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Friday, December 11, 2009

7 Common Foods The Experts Avoid

You're food savvy. You've heard of the dirty dozen. You try to buy organic. Me too.

The winter time is coming to most of us, so perhaps you've just cranked open a couple of cans of tomatoes, added some beef, and you have a pot of warm chili simmering on the stove. Maybe you are baking up some potatoes to go with it. While you wait you pop up some microwave popcorn and snuggle up to watch a movie. And you might just be unwittingly serving yourself up a giant dose of chemicals and pesticides linked to a truly jaw dropping array of disorders.

So here it is, straight from the mouths of people whose business it is to know, like researchers who specificially study the effects of some of these chemicals: what they would never eat. Prevention asked food experts what they avoid, and some of the answers are likely to surprise you.

I have to admit this list made me squeemish, because while there are some I already avoid (I buy organic milk) there are others I was totally clueless about (canned tomatoes are a staple in our house).

Canned Tomatoes
"The resin linings of tin cans contain bisphenol-A, a synthetic estrogen that has been linked to ailments ranging from reproductive problems to heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Unfortunately, acidity (a prominent characteristic of tomatoes) causes BPA to leach into your food. Studies show that the BPA in most people's body exceeds the amount that suppresses sperm production or causes chromosomal damage to the eggs of animals."

Corn-Fed Cattle
"Compared with corn-fed beef, grass-fed beef is higher in beta-carotene, vitamin E, omega-3s, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), calcium, magnesium, and potassium; lower in inflammatory omega-6s; and lower in saturated fats that have been linked to heart disease."

Microwave Popcorn
"Chemicals, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), in the lining of the bag, are part of a class of compounds that may be linked to infertility in humans... In animal testing, the chemicals cause liver, testicular, and pancreatic cancer. Studies show that microwaving causes the chemicals to vaporize—and migrate into your popcorn."

Non-Organic Potatoes
"I've talked with potato growers who say point-blank they would never eat the potatoes they sell. They have separate plots where they grow potatoes for themselves without all the chemicals."

Farmed Salmon
"You can only safely eat one of these salmon dinners every 5 months without increasing your risk of cancer,"

Milk Produced with Artificial Hormones
The artificial hormones used to stimulate production cause udder infections that leaks pus into the milk. Yuck. When ingested by humans it has been associated with a rise in early puberty and "may contribute to breast, prostate, and colon cancers." The use of these hormones are banned in most industrialized countries, but not the USA.

Non-Organic Apples
Breeding specific varieties of apples increases their suceptibility to pests, so growing apples requires some of the highest use of chemical pesticides. "increasing numbers of studies are starting to link a higher body burden of pesticides (from all sources) with Parkinson's disease."


Gini said...

Oh dear. Do you know of any alternatives to canned tomatoes? Because seriously, I use those all the time. :(

Erin said...

Yeah, we use them constantly as well. As far as I know the only alternatives are:

1. use fresh
2. buy commercially jarred tomatoes (in glass)
3. "can" your own tomatoes at home in glass jars.

Next year I'll probably jar my own tomatoes when they are in season. In the meantime I'll probably limp along on fresh? who knows. They are pricey and of low quality this time of year. But that chemical thing is pretty creepy.

The original story mentions two commercial brands that are in glass. might have luck finding them at Whole Foods.

ExpertsTown said...

I'm very surprised! I do eat many farmed salmons. Do you know whay they increase the risk of cancer? I thougt they were just salmons with more fat (because they don't do many excercise...).

The Musician said...


hope chest said...

I have been trying to be organic but winter has always been a problem because it often withers my veggies in the backyard. So I am contented with the ones in the cans.

Erin said...

ExpertsTown: I am not certain about the science behind it. If I had to guess, I might guess that there are either higher concentrations of chemicals in the farmed areas, or that the higher fat content stores more of the chemicals. I have some friends who are chemists, so I'll ask.

And for what it is worth, one of those friend chemists insists he wont eat peanut butter without knowing the source because of potentially carcinogenic aflatoxins. Just hearing it made me want to bury my head in the sand or run off to a kibutz and grow all my own veggies by hand.

Lysy said...

In the UK some supermarkets now do tinned tomatoes in recyclable cardboard - I'm not sure what they're lined with - it may be no better...
There's a link here

Shannon said...

canned tomatoes??!?!?!? eek. also good to know about potatoes! why must we sacrifice so much to mass-produce...

The pale observer said...

Canned tomatoes form the basis of so many things I make!!

BTW - just found your blog and loved your few Ghana articles. I'm a Canadian and I've been based in Accra for 14 years!

Please also visit my blog about life here. Have you been back since 2007?

MissMelanie said...

Yikes...I read this earlier on Mercola's website...had never thought of canned tomatoes either!! We use at least a dozen cans a month. And tomato paste!! I moved this year at the end of the season and did not get to can very many of my own tomatoes. I honestly think that, since we have 3 small girls, I may go buy a few dozen pounds of the best looking tomatoes I can find and can them now to last us the winter.
About the Peanut Butter...Maranatha brand is grown in the right area (New Mexico, I believe..) and is free of those nasty little fungi and carcinogens.

SkepticalVoice said...

Sorry to look skeptical but anybody can come up with some vague statement like "research have shown a link with cancer" for basically anything.
And a bunch of people will always believe it, nobody ever ask what research, published where, how many patients, was it statistically significant, SHOW ME THE BLOODY DATA.
To state a correlation with cancer one should do a double-blind randomized trial, a very solid, scientific and unfortunately expensive experimental research on consenting humans. Anything short of this (10 persons data collection, anedoctical tales, friends opinions, "experts" advice) is pure crap.
When you walk by a gas station you inhale benzene. Benzene produce cancer (proven). So what? Is the quantity you inhaled enough to be harmful to you? Better stay on the safe side and ask a neighbour to refuel your car?
Anything can be harmful, it depends on the quantity actually kept by your body. Pure water is fatal in high quantity (proven).
Common sense should be used and be skeptical on every statement/belief until you see solid scientific evidence.
A unproven statement is NOT better than nothing, it is just crap.

Erin said...

Skeptical Voice: I can appreciate your perspective and am glad to have your voice here. I am no stranger to the science of research studies. I am not a medical researcher, but I do understand the methods and statistics, and I am also aware that correlation is not causation.

However, I have to disagree with you that initial or incompletely proven links should be discounted. It will take, as you point out, both time and money to create the body of irrefutable evidence that you ask for. I certainly do not think it is unreasonable to present early or imperfectly proven connections to people where the alternative is not harmful. Does it harm me if I choose to can my own tomatoes? Harm me to decide to pop corn in a pan with oil instead of a microwave?

I will continue to not put forward incomplete science where I believe it has the potential to harm, as in the incomplete understandings around immunizations leading people to abstain from important immunizations.

Please also note that this was not presented as irrefutable science or reporting on science research. It was presented as the interview based opinions of people who work in food and chemistry sciences.

Laura said...

FWIW: I too am a regular user of canned tomatoes. However, I did want to offer another alternative I did not see listed in your response above that I am ADDICTED to after trying it for the first time this year. Freeze them. They are wonderful, they make quite frankly FAR SUPERIOR Indian curries than I EVER got from a can, since tomatoes are always fresh in India, never canned, and their recipes do not account for that super acidic, concentrated canned tomato flavor. My mom has home canned tomatoes my whole life, I have them, I have Muir Glen and shhhh don't tell either of them but the frozen tomatoes are definitely my favorite.

But you do need freezer space. :)

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