Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

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Genetically Modified Salmon on the Way?

This salmon will not only be farmed, but genetically modified as well from a “Chinook salmon and an eel-like ocean pout.”   Will we know? That depends on whether it will be labeled or not.

GM Salmon (top)
Regular salmon (bottom)


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Bone Broth?

Bone broth popularity appears to have lost some of its luster; however, a new study reports some preliminary evidence suggesting it can lower blood pressure and protect against heart disease. However, there are some concerns. Will future research support the concerns and will bone broth just fade away as just another food fad?


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Bioengineered Foods Labeling?

Consumer attitude and marketing studies show that, given information about irradiation, half or more will choose irradiated foods. A minority object to irradiation and will never select it.

In a 1995-96 study, after seeing a 10 minute video describing irradiation, interest in buying irradiated foods among California and Indiana consumers increased from 57% to 82%.   Center for Consumer Research, June, 2017.

The same may be said about GMO.  Consumers will decide whether they accept or reject. With that said, there is a need for greater understanding  about the safety of both irradiation and bioengineering.  In the case of GMO, it is often difficult to separate the biases associated with both sides of the safety issues.

It will be interesting how shoppers will react to Bioengineered Foods labeling. Will it fuel the debate as to their safety or calm it down?


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Thanksgiving Food Safety

Preventing food-borne illness may be an extra challenge during the holidays. Things can get hectic with the “big” meal preparation in the kitchen. Cross contamination although unintentional can make the difference of whether your holiday meal is one one of celebration or misery.

NOTE: There is a warning of a Salmonella outbreak this season (2018) with many turkey products, so it’s time to be extra caretul.


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The Food Industry: Past and Present

The following article discusses the past and present work of two pioneers in combating deceptive practices of the food industry:  The Poison Squad: One Chemist’s Single-Minded Crusade for Food Safety at the Turn of the Twentieth Century Deborah Blum Penguin Press (2018) and Unsavory Truth How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat by Marion Nestle. Basic Books, 2018.

Marion Nestle is Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, emerita, at New York University and visiting professor of nutritional sciences at Cornell. She has a PhD in molecular biology and an MPH in public health nutrition from UC Berkeley.

The use of industry funding by food companies  influence academia,  the advisory committees, and “experts” that are supposedly dedicated to informing the consumer of the latest nutrition guidelines and recommendations. Their conclusions from nutrition studies often show up in misleading media headlines furthering the dissemination of nutrition misinformation.

When consumers begin to be aware of these practices, companies may alter their tactics. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to have an understanding of how the food industry can sometimes intentionally deceive  for profit under the guise of “what’s a healthy diet.”

As Michael Moss, author of Salt, Sugar, Fat puts it: “You get this riveting,  provocatively written book, which should be read by anyone who has been seduced by the words, ‘New study shows…’ – that is, all of us.”


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Food Safety: Awareness, Education and Prevention

An Angry Bacteria

Foodborne illness is not a pleasant topic to think about. However, the most important protection against it is learning more about it and ways to prevent it.  When I taught infectious disease courses, we had what we called a Food Lab for the purpose of detecting certain bacterial contamination on some common foods.

Specifically we found that alfalfa sprouts from a local supplier in a large supermarket, a salad from a local restaurant, and some equipment in a cafeteria in the community all contained some species of E.coli, but we lacked the ability to determine if they were the harmful types. Nevertheless, they should not have been there. In all cases, this suggested the lack of proper food handling practices.

Sometimes, it is impossible to avoid, but with proper cleaning or hand washing procedures during food preparation, it can be prevented.

It is also important to realize the seriousness of some of these infections by reading the stories of the survivors. The following article is about a victim who expresses some valid points about education of the medical community.


CLICK HERE for a previous post on food safety practices in the home.

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A Day in the Life of the Poison Squad

A little history:

Are you concerned about food additives? If you think food additives are an issue now, please read the following and “entertaining” article about how bad it was at the turn of the 20th century. The idea was the work of Harvey Washington Wiley, MD who later became known as the “father of the FDA. It all began as pure food and drugs laws evolved as the Pure Food & Drug Act of 1906 (aka as the Wiley Act) and then was succeeded by the 1938 Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act in 1938.

Wiley was a corporal in the Union Army Civil War but ultimately became a professor of chemistry at Purdue University and later Director of Chemistry at the USDA. During this time, he set up a feeding study of the safety of food additives, in particular borax. He recruited 12 healthy young men who were employees of the USDA and fed them meals with borax, salicylic acid, sulfuric acid, sodium benzoate and formaldehyde. The group became nationally known as the “Poison Squad.” It was ended when some volunteers became very ill with digestive symptoms so severe that they could no longer function.  However, no one died. (Amazing, in my opinion)

Much later, Wiley ironically became the director of the Bureau of Foods, Sanitation and Health at Good Housekeeping womens’ magazine, famous for the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.  Check out his attitude about women in the following article.

He died in 1930 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.