Monday, April 4, 2011

Around The Culinary World

Good evening everyone! You have to love the midwest. Last week, we had 40 degree weather, snow showers and all around chilly weather. It was cold, you needed a coat whenever you were outdoors and everyone had their furnaces running to fight off the chill. Fast forward to yesterday, when the temperature in the greater Des Moines metro climbed to an almost balmy 85 degrees. It was downright HOT - uncomfortably so even. Mother nature wasn't done thought - oh no, by 5 pm, the temp had plunged 25 degrees to a cooler (and much more enjoyable) 60 degrees. The only constancy with Iowa weather is the inconsistency.

For those of you looking for consistency, you've come to the right place. It's Monday, which means it's time for another installment of culinary news and stories, we call it 'Around The Culinary World' and this week's edition is loaded with new and interesting tidbits from the world of food. Let's dive in!

The biggest story of the past week was the FDA's expert panel of scientists findings in regards to food colorings and health concerns in children. Since the 1970's there has always been a underground belief that artificial food coloring (also know as food dyes) were somehow linked to medical conditions such as hyperactivity and other behavioral disorders. The committee found that there wasn't any strong connection between the dyes and these conditions and even failed to pass a measure to put a warning label on the boxes of items with the dyes regarding the possibility of any side effects (the vote failed 8 to 6  - so it wasn't a 'definite' decision either way obviously).

I'm not sure where to weigh in on this issue. I'm sure that all of these additives and extras we've been putting into food over the past 20 odd years is going to be connected to some longterm side effects. We've already seen studies showing that the preservatives and salts (not to mention HGH, MSG, high fructose corn syrup and all the other lovely chemicals) have a negative effect on your health. Maggie and I cut out preservatives and processed meats in favor of organic and locally grown meats and immediately lost 10 pounds. There's a connection between removing additives and a healthy lifestyle. However, in this case I wonder if it's a case of false correlation. Social sciences have improved greatly in the last 30 years as well. We know have an understanding of many more mental illnesses than we did 30 years ago. Back then, a child was passed off as being 'difficult' - where as today they would be diagnosed with hyperactivity. Yes, diagnosis of these disorders have gone up, but the science has improved during that same time as well. Could food coloring be the cause? Possibly. Is it simply a case of improving science leading to a higher diagnosis rate? I think that's the more likely reason. Either way, you can read the full study results HERE.

We've been saying this since the blog first started. Food marketers are tricky. They know how to use keywords and phrases to shape the image of a product, they manipulate and maneuver their way around FDA guidelines to make claims that are somewhat backed by truth (50% truth 50% marketing speak!) I can't remember the number of stories we've shared regarding deceptive sales practices by corporations. They are always one step ahead of the consumer it seems - and this story only proves the point. Have you ever bought something in the store, opened the package and then exclaimed "These were bigger when I was a kid!" (This is usually followed up with the wise guy response of 'well, you were smaller when you were a kid' by someone in the room) It turns out, you are right. They WERE bigger when you were a kid. In fact, many grocery store items were bigger LAST MONTH than they are today? Why the change? It's simple, food prices are rising and rather than raise the cost of their items, companies are simply putting less product into the box. How do they get away with this? Clever labels of course. Check out the full story HERE to see all the ways your favorite products have been selling you less product - for the exact same price.

We always try to stay on top of food recalls. Our biggest rallying cry has been for better food production standards and guidelines to make the food contamination recall a thing of the past. As such, whenever we come across a mass recall story, we try to feature it. Primarily to inform our readers in case they missed the news, and secondly to keep the public up to date on just how lax some companies are with their production standards. This week's recall story, however, is a new one. The California based grocer, Trader Joe's (which has a location in West Des Moines and is a favorite stop for Maggie and I) is recalling 131,000 pounds of frozen pizza. Not due to salmonella or some form of ill preparation. Nope, this recall is due to an omission on the ingredient list. It turns out that the pizza has wheat in it and that particular ingredient is not listed on the label. Since some people are allergic to wheat, the company decided to pull all of their pizza from the shelves to avoid causing any allergic reactions. They are repacking and relabeling the product as we speak. It's nice to see a company be proactive rather than reactive to a possible issue. Their product wasn't even contaminated and they acted professionally and quickly to remedy a issue. Well done Trader Joe's - corporate responsibility is always applauded on this blog! Read the news release HERE

Speaking of food recalls, we've got another one this week. This time, it's from the seemingly harmless turkey burger. Check out the full details HERE.

Finally this week, we have our WTF story (there's an odd one every week it seems!) The Daily Meal has composed a list that I didn't realize was necessary - 8 Food's Not To Cook Naked. We here at Out Of The Culinary do not encourage cooking au natural - but I guess there are some out there who find it necessary to flip pancakes in the buff. (Brings a whole new meaning to the 'Naked Chef') If that applies to you, you'll want to check out this list. Even if you cook fully clothed (as we do) it's worth a read just for the laugh factor. Check out the list HERE.

Jamie Oliver (AKA 'The naked chef' for his natural flavor approach to cooking)  Only the food should be naked in the kitchen people! There are a lot of dangerous things in there! 

And there you have it folks. All the news that's fit to blog about for this week. We're cooking up two new recipes this week. Maggie will be starting us off on Tuesday and I'll finish off the week on Thursday. Be sure to stop in tomorrow evening to see what Maggie has cooking. Until then,


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