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The Food Party!

By Laura Stec

E-mail Laura Stec

About this blog: I've been attracted to food for good and bad reasons for many years. From eating disorder to east coast culinary school, food has been my passion, profession & nemesis. I've been a sugar addict, a 17-year vegetarian, a food and en...  (More)

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Chemical Breakdown

Uploaded: Sep 5, 2016

A friend handed me red wine in a Styrofoam cup at the Santa Cruz camp talent show this Labor Day.

We laughed - it brought back memories of how much I hate the stuff. The way it dulls or clouds what you put in, or serve on it. Especially red wine. How do you describe that effect?



So we toasted a hardy goodbye, in honor of Styrofoam’s Last Stand. In 2007, San Francisco banned all white, fluffy polystyrene food to-go containers (and more than 100 cities followed suit). As of January 1, it will be unlawful in the city to sell polystyrene packing materials like annoying foam peanuts that get stuck on your fingers and you can’t get off; also day-use coolers, and meat/fish packaging trays.

This is good news in regards to a substance that doesn’t break down in landfills, and is filling our oceans with more plastic than fish.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

We still had wine in the cup, so we toasted again, this time to chemical breakdown #2 of the week, the FDA’s reprimand and edict on antibacterial soaps. On September 2nd, 19 useless chemicals we use all the time, like triclosan and triclocarban, were banned; chemicals they’ve been testing on us for years, while we slather them all over our hands and the bodies of our children.

“Consumers don't need to use antibacterial soaps, and some of them may even be dangerous,” says the Food and Drug Administration. “Companies have a year to take these ingredients out of their products or remove the products from the market.”

This bugs me even more because of my growing fondness for all things microbiome. I wonder what these purposeless, greedy chemicals are doing to them?

So I guess it’s time to learn a little more about chemicals in our food systems and pantries, right? Your homework, if you choose to accept it, is to read Toxics Across America, and so will I. Then we’ll discuss it. This 2014 Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) report tallies billions of pounds of chemicals in the American marketplace known or strongly suspected to cause increasingly common disorders, such as developmental disabilities, certain cancers, and infertility.

I feel better already.

Other resources:
Physicians for Social Responsibility


Center for Science in the Public Interest



Breast Cancer Fund


Comments

 +   6 people like this
Posted by I'm done, a resident of Castro City,
on Sep 6, 2016 at 8:55 am

I had been following this Blog for a while because I thought it was about food. Lately though, it seems to be filled with left wing blather with the food bit thrown in as a "red herring".

I don't even disagree with everything that you are saying, but IMHO if you want to write a political blog, then you should just drop the food and let everyone know what you're really about. If you want top write about food, then drop the politics.

At any rate, I'm done. I'll see if I can find food blogs where the writer actually wants to discuss food and recipes, and not inject their personal politics into everything.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Sep 6, 2016 at 10:26 am

I'm doing the homework.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Casa De Cerveza, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on Sep 6, 2016 at 1:19 pm

Casa De Cerveza is a registered user.

This discussion has nothing to do with personal politics but everything to do with diet, nutrition, and health. Chemicals are used in every step of the process that puts food on our table: production, harvesting, processing, packing, transport, marketing and consumption. Most people don't want to ingest toxic chemicals if it is possible to avoid them. Thanks for raising awareness about hazardous substances in our diet!


 +   5 people like this
Posted by He'll be back, a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood,
on Sep 6, 2016 at 3:02 pm

Hahaha. Someone cares about not eating chemicals so they're obviously one of "those leftists"
Some people actually think this way!!!


 +   4 people like this
Posted by John D, a resident of Woodside: Kings Mountain/Skyline,
on Sep 6, 2016 at 8:03 pm

I'm 100% in agreement with "I'm done". What's up with questioning what the put in our food? It's un-American. It's a small step from questioning food ingredients to full-on communism. Subversive blogs like this are what's wrong with America today.

