Friday 8 February 2019

Don't eat anything

I dunno, but sometimes the nanny state disappears up its own oompah in respect of risk assessment. I was idly flick-flicking through the paltry edutainment offerings of youtube and came across "Food expert fingers eight foods he refuses to eat". I can't find a link: it has effectively sunk without trace beneath my attention horizon. I only remember watching it because the first refused food was [raw] flour which was, to me, an unexpected source of coliform. That's because I now have a two week event-horizon for most things and had forgotten writing at length about the 2016 E.coli O121 in the flour outbreak that made a few dozen people sick: nobody died but 17 people were hospitalized. 64 bags of flour caused sickness but 5,000 tons of flour were recalled.  Since that flap 50,000,000 tons of flour has been consumed in the USA without ill-effect, yet parents are still being told to warn their kids about raw cookie dough. It seems disproportionate. If the children can't lick the bowl after making some baked-goods, they may wander off looking for other sources of oral gratification and lick the dog.  I don't buy it . . . or rather I do buy rather a lot of flour and it ain't made me sick yet.

That's just to soften you up for the recent CR Consumer Reports report on heavy-metal contamination of fruit juice. The problem here is that safe levels of chemicals in foods are set really low, so that there is no chance of adverse effect if the guidelines / regulations are adhered to. If the limit is set at 5 parts per billion you are probably okay if your batch is 10 ppb but you might start paying attention if your favorite bevvy clocks in at 50 ppb which is 10x or 'an order of magnitude'. That's why this denunciation is a little infair "Trader Joe’s Fresh Pressed Apple Juice was the only product above the FDA’s proposed 10 ppb limit for inorganic arsenic, with the three samples we tested averaging 15.4 ppb" Not least because the average of three doesn't give an inkling about the range about 15.4 ppb. If the individual values are 14 / 15 / 17 ppb, you'd be confident(ish) about the accuracy and reproducibility of the published value. If they were 6 / 7 / 32ppb you'd cry foul or outlier or contamination. For reasons none of them can stand over, chemists always measure things in triplicate - no more no less.
The Irish EPA currently set safe limits at
  • 10 ppb = μg/l for arsenic As
  • 5 ppb cadmium Cd
  • 10 ppb lead Pb
  • 1 ppb mercury Hg
There are lots of reasons why you should not buy juice: €1.50/lt for starters. Mums, make your own! 2 tsp of strawberry jam, 2 tsp sugar, 50mg vitC tablet; shake vigorously; drop into school bag while patting offspring on the head; job done.
I R delighted to report that Welch’s 100% Juice With Antioxidant Superberry is one of two juices which pipped up above 5ppb for lead. That's a damn-fool name for a beverage; which alone is enough to make a discerning consumer shun the stuff. Anti-oxidant just means there is some residual vitamin C. Because Superberry is wholly undefined I will assume that all the vat-lees and pipe-blowings at the end of the week are stirred up together and marketed as 100% juice.
'Tis a long way from Johnny Keats
O for a beaker full of the warm South! 
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
And purple-stainèd mouth;
that concoction was r'ared.

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