How to Have a Toxin Free Christmas By

The holiday season is full of complicated choices, including the conundrum of how to find the perfect Christmas tree. The most important part of choosing a tree is not its size or shape, but rather finding one that will pose the least risk to the health of your family and the environment. The average American families spend over 30 million dollars on Christmas trees alone during the holiday season. The need for increasing awareness around this obligation for clean trees in our homes is necessary for you and your family’s safety.

As with food, choosing a tree that is local and organic is best. Conventional farming is a dirty business and when the crop is not food, it’s even worse. Chemicals applied to conventional agricultural crops are applied outdoors, which then become absorbed into plant tissues, consumed by insects and animals, and are leached into the soil and groundwater. The soil and groundwater is then used to fertilize and harvest other conventional crops, spreading the toxins even further. The chemicals that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tracks that are used in conventional Christmas tree crops are linked to numerous negative health concerns including higher risks of cancer, neurotoxicity, asthma, hormonal disruption and much more.

Artificial trees can be even worse than conventionally farmed trees for the environment and human health. Most artificial Christmas trees are made from Polyvinyl Chloride Plastic, often referred to as PVC, a known carcinogen. Lead can be used to stabilize certain PVC products, and some labels on artificial christmas trees caution individuals to avoid inhaling or eating any bits of lead dust that may fall from the branches. Artificial trees are also oil-based, and carry a sleigh-load of flame retardants and chemicals that accentuate their bright green color. They also cannot be recycled and do not decompose once thrown away, making them a burden to the environment.

So what is the solution to having a clean, green, and toxin free Christmas tree in your home for your family? Organic trees are a dramatic improvement from conventionally grown and artificial trees. Organic farming has more strict regulations when it comes to chemicals in crops, which means less health risks for you and your family. However, naturally derived chemicals are still present from run-off irrigation systems used in conventional farming. Although organic trees are safer, they still have risks of toxins, so sourcing your tree from a farm you trust is a big factor in choosing your tree for your home.

The choice of recycling your tree is just as important as you choosing the right tree. By recycling your Christmas tree after the holidays season, your tree can be a gift that keeps on giving to the environment or your community. If curbside pickup for your tree is not available in your neighborhood, look into what local non-profit organizations offer donations of Christmas Trees for families in need.

  • 22 December, 2018
5 Holiday Hacks To Stay Bacteria Free This Christmas By

The Holiday season is everyone’s favorite time of year, but unfortunately it’s also the time of year where bacterial growth is at its highest peak. When temperatures drop, we start encountering viruses like the common cold and influenza more frequently. Not only are our bodies at risk for catching viruses, but we are more than likely surrounded by the ones you love, who are just as susceptible. The holiday season is the most favorable season to eat and cook with your loved ones. Whether you’re an experienced cook, a first-time holiday party host, or simply adding a dish to the potluck lineup… the holidays are a time to take food safety protocols very seriously.

Here are 5 Food Safety Hacks to keep your holiday season bacteria free.

1.) Wash your hands
Washing your hands is the best way to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of bacteria to your loved ones. Banish bacteria by washing hands before and after handling meats and produce. Hand washing is a win for everyone, not just you. Repeat after me: Wet, Lather, Scrub, Rinse!

2.) Cook food thoroughly
Cook each dish at the correct temperature that the recipe calls for, and before serving anything to your family or friends, double check to ensure its cooked all the way through. Meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs can carry germs that cause food poisoning. One of the safest ways of controlling contamination from bacteria is using a food thermometer. Safe minimum internal temperatures vary in different types of meats commonly cooked. Using a thermometer can ensure that the food has reached the correct temperature that will destroy any harmful bacteria. 

3.) Stay away from the “Danger Zone”
The temperature range in which food-borne bacteria can grow is known as the Danger Zone.

This is very important when it comes to thawing your poultry, meats, and seafoods safely. As soon as these products begin to thaw and become warmer than 40 °F, bacteria that may have been present before freezing can begin to multiply. You can safely thaw your products in 3 different ways: In the microwave, in cold water, or in the refrigerator. Another tip to consider to avoid the Danger Zone – Don’t let your post dinner drowsiness get in the way of safety and packing up remaining food properly. Refrigerate uneaten food within two hours of cooking to prevent bacteria growth. Leftovers is one of the best parts of holiday parties!

