with Proposition 65, for glazes that meet FDA standards but exceed Prop 65, we issue the following warning to our California customers: "The materials used as colored decorations on the exterior of this product contain lead, a chemical known to the State of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm." If the interior or pouring lip of a serving vessel is finished with a glaze that contains lead, we issue the following warning: "Use of this product will expose you to lead and/or cadmium, chemicals known to the State of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm."
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does have standards for lead in ceramicware.

I checked the Pottery Barn website for a similar statement and found none (but they are owned by Williams-Sonoma, so I assume the same policy would apply), and there was no mention of lead that I could find on the Crate & Barrel website.

Risk from lead exposure differs with use. According to the FDA, a plate coming in brief contact with food, such as during a meal, is not a problem, however storage of food in that same bowl could be a risk if it contains too much lead. Especially if the food is acidic (like juice, tomatoes, coffee, and foods containing vinegar) as acids promote lead leaching.

The FDA has established maximum levels for leachable lead for various types of ceramicware, based on how frequently a piece of ceramicware is used, the type and temperature of the food it holds, and how long the food stays in contact with the piece. Cups, mugs and pitchers have the most stringent action level, 0.5 parts per million, because they can be expected to hold food longer, allowing more time for lead to leach.

The FDA allows use of lead glazes because they're the most durable, but such glazes regulate them to ensure their safety. According to the FDA, commercial manufacturers use extremely strict and effective manufacturing controls that keep the lead from leaching during use, but small potters may not be able to control the firing of lead glazes as well, so their ceramics are more likely to leach illegal lead levels. Many small potters use lead-free glazes, so if you want a completely lead-free product, this is the best place to look.

So, if a company says their ceramicware "meets FDA standards" for lead, this is NOT zero. And since this standard is required by law, we can assume that reputable businesses are complying to this law and not selling pieces that are in violation.

The most likely pieces that would have lead levels that exceed federal standards are imported pieces with brightly-colored glazes, sold by a small dealer. Most small potters I have spoken with who make their own ceramicware and sell it at craft fairs use lead-free glazes.

I had written that the only way to know for sure about lead levels in pottery was to check it with a test kit, however, a new report on lead test kits from the Consumer Product Safety Commission says these kits are unreliable. I suggest you read this before using lead test kits to understand how to best use them and their limitations.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 1 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


October 30, 2007

What is the danger of peeled off Teflon Layer ?

QUESTION:

Dear Debra,

I'm from Indonesia. I would like to ask you, what is the danger of using peeled off Teflon layer at rice cooker?

I just realized that my rice cooker has lost its teflon layer at the bottom of the bowl.It's now becoming bigger and bigger , an i'm still using it ...The rice cooker is purchased from local market , but under license of other country.

And now i've been suffering with some kind of allergy on my skin for months, everywhere ....i'm afraid it's relating with my rice cooker damage..as i've been on diet from many kinds of foods ..and my allergy is not going away...

Thank you very much in advance for your attention and advice

Regards, zipora e.p.

POSTED BY ZIPORA :: ZIPORA.MULTIPLY.COM :: :: CENTRAL JAVA INDONESIA :: 12:51 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Lots of information on Teflon is at Q&A: Teflon on George Forman Grills?.

Personally, I wouldn't eat food cooked in a pan with chipped Teflon.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


October 18, 2007

Bodum electric water kettle

QUESTION:

Debra

I have been using a Bodum electric water kettle Made of a heat-reinforced polypropylene plastic and a stainless steel heating element. As I continue to evaluate all the plastics in our home (thanks to you, your book and your wonderful website), it occurs to me this is one to replace. I really love the quickness with which this kettle heats the water, thus saving energy. But I don't want to confuse my priorities, health first, planet second.

I have a host of autoimmune problems and MCS. Would appreciate your thoughts.

Thanks
D Hosford

POSTED BY D HOSFORD :: GEORGIA USA :: 6:01 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Polypropylene is one of those "safer" plastics, but a plastic nonetheless.

My philosophy is that if there is a safer alternative, I'll use it. If not, I'll use the safest thing I can find or just not use it at all.

In your case, being chemically sensitive, it's best to stay away from any kind of plastic as much as possible.

Since there are safer containers in which to boil water, I'd choose something else.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 2 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


October 15, 2007

Grains with Gluten

QUESTION:

Just f.y.i.: barley, spelt (which is a form of wheat), oats and rye all have gluten. It has also been suggested that those sensitive or allergic to gluten not eat quinoa, amaranth or teff. There supposedly is an amino acid very similar to one found in soy in these grains that can trigger a gluten response. Did you know that most people who are allergic to gluten are also allergic to soy?

I am down to eating, for flours: sorghum, rice, chickpea ... corn. I have my own countertop mill and grind my flours from groats or whole dried corn(not popcorn). Sorghum is the one I use most, chased by a bit of brown rice to clean my mill.

POSTED BY GINGERLOU :: WISCONSIN USA :: 3:12 PM
CATEGORY — FOOD :: 2 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


October 02, 2007

Freezer Pack to Keep Food Cold?

QUESTION:

I'm wondering if anyone knows of any non-toxic or less-toxic (both in terms of health and environmental impact) freezer pack--something one would pack with food to keep it cold on a car trip.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

POSTED BY R.M. :: VIRGINIA USA :: 9:38 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Reusablebags.com has a product called "Cool Totes" (search for it on their site) which is an insulated lunch bag with a nontoxic freezer pack. I actually have one leftover from a television show I did on back-to-school products, and there is no odor that I can detect.

The outer shell appears to be nylon. The Thermo Tek™ insulation is made from recycled plastic soda bottles.

A "nontoxic" reusable freezer pack included, which sits in a separate interior pocket. It "stays cold 3X as long as regular ice with no watery mess". I don't see that they sell this pack separately, but you could ask.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 3 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


September 27, 2007

Teflon-free countertop grill?

QUESTION:

i want to use a grill simalar to the george foreman grill but without the teflon do you have any suggestions? whats your opinion of cuisinart grills? thanks dt

POSTED BY DT :: NEW YORK USA :: 8:02 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I haven't researched these grills myself. Has anyone found such a grill without a Teflon finish?

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 2 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


September 17, 2007

Chantel Copper Fusion cookware

QUESTION:

Hello Debra,
I just recently discovered your website and love it. I would like to know if you know anything about a new cookware called copper fusion by Chantal, Made in Germany. They claim to have a stick resistant surface without any type of chemical or nonstick coating. I would appreciate any comments you may have about this cookware. thank you

POSTED BY BETTY L :: ARIZONA USA :: 6:10 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Just looking at the Chantal Copper Fusion website, it looks pretty good to me. The two key features are the copper, which is best for heat distribution, and the enamel finish, which is good for cooking because it is more inert than stainless steel and other metals.

I personally have never used enamel-finish cookware because the enamel tends to chip. I don't know if there is new technology which makes this not chip, and I can't vouch for it being non-stick.

Readers, what is your experience with enamel-finish cookware?

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 6 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


September 13, 2007

Non Stick Cooking?

QUESTION:

Does anyone know of any safe non-stick cooking pots & pans? I am fine without them, but my husband really likes to cook his eggs simply and with ease. I leave the room when he uses the pan. I recently heard an add for non stick pots & pans that can withstand up to 800 degrees,unlike the traditional teflon coated pans that heat and let out toxic material. Thanks

POSTED BY MTV :: VIRGINIA USA :: 5:35 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Cooking eggs without a nonstick pan was discussed in Q&A: Teflon on George Forman Grills? (scroll down the page). Maybe one of these suggestions will work for your husband.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


September 12, 2007

Natural Peanut butters / refrigeration?

QUESTION:

Do the "natural" peanut butters (the ones with only peanuts and salt) REQUIRE refrigeration for health reasons or is that only a suggestion on how to keep the natural oils from separating? Thanks so much for sharing your vast knowledge.

POSTED BY KLP :: NORTH CAROLINA USA :: 8:42 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Personally, I always refrigerate mine, but I've noticed that in my local natural food store, where they make fresh nut butters, they don't refrigerate them. They are just sitting on a shelf next to the nut grinder.

On the other hand, these nut butters probably sell fairly quickly. Perhaps there is a reason one might need to refrigerate nut butters for long term storage.

Readers, any thoughts on this?

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 8 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


September 10, 2007

Burned pots and pans

QUESTION:

Hi Debra,

we're a family with 2 young children under 2. So it gets busy... to say the least. I also get distracted. I steam all my veggies rather then cook them, but lately, I've had a couple of pots in which the water has cooked off without me noticing. Yeah, bad... by the time I smelled something was wrong, the pot was literally BLACK with bubbles and all. but pitch black. The pots were expensive. Stainless steel All-Clad. It smelled bad, I took it under cool water and then got it out of the house ASAP because I feared toxic fumes.

But then, my hubby, who is a clean freak, put his mind to it and actually succeeded in scrubbing off ALL the black stuff. No cleaning chemical, wearing rubber gloves.
Now, I'm kind of wondering whether or not we should still make food in these pots. Maybe the lining was so damaged that we are now exposed to leaching of the heavy metal (stainless steel)???

I have send an email to All-clad but haven't heard from them...

Kathleen

POSTED BY DEVIAENE :: CALIFORNIA USA :: 2:29 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

If it were me, I would trash the pots. All that scrubbing compromises the surface and will cause more leaching.

Set a timer for your veggies to remind you to come look at them before they burn.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 15 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


September 04, 2007

Iron Skillets

QUESTION:

I have read that enamel covered iron is the healthiest cookware. What about old fashioned cast iron? I was told as a child that iron skillets added iron to the food and that was a good thing. Is there anything harmful about cooking in iron skillets?

POSTED BY RUTH :: TENNESSEE USA :: 4:42 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I know of no reason not to use cast iron skillets. I think they are a good choice, made of a natural, simple material.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 12 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


August 27, 2007

cutting board care

QUESTION:

I have been to several places that sell cutting boards and they are suggesting and selling a mineral oil product for the care of the boards. I have used this product (on new boards) for about three months and the smell of mineral oil is always present. Does this get into the food? For many years olive oil was my product of choice and no odor was ever detected. Care was used on the boards to clean with hot soapy water and rinsed well - I even have wooden salad bowls that were treated with olive for many, many years and no odor exists on them.
So should the olive oil idea be scrapped?

POSTED BY JOANNE :: AZ USA :: 3:50 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

In my opinion, the mineral oil would get into the food, as it comes in contact with it.

I'm sure that many a wooden salad bowl has been seasoned by olive oil over the years, through daily use. Old ways are often the best.

There's a whole discussion on this topic at Wood Conditioner for Cutting Boards and Bowls, with some very interesting comments. Take a look.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 1 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Bisphenol A in Canned products

QUESTION:

Hi Debra,

I love what you are doing for consumers. I wish you worked for the FDA--we would sure be healthier.

My question is--do you know what canned soups, tunas, beans, etc. do not contain the epoxy resin, Bisphenol A? I have looked everywhere and they mention that some tuna, beans, soup, etc cans contain this plastic lining but they never list the brands. (Environmental Working Group has done a lot of research but doesn't list the brands). I have written many and so far, only Trader Joes doesn't use this chemical in its canned products.

Have a great day, Kathy Paris

POSTED BY KATHY PARIS :: WA USA :: 11:31 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I don't have a list of brands.

One of the problems of putting together such a list is that it can change faster than I could keep up with doing the research.

Kudos to Trader Joe's for choosing bisphenolA-free cans and making it known. That's really what all manufacturers need to do.

Now, if you do the research and find more, I'm happy to post them here!

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 12 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


August 21, 2007

soapstone

QUESTION:

I'm going to buy a soapstone pan and would like to know which would be best for omlet making ? There is only my hubby & I most of the time so I really don't need a big one. Do you have any suggestions ?

POSTED BY BEV :: OHIO USA :: 3:44 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I would get the pizza pan because it is flat with a lip and omlettes would be easy to turn. Best selection of soapstone i know of is at www.greenfeet.com.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


August 14, 2007

Jenny Craig

QUESTION:

After stumbling across your site and reading about process foods, and sweetners, etc... I wonder what are your thoughts or research on Jenny Craig foods.... I just started the program to lose 50lbs, do you have another recommendation?

POSTED BY VTORI :: MASSACHUSETTS USA :: 11:47 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I haven't looked at Jenny Craig foods recently, but last time I looked they were standard commercial foods, not organic, with refined flour and refined sugars. I personally wouldn't eat them as my regular diet.

My best success with weight lost has come from preparing my own organically grown foods and minimizing carbs. If you eat mainly lean proteins and fresh raw vegetables--as much organic as possible--the weight will fall off. If you want something sweet. Eat a little fresh fruit. Drink 2-4 quarts of clean water every day.

Exercise also makes a big difference. Walk as much as you can. Just start with five minutes if that's all you can do and do a minute more each day.

I also have found that a gentle intestinal cleanse works wonders. Something like Dr. Schultz's which is made from organically grown herbs. It works best for me to do it for a week and then another week later. What you think is "fat" in the abdominal area may simply be intestinal build-up.

What is most important is not just to lose those fifty pounds, but to make a transition to healthy eating for the rest of your life.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 3 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


August 01, 2007

Non-Aluminum Ice Cream Makers

QUESTION:

Anyone know of an ice cream / sorbet maker that does not use an aluminum (or plastic) dish for making the ice cream? I have not been able to find one made of stainless steel.

Any opinions as to whether it's ok to make the ice cream in aluminum (about 20 minutes) and then transfer it to something else afterwards? Maybe the fact that it is COLD, not hot, isn't so bad for leaching toxic materials into food.

Thanks a lot,
Linda - California

POSTED BY LINDA :: CALIFORNIA USA :: 7:55 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

The one I use is aluminum and I'm not concerned about it. Aluminum leaches more when acidic foods are cooked in it, and longer cooking times (worst, for example, would be slow-cooked spaghetti sauce).

Here's one with a stainless steel bowl, but not cheap ($600.00!): Musso Stainless Steel Lussino Ice Cream Maker.

I seem to recall many years ago I had an ice cream maker that also had a stainless steel bowl.

I think you need to look for a unit that has a built-in bowl and a freezer in the unit. These seem to have stainless steel bowls.

The less expensive type where you pre-freeze a removable bowl in the freezer seem to be made of aluminum. Perhaps there is a reason for using aluminum that helps with the freezing, so there may not be one of this type that has a stainless steel bowl.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


July 15, 2007

organic vs local (non-organic) produce

QUESTION:

Debra,

Things I've been reading lately have emphasized local produce over organic. In Washington state, we have a bounty of locally grown fruit, but most is not organic. A local u-pick blueberry farm (with delicious, gorgeous berries) uses copper sulfate as a fungicide and diazanon. How bad is this stuff?

POSTED BY HELEN :: WASHINGTON USA :: 7:35 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

The MSDS for copper sulfate says:


Potential Chronic Health Effects:
CARCINOGENIC EFFECTS: Not available.
MUTAGENIC EFFECTS: Mutagenic for mammalian somatic cells.
TERATOGENIC EFFECTS: Not available.
DEVELOPMENTAL TOXICITY: Not available.
The substance may be toxic to kidneys, liver.
Repeated or prolonged exposure to the substance can produce target organs damage.


The MSDS for diazanon says:

Health Haz Acute And Chronic: SYMPTOMS OF CHOLINESTERASE INHIBITION CAN
INCLUDE HEADACHE, DIZZINESS, BLURRED VISION, WEAKNESS, NAUSEA, CRAMPS,
DIARRHEA, DISCOMFORT IN THE CHEST, NERVOUSNESS, SWEATING, PINPOINT PUPILS,
TEARING, SALIVATION, PULMONARY EDEMA, UNCONTROLLABLE MUSCLE TWITCHES,
CONVULSIONS, COMA, LOSS OF REFLEXES & SPHINCTER CONTROL.
Carcinogenicity - NTP: NO
Carcinogenicity - IARC: NO
Carcinogenicity - OSHA: NO
Explanation Carcinogenicity: THERE ARE NO INGREDIENTS ABOVE 0.1% WHICH ARE
IDENTIFIED AS CARCINOGENS BY NTP,IARC OR OSHA.
Signs/Symptoms Of Overexp: ASPIRATION HAZARD. HEADACHE, DIZZINESS, BLURRED
VISION, WEAKNESS, NAUSEA, CRAMPS, DIARRHEA, DISCOMFORT IN CHEST,
NERVOUSNESS, SWEATING, PINPOINT PUPILS, TEARING, SALIVATION, PULMONARY
EDEMA, UNCONTROLLABLE MUSCLE TWITCHES, CONVULSIONS, COMA, LOSS OF REFLEXES
& SPHINCTER CONTROL, EYE IRRITATION, SKIN IRRITATION.
Med Cond Aggravated By Exp: PRE-EXISTING SKIN DISORDERS MAY BE MORE
SUSCEPTIBLE TO THIS MATERIAL.


