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Food Sunday: Food News You Can Use

photo: State Library of New South Wales via Flickr

Happy Sunday, peoples. To the news!
Gut it out: We’ve discussed this before, but the types of bacteria people have in their lower intestines have implications for health and chronic disease. A recent study looked at whether or not changing diet could change the relative bacterial environment. “The enterotypes [of the gut bacteria]were strongly associated with diet, particularly protein and animal fat (Bacteroides genus) versus carbohydrates (Prevotella genus). Both Bacteroides and Prevotella are broad genera of bacteria species that typically live in the human gut. Humans tend to have mostly a species from one bacterial group but not both. Vegetarians were more likely to be in the Prevotella group, the enterotype associated with diets enriched in carbohydrates and lacking meat, and the one vegan was also in the Prevotella group.
Subsequently, 10 healthy volunteers were enrolled in a controlled feeding experiment in which their diets were fixed for a 10-day period. All ten subjects in the controlled-feeding experiment were in the Bacteroides group at the start, during, and at the end of the experiment. Their gut microbiomes changed within one day but stayed within the same broad Bacteroides group, even if they ate a diet high in carbohydrates over the 10-day period, emphasizing the short-term stability of the enterotypes.” Gut flora change with diet, but not quickly


No thanks; I’ll have the potatoes, please. Potatoes are America’s favorite veggie but are broadly maligned mostly because of what they get served WITH. A recently study shows that plain microwaved potatoes can be a healthy part of a diet, even for people who are overweight and have other weight-related health issues. “In the new study, 18 patients who were primarily overweight/obese with high blood pressure ate 6-8 purple potatoes (each about the size of a golf ball) with skins twice daily for a month. They used purple potatoes because the pigment, or coloring material, in fruits and vegetables is especially rich in beneficial phytochemicals. Scientists monitored the patients’ blood pressure, both systolic (the higher number in a blood pressure reading like 120/80) and diastolic. The average diastolic blood pressure dropped by 4.3 percent and the systolic pressure decreased by 3.5 percent, said Vinson, who is with the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania and has done extensive research on healthful components in foods. The majority of subjects took anti-hypertensive drugs and still had a reduction in blood pressure. None of the study participants gained weight…” Again, these potatoes were not served with any of the usual potato accompaniments – no frying, no butter, no mayo…just plain nuked potatoes. Plain potatoes best

Farmers in flooded areas need to destroy crops meant for human consumption. If you are in areas which went through the recent Irene and Lee storms, you should not be buying/eating veggies and ground or cane fruits harvested from flooded areas (that is, they were in contact with flood waters). It is not just E. coli or other bacteria contamination; the can be contamination from such items as fuel tanks, gasoline and diesel fuel from vehicles and equipment which got overturned or carried by flood waters, paint or other chemicals from buildings, storage and so on which got into the flood waters. “According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, floodwater can carry sewage, chemicals, heavy metals, pathogenic microorganisms or other contaminants. The FDA’s notice on handling food from flooded fields explains:

“If the edible portion of a crop is exposed to flood waters, it is considered adulterated and should not enter human food channels. There is no practical method of reconditioning the edible portion of a crop that will provide a reasonable assurance of human food safety.”,.. Steve Reiners, associate professor at Cornell University, put together “Dealing with Flooded Vegetable Fields,” which deals with plant survival under water and flooding and soil fertility, as well as flooding and food safety.

“There are two types of flooding,” wrote Reiners. “The first is more typical and occurs after a heavy downpour when fields become saturated and water pools on the soil surface. This type of flooding can reduce yields and even kill plants but usually will not result in contamination of produce with human pathogens.”

The second type of flooding, from rising creeks and rising rivers rather than a deluge of rainwater, is affecting many farmers in the aftermath of Irene, although some farms might be dealing with both types of storm water.

“Unless you are absolutely sure that flooding is not from streams and surface water, do not use fruits and vegetables that were at or near harvest at the time of flooding,” he writes.

He notes that produce that such as melons, eggplant, sweet corn, or winter squash may be contaminated on the surface, but for melons “this is a major concern as pathogens on the surface are moved to the edible part as the product is sliced and eaten raw.”… But he adds ..vegetables that have come in contact with stream and river overflows should not be harvested or consumed, adding that, “Chlorinated wash water will not eliminate likely human pathogens on their surface.” Safety of food crops after flooding

More on the dangers to US consumers from Chinese produced food products. In the past month, there have been two scandals involving contaminated vinegar, one in which in far western China, between 120 and 150 Uighar residents were sicked by vinegar contaminated by antifreeze (the vinegar had been stored in re-used polyethene glycol barrels). “They follow the cases of meat that glowed in the dark, tained buns, exploding watermelons, the 40 tons of bean sprouts containing antibiotics and carcinogens; the rice contaminated with heavy metals, the mushrooms imbued with bleach and pork so dosed with banned stimulants that athletes attending an international meet in Shanghai had to be told which restaurants were save to eat at. Three years after the melamine-in-milk scandal that made 300,000 children sick, and two years after China passed its first-ever food safety law in response, the country is still struggling to keep its food supply healthy. The Chinese government recently closed almost 5,000 food-producing businesses and arresting 2,000 people — but China experts say a needlessly complex bureaucracy and ferocious determination to turn a profit mean the contamination will keep coming… But an FDA report from June makes it clear that imports from China are increasing in the US — and that the FDA is underfunded and under-equipped to deal with it. The unusual “special report,” called Pathway to Global Product Safety and Quality, said imports include:

— 10-15 percent of all food eaten in US households
— 60 percent of fruits and vegetables
— 80 percent of seafood
— 50 percent of medical devices
— 80 percent of the active pharmaceutical ingredients in medications.

China is the major player in that market growth, with India a close second.” As we saw with the recent news about honey contamination, Chinese producers, seeking to avoid western food safety examinations, are routing their materials through nearby countries such as India. Buying local never looked so good.
Danger of food contamination to US Consumers from Chinese Producers

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Snarky housewife from Upstate New York. Into gardening, fiber arts, smallholder farming.