Confusion Abounds!

Yesterday, I had a surprising conversation with my mom by phone. She was calling to check in about a few things. Things like bread wrappers, Tupperware and companies like General Mills and Pepsi co.

It seems that she and some of her friends were still a bit confused (ok, they were more confused than ever!) by the copious amounts of information that’s nearly impossible to keep up on.

One friend wanted to know if she should throw out all of her old Tupperware containers. My mom asked how she could tell if the glaze on certain ceramics was food safe. Another friend was contemplating giving up her favorite whole grain bread as it only comes in that clear cello-type wrapping.

Frankly, I feel badly. Things are getting more and not LESS confusing! Shoot.

To help clarify a bit, here’s a quickie “cheat sheet” if you want to pass it on:

How to tell if something is truly Organic:
look for the USDA Organic seal. The requirements for this stamp are pretty stringent and it means that 95% (but not 100%) of that product is certified organic.
(NOTE: I know that I point out how some Organic companies often sneak in non-organic stuff halfway down the ingredient list, even with that seal on the package, but 95% is pretty good and it’s much better the ingredients in most conventional grocery products. Still, if you’re determined to stay 100% Organic then you gotta read that ingredient list!)

Which Brands to Trust:
Again, In the past I’ve posted about how numerous small farms and companies are being bought up by large conglomerates such as General Mills and Pepsi, yet the packaging is left to appear deceptively “small farm”.
This is also a political issue, not just about the food.

Listen, just because the parent company is, for example, General Mills, doesn’t necessarily mean that the food is “bad” or no longer organic. It merits a closer look and is just good to know that’s all.
If the company is still growing the food using organic and sustainable farming methods, humane treatment of it’s livestock, and whatever else it originally says it did, and you like the product, then keep on buying it!
Of course, the fact usually is that the larger the farm the more difficult this type of management becomes, but they still must adhere to the requirements set forth by the USDA organic seal so again, look for that and at the ingredients. Also, don’t be shy! ALL foods have an 800 phone number to call for more information. Got a question? Ask it! (more on this point later as I will be posting the responses I got from Amy’s and Annies regarding my own queries of their ingredients).

Remember too, the ingredient list goes in order of most to least.
The first ingredient on the list is what that product is mostly made of, then the next ingredient is the second most etc..and so on. So if a product markets itself as ‘pommegranate juice’, for example, but the first ingredient is apple juice and pommegranate isn’t until half way down the product, skip it.).

PLASTICS:
YES, this is confusing. But basically, if you only keep DRY GOODS in them, and never hot, frozen or liquid foods, you will do a lot to diminish leaching.

Also, bisphenol A typically makes plastics hard and clear, so if the plastic has an opaque or milky color it likely does NOT contain bisphenol A. Having said that, there are many things in plastic besides bisphenol A.

If you must put liquid, gravies or other cooked food in plastic then simply make sure that it is cool (not warm) when you transfer it to the container. And never EVER heat food in them! First transfer the food to a glass (or Corning Ware, china, Pyrex or other type of ceramic or glass) bowl or plate and then heat it up.

If you buy something that only comes covered in cling wrap, one thing to do is to remove this wrap as soon as you get home and then re-wrap the food (cheese, meat, etc) in WAX PAPER first, then you can re-wrap the cling wrap to reuse it. Or else use foil, which doesn’t leach and is also recyclable.

For items such as bread, I also often wrap them in wax first and then back to the plastic, though this is NOT always very practical. Recycled paper bags or waxed paper bread sacks are fine, in terms of food safety, but if the bread you love only comes in the plastic wrapper then don’t stop eating it!
The benefit of the whole grains will likely far outweigh any minimal risk from the wrapper as bread is never put in those while hot or else they would melt!

Hope this helps in terms of Food Safety!

    For those of you also trying to live “green” (and I hope that’s all of us in some form) other great ideas are:

Resist any use of plastic when other choices are possible! Use your own reusable fabric bags for shopping. Paper, even recycled to some extent, has an impact and contributes to deforestation.

Use glass for home food storage. Write to businesses that sell things in plastic bottles to say you are choosing not to buy their products because of this. Encourage them to think responsibly and change their ways and habits.

As we all know now, $$ talks, even when morals walk…

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