These MSDS are easy to find on the internet. All you have to do is type in the name of the chemical and MSDS, for example, "diazanon MSDS".

My search for diazaon MSDS also yielded:
Teacher poisoned by pesticides in classroom
Chemical Warfare Agents And Toxic Waste Disguised As Household Cleaning Products

Interestingly, I found a booklet on pesticides that stated "Diazinon - An organophosphate - not legally available for domestic use after Dec 31, 2003 and professionally by the end of 2004. Highly poisonous to birds." Since this is 2007, why are they using it?????

With regards to your local vs organic question, ideally, our local produce would be organic. It's good that you are questioning these chemicals being used on local produce. I would go to your local producer and tell them you're not buying their local produce because it's not organic.

On the other hand, if your choice is between non-organic shipped from afar and non-organic local, I'd choose the local.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 3 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Colander and Lead

QUESTION:

I recently bought a food strainer from Ikea in Emeryville, CaliforniA. The clerk said it was stainless steel. The product or the label itself does not state the metal it is made of. The product stated it was "Made in China", "design and quality Ikea of Sweden".

Is there someway I can verify that it has no lead in it as I will probably put hot foods in it that have been blanched or otherwise heated and do not want lead to leach into the food or water if I stick the colander into hot water.

Also, there is a small soldered attachment on the bottom for it to rest on the table and out of the water and a handle which is also soldered to the colander.

Am I being over cautious about lead from China or is this something I should have checked out somewhere before using it for hot foods and in hot water?

Thanks. iv

POSTED BY I.V. :: PENNSYLVANIA USA :: 6:59 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

You can test anything you are wondering about for lead using Lead Check Swabs.

I'm not really concerned about lead in a colendar sold at Ikea. Ikea is pretty environmentally aware and has eliminated a lot of toxic chemicals from their products. I would be surprised if they sold a colendar containing lead.

Still, it's always wise to test if you have a concern.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Cleaning Visions Cookware

QUESTION:

Is it ok to scrub food off of the Visions cookware? I just bought some pots and skillets on ebay & was wondering if I scrubbed it really hard if it would leach something in to the food. Thanks.

POSTED BY NATALIE :: TEXAS USA :: 6:34 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

It's OK to scrub VIsions cookware. Nothing will come off into the food.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


July 11, 2007

Organic Blueberries

QUESTION:

Hi Debra,

I know blueberries are on the dirty dozen list so I always try to buy organic blueberries. They are usually quite expensive. Wyman's blueberries, www.wymans.com/sustainability, posts the following statement on their website and I wanted to get your opinion:

One medium raindrop. 4 Thousandths of an ounce. That equals the total amount of pesticides used per sq ft on a wild blueberry field during the two year growing cycle. This low use is the result of the wild blueberry’s own high acidity and the successful employment of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices.

Thank you

POSTED BY PATRICIA :: NY USA :: 10:02 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

This is an interesting question.

I went to their website. First, they correctly do not claim their blueberries to be organic, but they do promote "sustainability". What was surprising to me was that pesticides in any amount were being used on "wild" blueberries. I had always thought that if something was labeled "wild" it was harvested from the wild, but apparenetly not. I need to do more research on what "wild" means, if there is a legal definition. Does anybody know?

As to whether or not it is OK to eat blueberries with this tiny amount of pesticide, here are my thoughts. Ideally, we would eat NO pesticides--100% organic. However, in today's world, that is usually not possible. Myself, I eat as much organic as is available wherever I am, but I also eat non-organic foods. So if I look at my overall consumption, I am probably eating more pesticides overall between organic and non-organic than are in those blueberries.

Also, we need to consider that there are many health benefits to eating blueberries that may outweigh the infinitesimal amount of pesticide in them. And, these IPM blueberries have much less pesticide than standard blueberries.

So I would say it is a better choice, but not the best possible choice. That said, it may be the best choice available to you where you live.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 5 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


June 26, 2007

safe plastic food packaging?

QUESTION:

I am curious about how to avoid plastic packaging in the supermarket. Almost all meats are and many fruits are packaged in number 6 plastic, which is supposed to leach some kind of toxin. I hear it is one of the "bad ones" along with numbers 3 and 7. Does anyone know who might use the new bioplastics?

POSTED BY BB :: MARYLAND USA :: 3:43 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I personally make a point to not purchase foods packaged in plastic. For meats, I go to a butcher at a natural foods store or a local natural meat butcher, both of whom wrrap my meat in paper.

FYI, bioplastics would not be used for food wrap as they don't hold up well against moisture.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 2 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


How Do I Wash Small Fruits Like Grapes?

QUESTION:

I use a large sugar shaker to wash fruits like plums, apples, etc. but what homemade recipe can I use on small fruits and vegetables without buying those fruit/vegetable sprays?

POSTED BY JOAN COPPINGER :: GEORGIA USA :: 3:20 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

There are some suggestions at Q&A: Produce Wash.

Readers, any other ideas?

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


June 21, 2007

Bread machines

QUESTION:

Debra
Thank you for your website. I have your book and have given many copies as gifts. I have MCS, as well as autoimmune disease and celiac sprue. I am looking for a bread machine that can handle making gluten free breads without a nonstick (Teflon) pan. Do you have any suggestions?
Thank you.
Deb H

POSTED BY DEB H :: GEORGIA USA :: 11:58 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I don't have any experience with bread machines. Readers?

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 1 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


June 19, 2007

online food sources

QUESTION:

Hi Debra and All,

I've been looking at the sources for buying bulk foods (such as grains, nuts, soup bases, etc) on Debra's List, but I was curious to know what people's experiences have been. I've look at the Web sites for Shop Natural and Sun Organic Farms and like them both, but would appreciate input from Debra and other readers on which distributors they like using.

Many Thanks.

POSTED BY ROBIN :: VIRGINIA USA :: 11:40 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Personally, I buy most of my food locally (unless there's something I REALLY want and can't buy it here). So I'm not much help with this.

Readers, what online sources for organic foods do you have good experience with?

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 3 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


June 06, 2007

Homemade V8 Juice

QUESTION:

Hello!

I absolutely LOVE V8 vegetable juice, but would like to avoid the sodium, pasturization, packing waste, and high cost that comes with buying the cans at the store. How would I go about making my own?
Thanks!

POSTED BY MELISSA :: OREGON USA :: 5:45 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I love V8 juice too and just created a way to make a juice that tastes very much like it. I call it "V5" juice. I put all these vegetables in my VitaMix and blend it rather than juicing:

3 small tomatoes (or 6-8 cherry tomatoes)
2 leaves red leaf lettuce
1/2 English cucumber
1/2 green onion
1/2 stalk celery

Put everything in the blender, cover with water, and blend until pulverized. This makes two large glasses. My husband and I drink some version of this juice almost every morning. Our bodies love it!

The original V8 juice is made from tomatoes, carrots, celery, beets, parsley, lettuce, watercress, and spinach. You can try blending any of these together or adding more to my mix. Carrots would make it sweeter, watercress more peppery.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


June 04, 2007

Xylan Coated Waffle Iron

QUESTION:

hi. i received a xylan coated waffle iron as a gift. is it safe to use? i understand that it is "healthier" than teflon.

thanks for your suggestions, lara

POSTED BY LARA :: CALIFORNIA USA :: 4:17 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Apparently Xylon and Teflon are the same polytetraflouethylene, just different brand names. For more on this, see The Silent Killer.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


ice cream maker

QUESTION:

does anyone know of a good SMALL non-plastic ice cream maker?

POSTED BY KAT :: WASHINGTON USA :: 3:38 PM
CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


May 21, 2007

Magnetically-attractive stainless steel cookware

QUESTION:

I recently read your letters concerning cookware and I have a question:

My understanding is that All Clad's magnetically-attractive Stainless Steel cookware is the safest choice for stainless steel. 

What is your opinion, please?

Thank you!

Sincerely,
Sandy

POSTED BY SANDY :: NORTH CAROLINA USA :: 7:57 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

First of all, All Clad cookware has magnetic stainless steel on the OUTSIDE of the pan, not on the inside where it would come in contact with the food. So it has no relationship to food safety at all.

Why magnetic steel on the exterior? According to a review of All Clad at Epinions.com (which also states that All Clad takes longer to heat, requiring greater energy consumption), the exterior magnetic layer is there to allow these pans to be used on Induction cooktops. Because induction uses magnetic fields to heat the pan, not heat, specific types of cookware that work with the magnetic fields are needed--magnetic stainless steel, cast iron, and steel covered in enamel or porcelain. Glass, aluminum, copper, and non-magnetic steel will not work on induction cooktops. If you are not using induction, however, there is no reason to purchase magnetic steel cookware.

An article by Dr. Ray Peat, a biochemist. He says:

There are two main types of stainless steel, magnetic and nonmagnetic. The nonmagnetic form has a very high nickel content, and nickel is allergenic and carcinogenic. It is much more toxic than iron or aluminum. You can use a little "refrigerator magnet" to test your pans. The magnet will stick firmly to the safer type of pan.
I checked around a few website to verify this idea that magnetic stainless steel contains less nickel than nonmagnetic, and indeed, it is true.

At http://www.azom.com/details.asp?ArticleID=1140 they say:
Magnetic permeability is the ability of a material to carry magnetism, indicated by the degree to which it is attracted to a magnet. All stainless steels, with the exception of the austenitic group [see below], are strongly attracted to a magnet.


All austenitic grades ...show almost no response to a magnet...
In general, the higher the nickel to chromium ratio the more stable is the austenitic structure and the less magnetic response.

Austenitic (nonmagnetic) stainless steels comprise over 70% of total stainless steel production. They contain a maximum of 0.15% carbon, a minimum of 16% chromium and sufficient nickel and/or manganese to retain their austenitic structure. 18/10 stainless is 18% chromium and 10% nickel. 18/0 and 18/8 is also available. So yes, you would want to look for a "18/0" for a nickel-free stainless steel, but it would still contain chromium, also a toxic metal.

High nickel austenitics are much more resistant to Stress Corrosion Cracking, so this may be why they are used. It may be that the stainless steels without nickel are of inferior quality and less durable.

So, it appears that you can use a magnet to test the amount of nickel in a stainless steel pan and the ones that are more magnetic have less nickel.

I took a magnet off my refrigerator and tested the stainless steel pans I have and they were all nonmagnetic. Then I went to Macy's and tested all the stainless steel pans for sale there and they were all nonmagnetic.

Readers, do any of you know of a stainless steel pan with 18/0 steel on the INSIDE? If so, please POST A COMMENT with the information on brand and where to buy it.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 22 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


May 15, 2007

can visions cookware and pyrex shatter while cooking?

QUESTION:

Hi, I had been tempted to get some of the clear cookware, but now I've heard some complaints about the "glass" cookware exploding?

And that was the reason why the Visions cookware was originally discontinued?

I also heard that Pyrex bowls were originally made of borosilicate glass, which is very resistant to thermal shock (which is what can cause the glass to shatter), but are currently, made of soda-lime glass, which is not as resistant.

What I don't understand is the inconsistency...Why are some people able to cook with on a stovetop just fine without anything breaking or shattering... while others have it explode? Based off what I read, it seems to be more than just a "thermal shock" issue, but I can't tell.

POSTED BY KAT :: WASHINGTON USA :: 3:44 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I don't know where you got the idea that Pyrex or Visions can shatter while cooking. Some websites say "Glass cookware that is allowed to boil dry is likely to shatter" and I had this experience once. When I was a teen, my parents had a Pyrex pot in which my mother boiled water for coffee. One day I put it on and didn't watch it and when it boiled dry, it did shatter. However, this does not occur during normal cooking.

Visions pots are so heavy that I can't imagine that they would shatter under any circumstances.

Regarding the inconsistency, I don't know what references you are looking at, but I would say that if there were problems with shattering, it had to do with the differences in how the pots were used rather than the pots themselves.

Used according to manufacturer's instructions, I don't see any problem with the safety of these pots and they are very nontoxic.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 74 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


April 18, 2007

Is sodium meta bisulphite safe?

QUESTION:

Unable to find any information on what this ingredient is. Or whether it is safe? Also does it contain gluten? It is in the canned coconut milk I use and it is the only canned coconut I have found that does not contain guar gum.

Any help will be appreciated. Thanks.

nancy

POSTED BY NANCY :: PENNSYLVANIA USA :: 3:26 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Sodium meta bisulphite is part of a family of sulfur-based sulfites, widely used as a preservative in processed foods and beverages. Sulfur occurs in natural as a mineral and is the source of "rotten egg" smell. Perhaps the most familiar use of sulphites is as a preservative for dried fruit--it makes the difference between the fruit being moist and colorful, or dried and shriveled.

Some people are very allergic to sulphites, and for this reason, the presence of sulphites in foods and beverages is noted on the label. Sulfites may cause gastro-intestional irritation with nausea and vomiting. Inhaling sulphites has been associated with tightness in the chest, shortness of breath, sore throat, and asthma. Skin and eye contact may cause mild irritation. These symptoms are for sulphites in their concentrated form in an industrial setting. Unless you are allergic to sulphites, it is unlikely that you would have these symptoms from the small amounts used as presevatives.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 3 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


April 12, 2007

Response to Costco Lamb

QUESTION:

Hello!

I just wanted to write in response to the post regarding Costco's lamb. I called Costco and asked about the beef and other meat. I was told they follow regular FDA rules (which signals a red flag to me) and their suppliers do use antibiotics, etc. unless specifically specified on the package label. The gentleman I spoke with didn't know much other than what he could find in his employee notes but recommended I ask the butcher on site. It would be great if the person who bought the lamb would let me know if the label said it was grass fed in Australia or if she found the information out another way.

Thank you!

Lisa

POSTED BY LISA :: CT USA :: 4:17 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

When I wrote about the grass-fed lamb sold at Costco in my 10 April 2007 newsletter, I had gotten that tip from Dr. Mercola's book Total Health Program. He said he eats this lamb personally and he had checked it out.

I'm not sure here if the situation has changed since Dr. Mercola made this recommendation or if he knows something the butcher doesn't.

Would check this out with Dr. Mercola, but his website has never responded to emails I have sent him...

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


March 29, 2007

looking for plastic-free coffee maker and rice cooker

QUESTION:

Hi--

I'd like to find something more convenient than a French press but I have had no success with finding a coffee maker that does NOT use a plastic basket. I don't mean the gold mesh filter basket but the basket that the filter actually sits in.

I have also looked in vain for a rice cooker that uses a stainless steel, rather than aluminum or non-stick, insert.

Thanks for any suggestions you can offer (and thanks for writing your books; I've referred to them for years)!

POSTED BY B. LEE :: CONNECTICUT USA :: 12:57 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I myself use a French press--not to make coffee because I don't drink it at home--but it is perfect for making tea.

Readers--do you have any suggestions?

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 56 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


March 28, 2007

Mayonnaise recipe

QUESTION:

Hello Debra,

Looking for a very simple but tasty 'Mayonnaise' recipe can you help??
Thank you,
HAH

POSTED BY HAH :: NEW YORK USA :: 12:54 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

As a matter of fact, I do have one at Sweet Savvy: Mayonnaise.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 2 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


March 26, 2007

Silicone cookware

QUESTION:

I came across your website while trying to get information about the safety of silicone cookware. I received a bright red tart pan for Christmas, and the first time I baked with it I noticed a distinctly odd odor. The nose is considered the "first line of defense" from an evolutionary standpoint, and if you can smell chemicals, they probably are leaching into your food. Silicone by itself may not be harmful, but what about the materials used to color it? I will definitely not cook with this again, the flavor and odor, while subtle, is definitely a cause for concern! Also, people's ability to detect odors can be vastly variable, so many people will never notice this...Thanks for a great website.

