Galley: 1) the kitchen of a boat. Sally: 1) a venture off the beaten path, 2) a military action in which besieged troops burst forth from their position, 3) a witty remark.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Excitotoxins, BPA, Money and My Food (Part 2)

If you missed Part 1, follow this link.

At the end of my last post, I promised to shrink your grocery store... Here goes. Check out this picture:

There are three significant things in the photo above, none of which are immediately apparent. The first is that these were the last three cans and boxed mix I had in my cupboards. The second is that I made a complete meal using just these four items plus spices (recipe to follow). The third is that--surprisingly enough--the Jiffy Mix, while not perfect, may just be the safest food in the bunch.

The other three canned items all likely contain BPA, something that was hot in the press several years ago as consumers demanded that it be removed from baby bottles and water bottles. But it is still in the linings of canned goods. I have known this for awhile, which may be true for you too, but I only recently learned just how damaging to our health BPA can be. So! I made our last canned meal from these items, and thought it somewhat odd that I was able to do so, as I certainly didn't plan ahead of time that these would be the last three. The recipe is quick, easy, and can contribute to cancer, obesity, heart disease, and immune dysfunction (to name just a few).

Here is what you do:

1) Gently warm the coconut milk and pumpkin in a cook-pot over low heat, stirring to mix well.
2) Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans, then puree them + 1/4 cup water in a Cuisinart, if you can.  Yes! We received a tiny Cuisinart for Christmas. Look how cute it is:

3) If you pureed the beans, then mix them into the coconut/pumpkin until smooth and warmed through. You may add more milk (coconut or cow's) to thin if desired. Season to taste with garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper. Then serve! The bonus here is that my kid ate the soup with the beans pureed. Last time I made it I put the beans in whole, and she wouldn't eat it.
4) If you cannot puree the beans, just stir them in whole and continue warming gently until heated through. Season as above in step three, then serve.

Note: I also made the jiffy biscuits to serve with this meal, but will detail the no oven "how to" in my next post.

There you have it! An easy recipe made with healthy foods that can wreck havoc with your health! Will you still make it? You could of course buy organic whole pumpkin and cook it then puree it, and buy organic garbanzo beans and cook them and puree them... but I'm not so sure what you can do about the coconut milk... let me know if you have ideas (I checked out the boxed coconut milk but it has... carageenan! Note: I am still struggling with the carageenan question. I am finding very conflicting information about it, and have yet to uncover what I think is a "solid source." Tips are appreciated.)

But all this begs the question: 

What's up with BPA? Why is it in my canned foods and Why is it so bad?

I read a great interview with Frederick vom Saal in Mother Earth News. Vom Saal is a BPA researcher at the University of Missouri's Endocrine Disruptor Group. The following is excerpted/restated from the interview, with my comments.

BPA is derived from petroleum. It is present in the epxoy resins used to line aluminum soda cans and the steel cans that contain your soups, beans and vegetables. BPA was approved by the EPA for use as a food contact material in 1963, but has been around in other products since 1910. Why is this bad? Citing research dating from the late 1990s to present, vom Saal believes BPA contributes to multiple health empidemics, including:

heart disease
immune dysfunctions including allergies and asthma
early puberty
damage to every part of the reproductive system
uterine fibroids
ovarian cancer
breast cancer
low sperm counts
prostate cancer
abnormalities of the urethra
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
learning disabilities
social behavior disruption
"It causes the brain of a young animal to look like a senile, aged adult, and it's a cause of impaired memory" (This sounds like the Curious Case of Benjamin Button, but without any hope for a little time of joy in a younger future)

Alright. That's a lot of big bad stuff. So tell me again why BPA is in our food containers? Well, it helps create great-looking, versatile products. Further, when it is in a chain-linked polymer form it isn't a problem. The problem occurs when the chains are exposed to high temperatures or a bit of an alkaline environment. Then, they break apart, and when the molecules break away they become a hormone.

So... I have never been inside a huge, industrial, canning establishment, but I know canning at home requires high temperatures. I'm assuming the same is true on an industrial scale. This means all those cans are exposed to heat, and then begin leaking BPA into your food.

The rationalization for using BPA was, "Even if it is an estrogen (a hormone), it's so weak you don't need to worry about it." But vom Saal and researchers used breast cancer cells to study estrogen chemicals for their potency, and BPA "lit up like a Christmas tree." Vom Saal states: "We said, 'Holy Makeral! What is it that would ever make anybody think this is weak?"

What the Research Shows... very interesting...

There are now more than 1,000 studies of BPA from both independent and industry-funded sources. ONE HUNDRED percent of INDUSTRY funded studies conclude that BPA is perfectly safe. Vom Saal reviewed the entire body of BPA literature seven years ago, and found that greater than NINETY percent of independent studies  reported BPA harms our endocrine system. Since then, the ratio of studies demonstrating harm to those "not showing harm" has increased dramatically.

Unfortunately for us, BPA is one of 62,000 chemicals grandfathered in through the Toxic Substances Control Act. This means there is no regulation of BPA, even though the FDA has stated that it agrees there is reason for concern that BPA causes prostate cancer, early puberty and other health problems. And because BPA is a grandfathered chemical, the FDA cannot ban it or regulate it. They cannot even require companies to disclose its use.

There is a great deal more of excellent information in the article, but my goal here is not to re-type it, just to alert you and make you curious enough to learn more. The entire article may be read at Mother Earth News.

One immediate concern I have (other than damage to every part of my reproductive system) is for simple boat provisioning... but I guess this is just one more strike against cans. Already they are:

1) Heavy
2) Consume much recycling space when empty, and now
3) Poisonous too.

Thoughts? Comments? Ideas for coconut milk?


  1. Not only heavy and take up space, but if they get wet the labels come off. I know from experience. Love you. The mama

  2. Hey Jessica: I just received a return call from Full Circle Organic foods with respect to my query regarding BPA in the lining of their cans. Their answer was in the affirmative. There is BPA in the linings of their canned products. Why put organcially grown and processed foods in contaminated cans? Mama

    1. I don't know why. It is crazy, pure and simple. I think it won't change until enough people are made fully aware of the health effects.

      Companies removed it from baby bottles and sippy cups when put under enough pressure. No one is exerting enough pressure yet for canned goods.

      The only question is: What new bad thing will they put in instead?


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