Most busy Americans have a powerful push-pull relationship with fast food. While they may know the facts—most fast food is high in fat, salt, and sugar and can lead to increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity—they still eat a lot of it. According to a 2013 Gallup poll, eight in 10 Americans report eating at fast food restaurants at least monthly, with almost half said they eat it at least weekly. Read more
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The news that toxic heavy metals have been detected at high levels around two glass factories located in residential neighborhoods has rattled the city of Portland, Oregon. These metals—primarily arsenic, cadmium, and chromium—are used to color glass and were found in moss samples collected around the city over the past few years and also in air sampling, the results of which were first made public early this year. (Update: New soil tests released this week show heavy metals generally low and garden soil and produce safe to eat, say Oregon health and environmental authorities. Thorough hand and produce washing are recommended and further test results will be forthcoming.) Read more
California is a major agricultural state. It’s also a major oil-producing state. And never the twain shall meet, right?
Not quite. In fact, there’s a big overlap in some areas of the state that are prime for both activities, mainly in the Central Valley. Besides shared geography, the two industries share something else: water. For about 20 years, oil companies like Chevron have provided millions of gallons of recycled oil field wastewater containing trace amounts of chemicals as irrigation water to farms that prize the reliable supply. But because of California’s severe, ongoing drought, reuse of oil wastewater for farm irrigation has expanded—as has scrutiny of the practice. Read more
On Monday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it will withdraw its approval for three chemicals used to make grease, stain, and water repelling food packaging and consider banning seven food additives used in both “artificial” and “natural” flavors. While the news may have gotten lost during the first post-holiday weekday, it’s worth noting. And it raises much larger questions about one of the agencies with the most control over the safety of what we eat. Here’s what you need to know. Read more
This story was written and originally published by Reveal, a new public radio show and podcast from The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX. Learn more at revealnews.org.
This looks like a humble black work boot with a filthy white sock over it. But it actually is a secret weapon in the fight against salmonella, a microscopic bacteria that can make people sick.
It’s one of many things farmers in Denmark have started doing since surging human illnesses prompted the country to no longer tolerate the bacteria in its chicken. It’s pretty simple: Danish farmers wear the socks over their boots when they’re in chicken houses to gather samples of the bacteria in the chickens’ poop. Read more
Food forests and edible landscapes are popping up in cities all over the nation, leading to a kind of urban foraging renaissance. But should foragers be worried about lead and other heavy metals in the food they’re finding?
Researchers at Wellesley College recently teamed up with Boston’s League of Urban Canners (LUrC) to find out. LUrC members frequently forage for food in Boston-area fruit orchards, and when one of their members tested high for blood lead levels recently, the group turned to Dan Brabander, a geoscience professor at Wellesley College, for answers. Read more
If you buy bread in Toronto, Paris, or Rio de Janeiro, it cannot by law contain the chemical potassium bromate. Yet if you eat baked goods in the U.S., you may be eating this substance unknowingly. Potassium bromate is used to whiten and strengthen dough, to reduce mixing time and enhance rising—but it was also classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a possible human carcinogen in 1999 after it was found to cause kidney and thyroid tumors in lab rats. Read more
Fertilizing crops with biosolids—a combination of human, commercial, and industrial wastes otherwise known by critics as “sewage sludge”—is a common but controversial practice.
On the one hand, municipalities argue, it is much more environmentally sound to recycle nutrients that would otherwise be sent to landfills. The use of these fertilizers also cuts down on the amount of man-made fertilizers needed to boost crops and keep soils healthy. Read more
Salad greens have been getting a bad wrap in the news lately. Not only are pre-cut greens notoriously risky from a food safety perspective (Since the 2006 E. coli outbreak, all bagged lettuce now gets triple washed, but a 2010 Consumer Reports study says that spinach and other greens still harbor dangerous bacteria), but they also require considerably more water and other resources than head lettuce. Worst of all: A great deal of it goes to waste. According to the Washington Post, as much as 1 billion pounds go to waste every year. Read more
Move fast and break things. That’s a phrase famously used by Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg, which has also become a slogan adopted across Silicon Valley, where CEOs espouse the philosophy that every imperfect idea will show its true nature over time and making mistakes can be the only way to move forward. Read more