Synthetic and Natural Additives: What’s Safe?

Are you scared of food additives?

These include things like colors, flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives. Some are as common as baking soda and table sugar, some are less familiar to us such as chymosin or erythorbic acid.

Synthetic vs. natural

Most additives are synthetic compounds but that does not make them inherently less safe than natural compounds.

The toxicity of any compound is determined by its effects in the body, not whether it is synthesized in a lab or produced by a plant.

The dose is also very important. Even something as common as table sale (yes, even sea salt) can cause illness or even death if consumed in excessive amounts.

It’s also interesting to note that many plants contain natural toxins. Some research suggests that we ingest at least 10,000 times more natural plant toxins than synthetic additives or pesticides!

What you need to know

Natural additives aren’t necessarily safer than artificial or synthetic ones.

The FDA regulates the safety of food additives but if you want to lower your intake of additives, read food labels and eat fewer highly processed foods.

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Food Safety Tip: How to Wash Fruits and Veggies

Do you think that food is safe?

Twenty-nine percent of Americans are not too confident or not at all confident in the safety of the U.S. food supply according to the 2013 Food & Health Survey.

When I am the boss of the world, I will make all food safe, healthy, and yummy.

But until then, there are things that you can do to make your own food more safe.

Here’s an easy one:

Wash all of your fruits and vegetables before eating them. Even if you are going to peel them.

Why?

Because it’s easy to transfer icky bacteria from the outside to the inside of your fruits and veggies as you cut or peel them.

Think about it:

You wash your hands.

You grab a clean knife.

You pick up your unwashed orange, crawling with millions of icky germs that too small to see.

Some of the germs crawl onto your hands.

If you peel the orange and then eat it with your hands, some of the germs crawl from your hands to the inside of the orange before you pop the juicy segments into your mouth.

If you cut the orange, your knife will grab some of the germs from the peel and drag them through to the juicy segments.

Juicy segments crawling with germs

Juicy segments crawling with germs

Yuck!

Important life lesson: Wash your hands, knife, and orange before you cut or peel it to avoid eating icky germs.

What’s the best way to wash fruits and veggies?

Here’s how to use super ninja skills to wash all your produce effectively:

  1. Cut away any damaged or bruised areas.
  2. Rinse produce under running water. Don’t use soap, detergent, bleach, or commercial produce washes.
  3. Scrub firm produce—like melons or cucumbers—with a clean produce brush.
  4. Dry produce with a paper towel or clean cloth towel. If you’re eating it right away and don’t mind if it’s a little damp, you can skip this step.

Want to cheat the system?

You can if you buy bagged produce marked pre-washed. It’s safe to use without further washing.

Arsenic in Rice

Hi!

Have you heard that rice is unsafe to eat because it contains arsenic?

Someone recently asked me about this so I did a little research and thought I’d share my findings with you.

Arsenic

Is there arsenic in rice?

First thing you need to know is that long-term exposure to high levels of inorganic arsenic is associated with high rates of cancer.

Two years ago, Dr. Oz set off an alarm about arsenic in apple juice, then concern about arsenic in rice was sparked, and even more recently, researchers found concerning levels arsenic in chicken from an arsenic-based drug. In reality, there are low levels of arsenic in many foods.

Like most foods, there is no limit established for how much arsenic in rice is considered safe. However, the federal limit for bottled and public water is 10 micrograms of inorganic arsenic per liter.

Consumer Reports released a study in September 2012 that looked at the levels of arsenic in 62 rice products. They found inorganic arsenic levels as high as 9.6 micrograms per serving of rice (1/4 uncooked).

They also found that levels where higher in brown rice than white rice. This is likely because the arsenic is more concentrated in the outer layers of the grain that are removed in the processing of white rice.

Is rice safe to eat?

In response to the Consumer Reports study, the FDA commissioned a study to determine whether more stringent regulations were necessary. The FDA found levels of arsenic that supported the findings of Consumer Reports.

Here are a few of the Consumer Reports findings:

  • One brand of brown rice had 9.6 micrograms per serving of rice (1/4 uncooked).
  • Rice pasta and rice syrup had levels close those found in whole rice.
  • Most other rice products such as rice cereal, rice milk, and rice crackers had lower levels.
  • Levels in infant rice cereal were found to be between 0.8 and 2.7 micrograms per serving (1/4 cup uncooked).
  • Remember, the limit for arsenic in water is 10 micrograms per liter.

Based on the data, the FDA does not recommend people change their consumption of rice.

What do I need to know?

Rice, especially whole grain brown rice, provides a number of key nutrients and offers a variety of health benefits. However, as with everything else, moderation is key. It is best to consume a wide variety of grains throughout the week.

Have you heard anything else about food and wondered if it is true?

Is Our Food Safe?

Salmonella in peanut products.

E. Coli in beef.

Listeria in melon.

Food Safety

Are you hungry yet?

Food safety doesn’t usually get me too excited but I have an exciting piece of news to share with you.

The Food Safety Modernization Act

The Food Safety Modernization Act was signed into law by President Obama in 2011. This is pretty much the first major overhaul in the safety of our food system in 70 years.

This is old news. But earlier this month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released two proposed rules designed to focus on preventing problems, rather than reacting to outbreaks. The FDA says that following the rules will prevent 1.75 million cases of foodborne illness a year and save more than $1 billion in costs.

See. I told you it was exciting!

The first rule would require worker safety training and monitoring the presence of animals in the field at  fruit and vegetable farms. The second rule would require food processors to develop and follow detailed plans for preventing contamination of their products.

Proposed Standards for Produce Safety

This rule focuses on prevention of fruit and vegetable contamination through:

  • Agricultural water
  • Biological soil amendments
  • Poor worker hygiene
  • Domesticated and wild animals
  • Equipment, tools and buildings.

Preventive Controls for Human Food

This rule says all food producers will need to develop, submit, and follow a written food safety plan that includes:

  • A hazard analysis
  • Preventive controls
  • Monitoring procedures
  • Corrective action procedures
  • Verification procedures
  • A recall plan.

If you want to learn more about the proposed rules, check out the FDA’s page.

These are currently proposed rules, meaning they are open for public comment until May 16th. To submit a comment, go to http://www.regulations.gov and refer to Docket No. FDA-2011-N-0920.

These proposed rules will take quite a while to implement so in the mean time, don’t forget to take food safety into your own hands and practice food safety at home.

Peace out,

Diana

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