Friday, May 28, 2010

Avocados: Heart-healthy aphrodisiac

Avocados, a staple in Mexico and Central and South America, were considered an aphrodisiac by the Aztecs, who called the pear-shaped fruit ahuacate. Avocados were first grown in the U.S. early in 20th century.

In the 1920s, farmers changed the name to avocado because ahuacate was difficult for Americans to pronounce. Worse yet, it is the Aztec word for testicle. As it turns out, the ancient Aztecs may have been onto something!

Few would argue that good health is essential for good sex. Food affects how we feel and function, and one of the best ways to build sexual health is through good nutrition.

Avocados contain many nutrients considered essential to sexual health, such as vitamin E. Sometimes called the “sex vitamin,” Vitamin E is believed to promote the production of sex hormones, which support attraction, mood and desire. Avocados are also rich in vitamin B6 and potassium, which are essential for the production of sex hormones.

It’s true that avocados are high in fat, however most of the fat is monounsaturated like that found in olive oil, which can actually help lower blood cholesterol.1 Avocados are a good source of potassium and folate, nutrients important to circulation and heart health and good circulation is essential for erectile health.

Avocados are also rich in phytonutrients including cholesterol-lowering beta-sitosterol2 and the antioxidant glutathione. Evidence suggests that beta-sitosterol may also help prevent certain cancers, including prostate cancer.3

The avocado is a fruit that is often thought of as a vegetable. It adds a creamy texture and rich green hue to dips, salads, and sandwiches.

The chunky avocado salsa, below, combines diced avocado with colorful tomatoes, red bell peppers, and chilies. Researchers have found that avocado enhances the absorption of phytonutrients in carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables, such as bell peppers and tomatoes.4

Note: Individuals with a latex allergy should avoid avocados as they may experience a reaction (sometimes severe), caused by the similarity of allergens in avocados and natural latex.

Chunky avocado salsa

This delicious dip gets its zip from tasty and convenient Mexican stewed tomatoes and is lower in fat than traditional guacamole.

6 servings

* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 3 medium scallions with 2” green, thinly sliced (1/2 cup)
* 1 stalk celery, chopped
* ½ cup diced red bell pepper
* ½ cup diced jicama
* 1 (or 2) serrano pepper, chopped (to taste)
* 1 ripe large Hass avocado, diced
* Juice of one lime
* 1 (14 ½ ounce can) Mexican stewed tomatoes, diced
* ½ cup fresh or frozen white corn
* ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
* Hot pepper sauce, to taste

In a medium bowl, combine garlic, scallions, celery, bell pepper, jicama,* chilies, avocado, and lime juice. Add tomatoes, corn, cilantroc and hot pepper sauce. Serve immediately.

*Jicama is a round root vegetable with mild flavored, crunchy white flesh. Simply peel away the brown skin and dice.
Chunky avocado salsa
Nutrition analysis per serving: 1 cup
Calories = 85
Protein = 2g
Carbohydrate = 13g
Fiber = 4g
Total fat = 4g
Sat Fat = 0.5g
Cholesterol = 0mg
Calcium = 30mg
Sodium = 262mg

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The new Dirty Dozen: 12 foods to eat organic and avoid pesticide residue

Fruits and veggies are an essential part of a healthy diet, but many conventional varieties contain pesticide residues.

And not all the pesticides used to kill bugs, grubs, or fungus on the farm washes off under the tap at home. Government tests show which fruits and vegetables, prepared typically at home, still have a pesticide residue.

You can reduce your exposure to pesticides by as much as 80% if you avoiding the most contaminated foods in the grocery store.

To do so, you need the latest info from the why the Environmental Working Group's "Dirty Dozen" list of foods most likely to have high pesticide residues. Since 1995, the organization has taken the government data and identified which type of produce has the most chemicals.

This year, celery takes the number one spot and both blueberries and spinach make an appearance (displacing lettuce and pears).

The best way to avoid pesticide residue on foods is to buy organic produce -- USDA rules prohibit the use of pesticides on any crop with the certified organic label.

Here's a closer look at the 2010 Dirty Dozen:

1. Celery
Celery has no protective skin, which makes it almost impossible to wash off the chemicals (64 of them!) that are used on crops. Buy organic celery, or choose alternatives like broccoli, radishes, and onions.

