chemicals in food

  1. Are chemicals in food safe?

    On tonight's menu, chemical-soaked chicken

    When you open a package of "fresh" supermarket chicken, the first thing you probably notice -- besides the chicken -- is the liquid oozing out of it, the chemicals in food.

    It's not chicken blood, even if it might be pink-ish in color. It's not chicken "juice" either.

    In most cases, it's what's left of factory processing -- because after slaughter, U.S. chickens are sprayed with and even soaked in water that contains chemicals such as chlorine and peracetic acid.

    And under proposed new USDA rules to allow for faster and more efficient processing, chicken meat could be exposed to even higher levels, which means more chemicals in food.

    The soaks and rinses are supposed to help clean the chickens as they whizz by on the factory line, killing bacteria and rinsing off fecal matter and other filth. But it's not exactly doing a bang-up job. Recent tests found germs -- including drug-resistant superbugs -- on 39 percent of supermarket chicken samples.

    And along with not killing germs, the chemicals in food could be doing a number on your health. Factory workers are reporting asthma, burns, rashes, and more from working with these chemicals, and there's been at least one death linked to their use in poultry processing.

    The USDA says it doesn't know what the safe level of exposure is for food -- that's for the FDA to decide. The FDA says the amounts used in poultry processing are perfectly safe -- but that's not based on independent research.

    That's based on data provided by the chemical companies.

    This means you should make it your goal to find chickens that have been treated with the least amount of chemicals possible -- or, better yet, none at all.

    And that's no easy task.

    Buying organic can reduce the risk, but it's no guarantee of an untreated chicken. For now, you can look for "air chilled" chickens, which hung in cold rooms after being sprayed instead of left to soak in chemicals baths leaving traces of chemicals in food. As a result, they may have lower residual levels.

    However, under the newly proposed rules, air-chilled chickens could get sprayed with more chemicals, so they may not be the safer option for much longer.

    Short of raising chickens yourself, your best bet is to buy organic chicken direct from a small poultry farm or from a butcher who can tell you about the chickens and how they're treated and prepared.

    I'm not done with shopping advice just yet -- keep reading for the best way to approach the supermarket.

  2. Tainted cereal laced with known carcinogens

    Ah, the sweet taste of mothballs and toilet deodorants in the morning.

    Sounds crazy, I know... but it's not far from the truth with one batch of contaminated cereals. Some 28 million boxes of Froot Loops, Apple Jacks, Corn Pops and Honey Smacks were recalled due to a strange smell and taste that was making people sick.

    And no, it wasn't the usual strange taste in these cereals. It turns out they were contaminated with 2- methylnaphthalene, probably when something went wrong during the packaging process. And 2-methylnaphthalene is related to naphthalene, a known carcinogen used in those mothballs and toilet deodorants.

    Not exactly what I like with my coffee!

    Kellogg says don't worry--the bad cereal could cause nausea and diarrhea, but it's only temporary.

    Gee, thanks.

    But what's even more amazing about this is not what we know... it's what we don't. You see, we don't know much about 2-methylnaphthalene, how safe it is, or what happens when you ingest it.

    We don't know... because the chemical companies that make it don't have to tell us.

    As a matter of fact, they only have to tell the feds when they learn that any of their chemicals are unsafe. That means there's actually a twisted incentive in the law to NOT study the chemicals.

    What you don't learn, you don't have to report!

    According to the Washington Post, the EPA has been asking for data on 2-methylnaphthalene for 16 years now. And they've been ignored the whole time... because the industry doesn't have to respond.

    And now, people are eating this stuff for breakfast.

    The newspaper says the one agency that does have some information on 2-methylnaphthalene isn't exactly helpful. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry says it doesn't really know what would happen if this chemical got into food, but we shouldn't worry about it--because "you are not likely to be exposed . . . eating foods or drinking beverages."

    Looks like someone at Kellogg didn't get that memo.

    There's a larger problem here, and it goes far beyond 2- methylnaphthalene in the cereal. According to the Post, the poorly named Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 exempts 62,000 chemicals in use at the time of its passage, and chemicals invented since then.

    You might ask what toxic substances this act does control!

    Answer: None, really... because the companies are expected to do that themselves. In essence, it's an honor system.

    And you know how well that works when millions and even billions of dollars are at stake.

2 Item(s)