POSTED BY VIVIAN :: CALIFORNIA USA :: 5:15 PM
CATEGORY — FOOD :: 4 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


pots and pans safe to use if they boil dry?

QUESTION:

Hi Debra,

Are pots and pans that are accidentally left on the stove and boil dry still safe to use?

Thank you.

POSTED BY NATALIE :: ARIZONA USA :: 11:11 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I don't know the answer to this one. Readers?

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


March 09, 2007

Bisphenol A in Canned Foods

Just received this warning this morning from the Organic Consumers Association...

TOXIC CHEMICAL BPA LEACHING INTO CANNED FOODS

An alarming new study from the Environmental Working Group analyzed samples of canned fruit, vegetables, soda, and baby formula on sale in the nation's supermarkets and found that more than 50% were tainted with a chemical linked to birth defects, ADHD and cancer. The chemical, bisphenol A (BPA), is an ingredient in plastics that lines food cans. According to the study, the chemical has been leaching into foods at levels up to 200 times the government's recommended "safe" level of exposure. According to Dr. Frederick vom Saal, a professor of biology at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and a long-time expert researcher of BPA, there are 94 scientific studies indicating deleterious health effects from BPA. "If BPA was treated as a drug, it would have been pulled immediately. This chemical can be replaced right now by safer materials, and the public would never notice the difference." OCA is planning to launch a campaign later this year to pressure food companies, especially organic companies, to stop using BPA-tainted cans and other toxic or non-sustainable packaging.
Learn more: http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_4414.cfm

HOW TO AVOID BPA

* Metal canned beverages appear to contain less BPA residues, while metal canned pasta and soups contain the highest levels.

* Canned foods in glass containers are not a BPA risk.

* Plastics with the recycling labels #1, #2 and #4 on the bottom are safer choices and do not contain BPA.

* One-third of liquid baby formulas have high levels of BPA. Powdered formula packaging is generally considered safer.

* Avoid heating foods in plastic containers and do not wash plastic containers in a dishwasher.

* When possible, opt for glass, porcelain and stainless steel containers, particularly for hot food or liquids.

* Do not let plastic wrap touch your food in the microwave, or better yet, avoid microwave ovens altogether.

* Many metal water bottles, such as those sold by the brand Sigg [see correction about Sigg under COMMENTS -D] are lined with a plastic coating that contains BPA. Look for stainless steel bottles, such as those sold by Real Wear [couldn't find this company on the web - D] and Kleen Kanteen that do not have a plastic liner.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 7 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


March 05, 2007

Cranberry Juice

QUESTION:

By now many are well aware of the health benefits of Cranberries. My question is, how do you make your own Cranberry juice so that you don't have to worry about artificial sweetners, perservatives, and colors? I'd like to use a juicer, but should they be boiled first? Thanks!

POSTED BY MELISSA :: OREGON USA :: 8:55 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Actually, if you are wanting all the health benefits of cranberries, it's better to drink the raw juice--it's not necessary to cook them first.

Bottled juice is always cooked for pasturization, which gives it a longer shelf life. When you cook the juice, it destroys many vital nutrients and enzymes.

You can go ahead and put raw cranberries through your juicer. It will be very tart, however! You might want to juice it along with apples, oranges, grapes, or cherries to add some sweetness, or use a natural sweetener that also has health benefits, such as raw honey.

Even better than juicing is to blend the cranberries with water to make a juice. This gives you the fiber as well (which is discarded in juicing) which is vital for intestinal health.

In At Home With Debra : My Vitamins, I wrote about a Chinese doctor who treats cancer, heart disease and diabetes with simple, readily available foods. The healing part of these foods is the phytochemicals, which are contiained in the fibers of the foods. So you need to chew each bite 40 times (or put the foods into a very high-powered blender) to release the phytochemicals. He recommends a 2-horsepower blender (Vitamix) or preferably a 3-horsepower blender (Blend-Tec) to can masticate the skins, seeds, and stems, to make the phytochemicals readily absorbable. Home blenders typically have motors less than 1 horsepower, but it's better to use these low-power blenders than nothing.

The containers on both blenders are polycarbonate, but these are very hard plastics and there is a minimal amount of contact time with the food. The benefits of the blended drinks far outweigh exposure to any toxic chemicals that may be present.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


March 02, 2007

apple juice vs apple cider--what's the difference?

QUESTION:

Hello Debra,

What is the difference between Apple Juice & Apple Cider? How would you make your own Apple Cider?

Thank You,

POSTED BY HAH :: NEW YORK USA :: 12:35 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Apple cider and apple juice are the same in that they are both made from the juice of apples, and there is no legal distinction with regard to labeling.

However, "apple cider" is often used to refer to raw apple juice that has not undergone a filtration process to remove coarse particles of pulp or sediment (such as is often sold at roadside apple stands and at natural food stores) as opposed to the clear, filtered apple juice that is "cooked" (pasturized with heat).

I've seen on store shelves apple cider and apple juice side by side from the same producer, both pasturized. My experience has been that the apple juice is filtered, and the apple cider is not. I've also noticed filtered "apple juice" and filtered "apple cider" side-by-side on the shelf, and having purchased both can tell you that the cider had a stronger flavor, like perhaps it had been boiled down some to make it richer.

If you want to make "apple cider" (and that would be the correct term--raw, unpasturized juice of the apple), there are apple cider presses (that cost $500-700) and complicated instructions. An easier way to get fresh apple juice is to put an apple with some water in a Vitamix, which will completely pulverize the entire apple--flesh, skin, seeds, and all (except for the little plastic label). Takes about 30 seconds and is delicious!

For more on apple cider vs apple juice, see these websites:

* applejuice.org: What’s the difference between apple juice and apple cider?

* Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources: Apple Juice and Apple Cider--What's the Difference?

* The Straight Dope: What's the difference between apple juice and apple cider?

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


February 26, 2007

Crisco replacement

QUESTION:

Hi Debra,

Could you tell me what to use instead of Crisco in baking, and how much to use? I really enjoy your newsletter and all the hard work you put into it.

POSTED BY GLORIA :: SOUTH CAROLINA USA :: 1:50 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Well, you could use organic butter for sure, but if you want a shortening product like Crisco, try Spectrum Shortening, made from organic palm oil. I think you could also use coconut oil (professional bakers used to use coconut oil). All of these fats "firm up" like Crisco.

You would just use the same amount of these as you would Crisco in your recipe.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 6 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


February 21, 2007

Awesome Popcorn popper!!!

QUESTION:

If you are searching for a fun healthy popcorn popper, you may want to try BACK TO BASICs stove top popper. There are different styles. Look for the one that is stainless steel. It was so fun to use the first time, my daughter was jumping up and down in excitement. It can be used on most any stove top surface and works great on my ceran stovetop. We just crank the handle as popcorn is heated in the pot . We bought ours at target for about $30. May I also suggest trying organic all vegetable shortening ( palm oil) made by Spectrum to use with the popper...yumMMM!
Enjoy
Christine

POSTED BY CHRISTINE :: NORTH CAROLINA USA :: 10:07 AM
CATEGORY — FOOD :: 2 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


February 20, 2007

Starbucks paper cups

QUESTION:

I'm almost frightened to ask this, but do you, or anyone, know how safe or unsafe the "hot cups" are from Starbucks?? I love that they serve organic milk, but what happens to it once they pour it in those bleached paper cups?!

POSTED BY GAYLE :: MICHIGAN USA :: 2:45 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I went down to Starbuck's and got a paper hot cup. Looks pretty white to me. But then I noticed that it says right on the cup, "Made with 10% post-consumer recycled fiber." So I called the corporate headquarters and was told that their coffee filters, paper cups, and paper food contianers are whitened with a "nontoxic bleach." I was glad to hear that about the coffee filters!

Now I know there are two processes for bleaching paper. One uses chlorine, which produces very toxic dioxin, which can leach into foods and beverages from paper packaging. The other uses oxygen bleach, and it doesn't form dioxin.

Given the information given to me by Starbuck's I would say they are aware of the dioxin problem with chlorine-bleached white paper cups, and are using a safely bleached cup.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 2 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


February 19, 2007

New book on dangers of RBGH in milk

QUESTION:

I'd like to recommend a new book on the dangers of RBGH I came across, It's called What’s In Your Milk? An Exposé of Industry and Government Cover-Up on the DANGERS of the Genetically Engineered (rBGH) Milk You’re Drinking by Samuel S. Epstein, MD. In it, Dr. Esptein tells the dangers of rBGH and why we should drink certified organic milk.

To read more about it go to http://www.preventcancer.com/publications/
WhatsInYourMilkRelease.htm
.

POSTED BY BOB JORDAN :: MISSOURI USA :: 12:51 PM
CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


February 16, 2007

Bromate-free flour?

QUESTION:

Hello Debra,

Bromate (Potassium Bromate) is calmly entering our FLOURS and bake goods! What is going on???

Where can we find 'Organic Unbromated Flour'???

Thank you,
HAH

POSTED BY HAH :: NEW YORK USA :: 10:15 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Actually, potassium bromate has been in flour and baked goods for a long time, and recently there has been LESS potassium bromate in flour and baked goods, though more attention has been given to it, so more people are aware of it.

Potassium bromate (KBrO3) is a bromate of potassium. A bromate is a chemical compound that is formed when ozone and bromide react according to a specific chemical reaction.

Potassium bromate is typically used in flour to strengthen bread dough (bread of all kinds, including rolls, buns, and other bread products) and allow higher rising. It is also used in doughnuts and cakes. It may appear on the label as “potassium bromate” or “bromated flour”, but may also be present in products that don\'t have labels, such as deli sandwiches and bakery products purchased unpackaged.

Under the right conditions, potassium bromate is completely used up in the baking bread and none remains in the finished product. If too much is added, or if the bread is not properly, then a residual amount will remain, which can be harmful to health if consumed. In 1992-93 and 1998-99, the FDA tested several dozen baked goods and found that many contained bromate at levels they considered to be unsafe. Yet, the agency still allowed this additive to be used and that continues today.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) considers bromate to be a category 2B carcinogen (possibly carcinogenic to humans). Bromate was first found to cause tumors in rats in 1982. It has been banned from use in food products in Europe, the United Kingdom, Canada, and most other countries.

Though potassium bromate has not been banned In the United States the FDA has urged bakers to voluntarily stop using it since 1991. In California bromate was declared a carcinogen under Proposition 65, requring that baked goods sold in California would have to bear a cancer warning if they contained more than a certain level of bromate. Rather than label their baked goods as being carcinogenic, most California bakers have switched to bromate-free flour.

Organic flour does not contain potassium bromate. To confirm this, take a look at the The National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances of the National Organic Program. The National List is the list of exceptions to the general requirement that natural materials are allowed and synthetic materials are prohibited. The National List was created because Congress recognized that there would need to be a transition period for organic producers and handlers to achieve the standards expressed in the Organic Foods Production Act. Synthetics are allowed if they are not harmful to human health or the environment, necessary to production because of unavailability of natural products, and consistent with organic ideals.

You may purchase any organic flour or products made from organic flour without being concerned about the presence of potassium bromate.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 1 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


February 15, 2007

Muffin Pans

QUESTION:

The only nonstick cookware in my home are the muffin pans. I want to get rid of these pans, but my children love organic muffins with raspberries from the garden. The only alternative I have found are cast iron; however, the reviews of the Lodge cast iron muffin pans state the muffin size is smaller than normal. Do you know of any other safe muffin pans or cast iron versions that offer regular size muffins?

POSTED BY JENNIFER LANCE :: ECO CHILD'S PLAY :: WWW.ECOCHILDSPLAY.COM :: CALIFORNIA USA :: 12:16 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I don't know offhand. I have some unknown metal ones that are non-stick, but I've had them for years and rarely make muffins.

Readers?

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 18 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


CorningWare Slow Cooker

QUESTION:

Debra and/or Readers,

I have a CorningWare Slow Cooker (model SC-60). This is the second slow cooker i have tried. The first had a plastic base that heated up and off-gassed terribly. This one is described as "cool touch" so I thought perhaps the base would not off-gas as much. But it does. The question is, Do you think it is possible to heat it up and let it off-gas in the basement sufficiently for it to be safe the house? My basement has open windows and a cross draft. The base is made from a hard plastic, is it PVC?

Also regarding the "StoneWare insert", do you think that is safe once it is cleaned?

I love the idea of a slow cooker but wonder if I will have to spring for the more expensive stainless steel model. Any suggestions for a safe version that is not over $100?

thank you

Lucy

POSTED BY LUCY H :: MASSACHUSETTS USA :: 12:09 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I personally don't have a slow cooker, but I think they are a good idea. So I haven't looked at them carefully enough to make a recommendation. Readers? What slow cookers do you like?

With regard to the outgassing...it may or may not be PVC. You can call Corning and ask. I don't know how long it would take to outgas.

My rule of thumb is to always look for the less toxic materials and buy those. So I would buy the stainless steel even if it costs more. In the long run you'll save money on medical bills.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


February 12, 2007

Naturally "Buttery" Olive Oil

Yesterday I found a wonderful olive oil that tastes very much like butter. This is the natural flavor of the oil--there are no flavorings added of any kind. I made my scrambled eggs with it this morning and they tasted even better than with butter!

Though it's not organically grown, I thought I'd let you know about it for all of you who love the taste of butter but would rather eat a plant-based oil.

It's available in a store here in Florida called Cork and Olive. Currently their website isn't set up for online ordering (www.corkandolive.com) and the chain of stores is only in Florida, but if you'd like to order some, you can email Regina at . Tell her you read it in my blog and ask for Alia d'Morocco.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 5 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


February 08, 2007

Eco-Friendly Chopsticks for Chinese New Year

Growing up the San Francisco Bay Area, which has a large Chinese community, I have always been very aware of the Chinese New Year in early spring. Based on an ancient agricultural calendar, the Chinese consider the year to begin when the first plants begin to sprout, rather than when the days begin to grow longer based on the sun.

Today is the Chinese New Year, so in celebration, here's a tip from The Ideal Bite newsletter with some links on where to buy eco-friendly chopsticks: The Ideal Bite: Chopsticks

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


February 02, 2007

soapstone cookware

QUESTION:

Dear Debra,

Thank you for sharing the amazing information on a variety of cookwares. After reading your My New Cookware section, I was very interested in the soapstone pots so I went on to greenfeet.com and bought two. However, I do have a simple question that I am sure you can answer because you have been cooking in them for a while now.

When the pots first came, there was a litte note inside the pots saying that NEVER to heat the pot when it's empty, always make sure to have food or water in it. I am a bit confused by this message. Does that mean I cannot preheat the pot before I do my stir-frys or scramble eggs? How do you use yours? I cannot imagine putting cold oil in the cold pot and then put the food contents. I have always preheat my pots or pans to medium before I add oil. Can you please give me some advice on this? and can you tell me more on how to use these pots? I love cooking rice in cast iron pots but the rusting some times drives me nuts, I would love to cook in clay too but they are porus....

Thank you so much for your time and your great work!


POSTED BY ARIEN :: CALIFORNIA USA :: 6:14 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Well...I thought I had read all the instructions, but I didn't see that little slip of paper, so I have been preheating my soapstone pots with no ill effect. Especially since one of the characteristics of these pots is that they are slow to heat, so I always preheat them before I put in the food.

One of the best things to use these pots for is scrambled eggs. They just taste better and have better texture than in metal skillets. I heat the pot, then add the butter, let it melt, then add the beaten eggs.

I also love to use my soapstone pots to make soups and stews, and they would be great for things like rice.

I just went and looked at the actual printed instructions brochure from the manufacturer and not only does it not say anything about not preheating, it says, "A pre-heated griddle or pan make even tabletop cooking possible, turning out sizzling steaks and seafood."

