Thursday, October 17, 2013

Mark Bittman on chicken and salmonella...

I think Mark rants a bit but hey, if Sweden can sell salmonella-free chicken it's certainly possible if we want to do it and this raises a very good question about who is in charge of our food safety and security...a really good dinner party conversation topic!


Should You Eat Chicken?

I tell this friend about the latest salmonella outbreak, and she asks me, “Should I stop eating chicken?”

It’s a good question. In recent weeks, salmonella on chicken has officially sickened more than 300 people (the Centers for Disease Control says there are 25 illnesses for every one reported, so maybe 7,500) and hospitalized more than 40 percent of them, in part because antibiotics aren’t working. Industry’s reaction has been predictably disappointing: the chicken from the processors in question — Foster Farms — is still being shipped into the market. Regulators’ responses have been limited: the same chicken in question is still being sold.
Until the Food Safety and Inspection Service (F.S.I.S.) of the Department of Agriculture (U.S.D.A.) can get its act together and start assuring us that chicken is safe, I’d be wary.

Read the rest at the New York Times.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

prions from veggies?

This just in from the American Society of Mammalogists' newsletter...

Just When You Thought It Was Safe to be a Vegetarian!

Prions similar to those that cause chronic wasting disease can be taken up from the soil by plants such as corn, alfalfa, and tomatoes.  The plants can then be infectious to lab mice.  The findings from the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin document a new potential pathway for exposure to this fatal brain disease.  Spread of CWD has previously been shown via direct contact with infected deer and contaminated soil.  

One more reason why we need to take care of our animals.  Chronic Wasting Disease has been hypothesized to jump to wild animals from captively-housed animals in excessively high density conditions...

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The deleterious effects of 'big food' on our health

From the Union of Concerned Scientists:
The Pulse: Facts You Need from Experts You Trust                     

It's no secret--the American diet of unhealthy, processed foods is killing us. More than 725,000 Americans die from heart disease and stroke each year. We can shrink this number through healthy eating, but we need our government working for--not against--us. Our new report, The $11 Trillion Reward, shows just how damaging current U.S. food policy is--favoring cheap, processed foods over fresh fruits and veggies--and what we can do to improve it. 

Check out the new report:

Read the Pulse in full online: 

Considering a ban on deep sea trawling

An excellent essay in Nature by Les Watling points out the damage caused by deep sea trawling and challenges key industry claims that trawling can be managed.  The take-home message:  avoid buying seafood harvested by trawling.

"Trawling the bottom of the ocean, dragging heavy metal equipment along the seabed at high speed, is the most destructive form of deep-sea fishing in the world. The fishing industry loves it because it is very effective. But it is indiscriminate and leaves behind a trail of devastation.

This month, the European Union (EU) is scheduled to vote on a proposed ban on deep-sea bottom trawling. If passed, the ban would be the first of its kind, although it would build on existing prohibitions on trawling in shallower water. It could give the seas some breathing space and fish stocks a chance to recover."

Friday, August 23, 2013

Looks like a fun read!

From The Economist:
Economics and eating

THE dismal science has been getting a makeover. Long associated with the abstruse art of mathematical modelling, economics has become the discipline of choice to explain all sorts of phenomena, from human decision-making to the mysteries of the housing market. Economists such as Steven Levitt have been making their fortunes by grappling with real-world problems in books such as “Freakonomics”. Tyler Cowen, a professor at George Mason University with a widely read economics blog called “Marginal Revolution”, joins the crowd with a book on food, now out in paperback.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Let's not lose site of the big picture and big problems in the future...

I read Dot Earth pretty regularly and think Andrew Revkin has some really insightful points and great debates about climate science.  This one stopped me in my footsteps.  He shows a graph that plots the decline in arguments/discussions about long term climate consequences and the rise of arguments/discussions focusing on the immediate a environmental groups.  He wisely points out that this really misses the point that our earth will change in some big ways in the medium and longer term and these are the issues that really need discussing.  Read the essay and talk about this at this weeks dinner party!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

excellent article about seafood labelling...

The Conversation has an excellent article about seafood labelling in Australia.  The issues are universal.  Is sustainable seafood possible?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A great NYTimes OpED about the true value (and cost) of home cooked meals

I've been silent recently....mostly busy...but also just following a lot of events with nothing particularly insightful to write about them.  I've been playing around with pickling and veggie I bet I'll write some more recipes on those topics soon.

