Posts Tagged ‘ Elisa Zied ’

Peanut Recalls: What You Need to Know

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

By Elisa Zied, MS, RD, CDN

If your family eats peanuts, peanut butter, or other peanut products, you’re most likely concerned by the recent slew of recalls of some of these foods because of possible salmonella contamination. Thus far, an estimated 240 peanut products have been recalled, including popular brands such as Trader Joe’s and Hines Nut Company.

Last month, Trader Joe’s recalled its Creamy Salted Valencia Peanut Butter and eight other products. Sunland, Inc. followed suit and announced a voluntary limited recall of almond butter, peanut butter (including the one made at Trader Joe’s) and cashew butters, tahini, and their roasted blanched products. Most recently, Hines Nut Company, Inc. voluntarily recalled its salted jumbo Virginia in-shell peanuts, distributed under Hines or Dollar General Clover Valley labels. The Hines products are sold at Wal-Mart and Dollar General.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 35 people from 19 states have reportedly been infected with a strain of salmonella, likely resulting from the consumption of Trader Joe’s Valencia Creamy Salted Peanut Butter made with sea salt, manufactured by Sunland, Inc. Of those people contaminated, eight have been hospitalized, and almost two thirds of those reportedly sickened by the recalled products are children under age 10. At this time, no one appears to have gotten sick from any of the other recalled products and no deaths have been reported.

What is Salmonella?

Salmonella is a bacterium that can cause serious and sometimes deadly infections in young children and in other vulnerable populations (including frail or elderly people, and those with weakened immune systems). Symptoms include fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting, and infection, and typically last between four and seven days. Although most healthy people can recover without treatment, in rare cases conditions such as arterial infections, endocarditis, and arthritis can develop.

CDC urges those who think they may have become sickened from eating peanuts or peanut butter (or any foods, for that matter) to speak with a physician, and to contact their state health department.

What Should Parents Do About Food Recalls?

Even if no one in your family has become sick, your natural instinct as a parent may be to scour your pantry and throw out all possible offenders. And, of course, it makes sense to not eat recalled items.

Sarah Krieger, MPH, RD, LDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, urges parents to visit the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website to stay up to date on specific product recalls. For those who find a recalled product in their homes, CDC suggests you put the product in a closed plastic bag and throw it out in a sealed garbage can, or return it to the manufacturer for a refund.

But what other steps can parents take to play it safe—without going to extremes?

Krieger, a mother of three, suggest that you pay attention to the expiration dates used to determine which shipments of food have been recalled. If a product is released with an expiration date that is after the date on the recalled product, you should be safe.

Another option is to heat peanuts and any peanut products in question (you can make peanut sauce for noodles or a dip for vegetables). “Heating to 160 degrees or higher for at least 10 minutes will kill any salmonella the product may contain,” Krieger says.

But for those who aren’t comfortable with either scenario, and who are nervous as Halloween approaches, Krieger suggests being mindful of kids’ peanut and chocolate candy consumption. “Those who rather wait for the recall to be over before consuming peanuts or peanut products can opt instead to buy candy and other treats that don’t contain, or aren’t processed alongside, nuts or seeds.”

The bottom line? Don’t panic, get the facts, and make the decisions you’re most comfortable with when it comes to feeding your family.

Elisa Zied, MS, RD, CDN, is a Parents advisor. You can follow her on Twitter at @elisazied.

All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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Arsenic in Rice: Should We Cut This Grain Out of Our Children’s Diets?

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

By Elisa Zied, MS, RD, CDN

Move over juice—rice and rice products are now garnering considerable attention for being a source of arsenic, thanks to a recent Consumer Reports article. Following a report they published last January about concerning levels of arsenic in both apple and grape juices, the popular magazine now reveals surprising findings about rice and its many forms in 60 products commonly found in grocery stores. Turns out there’s arsenic—and sometimes, “worrisome amounts,” according to the report—in a range of rice products, including organic rice baby cereal, rice breakfast cereal, brown rice, and rice milk.

The report itself—and no doubt the media frenzy surrounding it—has led many of us to scratch our heads, and wonder if we unknowingly exposed our families to a potentially dangerous chemical. You may have even thrown out all the rice and rice products in your cupboard. But are we overreacting?

Before you jump on what’s sure to be an anti-rice bandwagon, it’s important to understand what arsenic is, and to know that it’s not all created equally.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, arsenic is a chemical element naturally found in water, air, food, and soil. It also occurs as a result of contamination from human activity (such as burning coal, oil, or using pesticides that contain arsenic). Although found in both organic and inorganic forms, inorganic arsenic is the form that has been linked with higher rates of skin, bladder, and lung cancers; and heart disease. Some studies have also suggested that chronic exposure to arsenic can contribute to cognitive and other developmental disabilities.

Although arsenic works its way through soil and water into many healthful foods, including grains, fruits, and vegetables, the FDA, which has monitored arsenic levels in foods since 1991, says rice may be more susceptible to absorbing arsenic than other grains.

Despite the findings by Consumer Reports and its own, just-released preliminary study findings on an analysis of 200 grocery store items (with another 1,000 to go),the FDA won’t, at this time, tell Americans to forego rice and rice products. Instead, it urges them to consume a variety of grains as part of a well-balanced diet.

Consumer Reports, however, suggests limiting infants to no more than 1 serving a day of infant rice cereal. They also encourage diets with lower arsenic grain options, including wheat cereals, oatmeal, and corn grits. Daily rice drinks for children under age 5 are not recommended.
Until more information is known, it’s probably wise to heed the advice of both the FDA and Consumer Reports. Continue to feed your child—and yourself—a varied diet with foods from all the basic food groups. Also, mix up the foods you choose from each food group—that way you’ll consume different combinations of nutrients, and at the same time, limit your exposure to chemicals that may prove to be harmful.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says additional research is needed before recommendations can be made on the possible risks involved in consuming rice and rice products, including baby cereal.

If you’re concerned about arsenic in your favorite rice product, contact the manufacturer or the FDA. And if you decide to remove rice and rice products from your diet, be sure to fill the gap with other healthful whole grain foods to get complex carbohydrates, fiber, B vitamins, and other valuable nutrients.

Elisa Zied, MS, RD, CDN, is a Parents advisor. You can follow her on Twitter at @elisazied.

Image: Rice via Shutterstock

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