Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Should I be worried about radiation in my food?

On March 22, 2011 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that it would stop all milk products, and vegetable and fruit products imported from the Japan's prefectures of Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Gunma from entering
the U.S. -- a response to public fears about radiation from Japan's crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

This announcement comes despite the agency's repeated assurances that radiation found in foods in Japan was small, and posed no risk to the U.S. food supply.

Since 9/11, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have implemented blanket radiation screenings for nearly all U.S.
imports, including food. The FDA programmed its import tracking systems to flag food shipments from Japan automatically, amid growing contamination concerns after this month's earthquake. But the agency says it will now stop all shipments of milk
products and fruits and vegetables originating from radiation affected areas from entering the U.S. It will detain these products without radiation screening,
according to an FDA spokesperson.

In 2010, the U.S. imported $16.5 billion worth of milk, fruits and vegetables, of which a small fraction -- $6.725 million -- came from Japan, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Most of the imported dairy products are processed foods such as casein and cheese. Imported fruits and vegetables include potatoes, frozen vegetables, citrus fruits and melons.

Source: LA Times 3/22/11

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Save the Environment - Eat an Insect

A bright, engaging man, Mr. Van Dongen is head of the meat department at Sligro, a kind of Costco on the edge of this trim Dutch town. Besides steaks, poultry and others kinds of meat, he offers mealworms, buffalo worms, locusts and other insects, as well as prepared products containing insects like Bugs Sticks and Bugs Nuggets — not for pets, but as a source of protein for people.

On a recent afternoon he arranged two sample stands, one with chunks of chocolate laced with ground mealworms (larvae for a type of beetle), another with various kinds of whole insects for munching, including worms and crickets, in small plastic containers.

At a nearby stand with a Dutch name that translated roughly as the Tasting Garden, there were more insects than garden. While shoppers gazed with puzzled looks, Mr. Van Dongen, 41, warmed up portions of an Asian vegetable dish with crickets mixed in.

Silvia van der Donk tasted some, raised her eyebrows and smiled approvingly.

Her daughter Melanie, 21, recoiled. “I ate locusts once,” she said. “I didn’t like the texture.”

The efforts of Mr. Van Dongen and Sligro, a chain of 25 membership-only warehouse stores throughout the Netherlands, are part of a drive to convince the Dutch that crickets, worms and caterpillars are healthier sources of protein, and are less taxing on the environment, than steaks and pork chops.

Dutch breeders of insects, who until now have supplied the market for pet food — insects for geckos and other lizards, salamanders, newts, frogs, birds or fish — have jumped at an opportunity to open a new market and have founded a trade organization to promote the idea. The government is backing them, and last year it appropriated $1.4 million for research into insects as food, to prepare legislation governing insect farms, health and safety standards, and marketing through retail outlets.

To be sure, the idea is not new. Entomologists in the United States have promoted the idea for decades and produced a newsletter and even cookbooks with titles like “Creepy Crawly Cuisine.”

The Dutch take the food business seriously. One of the world’s largest food companies, Unilever, has roots here, and the Netherlands, though a small country, is a major exporter of food products, including vegetables, meat and fish.

Moreover, it has the backing of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, which warns that the production of meat like beef and pork as sources of protein taxes the environment, estimating that almost one-fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions comes from livestock.

Ms. Peters stresses that insects are already a major source of protein elsewhere in the world. Caterpillars and locusts are popular in Africa, wasps are a delicacy in Japan, crickets are eaten in Thailand. Yet in Europe, as in the United States, most people, except some very young children, consider them, well, pretty disgusting.

Michel van de Ven, 38, and his brother Roland, 40, have been raising insects for 12 years, the last six of them in a large brick barn once used for growing mushrooms. They export 40 percent of their stock to pet shops in Britain, Germany, Portugal and elsewhere; only 1 percent or less goes to supermarkets.

Most of his customers are restaurants, cafes and snack bars. To attract individual shoppers, he places his insect-laced chocolate samples where they will be encountered first. Only then does he display his samples of insects.

“When they see the bugs, they’ve already eaten them in the chocolate,” he said. “Some people scream, ‘Oh, my God!’ But if you do it once, then you do it twice.”

Source: New York Times, March 14, 2011

Thursday, March 3, 2011

What Makes Bamboo So Hard to Get Rid Of?

The roots of the bamboo are made up of rhizomes which are food-storing branches of the underground system of growth. The rhizome is surrounded by a husk-like protective organ called a sheath which attaches basally to each rhizome node. This makes the rhizome very tough and woody so it is hard to dig out. Rhizomes also run under the soil and grow rapidly so it is easy to get more bamboo than you had planned on.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Why Do They Put Those Wipes By the Shopping Carts?

The wipes began to make their appearance when the H1N1 flu was at pandemic levels and continue to be found in many supermarkets today. Researchers from the University of Arizona swabbed shopping cart handles in four states looking for bacterial contamination. Of the 85 carts examined, 72 percent turned out to have a marker for fecal bacteria.

The researchers took a closer look at the samples from 36 carts and discovered Escherichia coli, more commonly known as E. coli, on 50 percent of them — along with a host of other types of bacteria.

“That’s more than you find in a supermarket’s restroom,” said Charles Gerba, the lead researcher on the study and a professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona. “That’s because they use disinfecting cleaners in the restrooms. Nobody routinely cleans and disinfects shopping carts.”

The study’s results may explain earlier research that found that kids who rode in shopping carts were more likely than others to develop infections caused by bacteria such as salmonella and campylobacter, Gerba said.

Shopping cart handles aren’t the only thing you need to worry about when you go to the local supermarket, Gerba added. In other research, he’s found that reusable shopping bags that aren’t regularly washed turn into bacterial swamps. “It’s like wearing the same underwear every day,” Gerba said.

The best way to keep kids safe, Gerba said, is to swipe the shopping cart handle with a disinfecting wipe before you pop your kid into the basket.

Source:Linda Carroll at 3/1/2011