Or not ;)


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge,
on Sep 6, 2016 at 8:22 pm

Readers, after browsing Toxics in America - the only food reference I found is about food packaging. So you are homework-free until we find a better piece on "food chemicals." I'm Done your comment is fascinating just like the Naked = Sex comment a few weeks ago. I am intrigued what is political about this piece to you. I started to write down all the reasons you might think so. I look forward to hearing which one it is.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by John D, a resident of Woodside: Kings Mountain/Skyline,
on Sep 6, 2016 at 8:37 pm

Laura! Don't feed the trolls, LOL :)


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Susan Cann, a resident of another community,
on Sep 7, 2016 at 10:57 am

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup weed killer, is a contaminant inside our food ingredients and is being found in populations globally. Web Link Heard of "Roundup Ready" crops? In March of this year a German study revealed that 99.6% of over 2k people monitored had glyphosate residues in their bodies. Now the FDA has announced it is moving forward to test Americans for glyphosate for the first time in the agency’s history, because of the World Health Organization declaration last year that the chemical is a probable human carcinogen. Up until now, the FDA has NOT tested for glyphosate because it would have been "too expensive…" What price human health? Web Link


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Right not always, a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood,
on Sep 7, 2016 at 11:20 am

It's tough to be staunchly conservative now-a-days. Too many people have access to the facts, so they are less and less likely to believe the "Party line"
The decline of the republican party exemplifies this trend. You simply can't tell the people its raining while you're relieving yourself on their legs...they won't buy it anymore.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by MF via email, a resident of another community,
on Sep 7, 2016 at 2:59 pm

Hi Laura

I read your post about the chemicals in all the things we use, a very important subject.

I was only just reading something about toxic ingredients in body products the other day.

Is there a source to see the entire list of ingredients to avoid? or a short list of common ones that are the worst?


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge,
on Sep 8, 2016 at 9:17 am

MF via email,

I'm am making my way though the list I added in above, forwarded by Susan Cann, Community & Communications Lead from MADE SAFE™.



 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Susan Cann, a resident of another community,
on Sep 8, 2016 at 1:22 pm

MF via email: You wrote "I was only just reading something about toxic ingredients in body products the other day." This is my expertise! I helped produce the 2012 documentary UNACCEPTABLE LEVELS (Web Link) which is all about the synthetic chemicals in our bodies and how they got there, and now I'm assisting the nonprofit organization MADE SAFE - we're actually providing a certification for (non-food) products that are Made With Safe Ingredients™ (Web Link) You will find our seal on everything from beauty products to baby bottles to crib and adult mattresses and cleaning products. Most shoppers are shocked to find out that there has been no government regulation of the chemicals going into our personal care products - it's being left up to the manufacturer on the Honor System, so it's the Wild West out there. Here's a great little 2010 video about the issue, which is still VERY current: The Story of Cosmetics by the Story of Stuff Project - Web Link


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by John D, a resident of Woodside: Kings Mountain/Skyline,
on Sep 8, 2016 at 4:35 pm

Sounds like Susan is doing good work, but just as a cautionary note it's important to make sure there's a reasonable amount of real evidence that a "chemical" is actually harmful before worrying about it. Sometimes hysteria and those with an agenda can drive panic when it's not warranted. (Thimerosal causing autism for example.)

The classic example is a chemical that's in our food and drink:

Dihydrogen monoxide:

is fatal if inhaled.
is also known as hydroxyl acid, and is the major component of acid rain.
contributes to the "greenhouse effect".
may cause severe burns.
contributes to the erosion of our natural landscape.
accelerates corrosion and rusting of many metals.
may cause electrical failures and decreased effectiveness of automobile brakes.
has been found in excised tumors of terminal cancer patients.

Despite the danger, dihydrogen monoxide is often used:

as an industrial solvent and coolant.
in nuclear power plants.
in the production of styrofoam.
as a fire retardant.
in many forms of cruel animal research.
in the distribution of pesticides. Even after washing, produce remains contaminated by this chemical.
as an additive in certain "junk-foods" and other food products.

Of course the other name for DiHydrogen Monoxide is... Water.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Susan Cann, a resident of another community,
on Sep 8, 2016 at 5:02 pm

John D wrote "Sounds like Susan is doing good work, but just as a cautionary note it's important to make sure there's a reasonable amount of real evidence that a "chemical" is actually harmful before worrying about it." Industry loves calling environmentalists out as "alarmists" and making statements like John D just made.