2. Peaches
Multiple pesticides (as many as 62 of them) are regularly applied to these delicately skinned fruits in conventional orchards. Can't find organic? Safer alternatives include watermelon, tangerines, oranges, and grapefruit.

3. Strawberries
If you buy strawberries, especially out of season, they're most likely imported from countries that have less-stringent regulations for pesticide use. 59 pesticides have been detected in residue on strawberries. Can't find organic? Safer alternatives include kiwi and pineapples.

4. Apples
Like peaches, apples are typically grown with poisons to kill a variety of pests, from fungi to insects. Tests have found 42 different pesticides as residue on apples. Scrubbing and peeling doesn't eliminate chemical residue completely, so it's best to buy organic when it comes to apples. Peeling a fruit or vegetable also strips away many of their beneficial nutrients. Can't find organic? Safer alternatives include watermelon, bananas, and tangerines.

5. Blueberries
New on the Dirty Dozen list in 2010, blueberries are treated with as many as 52 pesticides, making them one of the dirtiest berries on the market.

6. Nectarines
With 33 different types of pesticides found on nectarines, they rank up there with apples and peaches among the dirtiest tree fruit. Can't find organic? Safer alternatives include, watermelon, papaya, and mango.

7. Bell peppers
Peppers have thin skins that don't offer much of a barrier to pesticides. They're often heavily sprayed with insecticides. (Tests have found 49 different pesticides on sweet bell peppers.) Can't find organic? Safer alternatives include green peas, broccoli, and cabbage.

8. Spinach
New on the list for 2010, spinach can be laced with as many as 48 different pesticides, making it one of the most contaminated green leafy vegetable.

9. Kale
Traditionally, kale is known as a hardier vegetable that rarely suffers from pests and disease, but it was found to have high amounts of pesticide residue when tested this year. Can't find organic? Safer alternatives include cabbage, asparagus, and broccoli.

10. Cherries
Even locally grown cherries are not necessarily safe. In fact, in one survey in recent years, cherries grown in the U.S. were found to have three times more pesticide residue then imported cherries. Government testing has found 42 different pesticides on cherries. Can't find organic? Safer alternatives include raspberries and cranberries.

11. Potatoes
America's popular spud reappears on the 2010 Dirty Dozen list, after a year hiatus. America's favorite vegetable can be laced with as many as 37 different pesticides. Can't find organic? Safer alternatives include eggplant, cabbage, and earthy mushrooms.

12. Grapes
Imported grapes run a much greater risk of contamination than those grown domestically. Only imported grapes make the 2010 Dirty Dozen list. Vineyards can be sprayed with different pesticides during different growth periods of the grape, and no amount of washing or peeling will eliminate contamination because of the grape's thin skin. Remember, wine is made from grapes, which testing shows can harbor as many as 34 different pesticides. Can't find organic? Safer alternatives include kiwi and raspberries.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Make your greens last longer

To be lean, eat lots of greens and follow these tips for keeping them fresh and spending less of your “green” on them.
At the market:

* For loose greens: Put your hand down into the plastic bag and then grab the greens with it. Pull the bag from the top down over the greens and release your hand. It’s a quicker, drier way to get wet or over-sized bunches of greens into the bag.
* For prepackaged greens or salad: Choose greens packaged in a plastic clamshell container as they last much longer if purchased in these than in the bags.

When you get home:

* Take a second to remove the twist-tie from your bunches of greens when you bring them home to prevent damage and aging caused by the metal wire.
* It’s worthwhile to rinse the greens, shake them to remove some of the moisture, and then roll them in a clean cotton dishtowel or a clean cotton pillowcase. The fabric will become damp, which is good. Put this rolled setup into the vegetable crisper for quick and easy, access to prepped greens. This will extend the freshness for many days.
* If you purchase a single or multi-pack of romaine lettuce, break off the core at the bottom of each head, wash the leaves, and put them into a white cotton pillowcase and into the crisper. Again, damp is good. This works for any lettuce, but you will be amazed by how the flavor of romaine improves when stored this way.
* To extend the life of salad greens in plastic clamshell containers, add a dry paper towel to the greens to absorb the moisture, which collects over time inside the container. I usually put the towel at the top because that’s where the condensation tends to form, but sometimes the greens begin to go soggy toward the bottom, and I’ll add a fresh one there.
* Recycle large plastic clamshell containers within your kitchen. They are perfect for storing prepackaged salad greens. The greens will last days longer in hard containers like this or in any glass or hard plastic container than they will in plastic bags.

