Showing posts with label USDA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label USDA. Show all posts

Nov 27, 2015

Turkey Terms

A few common labels and what they actually mean, which is not much. I hope you are enjoying the leftovers from your premium, young, fresh, free range turkey, with no hormones added.

  • Young: Most commercial turkeys are killed at 16 to 18 weeks, so this is mostly meaningless. The USDA does not define “young” for turkeys and only requires the label of “mature” or “yearling” for turkeys that lived more than a year.
  • Fresh: This means the turkey was never frozen.
  • No Hormones Added: Mostly meaningless as commercial turkeys, and other poultry are not given growth hormones, per USDA rules.
  • Premium: Meaningless as premium has no USDA definition.
  • Free range: Often misleading, as it means the animal was given “access to the outdoors.” In most cases, the animal is still raised in standard, crowded cages.

Feb 27, 2015

Cholesterol and Salt

Hooray, bring on the bacon and eggs! Two recent reports are shaking up the food industry. Salt has recently been vindicated by scientists. "Cardiovascular disease, heart failure, or death in older Americans are not linked to salt intake", according to research published in JAMA Internal Medicine on January 19, 2015. This follows last year’s Institute of Medicine report, which also raised questions about sodium recommendations. The IOM committee found that there was no clear evidence to support limiting sodium to 1,500 milligrams or less per day.

The New England Journal of Medicine published a study in August 2014 which reported that people who consume less 1,500 milligrams of sodium are more likely to die than people who eat between 3,000 to 6,000 milligrams of sodium per day.

Now this new report says, cholesterol is no longer a "nutrient of concern," according to the US leading nutritional panel in February 2015.

In its 2015 version of the guidelines from the US Department of Agriculture, it will no longer place an upper limit on cholesterol, "because available evidence shows no appreciable relationship between consumption of dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol." The draft report said, "Cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for over consumption." The recommended changes were compiled by 14 nationally recognized nutrition, medicine, and public health experts. It makes Dr. Adkins appear absolutely prescient.

Health experts agreed it is no longer necessary to consider a food's cholesterol content when making dietary decisions. The committee’s new report also advised eliminating 'lean meat'  as well as 'cutting back on red and processed meats' from the list of recommended healthy foods. The panel also said it OK to have three to five cups of coffee per day.

The science connecting high-cholesterol foods to the accumulation of bad cholesterol in the blood is lacking - not conclusive enough to warrant federal intake recommendations. Even the predictive value of bad cholesterol levels in looking at heart attack risk has shown to be weak by recent studies.

The new enemy is increased carbohydrates, according the current analysis of government data. It says that, "over the past 50 years, we cut fat intake by 25 percent and increased carbohydrates by more than 30 percent." That is what has led to the increase in obesity.

Other countries that offer dietary guidelines have long abandoned specific caps on cholesterol. According to David Klurfeld, a nutritional scientist at the USDA, "The US is the last country in the world to set a specific limit on dietary cholesterol." Finally science begins to trump headlines. Many of my friends know I have been a Cassandra of cholesterol for years. I wonder how long it will take for 'artery clogging' to be banished from the lexicon.

Dec 1, 2013

Use by/Sell by Dates

Holiday feasts are usually followed by leftovers and the trick is to consume the leftovers before they go bad. Below are some tips to help. The only food federal law that says must have a use-by date is infant formula.

Some states also have their own rules about dates for bottled water or foods, such as milk. Other dates are voluntary by manufacturers to tell consumers when the food tastes best, not when it’s going to make a person sick. The ‘use by,’ ‘sell by’, ‘code dates’, and ‘best by’ dates are all used for quality reasons not for safety reasons.

One group, the Natural Resources Defense Council, a New York City-based, non-profit environmental advocacy group, report calls for putting sell-by dates meant for businesses, into code so they are invisible to consumers, although I do not understand how that will help.

A few guidelines follow. Bagged produce, such as spinach and lettuce should be tossed by the dates on the package. Bacteria does not grow in condiments such as mustard and catsup. It is OK to cut the mold off hard cheese, cured meats, and hard vegetables such as bell peppers and carrots.

