November 14, 2011

Plastic and Food Safety: Is It Dangerous to Store Food in Plastic Containers? Are Plastics Poisoning Our Food?

Putting your food in plastic containers to store in the fridge, or to heat (or cook) in the microwave: is it safe?  What about buying food that has been packaged in plastic - has that food been compromised?  Does plastic poison food and make the food toxic or carcinogenic?

1.  Answer:  No One Knows - But Some Are Worried

It's pretty much a given among those in both the food and packaging industries that any food that is put into plastic (wrapped, boxed, whatever) will have some of that plastic "leach" or "migrate" into the food.  It's even got a name:  "inevitable transfer."

Doesn't that make you feel safe already?  

In a quote on WebMD, a researcher from Tufts University is quoted, explaining that "virtually all" food that is put into plastic will have trace amounts of plastic leach or migrate into the food.  Heat the food, and this increases.  Also, put certain types of food in plastic and there will be more transfer than with other types of food:  fats, acids, and salts boost the transfer dance.

When asked how much gets from the plastic to the food to our bodies, the Tufts researcher replied that no one really knows -- no research exists to give us an answer to that question.

It gets better.  According to the senior scientist with the EnvironmentalWorking Group, also quoted by WebMD, when food containers are considered "safe" these days, it's not because they have been proved to be safe, but because they have not been proven to be dangerous.  That's a big difference. 

BPA Is Scary

BPA is found in lots and lots of plastic food packaging, and (surprise) it was considered safe until some folk looked a little deeper into the issue and decided that maybe BPA isn't so safe after all.

Scientists are already warning that BPA may be toxic to humans - and while lots of warnings have gone out about water bottles made with BPA, the bigger issue is the BPA that is found in canned foods.  These days, lots of cans are lined with plastic and then food is put in them.  The BPA in that plastic can lining is already known to leach into the food AND into the human body.  What happens then?  No one knows the whole story yet but it is known that BPA will mess with human hormones, particularly estrogen.

Phthalates Are Scary, Too

Phthalates is a name given to a bunch of chemicals used in all sorts of stuff, and today it's sad but true that these phthalates ("THAL-ates") float around in the indoor dust we breathe.  Already, most Americans have phthalates in their bodies according to research studies by the Center for Disease Control, and they are serious even that they've been banned in Europe for several years now.

How does this stuff get into our bodies?  Get this:  it's not clear.  Some think it comes through what we eat, from plastic packaging for example.

What is known is that phthalates also mess with human hormones, in this case, testosterone.

Oh, and cooking in Teflon?  While I was reading up on this, I ran across a warning on WebMD that warns to never cook on non-stick cookware with a pet bird in the kitchen, because the fumes from overheated non-stick cookware can kill the bird "in seconds."

Oh, that makes me feel safe. 

2  What to Do?  Avoid Plastic as Much as Possible, Of Course.

Here are some 15 tips to get Plastics Out of Your Food:

1.  cook in cast iron
2.  avoid a microwave
3.  if you must use a microwave, then wrap your food in paper towels when heating and place on a real plate, not a plastic one
4.  use wax paper to wrap food for storing in the fridge (get some rubber bands, it helps)
5.  save glass jars and reuse them for food storage
6.  eat off of glass plates
7.  drink out of glassware not plastic
8. use metal forks, knives, and spoons (or wooden ones for cooking)
9. throw out your plastic stuff
10.  don't use parchment paper -- it's covered with a "Non-Stick"coating and that is silicon and it's sometimes got some sulfuric acid, too.  It's not just paper. 
11. buy fresh food as much as possible
12. observe how food is packaged and avoid plastic packaging as much as possible, especially plastic bottles
13. once home, store all food in non-plastic containers
14. do not cook with plastic stuff (microwave plates, plastic spoons, nonstick ware)
15.  do not eat with plastic stuff (plastic plates, glasses, etc.) - get paper plates if you don't want to wash dishes!

Sources (in addition to the above hyperlinks):

WebMD (and links therein)
FDA (and links therein)
Univ of Houston (and links therein)

November 8, 2011

Ufollow - Cool New Site and I'm Honored to have Everyday Simplicity Included as a "Leading Blog" in their Chosen Reading Library

UFollow is a cool, new site that is getting favorable reviews as a free service that helps folk surfing the web to cull through content and locate articles based upon a single topic or a single author.