For meals:

* Prepare crisp salads with simple dressings such as, lemon juice and olive oil, or use large leaves of chard to wrap up healthful fillings instead of tortillas.

Adios soggy, spoiled greens!

Sherry Brooks is a healthy, happy and trim “frugalista” living the lean and green life near Malibu in sunny southern California.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Environmental causes of cancer "grossly underestimated"

The President's Cancer Panel on Thursday reported that "the true burden of environmentally induced cancers has been grossly underestimated" and strongly urged action to reduce people's widespread exposure to carcinogens.

The panel advised President Obama "to use the power of your office to remove the carcinogens and other toxins from our food, water, and air that needlessly increase health care costs, cripple our nation's productivity, and devastate American lives."

The 240-page report by the President's Cancer Panel is the first to focus on environmental causes of cancer. The panel, created by an act of Congress in 1971, is charged with monitoring the multi-billion-dollar National Cancer Program and reports directly to the President every year.

Environmental exposures "do not represent a new front in the ongoing war on cancer. However, the grievous harm from this group of carcinogens has not been addressed adequately by the National Cancer Program," the panel said in its letter to Obama that precedes the report. "The American people – even before they are born – are bombarded continually with myriad combinations of these dangerous exposures."

The panel, appointed by President Bush, told President Obama that the federal government is missing the chance to protect people from cancer by reducing their exposure to carcinogens. In its letter, the panel singled out bisphenol A, a chemical used in polycarbonate plastic and can linings that is unregulated in the United States, as well as radon, formaldehyde and benzene.

Environmental health scientists were pleased by the findings, saying it embraces everything that they have been saying for years.

Richard Clapp, a professor of environmental health at Boston University's School of Public Health and one of the nation's leading cancer epidemiologists, called the report "a call to action."

Environmental and occupational exposures contribute to "tens of thousands of cancer cases a year," Clapp said. "If we had any calamity that produced tens of thousands of deaths or serious diseases, that’s a national emergency in my view."

The two-member panel – Dr. LaSalle D. Lefall, Jr., a professor of surgery at Howard University and Margaret Kripke, a professor at University of Texas' M.D. Anderson Cancer Center – was appointed by President Bush to three-year terms.

Lefall and Kripke concluded that action is necessary, even though in many cases there is scientific uncertainty about whether certain chemicals cause cancer. That philosophy, called the precautionary principle, is highly controversial among scientists, regulators and industry.

"The increasing number of known or suspected environmental carcinogens compels us to action, even though we may currently lack irrefutable proof of harm," Lefall, who is chair of the panel, said in a statement.

The two panelists met with nearly 50 medical experts in late 2008 and early 2009 before writing their report to the president. Cyclist and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong previously served on the panel, but did not work on this year's report.

The report recommends raising consumer awareness of the risks posed by chemicals in food, air, water and consumer products, bolstering research of the health effects and tightening regulation of chemicals that might cause cancer or other diseases.

They also urged doctors to use caution in prescribing CT scans and other medical imaging tests that expose patients to large amounts of radiation. In 2007, 69 million CT scans were performed, compared with 18 million in 1993. Patients who have a chest CT scan receive a dose of radiation in the same range as survivors of the Hiroshima atomic bomb attacks who were less than half a mile from ground zero, the report says.

The panel also criticized the U.S. military, saying that "it is a major source of toxic occupational and environmental exposures that can increase cancer risk." Examples cited include Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, where carcinogenic solvents contaminate drinking water, and Vietnam veterans with increased lymphomas, prostate cancer and other cancers from thier exposure to the herbicide Agent Orange.

Overall cancer rates and deaths have declined in the United States. Nevertheless, about 41 percent of all Americans still will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime, and about 21 percent will die from it, according to the National Cancer Institute's SEER Cancer Statistics Review. In 2009 alone, about 1.5 million new cases were diagnosed.

For the past 30 years, federal agencies and institutes have estimated that environmental pollutants cause about 2 percent of all cancers and that occupational exposures may cause 4 percent.

But the panel called those estimates "woefully out of date." The panel criticized regulators for using them to set environmental regulations and lambasted the chemical industry for using them "to justify its claims that specific products pose little or no cancer risk."