So I have no idea why yours came with a slip of paper saying never heat without food. Call greenfeet and ask them and let us know.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 7 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


January 30, 2007

Cookie sheets

QUESTION:

I was inspired by your recent question regarding waffle irons. What about cookie sheets. All the ones that I can find are always non-stick. Is that what you should be avoiding? Where can you find a safe kind?

POSTED BY FRANCESCA :: SAGE BABY :: WWW.SAGEBABYNYC.COM :: NEW YORK USA :: 10:28 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Yes, you should be avoiding nonstick finish on cookie sheets.

I personally don't use cookie sheets to bake cookies. I use what are called "sheet pans." They are made from an aluminum-steel blend and have no non-stick finish. Where a cookie sheet has no sides, these pans have sides about one inch high, so they can do double duty and be used to bake cakes (they actually are cake pans, used by professional bakers), roast vegetables, and many other things. I put a silicone mat on the sheet pan to make it nonstick (nothing sticks to silicone). You can see a picture of my sheet pans at At Home With Debra: My New Cookware.

I have two 13x18-inch "half-sheet" pans and two 13X9-inch "quarter-sheet" pans. These are so-called because the sizes are fractions of the "full sheet" pan used in restaurants and bakeries (which are too large to fit in a home oven).

Read more on bakware and silcone baking mats at Q&A: Which Bakeware is Safe?.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 2 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


January 29, 2007

It Pays to Shop Around for Organic Food

I know I've mentioned buying organic food at Costco in the past, but after an experience I had over the weekend, I just have to mention it again.

We've been having a cold snap here in Florida (I know you Northerners are going to laugh when I tell you it's been getting down to 48 degrees!) and even though I usually make chicken stock from scratch, I decided to purchase some. Pacific Natural Foods Organic Free-Range Chicken Broth, is $4.46 for a one quart carton at my local Albertson's supermarket. At my local independently owned natural food store it is $3.69. And at Costco I bought a box of 6-1 quart boxes for 9.95--that's $1.66 a carton!

I bought 3 boxes of six cartons for $29.98. That's 18 cartons. It would have cost me $66.42 at the natural food store and $80.28 at the supermarket! I saved $50.30! That, to me, is a HUGE difference!

Readers, I'd like to know your tips on how you save money buying organic food.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 5 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


January 23, 2007

Waffle Maker

QUESTION:

What kind of waffle maker would you recomend? So many are teflon coated.

POSTED BY BEV ROCKEY :: OHIO USA :: 1:41 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Well, personally I don't eat waffles (though I love them!) because I don't eat grains. I haven't seen a waffle maker in a long time that didn't have a Teflon finish.

Readers? Do you know of any?

I've questioned for myself the necessity of eating foods that require special equipment just to make that one thing. How many resources would we save if nobody ate waffles? We could make pancakes in the same skillet used to make other foods...

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 13 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Non-Toxic Cutting Board Recommendations?

QUESTION:

hello,

i was looking for a new cutting board. up to now, i've been using john boos' butcher block. but it cracked, and i'm in the market for a new one. however, prior to repurchasing a boos block, i was concerned re: the potential toxic glues and laminates used. should this be an issue to consider? in addition, they have their 'mystery oil' used for upkeep of the board vs. regular food grade mineral oil. i'm not sure if that's okay, or if there's as natural oil that you might recommend?

i've also looked into bamboo, and saw 'totally bamboo's' site stating that they do not use toxic glues with their products. i've not had any experience with bamboo, and was curious if either you or your readers might have some feedback regarding this vs. maple butcher block.

the plastic synthetic boards, i assume are toxic.

what cutting boards (and oils) have you found to be the best performing and least toxic?

thank you kindly.

POSTED BY JT :: CALIFORNIA USA :: 12:40 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I personally use maple, though I would consider a bamboo cutting board if I needed to purchase a new one. I've had mine for years, and actually have never put anything on them (see Q&A Wood Conditioner for Cutting Boards and Bowls for a lengthy discussion on this). They are still in excellent condition and I use them daily.

I've never found a cutting board to have toxic adhesives. They are required to be food safe.

The common 1/2' thick plastic boards are made from High Density Polyethylene (HDPE). According to the International Plastics Task Force, mice fed HDPE powder as part of their diet "developed no changes in their general condition" in the short or long term.

Here are the types of cutting boards currently available:

Plastic -- These come in hard and flexible plastic, and thick or thin. The harder the plastic, the less it offgasses. Sharp knives easily cut soft plastic, and can cut right through a soft thin plastic board. Hard plastic boards are very durable and easy to clean.

Tempered Glass -- These are completely nontoxic, very durable, resistant to heat, and are the most sanitary and easy to clean. The disadvantage is they dull knife edges and make noise when you are chopping.

Wooden Boards -- In the past, these were usually made of maple hardwoods. Bamboo is becoming more and more popular due to its hardness and resistance to bacteria. Wooden boards are easiest on knife edges but are harder to clean. There have been claims that wood harbors bacteria, but I've also read that wood contains natural substances which kill germs. I've never had a problem with using my wooden cutting boards.

Here's a pretty thorough article on choosing a cutting board: http://www.reluctantgourmet.com/cutting_boards.htm

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 7 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


January 15, 2007

Cookware Questions

QUESTION:

I'm wondering if stainless steel cookware with either the aluminum or copper core   " attatched"  to the bottoms for even heating affect the foods during heating ?

Also I notice there are different number of layers to stainless steel           
anywhere from 3 ply to 7 ply ...your input here also.

Thank you.

POSTED BY MARIA :: NEW YORK USA :: 8:43 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Aluminum and copper "cores" attached to the bottom of pans are there to improve the heat distribution of the stainless steel. Since the pan itself it stainless steel, the aluminum and copper has no contact with the food. The food is entirely protected by the stainless steel pan. The aluminum and copper plates are attached to the outside of the pan.

The word "ply" simply refers to a layer, so 3-ply would be 3 layers, 7-ply would be 7 layers, etc. The more layers, the thicker the steel, the thicker the steel, the "heavier" the pan, the heavier the pan, the better the heat distribution.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Chemicals and food allergies

QUESTION:

Hi Debra,

I think I am finally putting the puzzle together. My daughter gets really sick when she goes into shoe stores, ice skating rinks, sporting good stores etc....I am not sure why, but when she comes out, she is violent....Anyway, if she is having a reaction from one of these stores, she can not tolerate any kind of sugar (natural or artificial) which she CAN tolerate if she is not exposed to chemicals. I am not sure why she is like this, but I think this is what is going on with her. What do you think?

Denise

POSTED BY DENISE ARIAS :: ILLINOIS USA :: 6:41 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

My observation--in myself and many others--has been that the amount of chemical exposure one has affects the ability of the body to tolerate foods. I've seen people's so-called "food allergies" to clear up completely in as little as two weeks when they remove themselves from chemical exposures (or remove the chemical exposures from their own environment).

My understanding of this phenomenon is that the chemicals are overwhelming the immune system, and that food allergies are a symptom of this chemical overwhelm.

I certainly recommend to anyone with food allergies that your first step be to address chemical exposure.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 2 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


January 12, 2007

Kitchen Aid Cookware

QUESTION:

I noticed Kitchen Aid has two types of non-stick cookware that are not Teflon coated. They have a "Hard-Base Ceramic Primer" interior coated cookware set and a "Hard Anodized Aluminum" interior coated nonstick cookware set. I was wondering if you had any information on the saftey and toxicity of these non-stick coatings. Thank-you

POSTED BY VH :: CALIFORNIA USA :: 5:10 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

"Hard-Base Ceramic Primer" is basically an enamel coating. It is very hard and does not offgas like Teflon. The problem with enamel coatings is that they tend to chip over time.

Most aluminum cookware sold today are anodized. Click on the big purple SEARCH button in the right hand column of every page and type "anodized" into the search box. You'll find several articles that explain about anodized aluminum.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 2 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


January 04, 2007

trying to find a juicer

QUESTION:

i have been researching juicers and i'm concerned about the plastics used in them. i considered a stainless steel manual juicer, but the affordable ones won't handle all of the things i would like to be able to juice. i've narrowed it down to a champion juicer (the parts are made out of stainless steel and nylon) and an omega 8003/8005 juicer (the auger is made out of food grade melamine and i don't know what the rest is made out of). do you think these would be healthy choices? i really don't want to defeat the purpose of drinking fresh juices by using a juicer that is going to leach toxic substances.

thanks so much!

POSTED BY ALYSSIA :: NEW HAMPSHIRE USA :: 11:06 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Not all plastics leach. The plastics used in juicers are very hard and do not emit plasticizers. Either of these juicers would be fine.

However, the latest recommendations are not to juice, but to puree whole fruits and vegetables with water to make a drink that contains much more nutrition and also the fiber. The book Green for Life by Victoria Boutenko explains this in detail, along with recipes. While I don't follow a strictly raw food diet, she makes some good points about why we all need to eat and drink more greens. I've been drinking a blended drink of cucumber, celery, and apple most mornings and definately have noticed a benefit.

In At Home With Debra : My Vitamins, I wrote about a Chinese doctor who treats cancer, heart disease and diabetes with simple, readily available foods. The healing part of these foods is the phytochemicals, which are contiained in the fibers of the foods. So you need to chew each bite 40 times (or put the foods into a very high-powered blender) to release the phytochemicals. He recommends a 2-horsepower blender (Vitamix) or preferably a 3-horsepower blender (Blend-Tec) to can masticate the skins, seeds, and stems, to make the phytochemicals readily absorbable. Home blenders typically have motors less than 1 horsepower, but it's better to use these low-power blenders than nothing.

The containers on both blenders are polycarbonate, but these are very hard plastics and there is a minimal amount of contact time with the food. The benefits of the blended drinks far outweigh exposure to any toxic chemicals that may be present.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 8 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


January 02, 2007

Tierra Negra Clay Bakeware Sale at Crate & Barrel

QUESTION:

Hi. I just wanted to let people know that Crate & Barrel is currently having a sale on the Tierra Negra black clay bakeware that it has been carrying the last five months or so. Some pieces are no longer available online but may still be in stores. I just picked up several pieces at my nearest store; the prices were very good. It's unclear whether C&B is discontinuing this line or will continue to carry it.

POSTED BY RIMA :: CALIFORNIA USA :: 5:21 PM
CATEGORY — FOOD :: 2 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Bring on the Cookware!

QUESTION:

I want to find an electric skillet that has a stone, ceramic or stainless steel finish; or even cast iron. I also hope to find a breadmaker and food dehydrator with safe finishes. I have struck out on all three.

However, I may have found more alternatives to non-stick! Plus I also found a $20 wood trivet that fits around the large soapstone griddle from "Brazil on my Mind" - (which is cheapest from Greenfeet).

* Trivet for griddle: http://www.kitchenemporium.com/cgi-bin/kitchen/prod/29bmtv12.html

* Deni electric grill uses STONE! Flat, no oil can be used but may be able to stir veggies in butter in the 8 raclette pans? It's $64 at http://www.everythingkitchens.com/deni-Electric-Stone-Grill.html

* Staub 10x8 all-enamelled cast iron rectangular pan with wood base! $89 http://www.chefsresource.com/12052.html looks awesome, easy care except: must avoid high heat

* Chantal 10-piece set with enamel frying pan – and glass covers – to dream on!! $340 + high heat OK (none of the pieces have nonstick finishes)
http://www.chefsresource.com/chantal-10-piece-cookware-set-all-eos.html

* Chantal enamel cast-iron frying pan $30 on sale – is NOT nonstick but maybe a better pan won't burn on so much.
http://www.chefsresource.com/chantal-8-omelette-fry-pan-eos.html

LA CHAMBA: I've found that the elusive La Chamba black clay pots usually list a phone number to order, except on sites such as:
http://hispaniae.com/LC-SS-01.html and fundraising sites such as this bargain:
* La Chamba covered 8” pot with two handles $44.95
https://shop.therainforestsite.com/store/item.do;
jsessionid=C91FB9F882DDFC5AF8A9BDDD2C55DE7F.prod01?
itemId=29431&siteId=221&sourceId=29427&sourceClass=
MatchingItem&index=2
This purchase restores 2290.0 sq. ft of rainforest!

Unusual La Chamba pieces $24 baking pan 9” x 9” and a mug $16.95
http://www.greenmountaincoffee.com/prdNonCoffee.aspx?Name=La_Chamba_Baking_Dish

Some more unusual pieces: a La Chamba pan insert is inside a woven server; also a COW pot, fondue, & 3-bowl condiment piece http://www.luchima.com/product_view.php?cID=17&osCsid=350fde8d055b3f63a4366d57ac307097

Thanks for promoting great cookware, Debra!!

POSTED BY FRAN M. :: TEXAS USA :: 7:01 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Thanks, Fran, for sharing your finds!

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 2 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Alternative to Aluminum Foil

QUESTION:

Hi Debra - Happy, Healthy New Year to you! I've been reading so much about the problems with using aluminum for cooking. I've figured out really good alternatives to aluminum foil for everything except baking in the oven (such as covering very large roasting pans and covering turkeys with foil tents). I tried parchment paper and it was a mess. I'm afraid to use a heavier paper (such as a cut-up brown paper bag) for fear of contaminants in the recycled & heavily chemically processed wood pulp. Do you or your readers have any alternatives? Thanks so much for your help!

POSTED BY MARY ANNE :: CALIFORNIA USA :: 6:49 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I don't know what to suggest for this one. My roasting pan has it's own lid. Readers?

If using foil to tent your turkey once or twice a year is your only exposure, and you need to do this, I would go ahead and use the aluminum foil. There are two kinds of toxic exposures: acute (such as drinking drain cleaner) where there is immediate harm, and chronic (such as exposure to pesticide residues in food) where there needs to be regular long-term exposure to cause harm. Aluminum is a chronic exposure, so what you do every day with aluminum exposure is more important than what you do occasionally.

I've learned over the years that different people have different viewpoints about exposure. Some decide to have as little as possible, others reduce exposure but to not attempt to eliminate exposures entirely. It's your choice.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 2 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


December 19, 2006

Winter Break

I'm taking a break to spend time with friends and family. Will be back at work on January 2.

You are welcome to submit comments and questions and I will review and post them when I return.

Have a wonderful holiday!

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Black walnut goblets

QUESTION:

Hello, I have recently turned some black walnut goblets, but Im stuck on a natural way of sealing them for use, I would like to use them for My own made wines and such so the seal would need to be acohol resistant as well.
Thanks
William

POSTED BY WILLIAM :: TEXAS USA :: 4:10 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I suggest you take a look at Q&A: Wood Conditioner for Cutting Boards and Bowls for some ideas. Readers, any suggestions?

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 1 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


December 14, 2006

Teflon on George Forman Grills?

QUESTION:

I am really trying to do away with all my Teflon coated cooking pans. How harmful is the George Foreman Grill? I love mine.

POSTED BY BEV ROCKEY :: OHIO USA :: 8:45 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Personally, I don't use any pot, pan, or appliance with a Teflon or other no-stick finish. There are different grades of Teflon, but it's all still Teflon.

We all have to make decisions about what we are willing to use and what we aren't willing to use. It's a personal decision, based on health, budget, and various personal factors.

It took me a long time to give up my favorite shade of red lipstick. But ultimately, I'm happy I did.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 11 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


December 11, 2006

Pesticide Residues in Brewed Coffee

QUESTION:

You said that roasted coffee beans contain pesticides, but I'm not finding anything that verifies that. I'm finding plenty that suggests the coffee fields and outer plants are full of pesticides but, as I understand it, the bean itself is then soaked, fermented, dried, and roasted. Although it's clear that the pesticides are harmful to the workers and environment, I'm not finding harm via pesticides from drinking it. Do you know any studies? I've looked at a number of sites with no luck. Thanks for your help.

POSTED BY DOROTHY :: TENNESSEE USA :: 9:03 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

This from Natural Resources Defense Council should answer your question:
http://www.nrdc.org/health/farming/ccc/chap4.asp

"In 1983, the Natural Resources Defense Council retained the services of an outside contract laboratory to conduct independent testing on imported coffee beans.[41] The analysis revealed multiple pesticide residues on all samples when green coffee beans were tested using detection methods many times more precise than the FDA procedures (see Table 6). The roasting process reduced detectable levels of pesticide residues on the bean samples; however, the test of one sample of the Brazilian coffee beans retained the original level of DDD (the toxic metabolite of DDT) that had been detected on the beans before roasting.[42] It should be noted that while DDT is rarely used on coffee today, other chemicals are used to combat insect pests, weeds, and diseases."

