Swine Flu Follow-up: The Media’s Melodrama..

The previous entry about Swine Flu was written as an attempt to ease the fear that is being perpetuated by the media about this whole situation. Words like “STAGE 5 ALERT LEVEL” and “PANDEMIC” and “DEATH” are swirling around like mad, but the problem really isn’t as severe as the media is portraying it to be..

Let’s put things into perspective.. Every year, about 36000 Americans die as a consequence of human seasonal influenza. Thus far, of the 286 reported cases of swine flu in the U.S., ONE person has died. To realize the true severity of the situation, we just have to compare the numbers.

There has been a decline of cases in Mexico, allowing them to re-open hotels and restaurants and hopefully salvage their absolutely destroyed tourism.

Although a total of 1,025 cases have been reported in 20 countries thus far, the pandemic is in a stage of decline….

Yes, it may seem ridiculous to bypass this problem as a superfluous issue, but like everything else, the media is quite the fearmonger in this situation…

To see the article that inspired my critical analysis: Click Here Gotta love the BBC

What do you think??

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Rocket Fuel in Our Water: Perchlorate Tastes Great!

Though the government isn’t raring to publicize this issue, the drinking water of over 20 million Americans is contaminated with Perchlorate, the main active ingredient in rocket fuel. Thank you Cold War.

Do missles make you thirsty? If not, you might want to be wary the next time you take a sip of water from the tap. Reading over some of the statistics, it’s seriously alarming how much of this contaminent is actually consumed around the country. In Los Angeles alone, almost 10 million of us are drinking water that is contaminated with Perchlorate.

Based on a study conducted by the Environmental Working Group, it was found that at least 43 states contain groundwater and soil that are contaminated. Below is a map of Perchlorate production and contamination sites around the country.

American Perchlorate Production and Contamination Sites
American Perchlorate Production and Contamination Sites. The Brown area is where Perchlorate is produced, and the red dots are known contamination sites.

Alright so what’s the big deal? We drink mineral water that has chemicals in it, so what could possibly be so bad about Perchlorate? HA!

  • Main negative health effect is on the thyroid gland: responsible for controlling growth, development, and metabolism. Abnormal thyroid can lead to fatigue, depression, anxiety, hair loss, weight gain, and worst of all loss of libido!!!!!
  • Hormone imbalances in fetuses and small children–> mental retardation, problems with speech, motor skill deficits, and problems with sexual development.

As if you weren’t disgusted/alarmed enough… Traces of this rocket fuel were found in several powdered baby formulas (see article) around the country. But don’t worry, that’s why they put iodine in formula mix, as this is supposed to counteract the rocket fuel…Perhaps I’m a bit obtuse, but wouldn’t it make sense to just NOT include ROCKET FUEL as a trace ingredient in BABY FORMULA?! ahhhh!

So basically, If you are drinking water, or are mixing up your baby formula (that already might be contaminated with Perchlorate) with contaminated water (thus giving your baby a double dose of rocket fuel) you could be putting yourself and children at some serious health risks.

BUT not to fear, there IS something you can do. As we DO live in some form of democracy, though the status of that I sometimes question, there is currently a petition to California Senator Barbara Boxer and Chairman Waxman to bring action to stop this ridiculous problem.

For more information, please visit: http://www.ewg.org/reports/rocketwater

Click the link and sign the petition, unless of course you like your daily dose of cancer and thyroid disease with your morning coffee ;0)

A Spoonful of Mercury helps the medicine go down

After testing a handful of 55 brand-name products containing High Fructose Corn Syrup, it was found that nearly a third of these products were contaminated with Mercury. Grrreaatttttt.

What we origninally thought about the health concerns for high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) consumption (such as Diabetes and Obesity to name a few) have now become astronomically larger with the finding that a significant amount of these products containing HFCS have tested positive for mercury.

To give you a few statistics: Americans consume about 12 tbsp of HFCS daily, severely increasing the likelihood that you will consume one of these mercury ridden products, if you haven’t been eating the tasty stuff already.

According to the USA Today article that I just read:

In the first study, published in current issue of Environmental Health, researchers found detectable levels of mercury in nine of 20 samples of commercial HFCS.

And in the second study, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), a non-profit watchdog group, found that nearly one in three of 55 brand-name foods contained mercury. The chemical was found most commonly in HFCS-containing dairy products, dressings and condiments.”Original Article

While there have also been studies testing that there are products containing HFCS that is made in a way that is mercury-free, you can never be so sure about what you are consuming these days. Just think, how many liters of soda containing HFCS have you been drinking lately? Can you hear your brain cells popping?