The report said the outdated estimates fail to take into account many newer discoveries about people's vulnerability to chemicals. Many chemicals interact with each other, intensifying the effect, and some people have a genetic makeup or early life exposure that makes them susceptible to environmental contaminants.

"It is not known exactly what percentage of all cancers either are initiated or promoted by an environmental trigger," the panel said in its report. "Some exposures to an environmental hazard occur as a single acute episode, but most often, individual or multiple harmful exposures take place over a period of weeks, months, year, or a lifetime."

Boston University's Clapp was one of the experts who spoke to the panel in 2008. "We know enough now to act in ways that we have not done...Act on what we know," he told them.

“There are lots of places where we can move forward here. Lots of things we can act on now," such as military base cleanups and reducing use of CT scans, Clapp said in an interview.

Dr. Ted Schettler, director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, called the report an “integrated and comprehensive critique.” He was glad that the panel underscored that regulatory agencies should reduce exposures even when absolute proof of harm was unavailable.

Also, "they recognized that exposures happen in mixtures, not in isolation" and that children are most vulnerable.

“Some people are disproportionately exposed and disproportionately vulnerable," said Schettler, whose group was founded by environmental groups to urge the use of science to address public health issues related to the environment.

Schettler said it "took courage" for the panel to warn physicians about the cancer risk posed by CT scans, particularly for young children.

“It’s almost become routine for kids with abdominal pain to get a CT scan" to check for appendicitis, he said. Although the scans may lead to fewer unnecessary surgeries, doctors should consider the high doses of radiation. “I'm very glad this panel took that on," Schettler said.

Another sensitive issue raised in the report was the risk of brain cancer from cell phones. Scientists are divided on whether there is a link.

Until more research is conducted, the panel recommended that people reduce their usage by making fewer and shorter calls, using hands-free devices so that the phone is not against the head and refraining from keeping a phone on a belt or in a pocket.

Even if cell phones raise the risk of cancer slightly, so many people are exposed that "it could be a large public health burden," Schettler said.

The panel listed a variety of carcinogenic compounds that many people routinely encounter. Included are benzene and other petroleum-based pollutants in vehicle exhaust, arsenic in water supplies, chromium from plating companies, formaldehyde in kitchen cabinets and other plywood, bisphenol A in plastics and canned foods, tetrachloroethylene at dry cleaners, PCBs in fish and other foods and various pesticides.

Chemicals and contaminants might trigger cancer by a variety of means. They can damage DNA, disrupt hormones, inflame tissues, or turn genes on or off.

"Some types of cancer are increasing rapidly," Clapp said, including thyroid, kidney and liver cancers. Others, including lung and breast cancer, have declined.

Previous reports by the President's Cancer Panel have focused largely on treatment and more well-known causes of cancer such as diet or smoking.

Some experts are concerned that the report might just sit on a shelf at the White House. But Clapp said the findings are so strongly stated that he is confident the report will be useful to some policymakers, legislators and groups that want tougher occupational health standards or other regulations.

“We’re not going to get any better than this," Clapp said. “This goes farther than what I thought the President's Cancer Panel would go. I’m pleased that they went as far as they did."

Environmental health scientists said they hope the report raises not just the President's awareness of environmental threats, but the public's, since most people are unaware of the dangers.
“This report has stature," Schettler said. “It is a report that goes directly to the president.”

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Three easy steps to eating green

Eating Green is at the heart of the green revolution and can be the most important contribution you can make toward preserving the planet.

Research published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that vegetarian diets protect the environment, reduce pollution and minimize global warming.¹ Eating a plant-based diet is a healthful triple play with numerous benefits for the planet and its people, our waterways and wildlife.

What could be greener than plants? The average American diet requires the production of an extra ton and a half of greenhouse gases when compared to a vegan diet.² Both the burning of fossil fuels during food production and the non-carbon dioxide emissions associated with livestock and animal waste, contribute to the problem.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, (IPCC) Non-CO2 greenhouse gases are a significant contributor to climate change.³

Eating green can be as easy as one, two, three! Every plant-based meal you consume can be an adventure and exploring delicious new foods also helps reduce pollution. While many find it most effective to drop all animal products at once, others find that a gradual approach is best for their family.