Note it says "reduced" not "eliminated" but still the levels are very high compared to food because so much pesticide is used.

I don't have any documents that show an association between drinking coffee with pesticide residues and human harm, but the environmental impact of these pesticides is great in terms of pollution and also cause illness and death in farm workers.

I also thought this was interesting from Coffee Review:
http://www.coffeereview.com/reference.cfm?ID=121

"Buy a traditional coffee, grown as coffee was grown from its inception, before agricultural chemicals were invented. All Yemen, almost all Ethiopia, and most Sumatra Mandheling coffees are grown in such a state of innocence, and all are among the world's finest."

I didn't know about these coffees grown in the traditional way, I only knew about organic and sustainable coffees.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Do some Visions cookware have Teflon?

QUESTION:

Debra, I have received help from your site countless times; but was confused when i searched for nontoxic cookware.

I plan to throw out a Visions pan that is cranberry and seems to have a black Teflon coating, but I noticed that you recommended Visions. I finally confirmed that this is a Teflon coating at least according to a description on Ebay. Could you clear this up for readers?

I am holding on to the pan because in case it might be a substance bonded to the silica and etc. - and it is a beautiful piece.

POSTED BY FRAN :: VIRGINIA USA :: 8:57 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Some Visions cookware pieces DO have Teflon. I only recommend the pieces WITHOUT Teflon. The Teflon is easy to spot. It's a black coating. The pieces without Teflon have just the glass bottom that is the same as the sides.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


November 27, 2006

Best Organic Milk?

QUESTION:

My wife and I always buy organic milk and want to make sure what we are buying is not only best for us but also best for the cows, farmers, and the earth. We usually buy either Horizon or Organic Valley but our local store (Kroger's) has their own brand called Naturally Preferred. Can you provide any additional info on these three brands that might make one better than the others?

POSTED BY WESLEY WETTENGEL :: OHIO USA :: 4:21 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

First, I'm always inclined to purchase the most local food products that are available. When I lived in California, I used to buy all my milk and cream from Straus Family Creamery, It's a picturesque dairy farm overlooking Tomales Bay, with a clean breeze right off the Pacific Ocean. I visited the farm. I met the family and the cows. I understood their dedication to organic agriculture and what they were doing. They were part of the rural community in which I lived. All their milk and cream came in glass bottles, and I could get "cream-top" milk and shake it up myself.

We don't have anything like that here in Florida. We have our choice of the national brands Horizon or Organic Valley.

I've always been partial to Organic Valley myself. I just think the milk tastes better. I used to have both brands listed on Debra's List, but I took down Horizon because the Organic Consumers Association called for a boycott (type "organic consumers association horizon" in your favorite search engine for more info on this).

Another thing I like about Organic Valley is that it is the only organic brand to be solely owned and operated by organic farmers. As farmer-owners, they pay themselves a stable, equitable and sustainable price for their milk. Some of their common practices include humane treatment of animals (access to the outdoors, fresh air, pure water, sunshine and exercise), rotational grazing, pasturing animals, and Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

One thing to keep in mind about store brands is that the stores are doing what is called "private label," which means that another manufacturer is putting the store brand on their own product. The store doesn't actually produce the product. So, for example, the store brand coffee might actually be a top brand, but it is sold at a lower price because it doesn't have the brand name. Your Naturally Preferred milk might come from local organic dairies, but it's just as possible that it comes from Horizon. I would contact Kroger's and find out where the milk comes from and anything you can about the growing practices.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 11 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


October 31, 2006

Offgassing From Silicone Bakeware

QUESTION:

I looked all over the Internet for information. regarding toxicity for exotic parrots while heating the silicone bakeware. I couldn't find any information, but did find you.

I have two parrots in my family and I would die if anything happened to them on my account. There are so many things that will kill them and I have to be really careful. I have no matter of teflon in my home, no matter what DuPont says, it kills birds from the outgas.

So I finally contacted the manufacturer, and wanted to pass along what they had to say, so this information will be on the internet for others who are concerned about the offgassing of silicone bakeware for whatever reason. They said, "Birds
are sensitive to cooking fumes. It is possible that any cookware can emit
fumes which are hazardous or fatal to birds if heated to temperatures
exceeding 500 degrees Fahrenheit."

POSTED BY SHELLEY :: GEORGIA USA :: 9:28 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Sounds like they are saying that their silicone bakeware will not release hazardous fumes unless heated to over 500 degrees, which would be unlikely to occur in a home oven.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 29 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


October 23, 2006

Safe thermos for food

QUESTION:

Does anyone know where I can get a good nontoxic large thermos for carrying hot soup to my office for lunch as an option to using a microwave? I have a stainless steel one at home, but it appears that it is stainless on the outside, but has a plastic interior. Anyone have experience with this? Thanks!

POSTED BY ROBIN :: NC USA :: 2:02 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Well, here's one, the Thermos Element 5 Food Jar on the Thermos brand website. Description says it is "unbreakable, precision 18/8 stainless steel interior and exterior". There may be more on this site.

Anyone else have sources?

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 2 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


October 09, 2006

Getting the Smell Out of a New Refrigerator

QUESTION:

How can you get the smell out of a new refrigerator? I have never had a new fridge before so was not aware it would smell so bad!

I washed it out with soapy water and then have put a bowl of baking soda on each shelf...4 days later, it still smells. It smells like it is more of the vinyl around the edge of the fridge keeping it airtight versus actually inside the fridge but then again I can\'t get in there and close the door to see if it smells.

I remember a few years ago we had put a bottle of nail polish in the butter bin in our fridge door and when we went to use the butter it tasted like nail polish. I am afraid to put fod in there because I don\'t want it to taste like the plastic smell we are smelling.

Any suggestions?


POSTED BY DEBI :: CALIFORNIA USA :: 8:04 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

This IS a problem with new refrigerators, as they are full of outgassing plastic. And the outgassing plastic WILL get into your food.

My general advice is to purchase a used refrigerator, as the plastic does outgas over time, but last summer I myself purchased a new refrigerator because i just fell in love with the design.

It's what's called a "trio" because it has two refrigerator doors that open on top from the center, and one freezer door on the bottom. Inside there are glass shelves and easy-to-reach-and-open see-through bins for produce. It is just a joy to use. Several companies make them. The brand I bought was Kenmore at Sears (I'd give you a link, but it was too long).

I was concerned that the interior would have an odor, but the model on the floor didn't have an odor. So I took a chance, and the one that was delivered to me didn't have an odor either. Perhaps this was just a fluke, I can't guarantee it, but this was my experience.

As for your problem, I would have suggested baking soda. Does anyone else have a suggestion that has worked. Readers?

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 3 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


October 04, 2006

Anodized Cookware in the Dishwasher

QUESTION:

I just found out you're not supposed to put anodized cookware in the dishwasher. We don't do it it often but occasionally if my husband is cleaning up (rarely happens) the pans will go in the dishwasher. I can't see any evidence of damage to the surface of these pans but want to know if they are possibly unsafe to use. I hope you can answer my question.

POSTED BY CATHY :: MD USA :: 12:44 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

My husband Larry is the dishwasher in our house, so I don't have a lot of attention on what is safe to put in the dishwasher or not. But it seems that some cookware is dishwasher safe and some isn't. I would follow the manufacturer's advice on this.

At first I answered this question by saying putting your cookware in the dishwasher probably wouldn't ruin it, but read the comments for the experiences of readers who DID ruin their anodized aluminum cookware by putting it in the diswasher.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 2 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


September 15, 2006

Anodized cookware

QUESTION:

Is anodized cookware safe? I own all stainless steel cookware but occasionally would like to use a non-stick pan and I've been wondering about anodized aluminum. I also own a stainless steel pressure cooker and have been thinking about getting a larger anodized one but I'm not sure if they are safe.
Thank you.

POSTED BY DAWN :: MINNESOTA USA :: 4:38 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Most aluminum cookware manufactured today is anodized. When a cookware label says it is made from anodized aluminum, it means that the aluminum was dipped into a hot acid bath that seals the aluminum by changing it's molecular structure. Once anodized, the aluminum will not leach into food, and so would not contribute to aluminum exposure. Anodized cookware is safe.

This information is already on my website in two different places. I'm happy to answer questions, but you can often get quicker results by searching the site first. Click on the large purple "Search" button near the top of the right hand column of any page of my website and enter "anodized" to see the other references.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 7 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


September 13, 2006

Is Tin Bakeware Safe?

QUESTION:

I have two daughters who both recently got married and I have been trying to determine the safest type of bakeware for all of us to use. Of course I want to avoid non-stick coatings as well as aluminum. Stainless steel is available, but not a good conductor of heat and doesn't brown well for baking. Stainless steel that is sandwiched with aluminum also seems to be coated with an alloy of stainless plus aluminum. The silicone bakeware seems safe as far as we know so far? There is one company (Kaiser) that makes a line that is steel coated in tin---------What do you think about the safety of that? Do you know of any health concerns related to cooking in tin? I have really been struggling with this issue and would appreciate any insight you could share with me.

Thanks so much!

POSTED BY KAREN :: NORTH CAROLINA USA :: 2:53 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

First a general comment about toxicity. We need to keep in mind that how toxic something is has to do with 1) it's inherernt toxicity 2) the amount of exposure 3) the frequency of exposure and 4) the condition of the body being exposed.

Tin, being one of the elements on the periodic table, is rather like water--you can't live without it, but too much and you could drown. It could be said to be "natural" in the sense that it exists in nature and it a substance our bodies recognize.

Tin has been established to be an essential trace element for some animals, but some researchers are unsure if tin is essential to human health or not. Tin has been used to make household goods since the Bronze Age.

On the positive side, tin supports the adrenal glands--low tin is a common nutritional cause of low adrenals. Other symptoms associated with significantly below-normal levels of tin include depression and fatigue, low energy, certain types of headaches, insomnia, digestion problems, and various aches and pains.

Tin used to be used to make cans, cups, and pans. Documented toxic effects were limited to gastrointestinal complaints such as nausea, abdominal pain and vomiting. Excess tin was rapidly excreted, and no long-term negative health or toxic effects reported. And these cases were due to acidic foods stored over long periods of time in tin. We should note that uncoated tin cans, cups, and pans are no longer sold, due, I am assuming to sufficient numbers of health problems caused by them.

Putting this all together, I would say that given that the food has a relatively short contact time with the tin, it is unlikely it would absorb much. And there seems to be a general shortage of tin in our lives now, rather than too much. So I would venture to say it's probably OK.

I did quite a bit of research on silicone bakeware and use it myself. I don't experience any problems with it at all. See Is silicone cookware safe? and Silicone baking mats vs parchment paper for the details.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 6 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


September 11, 2006

Eating Off Paper Towels?

QUESTION:

Do you have any research on the safety of eating off paper towels??

POSTED BY RICH :: TEXAS USA :: 9:26 AM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

There are two chemicals of concern in paper towels. The first is formaldehyde, which is used for wet strength of the paper, and the other is dioxin, which may be present from the bleaching of the paper.

Dioxin is an extremely toxic chemical and has been found to leach into foods such as milk from bleached paper cartons. Formaldehyde is a volatile chemical that can be released into the air and absorbed by other materials.

I couldn't find any research that shows how much dioxin or formaldehyde is emitted from paper towels or absorbed by food that has been sitting on them for a few minutes. My opinion is that if the food is simply sitting on the towel for a few minutes, it is probably absorbing very little of either chemical. But my best recommendation would be to use a plate instead.

If you are going to use paper towels, it's better to use the unbleached brown towels. There is more info on choosing paper towels in Green Seal's Choose Green Report on Bathroom Tissue and Paper Towels.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 8 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


September 06, 2006

Using plastic or melamine cups/plates

QUESTION:

Does anyone know if it is safe to use plastic or melamine cups/plates that get washed in the dishwasher? What about sippy cups? I worry that the heat from the dishwasher will cause toxins to leach into food/beverages. Thanks!

Kathleen

POSTED BY KATHLEEN :: ILLINOIS USA :: 6:22 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I don't generally recommend eating or drinking out of soft plastic dishware, especially for children. They can leach plasticizers whether they are washed by hand or in the dishwasher.

Melamine is different. It is a very hard thermoset plastic. The molecules are very tightly bonded and it does not outgas. Though it is a plastic, it is one of the safest to use. And fine to wash in the dishwasher. I personally don't use it because it is still a plastic and has environmental effects in it's manufacture and disposal, but it won't release toxic chemicals during use.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 4 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


September 03, 2006

Toaster Oven and Portable Dishwasher

QUESTION:

Your website is excellent--WOW--and I just subscribed to your newsletter.
I was hoping you could answer a couple of questions for me please.

I am trying to purchase a toaster oven without a teflon or aluminum interior.
Its seems no companys make stainless steel interior.
I saw a toaster oven that used Durastone II Enamel--Do you think that is safe?
If not, any ideas on where I could buy one?

And I recently purchased a portable dishwasher, and it smells like its still offgassing chemicals. Do you think its safe to wash my dishes in that or will they pick up chemical residue when I use it.

Thank-you so much.

POSTED BY A. D. :: MARYLAND USA :: 1:25 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I haven't researched toaster ovens, but perhaps someone reading this will have a recommendation for you. If anyone knows of one, click below on "POST A COMMENT" to respond.

I wasn't able to find any information on Durastone II Enamel--not MSDS, ingredients, or even manufacturer. There are many types of nonstick finishes now. I haven't done a recent survey of them, but my previous research some years back showed that they outgass chemicals when heated. I still personally do not purchase anything with a nonstick finish.

With regard to the dishwasher, I don't think your dishes will pick up a chemical residue from the offgassing, but you might be affected by breathing it. It will offgass over time, until then, open a window or provide other ventilation.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 7 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


August 21, 2006

Polyester Fabric Sandwich Bags

QUESTION:

I was just reading on a cloth diapering board that some moms are making "sandwich bags" out of the fabric we use for diapers. It is a polyester knit with a polyurethane laminate applied to one side. Is this SAFE?! I was just reading on your site about plastics and some being better than others, have you read anything about polyurethane and it's safety? I use it for diapers, but having it around the food that my children eat makes me a little nervous.

POSTED BY MELISSA BUCK :: MOON BEES :: MOONBEES.COM :: USA :: 2:24 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

My understanding is that plastics are made for different purposes. Food grade plastics are made specifically for food. Personally, I wouldn't use a plastic not designed for food with food.


Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


July 25, 2006

Purchasing Himalayan Salt

QUESTION:

I know that ordinary table salt is nothing but sodium chloride. My problem is trying to settle on a company to buy Himalayan salt from. Every one of the companies that I have looked at claim that they are the "one and only". And, on one site, they claim that if the salt is not red, then it is not the real Himalayan salt. Gosh, I thought the salt came in a variety of colors, depending on where the salt was mined from. Which company would you buy from?

POSTED BY P. T. :: NEVADA USA :: 12:00 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

First, let me say a few words about salt for readers who don't yet know about different kinds of salt.

The salt that is in most salt shakers and used in most food processing is refined salt, containing pure sodium chloride and nothing else. Natural salt as it occurs in the Earth contains a broad spectrum of minerals. It is refined for industrial purposes, used in factories to make various products, and is also used industrially as a cheap food preservative. Refined salt has been associated with health problems such as water retention and high blood pressure.

Natural salt actually restores health to the body by providing needed minerals as well as sodium and chloride. Many functions in the body just won't happen without sufficient salt. In ancient times, before salt was refined, natural salt was considered to be one of the most valuable substances on Earth, and essential to life.

Once you've made the leap from refined salt to natural, then the next choice is whether to choose sea salt or salt from the Earth. All salt originally was from the sea, but as the Earth changed over time, some of those evaporated seas are now underground in salt deposits. One area of such deposits is under the Himalayan Mountains.

