Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Benzene Update - further evidence of a cover-up?

"As I see it, every day you do one of two things: build health or produce disease in yourself." -- Adelle Davis (1904 - 1974), American pioneer in the field of nutrition

The quote above brings to mind how important it is for all of us to develop healthy habits. But, there are many challenges facing us today that go beyond what we are in control over when it comes to building our own health.

The recent salmonella in spinach disaster that happened here in the USA is one example. We eat spinach because we believe it is good for us... we have no control over whether or not it is coming to us in a contaminated form.

And as much as we'd like to trust (in fact, NEED to trust) the FDA and the USDA for our safety as it pertains to the food supply chain, it gets to be very difficult when incidents like the benzene situation are uncovered.

We've written about it on a few occasions at BLV Health watch: like here, and here and now yet another article comes out about a benzene cover-up. In the article, published by BeverageDaily, they write:

Cadbury Beverages, now Cadbury Schweppes, privately withdrew its Diet Orange Crush drink in five regions in the US in 1990 because tests found some products with benzene several times above the acceptable limit. Benzene is a cancerous chemical. ...The revelation, confirmed by newly released official documents passed to BeverageDaily.com, raises new questions about the seriousness of the benzene in soft drinks problem.

The article even provides info given by the FDA on the subject:

“Levels of benzene formed are highly variable with treatment, but ranged from four ppb to several hundred ppb,” an FDA memo dated January 1991 says. “Even sitting at room temperature in the dark yield [sic] low benzene levels after one or more days.” Heat and light exposure rapidly increased benzene formation.

And a final comment in the article:

“It's outrageous that when a known carcinogen such as benzene was found in popular USA soft drinks, neither the beverage industry or FDA notified consumers,” said an ex-Cadbury scientist, who approached BeverageDaily.com alongside lawyer Ross Getman about the benzene in soft drinks problem.

Fast forward to the recent samonella-spinach scare...

It's been known for quite some time that bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella can be absorbed by plants -- particularly radish, lettuce, spinach, and root vegetables such as carrots.

Some clinical studies believe manure from large factory farms are the cause of these microbes getting into our fresh produce (owing to the higher likelihood of microbes being present in the manure from factory farms). A few older studies, some of which were ordered by the USDA, Dept. of Ag and other related government bodies responsible in whole or in part for our food safety, cleary show a direct connection to factory farming methods and increase in spread of E. coli and salmonella -- particularly at slaughterhouses/packing plants -- and in our meats.

The recent recall of hams and turkeys right before Thanksgiving dinner here in the USA (and which may have been contaminated with Listeria) might give us a few uneasy moments to pause and think: is our food really safe?

Now, for the most part, meats are generally cooked.

But fresh produce, such as lettuce, spinach, carrots, etc. are often used raw in salads. When the bacteria is "absorbed" by produce, (in one rumored report, it occurred due to spread of manure received from a factory farm -- used to fertilize their produce in order to apply the "organic" label to their products) I daresay no matter how hard you wash it, I doubt you can guarantee the removal of all the microbes. The worst part? Not knowing if those microbes are present or not.

We'll be bringing you some very important articles and news on this subject in the New Year ahead. More updates on other subjects coming soon.

Until then, be safe, be well, and be careful out there.