OK, ok… So you want to give up the sweet stuff but you can’t break your sugar addiction? Try, Agave Nectar

Agave Nectar: Naturally Sweet
Agave Nectar: Naturally Sweet

What is Agave Nectar?

  • Agave nectar is a produced from the core of the Mexican Agave plant (the same one that makes Tequila! Aye!) It is a natural sweetener that is sweeter than honey but not quite as thick.

Where can I buy it?

  • Basically any health food store, though I have seen it at some big name grocery stores too.

Can I cook with it?

  • Yes, you can cook with agave nectar, but you might need to make some adjustments on your sugar proportions for a regular sugar recipe.

Other Health Benefits?

  • All Natural
  • Low-Glycemic (good news for Diabetics)
  • No Mercury
  • Good for Raw foodists because it is produced at a tempurature under 118 Degrees.
  • Know what you’re eating, this stuff comes straight from the plant, no hidden poison.

So there you have it folks, try to ease yourself off the high fructose corn syrup or you could wind up with a brain as metallic as the tin man’s.  Either that or in an agressive mercury induced rage, cursing to yourself on the side of the freeway onramp.

 

 

Top 5 Most Irresponsible Foods of All time

The Top 5 Most Irresponsible Meals of All Time: what a topic. Here I’ll define irresponisible as both incredibly detrimental to your personal health as well as the health of the environment. Double whammie!

To put it frankly, the following gastronomical abomonations are amongst the ultimate ‘FAILS’ of  national and international appetites. While some of these may not be on the typical menu for many eaters, I thought it would be good to highlight the following to illustrate (in the most exaggerated form) meals that will send you on the express route to a quadruple bypass.

Organized in no particular order I present to you:

1) The Krispy Kreme Cheese-Burger (aka, The Death Wish)

Cheese burger with Krispy Kreme Bun....Your heart will love you for eating this
Cheese burger with Krispy Kreme Bun….Your heart will love you for eating this

So this choice might be self explanatory as to why it does not promote health in any way, shape or form. Looking at the photo, there is also the addition of bacon to this monstrosity. If you are going to eat this, you are asking for some serious health repercussions. A cheeseburger is bad enough, but then you add the trans-fats of 2 Krispy Kremes and you put this iconically American dish completely over the edge.

2) The Bacon Sausage Roll (aka ‘The High-Carbon De-lite’)

The Bacon Explosion
2lbs Bacon, 2lbs Sausage, Cheese, more bacon, rolled, deep-fried, and doust in BBQ sauce (a must)

Here we have another culinary crime folks, The Bacon Explosion. I nickname this meal “The High-Carbon De-lite’ because livestock (beef/cheese) creates 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. It is recommended that you limit your intake of red meat and cheese to promote your general health, but if you plan on eating the bacon roll of death, I would recommend you never ingest meat or cheese again. This would be a life-time dose, an overdose perhaps..

3) Chilean Sea Bass (aka “If-You-Like-The-Taste-Of-Mercury”…)

Chilean Sea Bass, one of the most over-fished aquatic creatures of all time
Chilean Sea Bass, one of the most over-fished aquatic creatures of all time

Also known as “Toothfish” the Chilean Sea Bass has become almost endangered due to overfishing. This creates a ridiculously high demand for the product, bumping up prices, and motivating fisherman to use unethical ways to obtain this deliciously mercury-filled fish. The Environmental Defense Fund states that:

“The longlines commonly used to catch Chilean sea bass often snag endangered albatrosses and other seabirds as they grab bait, and the birds end up drowning. “

The EDF recommends limiting consumption to no more than 2 meals per month, and only 1 meal per month for children.

Therefore, unless you want to end up like Jeremy Piven, having a neurological breakdown from too much Mercury consumption, it’s best to steer clear of the Toothfish. Don’t buy into the lingo of restaurant menus, eating this fish is essentially eating metal. Bite into an old glass thermometer, that might be just as satisfying. 🙂

4) The Twinkie (aka ‘The Indestructable’)

The only American food staple that could survive a nuclear holocaust. Take that Iran!
Twinkies: The only American food staple that could survive a nuclear holocaust. Take that Iran!

I chose the Twinkie as a poster-child for an abundance of packaged foods that are shipped throughout the country and abroad. Not only does the Twinkie lack any kind of nutritional value, but packaging and shipping products like this consume an obscene amount of energy, not to mention nonbiodegradable waste. Just say no. I have faith in you.