Salt in the Earth is often mined by use of explosives and other devices that are less than eco-friendly. Mechanical mining can also change the energy matrix of the salt. Mining and processing by hand preserves the energetic quality of the salt.

I buy a brand of Himalayan salt called "The Original" Himalayan Crystal Salt. It comes from a deposit of salt from a sea that evaporated millions of years ago, from a time when the planet was a pristine ecosystem. Then when the Himalayan mountain range was formed, the degree of compression was so extreme that it created perfectly structured crystal grids within the salt, giving it a unique bio-energetic pattern. The salt is gently hand-mined, hand-selected, hand-crushed with stones, hand-washed, and sun dried, both to preserves the Himalayan ecosystem and retains the original bio-energetic qualities of the salt.

All natural salts are better for health than refined salt. The only salt that I know of that has been scientifically tested for its health benefits is "The Original" Himalayan Crystal Salt.

The book Water and Salt--The Essence of Life (a very interesting book to read) tells of a study done at the Institute of Biophysical Research in Graz, Austria. Nearly 400 volunteers were asked to drink biophysically active natural spring water mixed with "The Original" Himalayan Crystal Salt. They were also instructed to not consume any refined salt and only use "The Original" Himalayan Crystal Salt to season their foods. The volunteers followed this program for three months. At the end of the study, the researchers found that the volunteers experienced health improvements ranging from more physical energy and greater vitality to increased sexual activity and an overall feeling of enhanced well-being.

There are several websites that sell this salt. I buy mine from Himalayan Living Salt because it is local here where I live, but also because the owner, Hilde, is committed to selling ONLY "The Original" Himalayan Crystal Salt and other products containing this salt. Other websites I've been to might sell the culinary salt, but then sell other products, such as bath salts or body scrubs, made with lesser quality salt from the Himalayas. It's often hard to tell which salt is which without reading very carefully. Since this salt is exceptional, I like knowing that any of the products I choose from this website carry the same quality salt.

Since talking with Hilde at length about this salt, and reading the book Water and Salt, I've really come to understand how important water and salt are to health--they are fundamental. You could be doing all kinds of other things to help your health, but if these two are out, the others won't work. And, conversely, when these two elements are correct, many body ills simply disappear and need no further treatment. I used to think of salt as a culinary seasoning, but now I see it as a vital element of life.

And about the color...Himalayan salt does come in a variety of colors. It has a natural variation. It doesn't have to be red!

This salt does cost more than many other natural salts, but it seems to have exceptional characteristics. It's become my favorite salt.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 7 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


July 11, 2006

Reusing Plastic Food Containers

QUESTION:

I was listening to a public radio program and it was mentioned that many plastic food containers--such as those used for things like salsa, hummus, etc--are designed for one use and reusing them for leftovers like I do is toxic, more than the first use. Is this true? I do not reuse the white plastic yogurt containers. Just the clear ones. Do you know anything about this?

POSTED BY E. S. :: CALIFORNIA USA :: 12:00 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Thanks for asking this question. I had never even considered this until you asked, especially since from an environmental viewpoint it has been recommended for years that we reuse plastic food continers as many times as possible because they don't biodegrade.

Yet, apparently you are right. Delicious Organics, a local organic food delivery service in South Florida has put together a great page with all kinds of information on plastic food containers and avoiding plastic with regard to food. Here are some excerpts that specifically address your question.

Plastics #s 1, 2, 4, and 5 are safer and are not known to leach chemicals.

#1 polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE) - usually for soft drinks, water bottles, ketchup and salad dressing, peanut butter, pickle, jelly and jam jars

#2 high density polyethylene (HDPE) - used mostly for milk, water and juice bottles, yogurt and margarine tubs, cereal box liners, and grocery, trash and retail bags

#4 low density polyethylene (LDPE) - bread and frozen food bags and squeezable bottles

#5 polypropylene (PP) - margarine tubs

Dr Weil says:

You may have heard about results of two studies, one from Canada and another done recently at the University of Idaho. The Canadian study found that reused water bottles carried by youngsters at an elementary school were contaminated with bacteria, including fecal coliforms. Researchers speculated that the bacteria came from the hands and mouths of the children and speculated that the kids probably didn't wash their hands very often and that the bottles weren't being washed at home frequently. Results of the study were published in the Canadian Journal of Public Health and school officials in the Calgary town where the study was conducted advised parents to make sure that the bottles were brought home and washed properly and frequently. The other study looked at what could happen if you do wash plastic water bottles well enough to kill bacteria. Here, researchers found that frequent washing might accelerate the break-down of the plastic, possibly causing harmful chemicals to leach into the water or other beverages in the bottles. One of the chemicals the researchers identified was the carcinogen DEHA, suspected of causing cancer in humans. The water and soft drink bottles studied are made of a plastic called polyethelene terephthalate (PET) and are intended for single use, but researchers said that reuse is widespread and that some people hold onto the bottles for months, sometimes until they begin to leak. The Canadian Bottled Water Association has advised against reuse and urged that plastic bottles be recycled after a single use.

You may think it is environmentally irresponsible to throw out so many plastic bottles (as a nation, we toss 150 million daily), but given these results it may be healthier to do so. If you routinely re-use plastic water bottles, you may want to replace them after a few washings, or better yet, use the heavier clear plastic bottles made for camping. Avoid the softer opaque bottles for any liquid, as they may shed chemicals even before washing.

Annie Side Note: There is also information that freezing a water bottle may cause the plastic to leach into the water.

A newsletter on food safety from the University of Nebraska also addresses the health effects of reusing plastic containers. They say:

While some items should not be used with foods, others should be used only ONCE, and then for their intended purpose. For example, USDA states:

"Plastic wrap, foam meat trays, convenience food dishes, and egg cartons have been approved for a specific use and should be considered one-time-use packaging. Bacteria from foods that these packages once contained may remain on the packaging and thus be able to contaminate foods or even hands if reused." www.fsis.usda.gov/OA/pubs/meatpack.htm

Other items that were developed with the intention of single use include these four articles:

Single-use plastic water bottles
It is better to buy a reusable water bottle and use that instead of reusing a bottle in which water is sold. The plastic water bottles in which water is sold are intended for single service. They are hard to clean and dry and are not meant for multiple cleanings. They may not hold up under the hot water and cleansing needed to remove lipstick, etc.

Disposable plastic utensils, cups and containers
This category includes plastic forks, spoons and knives; plastic cups; and containers from cottage cheese, sour cream, chip dip, margarine, milk, etc. These items are not made of materials designed for repeated use or repeated cleaning with hot soap and water. Cups and containers may have edges that curl over and collect bacteria that cannot be cleaned out. These containers are developed for specific types/temperatures of foods and may not stand up to all foods, such as high acid and/or hot foods.

Single-use wooden items
Some wooden food-related items, such as popsicle sticks and shish kabob skewers, are intended for one-time use. If you want to reuse shish kabob sticks, buy the metal ones. Rather than reuse popsicle sticks, purchase one of the containers for making popsicles that comes with reusable handles. Or, use a new purchased popsicle stick every time.

Lids with non-cleanable liners
Glass jars can be cleaned and reused; however you must be careful of reusing the lids. Lids with a non-cleanable liner,such as a waxed cardboard liner, should not be re-used.

As good of an idea reuse of these plastic containers is for the environment, from a health perspective, it's a better idea to use glass to store leftovers. The Container Store carries a large selection of glass food storage containers in many sizes and styles (type "glass food storage" in their search box). Also see greenfeet.com.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 1 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


April 18, 2006

Aluminum Cookware and Alzheimer's Disease

QUESTION:

I was searching around online and found your site. While there I was checking out your information on cookware materials. But, there was one thing that I noticed wasn't covered... cooking with aluminum being linked to alhemizers. Do you know anything about this? If so is anondized aluminum also linked to the disease?

As I understand the aluminum and Alzheimer's issue is that it's linked to cooking with aluminum. I have no idea if anodized aluminum is problematic or not. Since it appears to be linked to heat it may be with old unanodized alumium. But these findings are new last year or so, and I'd be surprised if they weren't using anodized aluminum. Personally I'd think that soda cans would be the worst at leeching, with the acids in soda I can't see why not. Aluminum foil with the stress it goes under as you manipulate it would seem like an ideal candidate for breaking down. From what I've seen you are very resourceful, I'm sure you can find the answer.

You do a good job educating people to what some of these health issues are. You've even opened my eyes to things I never thought about. I'm sure my wife and I'll will be visiting your site often.

Thanks!

POSTED BY J. D. :: NORTH CAROLINA USA ::


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

That aluminum salts from cookware can leach from the pot into the food being cooked, particularly if the food is acidic, and the corresponding symptoms that result, has been known for a number of years. For this reason, the sale of aluminum-lined cookware is prohibited in Germany, France, Belgium, Great Britain, Switzerland, Hungary, and Brazil. It is still permitted in America but most aluminum cookware sold in America today is lined with a non-stick finish another thing to avoid.

Most aluminum cookware manufactured today is anodized. When a cookware label says it is made from anodized aluminum, it means that the aluminum was dipped into a hot acid bath that seals the aluminum by changing it's molecular structure. Once anodized, the aluminum will not leach into food, and so would not contribute to aluminum exposure.

As to whether or not aluminum foil leaches aluminum, logic tells me yes it would. If a standard aluminum pot will leach aluminum, then a sheet of aluminum would also leach, unless it was coated or anodized. Aluminum foil is produced by passing aluminum between rollers under pressure. It is shiny on one side only because as it passes through the final rollers, two thicknesses of foil are rolled together. The sides facing each other have the dull finish, while the sides in contact with the rollers become shiny from the burnishing effect of the rollers. It looks like nothing is applied to the aluminum that would prevent leaching.

Aluminum soda cans also leach aluminum into soft drinks. I don't know if they are the worst, but they definately do leach.

As to whether or not cooking with aluminum or any of these other exposures are is linked to Alzheimer's...that's a big question.

Aluminum is ubiquitous in our environment. It is the third most abundant element in the earth's crust oxygen is #1, silicon is #2. Aluminum is in our air, water and soil, and therefore in the plants and animals we eat. Because every time we breathe, eat or drink we take small quantities of aluminium into our bodies, our bodies have highly effective natural functions to remove the amount of aluminum we are exposed to in the natural environment. According to the International Aluminum Institute, "recent studies have shown that the absorption of aluminium from the digestive tracts is often as low as 0.001%". And in healthy individuals, the kidneys quickly excrete most of the aluminum our bodies absorb.

The problem with aluminum and health is that in our industrial world, we are exposed to much more aluminum that we would be exposed to in a natural environment. The amount we are exposed to in our industrial life is more than our bodies are designed to handle. So even though aluminum is ubiquitous in nature, that doesn't mean our bodies can tolerate the excessive amount of aluminum in our industrial world.

Exposure to aluminum can cause many more health problems than just Alzheimer's Disease.

The MedicineNet.com website says aluminum toxicity occurs in people with renal insufficiency. This generally applies to people who are treated by dialysis with aluminum-contaminated solutions or oral agents that contain aluminum, however today many people have weak kidneys from being overstressed by other environmental toxins. It is likely that most people today have some degree of renal insufficiency--not to the point of needing dialysis, but enough that their kidneys are probably not working optimally to flush the aluminum out of the body.

MedicineNet.com notes "The clinical manifestations of aluminum toxicity include anemia, bone disease, and progressive dementia with increased concentrations of aluminum in the brain. Prolonged intravenous feeding of preterm infants with solutions containing aluminum is associated with impaired neurologic development."

There are several websites that have compiled copious lists of references on the health effects of aluminum (see below). The health effects are far too vast to even begin to summarize them here. Suffice it to say that there the toxicity of aluminum is well documented beyond Alzheimer's. My personal conclusion is to minimize my exposure to aluminum as much as is practical. For me, this includes not cooking in aluminum cookware and aluminum foil.

If your main concern about aluminum exposure is to reduce your risk factors for Alzheimer's, let's ask, "Are their other factors that contribute to Alzheminer's that are more important to consider?"

Dr. Joseph Mercola puts aluminum low on his list of risk factors for Alzheimer's. Though as our population continues to age the number of people with Alzheimer's disease is expected to increase by 70 percent, Dr. Mercola correctly points out that "Alzheimer's disease is not a normal part of aging, and there are ways to reduce your chances of getting the disease."

He recommends eating a nutritious diet with lots of fresh vegetables and few grains and sugars, regular exercise, avoiding mercury, and avoiding aluminum. Researchers have also found that continued mental stimulation is associated with a decreased risk of Alzheimer's. All these recommendations are part of good overall health maintenance.

If you are wanting to reduce your exposure to aluminum, cookware is not at the top of the list either.

According to Food and Drug Administration FDA, "in a worst-case scenario, a person using uncoated aluminum pans for all cooking and food storage every day would take in an estimated 3.5 milligrams of aluminum daily." By contrast, "one antacid tablet can contain 50 milligrams of aluminum or more, and it is not unusual for a person with an upset stomach to consume more than 1,000 milligrams, or 1 gram, of aluminum per day. A buffered aspirin tablet may contain about 10 to 20 milligrams of aluminum." If you use these products, look for aluminum-free antacids and plain, non-buffered aspirin.

Other sources of aluminum exposure include:

  • table salt which is industrial sodium chloride--use a natural salt instead
  • baking powder 5 to 70 milligrams of sodium aluminum sulfate per teaspoon and baked goods and packaged baking mixes containing baking powder check your natural food store for aluminum-free baking powder and natural baking mixes and baked goods made with aluminum-free baking powder
  • antipersirants containing aluminum chlorohydrate again, check your natural food store for aluminum-free deodorants
  • aluminum beverage cans
  • aluminum foil
  • anti-dandruff preparations magnesium aluminum silicate or aluminum lauryl sulfate
  • feminime douches aluminum salts

A study done by the University of Cincinnati Medical Center showed that using aluminum pots and pans to cook tomatoes doubled the aluminum content of the tomatoes, but still, this was only from 2 to 4 milligrams per serving.

The biggest source of aluminum actually comes from our municipal water supplies. Many municipal water supplies are treated with both aluminum sulfate and aluminum fluoride. And if your water is fluoridated, the situation is even worse. The National Institutes of Environmental Heath Sciences NIEHS acknowledged that fluoride has been observed to have synergistic effects on the toxicity of aluminum. They found boiling fluoridated tap water in an aluminum pan leached almost 200 parts per million ppm of aluminum into the water in 10 minutes and leaching of up to 600 PPM occurred with prolonged boiling. Using non-fluoridated water showed almost no leaching from aluminum pans.

If you are concerned about your own exposure to aluminum, a hair analysis can be used to determine levels of aluminum in your body.

LINKS

Aluminum An extensive list of excerpts from scientific journals regarding aluminum toxicity, with references.

International Aluminum Institute History, manufacturing practices, environmental impacts and benefits aluminum is recyclable and use of aluminum in products.

Alzheimer's Society How the body responds to aluminum exposure and connection between aluminum and Alzheimer's.

The Aluminum Connection Very detailed website with many links to reports and studies that associated metal exposures including aluminum to various common illnesses. Much about brain function, autism, Alzheimer's.

Aluminum--An Internet Hotlist on Aluminum An annotated list of links to websites that cover all aspects of aluminum.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 14 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Silicone baking mats vs parchment paper

QUESTION:

Why do you recommend silicone baking mats? Isn't cooking parchment safer?

POSTED BY S. T. :: IL USA ::


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Cooking parchment also called parchment paper, kitchen parchment, greaseproof paper and cooking paper is a sheet of paper impregnated with silicone, which makes the paper grease- and moisture-resistant as well as relatively heat-resistant. It is commonly used to eliminate the need to grease baking pans--allowing, for example, repeated batches of cookies to be baked without regreasing the pans--and it can also be folded to make moisture-proof packages in which foods can cooked or steamed.

Parchment is made with bleached white and unbleached brown paper. Since the bleached paper might contain toxic dioxin, it's better to use the unbleached parchment paper if you use it.

Silicone baking sheets are a sheet of silicone that can be reused over and over again.