However, I just have to share this very good NY Times OpEd about the value of home-cooked meals and how if we value them, we may have to pay for them.


Pay People to Cook at Home

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THE home-cooked family meal is often lauded as the solution for problems ranging from obesity to deteriorating health to a decline in civility and morals. Using whole foods to prepare meals without additives and chemicals is the holy grail for today’s advocates of better eating.

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But how do we get there? For many of us, whether we are full-time workers or full-time parents, this home-cooked meal is a fantasy removed from the reality of everyday life. And so Americans continue to rely on highly processed and refined foods that are harmful to their health.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Lemon, caper, tilapia

As I've regularly written, tilapia is one of those fish that you should probably eat if you care about sustainable fishers.  Moreover, it's one of the few fishes that are probably properly labeled (see previous blog post).  I've been playing around with this recipe for a while and I think I've finally nailed it.  It's now one of my favorite ways to add some serious flavor to tilapia.

1 cup flour
2 Tbs pepper
6 tilapia fillets
3 or 4 Tbs olive oil
3 or 4 Tbs butter

1 cup meyer lemon juice
3 or 4 Tbs capers (drained)

Mix the flour and pepper together and roll the tilapia fillets through it until they're lightly breaded.  In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and half the butter and lightly fry the tilapia fillets.  Turn after about 3-4 minutes or so.  When cooked through (6-8 min depending on thickness), remove from heat and blot to remove extra oil and keep in a warm place.

Place the remaining butter, fresh squeezed meyer lemon juice and capers into the frying pan and heat to a boil. While stirring, reduce heat and reduce the volume of the sauce for about 3-5 minutes.  You can add a little corn starch to thicken it a bit if you wish.

Plate the tilapia with rice and pour the luscious sauce over the tilapia and rice.  Enjoy!

Think you're eating snapper?

NGO Oceana released its nationwide survey of seafood labeling.  Much of the seafood we consume is mis-labeled and of all the fish, 89% of fish sold as snapper was not.  It could be tilapia.  It could be another species of snapper.  It could be rockfish.

Why does this matter?  Because if you're trying to buy sustainable fishes, you need to have faith in what you're buying is labelled correctly.

My new motto is that 'it takes a PCR machine to know what fish you're eating'.  Consumers beware!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Happy Groundhog Day!

Groundhog Day is a perfect opportunity to have a mid-winter festival/party.  We had our annual lab party last night at our UCLA lab and the LA Times came by to write about the festivities!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Greening the superbowl by friendship!

Here's a link to my recent Huffington Post blog entry about how we can all green the superbowl by strengthening our friendships while watching a great game rather than buy buying anything that's matter how good those commercials are!

Monday, January 7, 2013

now is the time for your tears...

Bob Dylan said it best "...for now is the time for your tears" in his ballad "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll". But rather than crying about a broken justice system, I'm crying about bluefin tuna that we are hunting to extinction while we all sit around and observe it.  

I read today that a record price was just set for a bluefin tuna--US$1.76 million--at the Tokyo fish Auction.  The message is shocking, yet quite predictable.  As desired goods become scarce, we value them more and the prices rise which drives people to hunt the last individuals.  It's all a predictable market-driven extinction spiral.  The only way to stop it is to stop the market.  Thus, a good new year's resolution is to stop eating bluefin.  Yes, torro is delicious, but our desire for it is driving bluefin extinct and extinction is forever.

Friday, January 4, 2013

A red line for climate change...

I'm reproducing this in its entirety.  Agree or disagree, it's worth a discussion over dinner this weekend.

Crossing the climate "red line"
By Dawn Stover | 4 January 2013

"At this late hour, there is only one way to peacefully prevent Iran from getting atomic bombs," said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his remarks at the United Nations last September. "That's by placing a clear red line on Iran's nuclear program." Holding up a cartoon of a bomb -- the image looked like something Wile E. Coyote would buy from the Acme Corporation -- Netanyahu literally drew a red line just below the bomb's uppermost section, which was ominously labeled "final stage." Beyond that line, which could be reached as early as this spring, Netanyahu said, Iran would be more than 90 percent of the way to creating enough weapons-grade material for a bomb. "Faced with a clear red line," he argued, "Iran will back down."

