Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Salmonella in the News

It is becoming all too common of an event; salmonella is making its way into our foods and the FDA doesn’t seem to be able to get a handle on the problem. If it’s not tainted meat, it’s packaged lettuce or spinach that’s bringing this danger into our homes, our lives. There was the jalapeño scare that affected many prepackaged peppers, and not so long ago the big scare was tomatoes. The areas within the food industry it affected were astronomical; from the local grocery stores, to restaurants and fast-food joints. If that wasn’t bad enough, the latest scare may even top that one; tainted peanut butter. This has affected many prepackaged and processed foods, going way beyond the simple jar of peanut butter.

So what does this tell us about the current state of our food Industry and those who govern it? It tells me that it’s become such a profit driven money hungry business that safety and quality are less important as the bottom line, and with pockets this deep unsanitary practices and working conditions are somehow “overlooked” by those who are supposed to be there to protect us. Since it could take years, if at all, for such a broken system to right itself, we must see this as a wakeup call and rethink the way we eat. We have let our busy on-the-go lifestyles govern the way we eat for far too long, depending on manufactures to do all the meal preparations (premixed, precooked, premade) which allows the average person to know nothing more than how to operate a microwave. It’s time to get back to the simplicity of food, and leave behind what food manufactures are trying to pass as such.

Throughout all of the salmonella outbreaks I’ve mentioned, I have been able steer clear of the hazards without having to change my buying and eating habits. This is because my diet consists of mostly organic whole foods and minimally processed foods. The less number of processes food goes through, the less number of times it is touched by man or machine, and limiting this handling limits the chance of contamination; not to mention yields a food much higher in nutrients (which is commonly lost during processing and later added back in as in the form of synthetic vitamins and minerals). Instead of packaged produce, look for the fresh organic variety; local health food stores or farms can be a great place to purchase these, and your support will go locally instead of to the already deep pockets of large corporations. Instead of highly processed foods, look for organic minimally processed foods. Take the current peanut butter scare; I purchase freshly ground organic peanuts. That means there is nothing in the peanut butter other than, well, peanuts…fresh organic minimally processed peanuts.

Now compare that to the ingredients of a typical jar of peanut butter from a popular brand:
  • “Made from Roasted Peanuts and Sugar, Contains 2% or Less of Molasses, Fully Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils (Rapeseed and Soybean), Mono- and Diglycerides, Salt”
In deciphering this you can see they have sugar listed twice (once as sugar and again as “molasses”), and fat listed twice (once as “mono- and diglycerides” and again as “Fully Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils “), both of which require a lot of processing; not to mention, neither of which are helping the obesity problem in this country. All of this added to increase the shelf life, but at what cost to your health?

Maybe people would be less likely to buy highly processed foods if the labels listed in detail these processes instead of their “pseudo names”. What if instead of “Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils”, the label read, “Hydrogenation is a high tech process. Vegetable seeds are cleaned and bleached to remove all color, taste, smells and impurities. The liquid vegetable oil is then heated to high temperatures and a catalyst (commonly nickel, but could be palladium, platinum or rhodium) is added. Hydrogen is bubbled through the liquid. The mixture is then filtered to remove the metal, leaving hydrogenated vegetable oil. Water, whey, salt, vitamins, colorings, flavorings and emulsifiers may then be added to produce hydrogenated margarine.”; or instead of “mono-glycerides and di-glycerides” the label read “The MGs and DGs added are usually by-products of fats and oils processing such as partial hydrogenation and various forms of extraction and interesterification processes.”

It’s time to simplify what we eat, down to the basic organic ingredients, and leave behind all of the processes found in highly processed foods!

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