Silcone is safe to use for baking and cooking, whether impregnated in paper or in a sheet by itself. Silicones are made chemically by creating a "backbone" of silicon from common sand, the same stuff from which glass is made and oxygen molecules, a combination that does not occur in nature. Then various other synthetic molecules are added branching off of the main silicon-oxygen line to create hundreds of different silicones that range from liquids to rubbery solids. Though this is a completely manmade product, it is completely inert and will not transfer to foods more at Q&A: Is silicone cookware safe?.

I use both silicone baking sheets and parchment paper. I use my silicone baking sheets to line pans whenever I bake something which might stick. They have saved much time, effort and water from clean-up, and are much safer overall than using baking pans with other non-stick surfaces. I use parchment paper now only when I want to specifically use the cooking technique of baking in parchment, as when I make a recipe such as Fruits Baked in Parchment, or as a substitute for waxed paper waxed paper is covered with paraffin, a petrochemical wax.

The advantage I see to using silicone baking sheets over parchment is that they can be reused up to 2000 times. Though the mats cost more than parchment paper, there is a great savings overall. A box of unbleached parchment paper costs $5 and a silicone baking sheet costs $20, but a box of unbleached parchment paper will cover only 32 baking sheets, and a silicone baking mat will cover 2000 baking sheets. It would cost $310 to buy enough parchment paper to replace one silicone baking mat.

In addition, using the silicone baking mat over parchement paper saves a lot of trees. Paper food items cannot be made of recycled paper. So trees must be cut for every paper food service item. Silicone baking mats leave those trees standing.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 6 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


January 24, 2006

High Cocoa Dark Chocolates

QUESTION:

I'm wondering if you could recommend a dark chocolate bar plain that is at least 74% cocoa. I don't know how to "read" the labels to tell. For instance this Hershey's Dark Chocolate I have here Ingredients: Sugar, chocolate, cocoa butter etc. I would think cocoa would be at the top of the list?

I want to try to put this article to the test:

Mon Dec 19, 7:07 PM ET

A few squares of dark chocolate every day might cut the risk of serious heart disease by helping to stave off the hardening of arteries, according to a study published on Tuesday.

Researchers from University Hospital in Zurich studied 20 male smokers, who are at greater risk of hardening arteries characteristic of coronary heart disease, to see the effects of dark and white chocolate on arterial blood flow.

The group, who were asked to abstain from eating foods rich in antioxidants for 24 hours, were given 40 grams 2 ounces of chocolate to eat.

After two hours, ultrasound scans revealed that dark chocolate -- made up of 74 percent cocoa solids -- significantly improved the smoothness of arterial flow, whilst white chocolate, with four percent cocoa, had no effect, the study published in Heart magazine said.

The researchers, who said further studies were needed, suggested that the possible benefits arose from the antioxidants in dark chocolate.

"Only a small daily treat of dark chocolate may substantially increase the amount of antioxidant intake and beneficially affect vascular health," they said.

POSTED BY C. W. :: TENNESSEE USA ::


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

The percentage of cocoa is listed on the label for dark chocolates that contain significant cocoa. Not on Hershey's because I don't think they make one with that high a percentage. If sugar is listed first, then there is more sugar than cocoa, which means the cocoa is less than 50%. If you are looking in a regular supermarket for a high cocoa chocolate, check the labels of good "bittersweet" chocolate bars. These will be sweetened with refined white sugar, but a very small amount.

I suggest going to a good natural food store in your area and look for a natural brand. Dagoba 74% bittersweet is one that I know meets your needs.

Natural brands are often made with organically grown cocoa and sweetened with evaporated cane juice the whole sugar direct from the cane unrefined instead of refined white sugar. You might also try cacao nibs, which are 100% chocolate and no sugar. These taste a little odd at first, but I like them. They would be the best if eating chocolate for the health reasons you cite above.

Another option is to mix up your own chocolate using cocoa powder. You can mix a little with butter, cocoa butter, or coconut oil and any sweetener you want.

For more on chocolate, visit Debra's List: Organic, Shade Grown, Fair Trade Chocolate and especially read my article "Choosing Healthy Chocolate".

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


December 13, 2005

Mineral Oil--Is It Safe and Natural?

QUESTION:

I came across your Q&A about wood bowl oils and the use of mineral oils.

In the text I read the following about Bee's Oil from the Holland Bowl Mill: "So I was surprised to find out that it is actually made from beeswax and mineral oil! I had a long phone conversation with the owner and made sure he understood that you cannot label a product containing mineral oil as natural."

I am a bit confused, mineral oil is not natural because it is processed?? I was under the impression that all oils goes through processing to get to a final usable state.

In my search on this subject I also came across this site: http://www.cosmeticscop.com/learn/article.asp?PAGETYPE=ART&REFER=SKIN&ID=47

This site has the following statement, "Cosmetics-grade mineral oil and petrolatum are considered the safest, most nonirritating moisturizing ingredients ever found Sources: Cosmetics & Toiletries, January 2001, page 79; Cosmetic Dermatology, September 2000, pages 44–46."

This site also make a strong case for calling mineral oil "natural" and that the idea of mineral oil being bad for your skin is a myth perpetuated by cosmetic companies. The cosmetic companies claim that because mineral oil is derived from the same base product that produces gasoline, and industrial grade lubricants it can't be good for you. That is like saying we should not eat corn because it is used to make a type of gasoline ethanol gasoline.

I would like to hear your point of view on why mineral oil is not natural and why you would avoid or recommend against using it. Just because it is derived from oil from the ground does not seem a strong argument, oil makes many products and it does not necessarily mean it is bad or unnatural.

Besides the natural vs. not natural debate another thing that mineral oil seems to have going for it is no one seems to be allergic to mineral oil and as was pointed out on your site many people are allergic to nut oils etc.

Not looking for an argument, just trying to make an informed decision and would like to hear your point of view.

Thanks.

POSTED BY M. P. :: FLORIDA USA ::


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

You bring up some good points. I'll give you my point of view.

First, what is natural? Certainly one could say that anything from nature is natural. With that definition, crude oil is natural because it occurs in nature. When I was in Los Angeles, I went to the La Brea Tar Pits, where you can just see the black oil oozing out of the ground. So in that regard, unrefined crude oil is natural.

However--and this is very important--there is a huge difference in the healthfulness of a material if it is in its natural state or if it is refined. Salt is used as an example in the link you mentioned. Salt as it occurs in the Earth sodium chloride plus 84 minerals is actually vital to our health--pure, refined sodium chloride without the minerals causes all kinds of health problems. Now I'm not saying we should all eat unrefined crude oil not everything in nature is safe for our bodies either. The fact is, our bodies are organisms that are part of the grand design of nature and it prefers to be around other organisms designed by nature. When you refine anything--crude oil, wheat, salt, sugar cane, or anything else--it becomes less healthful for our bodies, in general.

Mineral oil is a refined byproduct of the distillation of gasoline from crude oil. It is a leftover liquid, and because it is abundant, it is very inexpensive. It also will not spoil. So mineral oil is used the main ingredient in baby oil, petroleum jelly and many lotions and cosmetics, especially lipstick.

In a way, using this waste oil in consumer products is good environmental practice, because it is recycling a waste into another product rather than putting it into the environment.

The reason mineral oil is not "natural" is because in the world of product labeling ingredients fall into two categories. Those made from petrochemicals are "manmade" or "synthetic" and those made from plants, animals, and minerals are "natural". In this case, natural is the alternative to petrochemical. Yes, it all comes from nature originally, but this is the terminology that is used. So my comment was to say that a product cannot be labeled "natural" and contain an ingredient that is derived from a petrochemical.

You are right that many products are made from oil. They are not unnatural regarding their source, but by the time they are processed, they are in a form that does not occur in nature. Our bodies cannot assimilate them. The environment can't break them down. They are unrecognizable by the living processes of nature.

I and others choose to minimize our use of products made with ingredients derived from petrochemicals. Many--but not all--of these ingredients are toxic. Virtually all pollute the environment at some stage of their manufacture.

Now to the health effects of mineral oil.

The Material Safety Data Sheet MSDS for Mineral Oil gives the following data I've highlighted the points relevant to our discussion in red:

WARNING! HARMFUL IF SWALLOWED OR INHALED. CAUSES IRRITATION TO SKIN, EYES AND RESPIRATORY TRACT. COMBUSTIBLE LIQUID AND VAPOR.

Potential Health Effects

Inhalation: Causes irritation to the respiratory tract. Symptoms may include coughing, shortness of breath. Inhalation of mist or vapor may produce aspiration pneumonia.

Ingestion:
Material is a cathartic and can cause serious diarrhea. Nausea and vomiting may also occur and possibly abdominal cramping. Aspiration of mineral oil into the lungs can cause chemical pneumonia.

Skin Contact:
Prolonged contact may cause irritation
; occasionally dermatitis due to hypersensitivity occurs.

Eye Contact:
Mists or fumes can irritate the eyes. Can cause discomfort similar to motor oil.

Chronic Exposure:
Prolonged or repeated skin exposure may cause dermatitis. Highly refined mineral oils are not classified as human carcinogens. However, related forms untreated and mildly-treated oils are listed as human carcinogens by both NTP and IARC.

Aggravation of Pre-existing Conditions:
Persons with pre-existing skin disorders or impaired respiratory function may be more susceptible to the effects of the substance.


There are many more health effects associated with mineral oil, but my reason for not using it personally is that it is a refined petrochemical, it may have unknown toxic contaminants, it is incompatible with my body and the environment, and there are natural alternatives. A nut oil, for example, is simply pressed from the nut. Though separated from the nut meat, it is still in the form in which it exists in nature.

You've asked this question in the context of using mineral oil to season a salad bowl. Let's just consider that one of the uses of mineral oil is as a laxative. Substances have laxative effects because the body wants to expel it as a poison. So that right there is to me a reason not to put mineral oil in contact with my food. Though it is widely used in the food processing industry here in the USA, it is banned for that purpose in Germany.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 18 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Safe Dinnerware

QUESTION:

Do you have a suggestion for safe, non-toxic everday dinnerware?

POSTED BY J. W. :: ARIZONA USA ::


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Personally, I stay away from plastic dishware of any kind. Personally, I have an assorted collection of dishware and glassware that includes clear glass, handmade pottery, recycled glass, and an old set of Wedgewood china that was given to me as a gift.

Aside from plastic--which is obviously identifiable--the most important thing to watch out for is the lead used in glazes. And it's not just brightly colored dishware from other countries that is a problem--most major manufacturers of dinnerware sold in department stores and home-decorating shops still use lead glazes, without labeling them as such. The federal government prohibits the sale of dinnerware that releases lead in amounts greater than 2,000 ppb which prevents direct cases of lead poisoning, but the state of California requires warning labels on any dishware that releases lead in amounts greater than 224 ppb, to protect against long-term health risks.

I like to purchase dishware from local potters. Many now use lead-free glazes and you can ask them directly if lead-free glaze was used.

The other option is to test a sample of the dishware with a home lead-testing swabs. That way you know for sure.

I've listed some links to websites with safe dinnerware on Debra's List.

And here is a link with a long list of dinnerware brands that meet the California standards. Remember these are not necessarily lead-free, but rather those that meet the California standards.

Environmental Defense has an excellent article on lead in dinnerware that includes phone numbers for some major manufacturers that can tell you about the glazes used on specific patterns. See Lead in China Dishes: A Buyer's Guide.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 42 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


July 26, 2005

Splenda

QUESTION:

Do you have an opinion on the brand name sweetener Splenda sucralose? I suppose it would be considered an artificial sweetener, rather than a natural sweetener, since it has been somehow altered from its natural form from what I have been told? It sounds as though it should be a safe sweetener to use, but I am leery of using it because it has not been tested for long-term use. What do you think? Have you used it?

POSTED BY R. B. :: FLORIDA USA ::


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I don't recommend Splenda and consider it an artificial sweetener. Even though it is "made from sugar" it's been chemically altered so it is a "mutant" substance.

There is a lot of information on the Internet regarding the dangers of Splenda see my Splenda page at sweetsavvy.com.

There are so many wonderful natural sweeteners--even ones with no carbs or calories--that I don't think it is necessary to use artificial sweeteners. Our health is better off without them. For recipes and more information on natural sweeteners, go to sweetsavvy.com.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


June 28, 2005

Nontoxic Outdoor Grill?

QUESTION:

I want to purchase an outdoor grill for my husbands birthday. Is there anything that would be nontoxic?

POSTED BY B.R. :: NEVADA USA ::


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

The burning of all fuels produce combustion by-products and smoke, which make food taste delicious, but are harmful to breathe. So regardless of which type of barbecue you choose, try not to breathe a lot of smoke.

There are basically two types of grills: gas and charcoal.

My husband and I barbecue over a small, inexpensive, portable charcoal grill. The point for us is to cook over the natural wood flame. We use a simple chimney-type starter rather than toxic lighter fluid, and we burn only natural wood briquets that have not been treated with any chemicals.

I'm not a fan of gas grills. They are more expensive to purchase, they require the purchase of propane gas for fuel, they are large in size, untilizing a lot of metal, which is very polluting to the environment, and in the end, it's not much different than cooking over a gas stove indoors.

You can read more about healthy barbecuing in my book Home Safe Home on page 309.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


May 03, 2005

Wood Conditioner for Cutting Boards and Bowls

QUESTION:

We're installing a butcher block counter top in our kitchen. Do you know of a product we can apply to protect and condition the wood? We thought of mineral oil, but you recommend against that in your book Home Safe Home. What do you suggest?

POSTED BY P.S :: CALIFORNIA USA ::


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

I've been using a product called B's Oil Salad Bowl & Wood Preserver, made by Holland Bowl Mill. It says right on the label that it is made only from natural oils and beeswax. I even called the company, who assured me it was "all-natural".

We've been using it on our wooden salad bowls and cutting boards since I found it in a fancy San Francisco cooking store years ago. Just recently, we used it to finish the wooden top on a kitchen island we built. It really protects the wood water beads right up and we felt good having the beeswax around our organic food. It has no odor, except for the slight sweetness of beeswax.

The Holland Bowl Mill website says it has received many letters from customers telling them B's Oil is so gentle that they use it as their favorite hand cream moisturizer.

So I was surprised to find out that it is actually made from beeswax and mineral oil! I had a long phone conversation with the owner and made sure he understood that you cannot label a product containing mineral oil as natural. I see he has changed the description on his website after our conversation.

I set out to find a truly all-natural wood conditioner for my wooden salad bowls and cutting boards, and discovered some interesting things even many woodworkers don't know.

It is important to apply some kind of protection to wood cutting boards and bowls before using them the first time, to prevent staining and absorption of food odors and bacteria, and to keep water from penetrating the wood, which results in warping and cracking.

Some suggest "seasoning" the wood with oil, just as you would a cast-iron pan. Warm the oil slightly, and apply in the direction of the grain, allowing it to soak in between each coat. Apply four or five coats of oil. Wait about four to six hours between coats, and wipe off any excess oil that did not soak in before applying the next coat of warm oil.

The question is: What type of oil should be used to season the wood?

Most woodworkers today use USP-grade mineral oil because it is 1 edible 2 tasteless and 3 the cheapest pure food-grade oil you can buy. Vegetable and olive oils are not recommended because they turn rancid. Mineral oil, however, is a petrochemical product. While it is relatively nontoxic, as a wood surface protector it does come in contact with food. When you see the words "food safe finish" in a description of a wood product, this generally means mineral oil has been used.

Beeswax is often added to mineral oil to give a tougher finish. The wax of bees has been used for centuries for waterproofing and sealing materials from baskets to cloth and for preserving foods and other perishable materials, including wood. This was long before the days of mineral oil, which is a petrochemical product of the Industrial Age.

Beeswax is often used to protect wood. It will make wood water-resistant though not water-proof and will help protect the wood surface from use and wear. It will also give a wood surface a nice smooth feel to the touch and leave a gentle, sweet fragrance.

But...you can't use just straight beeswax because it is a huge molecule and cannot penetrate the wood. It is a great surface treatment, but wood needs oil, which can penetrate for protection. This is why beeswax wood conditioners are mixed with oil.

The solution turns out to be...walnut oil. It's all-natural and is one of the few oils that doesn't turn rancid.

