Saturday, September 17, 2011

Killer cantelope and arsenic in apple juice: What's a mom to do?

Going Green Mama ponders the price we're paying for conveniences...

Yesterday morning I turned on the news for the first time in a week. Two of the top stories? "Killer cantelope" (the anchor's words, not mine) and a study about arsenic in apple juice. And that's after reading about a ground turkey recall just days before.

I worry enough about the food I feed my kids. Is my prep time and budget giving them enough produce? Are they eating a healthy array of foods? And yet, now if I buy store-bought foods, once again I'm reminded that I need to rethink about food safety.

The reality is, there's much we can do to prevent food-borne illnesses at our home, such as properly washing your food, cooking utensils and supplies, and your hands; and separating raw produce and meat.

British Columbia Healthlink also offers these tips:

  • Before eating fresh fruits and vegetables, always wash them in a dilute dish soap solution and then rinse in clean running water. Washing helps remove germs, as well as traces of certain pesticides on the surface. The most important steps in minimizing the risk of contaminants are proper washing, good agitation and a thorough rinse.

  • To be safer, you can rinse produce with a sanitizer after washing and rinsing with water. You can use a commercially prepared vegetable/fruit sanitizer or a dilute bleach solution. The solution can be made by adding one teaspoon (5 ml) of household bleach to one quart (1 litre) of water.

  • When washing fruits and vegetables, cut away any damaged or bruised areas since harmful germs can grow there. Throw away any rotten fruits and vegetables.

  • Always wash fruits and vegetables that have a rind before peeling or preparing them, such as pineapples, cantaloupe, oranges, melons and squash. Although the skin and outer surfaces protect them, germs can grow if the surface gets broken, pierced or cut, especially in melons and tomatoes.

  • Wash and scrub fruits and vegetables that have firm, rough surfaces such as potatoes, using a clean scrub brush for produce.

  • Always discard the outer leaves of leafy vegetables grown in or near the ground, such as lettuce and cabbage. The outer leaves are more likely to be contaminated with germs.
But the reality is, there are some things we just can't do. Like, many times, do the "sight test" and tell whether there's deadly bacteria. Or check a label or make purchases simply based on past results. As the FDA said, "Testing a small number of samples of different brands of juice only provides a snapshot in time of how much arsenic was in a particular lot of juice. "

This is one of those situations where, when you can, it's best to get to know your growers. I'm starting to believe more and more that the somewhat higher price you might pay when supporting your local farmers on meat or milk may be worth the price of keeping your loved ones safe from the foods that are supposed to keep you healthy.


Tanya @ Lovely Greens said...

Food scares are appearing so often these days that they seem to be the norm. To me it's even more incentive to grow your own or buy local/organic.

Betsy (Eco-Novice) said...

I agree that it is probably safer to buy local and organic when possible. For one thing, it's so much easier to identify a problem and trace the source. But the sad reality is that some contamination cannot be avoided this way -- recall the organic spinach tainted with E. coli, most likely from runoff from CAFOs, who can just dump their mountains of cow poop (from cows fed the wrong foods and pumped full of antibiotics) wherever. The entire food supply is affected by poor agricultural regulation and unsound practices.

P.S. As a mom of 2 young ones who got food poisoning while pregnant, these stories really freak me out. But I don't think I'll ever be washing my produce in a bleach solution.


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