There was a lot of talk in 2012 about a red line. During the US presidential election, for example, President Obama said that Iran should not be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon. Mitt Romney vacillated on where the red line should be drawn but ultimately settled on a nuclear weapons capability. Like Netanyahu, neither Romney nor Obama was specific about what should happen if Iran crossed the red line, but a military threat was implied.

For existential threats, nothing beats a nuclear bomb with a short fuse. Even so, the handwringing over Iranian nukes seems disingenuous coming from world leaders who have had so little to say in recent months about another hot-button international issue: the looming catastrophe of global warming. Hurricane Sandy may have made climate change fashionable in New York City, but in Washington, legislators are still stuck on "it's the economy, stupid." Nuclear threats are taken seriously, but climate threats are largely ignored -- except, ironically, by military and intelligence agencies. The armed forces are taking steps to green their energy use, and the intelligence community is warning -- most recently in a report from the National Research Council, released 10 days late because of Hurricane Sandy -- that it is prudent to expect that climate events during the next decade will have "global security implications serious enough to compel international response" and that such consequences "will become more common further in the future." Meanwhile, the very people most inclined to believe that Iran nearly has the bomb -- despite a dearth of proof -- seem most disinclined to accept the scientific evidence calling for a red line on climate change.

When Netanyahu draws a red line, it's a line in the sand. But a red line for climate change is more like the line on your car's tachometer, which denotes the maximum speed at which your engine can safely operate. Rev the engine too high for too long, and you will overheat it to the point where it is ruined. Just like our planet.

The final stage. For your car, the red line is probably somewhere around 6,000 revolutions per minute. For climate change, it's 2 degrees Celsius. Warming beyond that level is widely acknowledged as "dangerous" anthropogenic interference likely to cause problems including extreme weather events, coastal inundation, decreased food production, and loss of biodiversity. The opening paragraph of the 2009 Copenhagen Accord, for example, recognizes "the scientific view that the increase in global temperature [beyond preindustrial levels] should be below two degrees Celsius."
Humans have already raised the planet's temperature by almost 0.8 degrees Celsius, and the results have been worse than scientists anticipated. Even if humans stopped adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere tomorrow, atmospheric models estimate that the gases we have already emitted will raise global temperature by another 0.8 degrees Celsius. If the "final stage" comes when we have covered 90 percent of the distance to 2 degrees, we are almost there now.

Why red lines don't work. The problem with the Copenhagen Accord -- and the talks that have taken place since then -- is that it hasn't resulted in actions that will keep Earth's engine below its red line. Instead of easing our foot off the throttle, humans are burning more fossil fuels than ever.

A study published last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences provides experimental evidence that focusing on a specific goal -- say, 2 degrees -- can, paradoxically, lead to inaction. As long as there is any uncertainty, however slight, about where the threshold of danger lies -- or about the consequences for crossing that threshold -- self-interest encourages countries to keep on emitting even though collectively they are better off reducing their emissions.

The carrot and the stick. If line-drawing isn't particularly effective, what's the alternative? Here we can look to Obama's dual strategy on Iran: Squeeze Iran with tough economic sanctions while simultaneously extending an invitation to negotiate on specific actions to be taken. This two-pronged approach could work for climate, too: Squeeze carbon emitters with a carbon tax while simultaneously creating incentives for concrete progress on energy conservation and efficiency -- measurable by audits and inspections.

If we must draw a red line, it should be in an oil field, because only by leaving most of the planet's remaining fossil fuels underground can we hope to prevent dangerous warming. Netanyahu drew his red line on Iran's nuclear-enrichment program, "because these enrichment facilities are the only nuclear installations that we can definitely see and credibly target." We can't see greenhouse gases, and we can't see temperature, but we can see and target the atmosphere's carbon-enrichment facilities: power plants and drilling rigs and gas-guzzlers.

Targeting is what should have happened at the climate conference in Doha last year. More than three years have already passed since governments agreed that emissions must be reduced to keep global temperature increases below 2 degrees. Now the focus of the international response to climate change must shift from goals and pledges to sanctions and inspections. Setting the red line at 2 degrees does not work unless the game is changed so that the players become collaborators rather than competitors, and the consequences of failure are guaranteed. We cannot afford to let another year go by without significant action; 2013 must be the year that we shift gears, learn how to use the brakes, and save our planet from being damaged beyond repair.

Copyright © 2013 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. All Rights Reserved.
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