UFollow is free,"indexing more than 100,000 bloggers and columnists from over 4,500 leading blogs, magazines, and newspapers on the web."  Sign up and uFollow sends you a stream of  content organized by your chosen sources, favorite authors, etc.

It's looking to be a popular site.  For example, HackStacks found uFollow to be helpful, describing uFollow back in August 2011 as one of the best sites on the web for organizing and providing content to the reader according to the readers' likes.

I discovered uFollow when I noticed folk were coming to visit Everyday Simplicity via UFollow.  When I went to uFollow to investigate, I was delighted to find that Everyday Simplicity is a publication listed among such notables as The New York Times, Huffington Post, and the Christian Science Monitor, and that my name is listed as one of the top authors, in the area of "simplicity."

I'm second, first place going to Merlin Mann of 43 Folders and third place to Darren Murph of Engadget. That's some nice company.  Of course, ranking will change as uFollow grows -- but it's a nice thing to think about today. 

I'm honored to be included by the folk at uFollow and I'm happy to think that this means that living a simple life is something that more people are interested in investigating, even if they aren't ready to make a big lifestyle change.

Thought I'd share this with you, Dear Reader (and Fellow Simplifier).

November 7, 2011

Blog Tour for Baylor Prof Jim Roberts New Book, Shiny Objects

I was recently invited to join a blog tour for a new book that has just been published by HarperOne this fall entitled Shiny Objects: Why We Spend Money We Don’t Have in Search of Happiness We Can’t Buy.  
Written by James A. Roberts, professor of marketing at Baylor University (which is about three hours due north from me on Interstate 35, up in Waco, Texas), it sounds like a great read from someone who has been studying consumerism and consumer behavior for awhile now.  (Check out his online bio here.)

I agreed to read and review the book because I liked the idea of learning what a noted academic with a reputation for studying the "dark side" of American consumerism / marketing had found.  Will Dr. Roberts have anything nice to say about voluntary simplicity?  Will he have any interesting facts and figures about all that ridiculous excess we see everyday (yes, Kim Kardashian was in the news again).

My review will be posted here on December 1, 2011.  It's part of the November 2011 TLC Blog Tour. 

Meanwhile, Dr. Roberts has a blog too, if you're interested ....

November 2, 2011

Really Easy, Really Cheap, Really Fast, and Really Good Recipes - No. 1: Cheese Dip

Easy, fast, cheap, and good food.  That you make at home.  It's possible.  Here, my first in a series of recipes with instructions for those on a budget, who hate to cook but are tired of fast food:

Chili con Queso

This isn't very healthy in its simplest form but there are lots of ways to make it better for you.  It's never going to make Dr. Mercola really happy, but it will sure make everyone around the TV happy on movie night, or game time, etc.

Basic version (and the one that my ex-husband swore made him fall for me):

  • 1 box of Velvetta (the box about the size of a textbook cut in half lengthwise)
  • 1 can of Rotel tomatoes (canned diced tomatoes with hot chili peppers)
  • chips of some sort

Cut the Velvetta into little squares so it heats up faster and easier.  Throw in the canned tomatoes.  Heat until the cheese melts (in the microwave, in a pot, on a campfire, wherever) and stir.  Serve with tortilla chips or Fritos, whatever you like.

Other ways to eat this stuff:

You can add cilantro to this.
Take away the canned tomatoes and use fresh Pico de Gallo instead (cut up tomatoes, onion, and chili peppers, usually jalapeno or serano)
Use real cheese instead of the Velvetta, add a little milk as needed as it melts
Add beans and use less cheese
Add chili and use less cheese
Pour this stuff over lettuce and eat cheesy salad
Pour over grilled chicken
Pour over sliced avocado

November 1, 2011

The Sweet Story of the 89 Year Old Bride

Here's a sweet story:  Miss Laura Odenbaugh married her sweetheart, Melvin Martin, last month up in Dallas.  He was 91, she was 89.  It was his third marriage and her first.

The story is covered here and in the Dallas Morning News.  Made me smile, thought I would share it with you, Dear Reader. 

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