* “Meatless Monday.” Eating green one or two days a week is a great way to explore how easy and delicious it can be. Start with vegetarian meals that you may already enjoy. Dishes such as Pasta Primavera, Bean Burritos or vegetable stew with a side of salad and crusty bread are satisfying and very tasty. Try these quick and easy Asparagus Wraps

* Choose a few of your favorite recipes and adapt them. With a few simple adjustments, you can transform some of the meals that you make most often into a healthier and more eco-friendly version. You can replace poultry or beef with seitan, tofu or tempeh in just about any dish. Use soymilk in place of cow’s milk one-for-one in any recipe and it is delicious on cereal, too! Explore healthy foods like hummus and tofu. Some find a more gradual approach fits their lifestyle more easily. A lot of people choose to drop one class of food at a time with a one or two week interval. Most choose to begin by eliminating beef, then poultry, followed by fish and lastly, dairy and eggs. Here’s a delicious dish: Louisiana Stuffed Potatoes with Cajun Cream Sauce

* Give it a try for 30 days. This can be a great opportunity to experience the effect this healthful regimen has on your body. Most are surprised at how easy it is and how soon they begin to feel really good. It is not uncommon to notice an increase in clarity, energy and endurance. You may realize that you’ve lost a few pounds and require less sleep. The surprise for most is that adopting a vegetarian lifestyle is easy, saves money and improves overall physical wellbeing.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Four myths about eggs

Choosing eggs is not nearly as simple as it should be. After all, the average egg weighs about 2 ounces. How many decisions can you possibly have to make for something so small and seemingly simple? Well, let’s see: Brown or white? Large or small? Organic or not?

And those decisions are just the tip of the iceberg. Egg cartons can be stamped with any number of labels, some meaningful, others not so much.

It's not always easy to separate fact from fiction when it comes to eggs. Below are some of the most common misperceptions.

Myth: Brown eggs are different than white.

Fact: The only difference between a brown and white egg is the color of the shell, which is merely a reflection of the breed of the hen. In general, but not always, hens with white feathers and earlobes lay white eggs and those with dark feathers and red earlobes lay brown eggs.

One isn’t healthier, more “natural,” or more eco-friendly than the other. There aren’t any differences in nutritional quality, flavor, or cooking characteristics.

Myth: Free-range eggs come from hens that roam freely outdoors.

Fact: The claims are not regulated for eggs, according to Consumer Reports. So there is no guarantee that the hen that laid the eggs ever saw the light of day. Of course, it may have spent time outdoors, but the “free range” label doesn’t mean anything. The following labels are also meaningless when it comes to eggs: “free roaming,” “hormone free,” and “raised without antibiotics.”

Myth: Organic eggs are healthier.

Fact: They certainly can be, but it all depends on the chicken’s diet. Organic eggs come from hens that are fed a 100-percent organic diet. However, what really matters when it comes to nutrition is whether the hens were raised on pasture. Studies, such as those conducted at Penn State University and by Mother Earth News, found that eggs from chickens that ate grass and insects contained higher levels of omega-3 fat, and vitamins E, A, and in some cases D.

If you want eggs from hens that are raised on pasture or spend a lot of time outdoors, then you’ll have to find a farmer you trust at your local farmers’ market.

Myth: Egg substitutes are simply eggs (or egg whites) without the shells.

Fact: Most products have added stabilizers, thickeners, vitamins, carotenes, and, sometimes, spices, according to Marion Nestle, author of What to Eat. She also points out that they cost about twice as much as real eggs. (A pound of egg substitutes weighs slightly less than a dozen small eggs.)

Of course, if you can’t eat egg yolks for health reasons or have no use for them, egg substitutes are a good option, and most products only have a tiny percentage of additives. Just read the labels before buying.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Nine ways to reduce cancer risk

In its annual President's Report on Cancer, a high-level government panel said that exposure to common chemicals like Bisphenol A and formaldehyde, and to radiation from medical exams were causing cancers at a rate that was "grossly underestimated." The Environmental Working Group offers these nine ways to reduce cancer risk:

Four of every 10 Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes, and two of every 10 will die of it. But there are some things you can do to reduce the risk. First, talk to your doctor about lifestyle changes that are known to make a difference – stopping smoking, reducing drinking, losing weight, exercising and eating right.

