Monday, January 16, 2012

Around The Culinary World

Hello again everyone! It’s another Monday, but a majority of the US had it off – so for some of you, it’s Sunday part two! Alas, even though I work in the banking world, I work for one of the few places that believes it achieves a competitive advantage in staying open on Federal holidays. Of course, we’re unusually slow, because…well, everyone thinks we’re closed. Maggie works in the medical world, so they don’t observe the non major holidays. So, the long and short of it was, it was still a Monday for your favorite amateur chefs. Extended weekend or not – Monday means we’re taking a trip Around The Culinary World! Let’s dive in to the news of the week:

The biggest news of the week involves another food contamination scare that ended up being slightly overblown. On Wednesday, the FDA announced it was suspending the import of foreign orange juice until they could confirm that the product was free of a particular fungicide that is banned in the United States.

Traces of carbendazim were detected in orange juice imported from Brazil. Carbendazim is a fungicide that has only recently been blacklisted by the FDA. It was used in the US as recently as 2008. However, there have been studies linking the fungicide to cancer and other health defects. Other countries, Brazil among them, do not have this ban in place yet, so they are still allowed to use the product in orange growing, but they cannot import any oranges that have come in contact with this particular fungicide to the US.

The initial announcement was enough to cause a spike in orange prices, jumping the price of orange juice futures (yes, that really is an investment option…) to an all time high price of $2.07 per pound. However, shortly after announcing the ban, the FDA stressed that the presence of Carbendazim is not an immediate health risk and that this ban was simply being over cautious, rather than reflecting a potential major health epidemic. By Thursday, OJ futures were trading at a normal level and some foreign imports were being allowed into the US once again. You can read more about the initial reaction HERE and the follow up from the FDA HERE.

Even though this development ended up being a lot of overreaction by both the market and consumers - we always try to stay on the ball in regards to major product recalls, food contamination and other packaging, producing goofs – keeping you up to date on the producers that cut corners, the companies that don’t handle their product recalls properly and, even though this is rare, we try to highlight the companies that do the right thing the first time and recall / report food related problems or contaminations before they become a major outbreak.

Luckily this week, we only have kudos to hand out involving the latest contamination scare. The FDA was extremely proactive in stopping a potential problem before it became a widespread issue. Even more so, Coca-Cola deserves credit for being on the ball regarding the orange juice supply. On Thursday, the company announced that they were the ones who tipped the FDA off in regards to carbendazim in imported orange juice.

While the company was doing routine tests on their (and their competitor’s) products, they noticed levels of the fungicide and alerted the FDA to the issue. The company has not said which product they found the fungicide traces in (for obvious ‘don’t want to hurt the bottom line’ reasons). Even so, with a world of food producers who desperately try to hide production issues and contamination problems, kudos to Coca-Cola for sounding the alarm on a potential issue before it became a problem.

With the NFL playoffs fully upon us, the humble potato chip is getting a lot of crunch time action. (Pun slightly unintentional…) One of the most popular party chips is the tortilla chip, mainly for its amazing compatibility with the world of dips and dipping goods. Choosing the proper tortilla chip, however, is a lot harder than it needs to be. The big boys like Tostitos have the funds to buy advertising and store space, so they obviously are the best selling product on the tortilla chip market. But, does best selling mean best product? The folks from KitchenDaily put tortilla chips to the test to find out once and for all, which tortilla is really king of the bowl. Check out their results HERE.

In food news that should shock no one, Paula Deen announced this week that she has type 2 diabetes.

Those familiar with Deen’s cooking style are likely more surprised this hasn’t happened sooner. There is a reason Deen’s recipes don’t appear on our blog – she’s exactly the opposite of what our blog strives to achieve. Deen prides herself on heavy (sometimes called southern style) cooking, featuring a lot of butter and not-so-great for you ingredients.

Even with a different cooking style and culinary vision from us, we wouldn’t come out and mock someone whose health has become a concern. In a normal situation, we would wish Ms. Deen a speedy recovery and move on – but there’s more to this story than meets the eye.

The latest story involving this announcement is that Deen knew about her condition as far back as April of 2010 but attempted to keep it hidden because she didn’t want to damage her reputation as a celebrity chef.

I’m not sure what’s worse, the fact that she is prioritizing pushing her butter filled, heavy eating recipes to her fans even though she is now exhibit A on what eating like that will do to you or the fact that she was more concerned about her status as a celebrity chef than anything else.

I understand that being a food celebrity is her career, but I think she may have done more damage to that career by responding the way she did instead of being proactive and aggressive. I don’t work in PR, but doesn’t this seem like a good time to give new life to your career and push a good cause? You now have a platform to preach on healthy eating – you can say “I’m the best example of what poor eating can do to you” diabetes is preventable if you eat better… etc. In addition, you can revamp your cooking style and make healthy versions of your old recipes. Here’s hoping Ms. Deen takes this bad news and uses her (very important to her) celebrity to push a good agenda. Her reaction to this matter is going to dictate how the food world responds. Initial reports are that she is using this diagnosis to launch and endorsement of a diabetes drug. If true, this report tells me that Ms. Deen is always looking to find the next financial windfall – no matter the situation. Read the full story HERE.

Now, as opposite of Paula Deen as we can get – let’s talk about healthy food options. Lentils have been featured on our blog a few times now, and we’ve been pleasantly surprised at just how delicious these little legumes have been. They’re packed full of flavor, and work very well as either a star of the dish or a great compliment. Even better, they’re packed with protein and are actually quite filling. Meaning your vegetarian meals won’t leave you hungry 30 minutes later. Add in the low cost and the lentil makes an argument for unsung bean of the year. has a great feature on the lentil this week that highlights three very diverse recipes to use the legume in. Check out the story, and the recipes HERE.

There you have it folks, an overblown recall, a company on the ball, the best tortilla chips for your money, a celebrity chef whose priorities are (allegedly) all out of whack and the little legume that could. Not too bad for a slow week of culinary news, right? We’ve got another full week of cooking lined up – I’ll be taking to the kitchen on Tuesday with a healthy dish that features an interesting ingredient. Maggie follows me on Wednesday with another healthy dish of her own. It’s sure to be a fun week of cooking, so stop back in on Tuesday night to see what I’ve got on the menu. Until then,


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