5) Commodity Corn (aka ‘The Culprit in American Obesity’)

The subsidized staple of the American diet
Commodity Corn: The subsidized staple of the American diet

If reading Michael Pollan’s fascinating book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma taught me anything, it taught me that our government secretly loves to make us fat by adding corn into EVERYTHING. To be fair though, most of you eat this unintentionally, so I cannot place consumers at blame…

Unlike the corn you might have at a family BBQ, this commodity corn is not even edible in its natural state. To get into our stomachs, it must either be processed and placed under the guise of “High Fructose Corn Syrup” or, fed to our livestock to make them fatter and ready for slaughter in record time!

Commodity corn is a huge subject that I will elaborate upon in further entries, but basically, about 80% of packaged products you eat in the supermarket are basically made up of this corn-in-hiding. And hell, even though we produce so much corn we don’t know what to do with it, its production is subsidized by the government, a vicious cycle indeed. Its addition into our food is unnecessary and does not affect the taste of our packaged foods. We’re technically being used as a garbage disposal

In sum, eating this stuff adds unnecessary calories, and wastes even more energy than it creates in our humble digestive systems.

The goal of this exercise was not to make you stop eating, although some of those pictures might have done the trick… But rather, to get you to evaluate some of the choices you make when choosing your meals.

So what can you do to keep healthy and eat well to benefit both yourself and the environment?

  • Eat Local: Eating fruits and veggies that are grown in your local area will help you maintain a low-carbon diet as these products do not require the massive amount of energy it would take to ship them across the country. This includes fish as well. “Fresh Alaskan Salmon” means it has been flown in, making it 10x more emission intensive than transporting products by ship.
  • Eat Seasonal: When something is in season, it is probably grown in your local area. Eating watermelon in the dead of winter means that watermelon has most likely been shipped from another area, and to be honest it probably does not taste nearly as good.
  • Cut back on the Beef and Cheese: As stated before, livestock is responsible for about 18% of carbon emissions. Cattle that are fed corn produce a lot of greenhouse gases.

For more information on the best and worst meal choices for you and the environment, check out the following websites:

The moral of the story? Eat well and eat WISELY! 😉

Terrorism in the name of food: is this the right approach?

Are special interest groups such as PETA and ALF (Animal Liberation Front) using the right approach to call attention to issues of animal rights and industrialized meat and dairy production systems or does their militant approach ultimately work against them?

Discussing how to approach issues of animal rights with regard to food production has become particularly sticky issue in the past few years. Groups like PETA and ALF are especially prominent in the public sphere, warning consumers that their 1/2lb Whoppers and BBQ chicken wings are not delicious comestibles, but rather dietary abominations in violation of animal rights.

While these groups have worked incredibly hard to express their views to mass public audiences, the reactions that many people have to the general approach have been less than ideal.

I took it upon myself to randomly ask people on the street about their reactions to the “PETA approach” (and also ALF). Here are the highlights:

“PETA ultimately ends up shooting itself in the foot. Sure they are trying to protect the rights of innocent animals, but I can’t stand to hear any of them talk. Their approach is way too militant and it ultimately turns me off to the cause, regardless of whether or not I agree with the issues.” -Maria age 19

“Animal rights groups like PETA, and especially ALF become newsworthy for the crimes they commit: destruction of property, verbal assault, vandalism to name a few… and I guess it just really gives them too much negative attention. I myself am a vegetarian, but these people make me kind of ashamed honestly.. “-John age 30

“It’s a shame that all of these things are happening in slaughterhouses, but at the same time, most people just shut their ears and look the other way because these people are not the type of people you want to get in a conversation with.”- Jessica age 21

“They like talking AT people, not WITH people. I think it’s a fatal error on their part, especially if they are trying to promote awareness to an audience full of meat-eaters.”- Leslie age 55

Obviously this blog is about eating ethically and responsibly. Thus, technically I should be throwing more support to PETA and the ALF. But I was just curious as to everyone’s opinions about how these groups choose to present their issues?

Below is a news segment that was done about ALF and the way their protest approach:

Is it ok for the ALF to break into a building where animal research is conducted and burn it down?

Can vandalism of private property be justified in order to protect animal rights?

On being vegetarian, a cause that is obviously held high on the priority lists of PETA and ALF, Is it possible to eat meat ethically and responsibly?

These are some interesting questions folks… What do you think?

oh and just for fun..

