Monthly Archives: September 2010

Wishful thinking-a food supply free of contaminants

I find the slew of  recalls filling up my inbox curious for what is lacking, kosher products, the absence of which, has peaked my curiosity.   Are Kosher products as susceptible to contamination?      To answer this question I reviewed my list of recent recalls and from my, admittedly limited, perspective, I have been not been able to find many, so it would appear not.   The most recent   concerned possible traces from the latex of rubber gloves used in handling meat at an Australian Kosher butcher’s minced meat.   The company issued a beef recall this past June.

Kosher cuts are from the more sanitary body parts, torso and above only, which implies decreased  incidence of e. coli bacteria.     In addition, feed composition must also be void of non-kosher ingredients, likely a heathier, less contaminated, lethal diet for livestock.    Even produce must be washed more stringently because ingestion of bugs is against Kosher dietary laws.   Now, that’s an easy commandment to abide by: Thou shall let no bug, nor vermin cross thy lips!

Logically I conclude that all this stricter supervision ups the integrity quotient of the goods.   I’m not alone in that conclusion; 85% of customers purchasing Kosher products are not kosher observant, but include Vegan/Vegetarian, food allergic/intolerant, Organic, and Halal observant, who account for 16% of kosher product sales. This infrequent recall rate  among kosher products makes me wonder why the FDA hasn’t made such supervision standards law, it would greatly enhance the safety and integrity of our food supply.

This corn is no field of dreams

I read the Princeton study about high fructose corn syrup in the NY Times blog today and have to remind myself that often researchers miss the forest for the trees, as the saying goes.  The author’s column was about how  HFCS was being maligned, in the opinion of manufacturers, when sugar was just as bad for the public.    As a solution to this undeserved reputation, members of the Corn Refiner’s Association were considering changing the name of the ingredient to corn sugar.  But here’s the distinct difference, sugar is not processed, and corn syrup is “heavily processed using enzymes to turn cornstarch into glucose and then fructose” .     This process, and the fact that its subsidized so more profitable to peddle,  has afforded its status as the manufacturers’ sweetner of choice, and they pour it into 50% of the products on store shelves.  The study measured only obesity, but we are seeing other side affects worthy of study; a large number of  our subscribers are  ‘corn allergic”, something  almost unheard of 25 years ago.

While I can’t shed light on what in HFCS causes such reaction,  I can attest that it is on the rise, likely due to its inclusion in so many products, making it very difficult to avoid, and the fact that corn is often genetically modified/altered.     Too bad the researchers did not find that relevent, nor did they choose to isolate one of the many “processing enzymes” in any of the control groups.    But the real danger in this study or debate is not determining which sweetner is worse; they both lead to obesity in mass quantities, but that its a distraction from the real culprit, the amount of sweetners manufacturers add to our products.  Just as Joe Camel’s cartoon image was struck from airwaves and billboards for fear of exploiting children, similar measures must be taken with cartoon “pushers”of addictive sugar products.

MORE Celiac symptoms and misdiagnosis

I recently had to rent a car and the young man filling out my paperwork started chatting about how he had missed a semester at Buffalo due to recently diagnosed Celiac Disease.  Away at college and without parents to monitor his physical appearance, he lost nearly 20 lbs on his slender frame, felt week and easily bruised, and was continually exhausted.   Upon returning for Spring Break, his parents kept him home for the remainder of the semester as they sought a diagnosis.  He was just beginning to adapt to the challenges of a gluten free diet and said what a burden it is.   I interpretted this as my cue to introduce  and demo ScanAvert right in the rental car office.   In good turn, he explained some cool features on  Google Maps that I wasn’t aware of.   As I left in my “mid-size” rental [lie!] I could hear him excitedly telling his mom all about his cool new app and how he had met the ‘girl who developed it in person!’.   So what started out as a bad day after some guy smacked into my car, ended on a positive note with two new customers, and best of all, I was referred to as a ‘girl’!

A few days later, I bumped into a friend who told me her daughter, also away at school,  was suffering from a myriad of symptoms and had recently been diagnosed with Celiac Disease.  Once again, I demo’d ScanAvert on a can of soup-shameless of me, but unlike the young man above, she sought help.  The physician told her that perhaps if she lost a few pounds that might  alleviate her symptoms.  Knowing the young woman, I can attest she is a beautiful girl around 5’9″ and 135, not overweight by any measure, so such recommendation is irresponsible and outrageous.  Within two months, she had lost 30 lbs, her hair was falling out, she had lost all color in her complexion, developed cysts on her spine, and bruising.    Additional visits to her college health center left her with antibiotics and a diagnosis of Mono, then Epstien’s Bar.    She was later referred for psychological evaluation under the assumption of an eating disorder.

Like the student above, her parents were shocked by the ill-stricken sight of their formerly healthy child and kept her out for the remainder of the year while they searched for a cure and diagnosis that ran the gamut of tests from MS to Cancer, and many sleepless, fearful nights for her and her family, before receiving a diagnosis of Celiac Disease.  This was a complete shock  as they had not heard of any occurence in their family, however upon further investigation and documentation of family symptoms, it was discovered that these symptoms plagued young female members on her father’s side of the family, albiet undiagnosed.   She quickly adapted to her new diet and new life commitment and returned to her former healthy self  within a couple months, and is now back at school.   Even better, so did other family members and they are all improving.

In an earlier post I had documented frequent misdiagnosis of teens so this is similar with one frightening distinction; no parents around to observe the changes and spring to action.     There is nothing wrong with hounding your kids about their health when you can’t see them and most importantly, equip your PC with video cam/chat so you can see for yourself any changes; exercise great care not to visibly cringe at the heaps of unwashed laundry, or stacks of petri dish-like  leftovers behind them.