The Precautionary Principle (essentially "better safe than sorry") is scoffed at by many in Big Beauty, Big Food, Big Pharma, Big Chemical, and Big Oil. They're making Big Money and increased regulation is seen as a disincentive to the Profit Motive. However, Green Chemistry (example: Web Link) is the upcoming new chemistry, and if formulators would just realign their values a wee bit to consider sustainability and "cradle to cradle" (where does the product end up at its end of life) our planet will be in much better shape and offer a much healthier future for our children.

Yes, there are many chemicals made by nature that are toxic in large - and even minutely small amounts, including poison oak, lead, (and water, lol…) However, the way the industrial chemical industry works in our society is chemicals are considered "safe until proven guilty" and many Americans would prefer to see new synthetic chemicals tested fully - independent third party peer-reviewed studies - before released into our environment and consumer goods.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge,
on Sep 9, 2016 at 7:59 am

Good info and comments this week. I don't enjoy learning about food chemicals, but it is necessary, and you are pushing me to do so. Thank you.

All comments are welcome, even where people disagree. We encourage it; "Think of The Food Party! as practice for Thanksgiving Dinner with your family." We need to discuss our disagreements more in this country, not less, and remember how to do it with respect.

The Food Party! has always been more than just recipes. Please read the blog description which has not changed since our beginning.

So I am still wondering what's political about this blog? Styrofoam, chemicals, antibacterial soap, the FDA, government telling us something is bad, or maybe just disagreement? Has the sheer act of disagreeing now become "political?"

Or maybe it's environmental concern, which has become political, shame on us. If environment is my political "left wing blather" here, please know I have been interested in healthy people, healthy planet issues long before they were sexy. I founded EcoEaters, one of the first USA food and environment education groups, in the late 1980's; the same year Alice Waters opened her cafe. No one back then, Mepublican or Procrasticrat, was talking environmental protection thru food (not even environmentalists!) If any political influences affected me, it could only have been Nixon creating of EPA and Clean Water Act, or Roosevelt with all his work on national parks, both Republican presidents.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Max Hauser, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Sep 9, 2016 at 8:19 am

Max Hauser is a registered user.

FYI, Laura: Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse in 1971, Chez Panisse Cafe (upstairs) in 1980.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of another community,
on Sep 9, 2016 at 9:12 am

Hi Max, We've missed you!

Upstairs cafe, 1988. Yes tis true! I'm an oldie but still a goodie.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by John D, a resident of Woodside: Kings Mountain/Skyline,
on Sep 9, 2016 at 9:14 am

Susan Cann wrote "Yes, there are many chemicals made by nature that are toxic in large - and even minutely small amounts, including poison oak, lead, (and water, lol…) However, the way the industrial chemical industry works in our society is chemicals are considered "safe until proven guilty" and many Americans would prefer to see new synthetic chemicals tested fully - independent third party peer-reviewed studies - before released into our environment and consumer goods."

I couldn't agree more about being against "safe until proven guilty" and I fully support the independent third party peer-reviewed studies. (Hopefully randomized double-blind well designed controlled studies.) My point was that the studies are where the evidence of toxicity should come from, not (e.g.) Jenny McCarthy or some guy with a web page on the internet. I have personal experience with how harmful believing some of the garbage on the internet can be.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Susan Cann, a resident of another community,
on Sep 9, 2016 at 9:23 am

John D - Based on your comment, I think you'll appreciate the work of Made Safe. We have created a think-proof certification, based on science: "We want to ensure that goods are made entirely from safe ingredients; that is, ingredients that are not known or suspected to cause human health harm as determined by scientifically recognized lists from around the world. In order to do this, our scientists and/or advisors analyze the materials, ingredients and chemical components of a product (as obtained through required paper screening) to ensure it does not contain harmful ingredients or release vapors, gases, or by-products that could impact human health." Here are some of the lists included in our Toxicant Database: Web Link



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