The Free Range Fallacy

HA! think again...
HA! think again...
Strolling through the poultry section of the supermarket, my eyes go right to the “free range” chicken as my product of choice. But then my analytical side pops in.  “What the hell is free-range anyway?” “Did this chicken really live out its life frollicking through the fields?”Well, looking into it further, unfortunately, probably not. The words Free Range means as much to food policy as the word ethical means to Monsanto.

Why? Because free range has no standardized legal definition in the United States. While we would like to think that our free range chickens  roamed free 24 hours a day, the more likely probability is that our winged friends were allowed out of their cages for a short period of time, given a glimpse of sunlight before shoved back into their metallic prisons. With the passing of prop 2 in California, at least we know that these cages need to meet some kind of government regulation as far as size and capacity is concerned… but it still doesn’t imply the free range we had in mind.

Why would farmers not comply with the consumer-centric idea of free range? Because this is too expensive! And it isn’t even necessarily the farmer’s fault. With the scrounge to make profits, especially now, it requires way more money that it is worth to raise chickens in a completely free range environment. The government subsidies only go so far.

In one study testing for the microbiological prevelance of Salmonella in free-range chickens, it was found that of the 135 chicken carcasses tested for the bacteria, 31% were tested positive for Salmonella. In fact, in one of the tested lots, 100% of the chickens tested positive! (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16300088?dopt=Abstract) These statistics completely ruin the consumer assumption of these free range chickens being 100% clean. They do present a cleaner option; however, by no means are these free range chickens completely exempt from possible disease and bacterial invasion.

What’s my point? If there were governmentally regulated terminology to standardize the definition of free-range (as has been done with certified organic) there would be much less variability in the quality of meat, dairy, and egg products consumers purchase. Do not have blind faith in that which you buy commercially, go do some research before you buy. You’ll thank yourself as your ignorant buddies heave over the toilet for having blindly accepted those supermarket fallacy terms as indicators of a quality product.

Be careful out there folks. That, or move to Europe. 😉

 

 

Monsanto: Rounding up an agricultural monopoly.

While the name, Monsanto, might not sound immediately familiar, this company has one of the most deep-‘seeded’ successful businesses in the history of American agriculture.Monsanto is the country’s lead producer of the genetically engineered seed, dominating between 70%-100% of the market for a wide variety of crops produced in the country. The company’s monopolization of this industry had created serious problems for the environment, small farm owners, and the health of millions of consumers all over the world.

The company began with its production of ,”Ready Seed Roundup,” one of the most used herbicides in agricultural farming. In order to combat the accidental death of wanted crops with the use of this herbicide, the company created genetically engineered seeds that could withstand the Roundup spray. Seems like the perfect combination, farmers could use the herbicide to get rid of unwanted weeds, while not having to worry about killing off any of their precious crops. The perfect plant, right?

Initially, it seemed like a foolproof plan, however; as the company continued to gain momentum, its success gave it enough power to almost completely take over the entire agricultural industry, bringing with it some severe environmental consequences.

Monsanto Cartoon
Monsanto Cartoon

The Monoculture: Death of Biodiversity: Before the birth of advanced agricultural technology, the United States flourished with endless varieties of fruits and vegetables, all growing in their respective local climates. Agriculture was biodiverse and soil was rich. Now, with the obvious profit benefits of creating an monoculture, that is: The agricultural practice of producing one crop over a large area, has made it almost impossible for other plant and crop species to flourish.

The Consequences? Catastrophic Crop Failure: If this one crop strain becomes affected by a pathogen, that means the entire harvest is gone. No variation=less adaptability to changing environmental conditions.

According to Ag-Journal Online “Statistics show a vastly shrinking innovation in biotech submissions and doubling of time to approval by USDA. Agriculture is in danger of losing its innovation due to single trait crop development many experts think. Roundup Ready herbicide resistance has so dominated the World’s commodity corn and soybean growing areas that few even bother to submit alternative trials. Studies by three major watchdog groups shows innovative biotech plant submissions drying up.”

The company has patented this seed, and made it almost impossible for small farmers to live in peace, without the anxiety of this seed to accidentally become entwined in their crops. The video below, a clip from the documentary, “The Future of Food,” gives some insight about the current situation that exists with Monsanto, its patenting of seeds, and the toll this takes on our environment and the jobs and financial security of small farmers.

To see more of “The Future Of Food” you can purchase a copy from the Grassroots Gourmet Online Store that can be found in the list of links to your left!

Monsanto is developing problems for our environment, economy, and personal health, but these problems are way too vast to try and swallow in one entry, plus, I wouldn’t want to ruin your appetite.

Monsanto posts will be regular, with updates and sections based on the environment, health issues, and economical issues as well.

More news to come..