On February 12, 2012, Environmental Health Perspectives published results of a study that found arsenic – a toxin that can increase the risk of cancer - in organic cereal bars and baby formula. Of the 17 baby formulas tested, 2 were found to have arsenic levels between 20 and 30 times that of other baby formulas (and 1 formula tested with levels of inorganic arsenic – the type that humans most readily absorb – that are significantly higher than those allowed in drinking water). Of the 22 cereal bars tested, some of them had arsenic levels that are 12 times more than what the EPA allows for drinking water.
So how did all this arsenic find its way into these food items? Organic brown rice syrup. Many organic food processors use brown rice syrup as a substitute for high fructose corn syrup. With the results of this study, the benefits of this substitution has seriously (understatement) been put into question. The arsenic levels found in the cereal bars and baby formula may not cause immediate death, but chronic consumption of arsenic is linked to increased risk of skin/lung cancers as well as cardiovascular disease. In my opinion, the more disconcerting issue is the accumulated impact of arsenic on the health and development of babies and young children.
While this controversial topic is discussed in both the mainstream media and food advocacy venues around the world, the recent study is a very good reminder that ‘organic’ does not equate to ‘safe.’ Remember the 2009 salmonella outbreak found in organic peanut butter?
Much of the problem has less to do with the fact that these foods are organic and more to do with the processing, lack of/limited accountability and safety controls that apparently are not in place and/or are not enforced.
So what can you do to limit your exposure to some of these life-threatening food borne illnesses? Well, aside from demanding greater safety controls for the production of your favorite store-bought foods, you can also reduce your consumption of processed foods and try making more things in your home/from scratch. Following these steps won’t necessarily rid your life of danger (remember the organic grape tomato scare? Fear of E. Coli in packaged organic spinach? Salmonella in/on organic eggs??); however, it can help reduce the risks and help you improve your health, might make you look better and will definitely enhance your appreciation for good, real food.
As inspiration, I’ve added a Cherry ‘Snack Bar‘ recipe. It tastes better than any store bought version you’ll find at the store (organic/conventional) and really, doesn’t take long to make.
Recipe slightly adapted from the Boastful Baker’s Fig Bar Recipe
Makes 10-12 bars
1/4 cup of canola oil
1/2 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
Zest of 1 orange
1 egg white, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup of all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour.
1/2 a bag of frozen cherries (it’s the middle of winter – had no choice, but could use fresh)
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 tablespoon of granulated sugar
In a large mixer, add the butter, oil and sugar. Turn the mixer on high and mix until the butter/oil/sugar mixture is thick and pale in color. Add the zest of the orange, egg white and vanilla. Beat until fully incorporated. Slowly add the flours and mix until just incorporated. Do NOT over beat. Remove the dough from the mixer and flatten into a circular disk. Cover the disk in saran wrap and leave in fridge over night (or at least a couple of hours).
To make the cherry filling, add all the ingridents and place in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil w/o stirring the pot. Let cook for about 6-8 minutes. Once it has cooked down a bit, turn off the heat and let filling cool completely.
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Flour a large surface and roll out the dough to about 1/4 of an inch (you’ll need to move quickly as the dough might start to stick). Once flat, add the cherry filling down the middle of the dough, on the long side. Fold over the two long sides so that they meet in the middle, right on top of the cherry filling. Slice the dough using a knife, to make the bars and place the bars on a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Bake in the middle of the oven for 15-17 minutes. Cool completely on rack. You can store these in an air-tight container for up to a week! Enjoy with a cup of tea and/or pack it in your kiddies’ lunchboxes. They’ll love you for it!
About the Author (Author Profile)We all have a friend in our lives who is smart, witty, intelligent: you give her cold pasta and chicken and she will whip out a gourmet meal in 15 minutes, she makes chicken soup from scratch for her sick neighborhood even though she is nursing a cold herself… you know that friend who will always be there to drive common sense into you, but doesn’t realize that she is as perfect as they come as a mother, wife and friend. That is our Patty….
Sites That Link to this Post
- Snack Bars without the Arsenic: A Recipe | CookingPlanet | February 27, 2012