But according to a new report from the President’s Cancer Panel, environmental toxins also play a significant and under-recognized role in cancer, causing “grievous harm” to untold numbers of people. Environmental Working Group’s own research has found that children are born “pre-polluted” with up to 200 industrial chemicals, pesticides and contaminants that have been found to cause cancer in lab studies or in people.

Here are some simple things you can do to reduce your exposures:

1. Filter your tap water.
Common carcinogens in tap water include arsenic, chromium, and chemical byproducts that form when water is disinfected. A simple carbon filter or pitcher can help reduce the levels of these contaminants. If your water is polluted with arsenic or chromium, a reverse osmosis filter will help. Learn about your tap water and home water filters at EWG’s National Tap Water Database.

2. Seal outdoor wooden decks and play sets.
Those built before 2005 are coated with an arsenic pesticide that can stick to hands and clothing.

3. Cut down on stain- and grease-proofing chemicals.
"Fluorochemicals" related to Teflon and Scotchgard are used in stain repellants on carpets and couches and in greaseproof coatings for packaged and fast foods. To avoid them, avoid greasy packaged foods and say no to optional stain treatments in the home. Download EWG’s Guide to PFCs.

4. Stay safe in the sun.
More than one million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year. To protect your skin from the sun’s cancer-causing ultraviolet (UV) radiation, seek shade, wear protective clothing and use a safe and effective sunscreen from EWG’s sunscreen database, or check out The Daily Green's list of 14 safe, natural sunscreens.

5. Cut down on fatty meat and high-fat dairy products.
Long-lasting cancer-causing pollutants like dioxins and PCBs accumulate in the food chain and concentrate in animal fat. Try one of these vegetarian recipes even a meat-eater can love.

6. Eat EWG’s Clean 15. Many pesticides have been linked to cancer. Eating from EWG’s Clean 15 list of the least contaminated fruits and vegetables will help cut your pesticide exposures. (And for EWG’s Dirty Dozen, buy organic.) Learn more at EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides, and check out the dirty dozen foods most likely to have high pesticide residue.

7. Cut your exposures to BPA.
Bisphenol-A (BPA) is a synthetic estrogen found in some hard plastic water bottles, canned infant formula, and canned foods. It may increase the risk of reproductive system cancers. To avoid it, eat fewer canned foods, breast feed your baby or use powdered formula, and choose water bottles free of BPA.

8. Avoid carcinogens in cosmetics.
Use EWG’s Skin Deep cosmetic database to find products free of chemicals known or suspected to cause cancer. When you’re shopping, don’t buy products that list ingredients with “PEG” or “-eth” in their name. Check out more safe makeup tips, from Stacy Malkan, of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, and see the 8 Commandments of Natural Beauty.

9. Read the warnings.
Some products list warnings of cancer risks – read the label before you buy. Californians will see a “Proposition 65” warning label on products that contain chemicals the state has identified as cancer-causing.

Friday, May 14, 2010

New Lettuce Recall: Is "E. coli" Lurking at the Salad Bar?

Here's another reason to make your own lunch: Freshway Food is conducting a voluntary recall of products containing romaine lettuce sold under the Freshway and Imperial Sysco brand. These products were sold to food service outlets, wholesale and in-store retail salad bars and delis and are being recalled due to a potential Escherichia coli O145 bacteria (E. coli O145) contamination.

Caroline Smith DeWaal, Food Safety Director for The Center for Science in the Public Interest, wrote in a statement, "Freshway is conducting this recall on a voluntary basis, because – even with the presence of this serious food safety hazard – FDA lacks the ability to order a recall. Giving the FDA mandatory recall authority is another reason why the Senate should bring S. 510, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, to the floor without further delay."

According to the FDA's statement, "the recalled romaine lettuce products were sold to wholesalers and food service outlets in the following states east of the Mississippi river: Alabama, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. The recalled romaine products were also sold for distribution to in-store salad bars and delis for Kroger, Giant Eagle, Ingles Markets, and Marsh stores in the states listed." Consumers who did purchase romaine at the in-store salad bars or delis listed should throw the product away.

Other than salad bars and delis, the recall does not include any romaine lettuce that an individual consumer might purchase in a supermarket. So go ahead and make yourself a salad, but it's important to remember to wash your fruits and vegetables well, recall or not. Take a look at our tips for Preventing Food-Borne Illness before you dig into your homemade salad.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Eat safe food: Follow these tips

There are far too many reports of contaminated foods. Lettuce is the most recent example. But spinach, peanut butter, baby formula, and several other foods have been recalled over the past couple of years alone.