4.) Avoid eating dough or batter
Attention: Kids (and some sneaky adults): Keep your fingers out of the cookie dough bowl! Uncooked dough and batter made with flour or eggs can contain harmful bacteria germs such as E Coli and Salmonella. As tempting and delicious as the dough may look, the health risks are not worth it. Keep dough and batters refrigerated if not being used, and make sure to throw out any extra dough over 4 days of refrigeration. 

5.) Keep foods separated
There are many different serious food allergies. Whether your niece is actually gluten intolerant, or she just likes to avoid it, be sure to know exactly what’s in each food prepared and inform your holiday guests. Keep meat and seafood separate from all other foods and prevent juices from leaking onto the other prepared foods. Foods kept at different temperatures should be on different plates to avoid possible bacterial growth. Salads should go next to the other salads, and the meats should go next to the other meats. 

  • 7 December, 2018
How the US’s approach to food safety differs from the EU’s approach By

Policy approaches regarding food safety in the US and the EU are dramatically different. In the European Union, their principal is straight forward: If there is substantial evidence of danger to human/environmental health, protective action is taken, despite scientific uncertainty. In the United States, scientific proof of harm to human/environmental health must be demonstrated before action is taken. Our question is this: Should additives be innocent until proven guilty?

European regulations against additives in foods and chemical residues are generally more strict than in the US, due to their precautionary approach. As a result, there are many petrochemical-based food colorings (foods derived from petroleum) banned in the EU, but approved in the US. For example, artificial dyes in food products have been banned from the market in Norway and Austria due to health concerns. Popular food dyes, such as Yellow Dye No. 5, have been linked to problems in children including but not limited to: allergies, increased aggressiveness, and learning impairments. Due to Europe’s stricter regulations, foods containing these additives were taken off the shelves following the publication of only a handful of studies that outlined their potential negative health effects. However, in the US products that contain these coloring agents are considered safe are allowed to be sold as long as they are included in the ingredients list.

Another example is Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO), which acts as an emulsifier in soda and sports drinks. BVO contains bromine, an element found in brominated flame retardants. According to the United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA), BVO has been sitting on a list of food additives “permitted on an interim basis pending further study” for decades. Like many chemicals in foods, BVO was placed in “regulatory limbo” and is deemed as safe until further notice. Many studies have concluded that bromine disrupts normal hormone function, brain development, thyroid function, fertility, and can even increase one’s risk of cancer. The chemical has been banned in more than 100 different countries including almost all of Europe.

Contaminants such as heavy metals are substances that have not been intentionally added to food, but are present in food as a result of various reasons. This could be production, packaging, transport or holding. Since contamination has a negative impact on the quality of food, the EU’s legislation set specific levels of contamination to be legally permitted. For example, Arsenic is a heavy metal present in drinking water, grain-based products, and seafood that have been found to have carcinogenic properties and put humans at risk for different forms of cancer, and induce behavioral abnormalities in adults. In the EU only 5% of arsenic comes from water and 95% comes from food…to put into perspective, you’d need to drink 5 liters of water to get the equivalent arsenic toxicity levels of a small 100g portion of rice. There is strict regulation around arsenic in water supplies and little to no regulations in arsenic levels in foods. The EU announced guidelines for arsenic in rice: 200 ppb (parts per billion) while in the US, there is no standard for arsenic in food.

Yellow Dye #5, BVO, and Arsenic are just a few examples of chemicals found in food that are allowed to be consumed in one part of the world, but are banned in others. The EU and the US authorities have simply reached different conclusions about food safety, based on the same amount of evidence and research. I don’t know about you, but it makes us feel uneasy that there is no scientific or regulatory consensus when it comes to the agricultural and food products that we consume.

So what does this mean for us, the consumers? We are expected to comply with these differentiated ways of approaching the chemicals added in our food, and found in our food, depending on where we find ourselves living in the world. TestSharing gives the power back to the consumer, by giving you the most powerful weapon: knowledge. The way TestSharing scores the foods we test is by a simple to understand index scale. Our index scale always prioritizes the strictest and safest scores making sure our users are fully aware of the toxins and residues presented in the tested foods. Let’s make toxin-free eating a choice for everyone, regardless of the place where you reside.

  • 27 November, 2018