The simplest thing to do is to simply purchase a bottle of walnut oil at a specialty grocery or natural food store and apply it directly to your wood bowl or board [if you can't find it locally, you can order online from ShopNatural. If you want, you can add as much beeswax as you like while you are warming the oil for application. Make fine shreds of beeswax from a block or candle.

Or, you can purchase commercial formulations. Woodworker's Supply carries several food safe finishes.

* Preserve contains "a blend of oils from the meats of exotic nuts"
* Clapham's Beeswax Salad Bowl Finish contains mineral oil and carnuba wax a harder wax than beeswax, along with the beeswax.
* General Finishes Salad Bowl Finish creates "a beautiful and safe finish on...any wood surface that contacts food...Dried film is non-toxic for food contact 72 hours after drying." MSDS shows ingredients to be Mineral spirits, Nonane, Oil modified urethane resin and 1,2,4-Trimethylbenzene. Hardly nontoxic during application. I'd choose a different option.

And what about B's Oil I've been using? Turns out it's 80 percent beeswax and 20 percent mineral oil. Not the worst, but not the most natural. I think I'll get some walnut oil.

Once the wood is protected, it needs to be maintained to control bacteria: * Scrub boards and bowls frequently with hot soapy water.
* Sanitize with a one to five dilution of vinegar to water. Flood the surface with the vinegar solution and allow it to stand for several minutes, then rinse and air dry.
* Keep dry when not in use. Beware of moisture collecting beneath boards left on the counter. Prop one end up when not using your board.
* Oil boards once a week bowls get additional oiling every time you use them from the salad dressing.
* Choose wood boards over plastic. Research has shown that bacteria cannot be removed by hand-washing from knife-scared plastic boards. On wood boards the bacteria dies off within 3 minutes. The theory is that the porous surface of the wood surface of the wooden boards deprives the bacteria of water, causing them to die.
* Use a separate board for cutting raw meat and poultry to ensure their will be no cross-contamination with other foods eaten raw, such as fruits and vegetables, and bread.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 24 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


April 05, 2005

Alternatives to Soy Milk and Protein Powders

QUESTION:

I saw your reference to soy in your latest newsletter [Kaayla Daniel's book The Whole Soy Story]. What alternative does one have to soy and cow's milk? What are your thoughts on Goat's milk? Do you know of a good protein powder source one can use in their diet?

POSTED BY K.N. :: CALIFORNIA USA ::


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Goat's milk is a good alternative to soy and cow's milk, in fact, goat milk has been chosen as one of "The World's Healthiest Foods". In many parts of the world, goat's milk is much more popular than cow's milk. Goat's milk is considered more digestible and less allergenic than cow's milk. So that's certainly an option. Goat's milk can be purchased in many natural food stores

Rice milk is another possibility, though, like soy milk, since it is make from a plant it lacks the fuller spectrum of amino acids and nutrients found and cow's and goat's milk. Though many people happily drink rice milk, to me it is not a whole food--it would be much better to eat the whole brown rice. Most rice milk also contains vitamins for fortification. It's a processed food.

Coconut milk is a wonderful substitute for cow's milk and can be used instead of cream or milk in many recipes, such as custard and ice cream. My friend Cathy loves it in her coffee every morning. Coconut milk is made by pulverizing the whole coconut meat with water, so it contains the whole coconut. Again, being a plant, it has a different nutrient profile than milk from an animal. Coconut milk is sold in cans I buy Thai Kitchen brand because it's the only one I've found that does not contain preservatives or you can make it yourself by whizzing up coconut meat in your blender with water.

I also enjoy almond milk. You'll need to make it fresh at home, but it is a very refreshing, creamy drink that foams up like milk. Start by soaking 1/2 cup almonds overnight in filtered water just enough to cover is fine. In the morning, if you want to remove the skins, place the almonds in a strainer and dip them in boiling water for 7 seconds, then in a bowl of ice cold water. The skins will slip right off. Put the almonds in a blender with two cups water and blend for several minutes until smooth. If you want, you can add the sweetener of your choice, but I like it just plain. When you make it with soaked almonds, it tastes and feels very "alive"!

With regard to protein powder, there are protein powders available made from rice protein and goat protein look for them at your natural food store and online, but just in general I'm not a big fan of protein powder.

My best recommendation is to eat fresh whole foods, rather than fractionated foods. It's better to eat the rice, drink the goat's milk, eat the eggs. There are often supportive nutrients in whole foods that aid digestion and assimilation that are missing in the processed fraction. I like to stay as close to nature as possible. Protein powders are a product of factory processing.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 1 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


March 22, 2005

The Safety of Pewter (Old and New)

QUESTION:

I have an antique pewter salt shaker I bought it at an antiques store in Boston in the 1950s, and gave it to my parents then--it is old, old. I use it at the stove when I add salt rarely to food I'm cooking. Is it safe? It seems to me it has a kind of sharp smell, and I don't know if that is lead, or tin, or the salt. Any ideas?

POSTED BY M. C. :: CALIFORNIA USA ::


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Old pewter is made from tin and lead, so I would assume yours contains lead. Since there is no safe level for lead exposure, I wouldn't use it. Even though you use it only occasionally, in a way that is worse, for the salt has contact with the pewter for a longer period, giving it more opportunity to absorb any lead that may be leaching.

Modern pewter is lead-free and safe to use. It is made from 95% tin, plus copper and antimony. According to one manufacturer, "The products are guaranteed lead-free and quite safe to be used for all kinds of food and drink."

I noticed that most pewter websites give no information on the pewter or its contents. Warnings are still given to watch out for pewter items which may contain lead. So if you are considering a purchase of pewter, ask if it contains lead.

There is a way to tell if the pewter in question contains lead. Leaded pewter will get darker with age, and will be difficult to buff to its original shine and color. The more lead the pewter contains, the more it darkens and tarnishes with age. 

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 2 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


Is there formaldehyde in gelatin capsules?

QUESTION:

I have recently heard that the capsules used to package vitamins and herbs are not good for you. Is this true? if so, what is a good alternative to getting the benefits of the these nutrients if not in pill form. It seems difficult when most of us have neither the time or resources for growing our own food.

POSTED BY T. S. :: OREGON USA ::


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

The capsules used to package vitamins and herbs come in different types.

A standard gelatin capsule is made from animal gelatin. This is a by-product of cooking the meat and bones. If you have ever made meat stock for soup, when you chill it, you will notice that it gels. Gelatin, whether sold plain, mixed with fruit flavoring and sugar to make a popular dessert, or made into gel caps is this same gelatin.

There are also vegetarian capsules with are made from plant based cellulose.

Both of these geletins are safe to eat.

The problem with gel caps is they may contain formaldehyde as a preservative.

The Organic Materials Review Institute--an organization that provides certifiers, growers, manufacturers and suppliers an independent review of products intended for use in certified organic production, handling, and processing--has a whole twenty-five page review of gelatin that tells everything you would ever want to know about what gelatin and gel caps are made of and how they are made, written in 2002.

At the bottom of page 4 says, "...formaldehydes and other aldehydes can be used to harden gelatin capsules and enable them to pass from the stomach to the intestine...trace levels of formaldehyde may have an adverse effect on the capsule contents," and, I might add, on the person taking the capsule.

Frontier Natural Products Coop, who supplies bulk herbs and gel caps to most natural food stores, offers two kinds of gel caps: non-gelatin vegetarian capsules and standard animal gelatin capsules. Their vegetarian capsules are "completely gelatin-free, starch-free, preservative-free and made from pure vegetable sources." Their standard gelatin capsules contain "beef and pork gelatin, water, and sodium lauryl sulfate." No formaldehyde in either.

As to whether or not any specific brand of vitamins or herbs have formaldehyde in their capsules, you should check with various manufacturers. Usually this information is not given on the label, although I did see one webpage say that their gel caps were "formaldehyde-free". If you want vegetarian or formaldehyde-free capsules, find a product you are otherwise interested in and check with the manufacturer about the gel-cap.

In my experience, companies that use organic or natural ingredients are also inclined to have that ethic extend to other aspects of their products as well. It is likely that organic vitamins and herbs would come in preservative-free caps, and that the caps containing formaldehyde would be used for mass market vitamins.

So, to answer your question, you can probably find good quality organic vitamins and herbs in preservative-free gel caps. And, supplements come in tablet form where the material is simply pressed together without capsules. Some even come in powders and liquids. There are plenty to choose from.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


January 25, 2005

Lead in Glassware

QUESTION:

I had always thought that glass cookware, bakeware, bowls, glasses, food storage, etc. were the healthiest choice, so I've been using them for years. But I just read that glass can contain lead. Is this true?

POSTED BY S.R. :: FLORIDA USA ::


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Most glass does not contain lead. Only lead crystal contains lead. The other types of glass are fine to use every day.

Lead crystal is made from a blend of silica sand, lead oxide and other agents. The addition of lead gives the glass the sparkle, clarity, and weight that makes crystal glassware so popular. When properly cut, lead crystal has the ability to disperse light into the color components of the visible spectrum brilliance that is almost diamond-like. It is widely used to make glassware and decanters for storing and serving beverages.

The amount of lead in glassware can range from 4% to 34%. Most crystal sold today contains about 24% lead.

While lead crystal has been used for over three hundred years, scientists today have found that when crystal comes in contact with acidic beverages, some lead dissolves into the liquid. The amount depends on the amount of lead in the crystal, the type of beverage, and the length of time they are in contact with each other.

Acidic beverages such as port or wine and non-alcoholic fruit juices and soft drinks will dissolve more lead from crystal than less acidic drinks like scotch or vodka. Generally, the longer a beverage sits inside a crystal container, the more lead is absorbed by the liquid.

The actual amount of lead released from crystal glasses over the course of a normal meal, however, tends to be low. Tests show that the resulting lead levels in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks are usually well below 200 parts per billion, whereas beverages stored in crystal decanters can accumulate up to 20 parts per million. There is no safe level for exposure to lead.

Exposure to even small amounts of lead can be harmful. Long- term exposure to increased lead levels may produce flu-like symptoms, such as lack of appetite, fatigue, irritability, headaches, joint pain and neurological disorders. During pregnancy, serious illness, or other stress,.bones may release increased amounts of lead into the bloodstream. Lead also can lead to kidney problems, affecting one of the body's major organs of detoxification. Children and developing fetuses are particularly at risk.

The best way to reduce the risk of lead exposure from lead crystal is, of course, to simply not use it at all. If you want to continue to drink from lead crystal, here are some ways to reduce your lead exposure:

  • Use decanters only for serving--do not store alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages in them.
  • Before the first use,soak new crystal in vinegar for 24 hours and follow with a thorough rinsing to remove some of the surface lead.
  • Do not wash crystal in a dishwasher--harsh detergents can increase the release of lead.
  • Limit the use of crystal to special occasions.
Do not drink from crystal if you are pregnant
Do not feed an infant or child from a lead crystal baby bottle or cup

National Safety Council
An excellent fact sheet on lead that tells the health effects and some surprising and unsuspected exposures to lead--like children's candy and calcium supplements...

FDA: Dangers of Lead Still Linger
Health effects and sources of lead exposure

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 0 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT


January 11, 2005

Is silicone cookware safe?

QUESTION:

I am looking for materials that works well as a non-stick baking and stir-frying surface and that will not harm my family. What do you think about silicone bakeware for environmental and health issues? I know Teflon is dangerous but what about silicone?

POSTED BY L. G. :: CALIFORNIA USA ::


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

Silcone bakeware and other kitchen utensils are safe to use. Silicones are made chemically by creating a "backbone" of silicon from common sand and oxygen molecules, a combination that does not occur in nature. Then various other synthetic molecules are added branching off of the main silicon-oxygen line to create hundreds of different silicones that range from liquids to rubbery solids. Though this is a completely manmade product, it is completely inert and will not transfer to foods.

Health and Environmental Effects

I tried to find some information on the health effects of silicone rubber, but it was not listed in any of the toxic chemical databases I use.

I went to the Dow Corning website who makes over 700 different silicone rubbers and looked at a random sample of their MSDSs. The ones I read listed no hazardous materials or health effects, or needed first aid measures. All descriptions I read of silicone rubber describe it as chemically inert and stable, so it is unlikely to react with or leach into food, nor outgas vapors. MSDSs also note that silicone is not toxic to aquatic or soil organisms, it is not hazardous waste, and while it is not biodegradable, it can be recycled after a lifetime of use.

Some years back there was a question about the safety of silicone used in breast implants. Whether or not the health problems experienced by some women with breast implants were associated with the implants has been very controversial. I found an article from the year 2000 on a leading website on breast cancer and related women's issues that states "A large study conducted by researchers from the National Cancer Institute NCI finds no correlation between silicone-filled breast implants and breast cancer risk."

The prolonged inhalation of crystalline silica dust is associated with silicosis, but there is no silica dust exposure from the use of silicone kitchenware.

Use

I personally use silicone spatulas and baking mats and have experienced no ill effects. Nothing sticks to them and they are very easy to clean. My silicone baking mats which can be reused more than 2000 times have already saved yards and yards of parchment paper!

Silicone has many desireable benefits:

  • nonstick finish
  • does not retain odors or flavors
  • stain resistant
  • dishwasher safe
  • can go from temperature extremes of -58 degrees F up to 428 degrees F, from freezer to oven [note home ovens can go up to 500 degrees F, so keep the 428 degree F limit in mind]
  • promotes even heat distribution
  • quick cooling
  • some items can be folded for easy storage
Silicone kitchenware products are made from FDA approved food grade silicone.

Silicone is now being used to make a whole variety of useful non-stick cooking items. While there are no stovetop pots and pans, there are hundreds of useful kitchen items, including baking pans, baking sheets, spatulas, molds, icecube trays in fun shapes that also can double for baking little cakes, rolling pins, and more.

Debra :-)


CATEGORY — FOOD :: 18 COMMENTS :: POST YOUR COMMENT





Find new QUESTIONS in a date range

Find new COMMENTS in a date range


Welcome!

This Q&A blog is open for all to participate. Feel free to ask your own questions and answer questions posted by others. I know you all have a wealth of information and experience on healthy and eco-friendly living and you are welcome to share it here.


To ask a question or post information...
Use this link:

POST AN ENTRY


To respond to a question or comment on a post...
Use the POST YOUR COMMENT link at the end of the entry.


Easy access to this blog...
Every Tuesday I send out a free email newsletter "Health, Home & Habitat". The posts on this blog for that two week period are listed along with a link to the blog. Sign up here for "Health, Home & Habitat"...


About This Blog

The purpose of this blog is to share information on "green living," which includes living in a healthy and nontoxic manner, as well as living in a way that is better for the environment.

Appropriate posts include questions about specific products or ingredients, where to find particular products, how to do or make something yourself, and any other aspect of living. You may also post anything on the subject you think would be of interest to readers, including data about health or environmental effects of products, products and websites you like and want to recommend, where to get good deals on purchasing green products, and the like. Please share your experience.

I personally will answer all the questions or invite other knowledgeable people to answer and I will review all the posts as they come in. I have created this blog so everyone can post and we can all learn from each other.


Recent Questions

termites

Searching for Barrier Cloth that is NOT organic

oven cleaner removal

hand held steamers

corn-derived ingredients in meds, foods,etc.

Wool Mattress and Oil-based primer

Prefinished Oak Wood Flooring

How long did it take for your Harmony office paint to dry?

CFC in refrigerator

PEVA vs. EVA shower curtain


Recent Comments

Down vs. Down Alternative: Which is better?

Bisphenol A Exposure from Plastic Mouth Guards

Benjamin Moore Natura Paint

Dog Food

good, safe lotion for dry skin?

Tempur-Pedic

Himalayan Salt

Bisphenol A (BPA) in our bottles and cans

Low or No EMF Laptops and Televisions

Surgical Sutures


Categories

Full Index

Toxics

General Household

Air (Indoor)
Art Supplies
Babies & Kids
Body Care
Building
Cleaning
Energy
Food
Food: Natural Sweeteners
Garden
Health
Interior Decorating
Pest Control
Pets
Textiles
Travel
Water
Wedding


Archives

August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005

Copyright ©2004-2006 Debra Lynn Dadd - all rights reserved.
home | home safe home | talk with debra | about debra |