Additional foods and their shelf lives, according to the USDA. Every food product listed should be stored at a refrigerator temperature of 40 F and below for the following shelf life to pertain.
Eggs 21 to 35 days
Lunch meat 14 days [unopened]; 3 to 5 days [opened]
Bacon 14 days [unopened]; 7 days [opened]
Cured Ham 5 to 7 days
Beef, Veal, Pork and Lamb 3 to 5 days
Apples 90 to 240 days
Grapefruit 28 to 42 days
Strawberries 5 to 7 days
Raspberries 1 to 2 days
Grapes 56 to 180 days
Carrots 28 to 128 days
Cherries 10 to 21 days
Asparagus 10 to 20 days
Bunched Broccoli 10 to 14 days
Celery 3 to 5 days
Lettuce 14 to 21 days

Dec 19, 2012

Bacon or Ham

The difference between bacon and salted pork or ham is primarily the composition of the brine that is used to cure it.  Brine for bacon often includes sodium nitrite, sodium nitrate, and saltpeter (for curing the meat); sodium ascorbate (for setting the color, as well as speeding up the curing process); and brown or maple sugar (for flavor), among other ingredients.  Brine for ham tends to have a significantly higher concentration of sugar. Incidentally, the USDA defines “bacon” as “the cured belly of a swine carcass”

Jul 29, 2011

Meat Labeling

Food manufacturers are now pushing the federal government for more truthful labeling that would allow them to tell consumers clearly that some products contain nitrate and nitrite, from natural rather than synthetic sources. The current rules require products that derive the preservatives from natural sources to prominently place the words “Uncured” and “No nitrates or nitrites added” on the label even though they are cured and do contain the chemicals.

A study published earlier this year in The Journal of Food Protection found that natural hot dogs had anywhere from one-half to ten times the amount of nitrite that conventional hot dogs contained. Natural bacon had from about a third as much nitrite as a conventional brand to more than twice as much.

The current U.S.D.A. labeling rules require natural products to indicate there may be naturally occurring nitrate or nitrite, but it often appears in small print. When combined with the more prominently displayed “No nitrates or nitrites added” banner, many consumers are left scratching their heads.

The U.S.D.A. responded by limiting the amount of nitrate and nitrite that goes into processed meats, and today they contain far less than they did 40 years ago.

However, scientists have gained more understanding of the role of nitrate and nitrite in human health and have discovered the preservatives also have benefits, for example, in the healthy functioning of the cardiovascular and immune systems.

Some in the meat industry have seized on these discoveries to dismiss as outdated, the link between nitrite in processed meat and cancer. They insist processed meats are safe. Sounds good to me, bacon and hot dogs need more nitrates and nitrites, like the good ol' days.

Jun 8, 2011

FDA Definitions

Food labels were once meant to make things perfectly clear, so we could make good food buying decisions. However, like most governmental regulations absolute rules become quickly obfuscated. The "per serving" is the thing to watch as many manufacturers make serving size humorously low to get a better rating.

"Low Fat" can mean there's up to 3 grams of fat per serving. "Fat Free" can have 0.5 grams and still count.

"Light" can mean a number of things, from the literal (the color) to the more concrete (50% the fat of plain-label), but it can also be used to mean simply "less" calories, without any actual figures. "Low Calorie," on the other hand, must have 40 calories or less per serving, and "Fewer Calories" actually means the product must have at least 25% less calories per serving.

The term "Light" used on package labeling has absolutely nothing to do with fat, sugar, or anything else. If a product "has been a long history of use of the term," then it can keep using it regardless of nutritional content.

Any product with "organic" on its packaging or display materials must contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients. "100 Percent Organic" products must show an ingredient list, the name and address of the handler (bottler, distributor, importer, manufacturer, packer, processor) of the finished product, and the name and seal of the organic certifier. These products should contain no chemicals, additives, synthetics, pesticides or genetically engineered substances.

"USDA Organic" products must contain at least 95 percent organic ingredients. The label must contain a list that identifies the organic, as well as the non-organic, ingredients in the product, and the name of the organic certifier.

"Made With Organic" products must contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients. The label must contain a list that identifies the organic, as well as the non-organic, ingredients in the product, along with the name of the organic certifier.

Aug 25, 2010

Cream Cheese

This American invention was developed in 1872 in New York state. Cream cheese is similar to French Neufchatel in that it is made from cow's milk, but differs in that it is unripened and often contains emulsifiers to lend firmness and lengthen shelf-life. USDA law requires standard cream cheese must contain at least 33 percent fat and no more than 55 percent water, although there are low-fat and nonfat varieties now on the market.

Oct 28, 2009

Pork

The term, pork is sometimes used to describe legislative appropriations meant to favor specific projects, to gain favor, or repay political debts for legislators. Now we have something new - stimulated pork.

The USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service spent $24.3 million of stimulus funds for pork. It bought $16.9 million of canned pork, $2.6 million of ham, and $4.8 million of sliced ham. The Agriculture Department is sending the meat to food banks as part of a $150 million effort to feed hungry Americans.