The main culprit is the lack of a comprehensive food safety system in the U.S. That said, there are some simple things we can all do when we're preparing food to help ensure that we're eating the safest food possible.

Food expert Marion Nestle (a professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, and author of several books including What to Eat and Safe Food) dispenses helpful tips in her informative answers to the following questions:

Are we seeing more cases of food contamination, and if so, why?

I'm not sure we are seeing more contamination; it's just that the incidents affect more people in more places. This is a consequence of our increasingly centralized food production system. A food contaminated in one location gets distributed throughout the country.
Marion Nestle

What can consumers do to protect themselves from food contamination?

Fortunately, cooking solves a lot of food safety problems.

Following standard food safety rules at home makes good sense for everyone. These are:

* Keep hot foods hot.
* Refrigerate foods.
* Separate raw from cooked foods.
* Keep food preparation surfaces and utensils clean.
* Wash anything that will be eaten raw.
* Cook everything else long enough to kill potentially harmful microbes. (The higher the temperature, the faster bugs get killed.)

The basic principles are simple: Microbes proliferate at warm temperatures, refrigeration slows down proliferation, and cooking kills everything.

What are high-risk foods, and what can consumers do to protect themselves when dealing with these foods?

These days anything uncooked is high risk.

The problems with the contaminated spinach would have been solved easily by blanching the spinach for a minute in boiling water.

Can buying local and/or organic foods offer protection againt foodborne illness?

It is perfectly possible for locally grown food to be contaminated, but if it is, it will affect far fewer people. There is no reason to think that organic produce should have fewer or more contaminants than industrial produce, and studies have shown them to be much the same.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Seven nontoxic and pet-friendly garden remedies

It’s that time of year to begin gardening, and we always seem to encounter a few hiccups after the winter.

In my landscaping business, we specialize in pet-friendly yards and encourage others to use natural remedies to eliminate pests and other gardening problems that you may encounter.
Seven helpful hints to combat common garden headaches

1. Aphids (plant lice): Fill a water spritzer with water and two tablespoons of dishwashing liquid. Spray the plant, particularly on the underside of the leaves where mites hide. For large-scale infestations, place up to 4 tablespoons of dishwashing liquid in a hose end sprayer and douse the affected plant focusing on the underside of the leaves. Place aluminum foil at the base of your plants to deter aphids. The foil will reflect light onto the leaf bottoms and scare the aphids away. Plants that discourage aphids are chives, marigolds, mint, basil, and cilantro.

2. Deer: Place some soap shavings or used cat litter along the ground to create a boundary between the deer-grazing area and your garden. Also try hanging a salt lick in their path to distract them from your plants. Blood meal also deters them but must be reapplied if it rains or is irrigated.

3. Natural herbicide: Vinegar (any type of vinegar) acts like an herbicide. Apply when temperatures are above 70°, and you will see its affect within a week or two.

4. Mice: Peppermint, mint or cloves will deter mice and rats. You can either plant mint, (careful, it’s very invasive!) or soak strings in mint essential oils and place around areas where mice frequent. This technique is especially helpful in areas around compost bins. Eliminating food sources will also deter rodents, as will adopting a shelter cat, of course.

5. Rabbits: Sprinkle chili pepper around plants (it must be reapplied if it gets wet). Install oven racks around plants. Rabbits tend to dislike their texture and the way that the racks feel on their feet. Thorny or textured plants will also deter rabbits. Choose plants such as, lavender, sage, barberry and evergreens.

6. Ticks and fleas: Mint and lavender deter fleas and ticks. Also, install cedar chips in your garden. They smell great to you … but not to fleas and ticks!

7. Wake up your lawn with this tonic:
1 can beer (not light beer)
1 cup ammonia, regular household strength
1 cup plain liquid dish soap, not liquid detergent or antibacterial
1 cup any brand liquid lawn fertilizer
1 cup molasses or corn syrup: provides sugar and carbs; molasses also contains iron, which promotes greening process

Combine ingredients in a 20-gallon hose-end sprayer and apply evenly to the entire lawn in early mornings or late evenings.

It’s best to apply after mowing. Applications may be done every two weeks during the entire growing season.

t’s that time of year to