Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Doing Their Best to Kill Christmas Cheer

By Alan Caruba

The one thing you can count on during the Christmas season is an avalanche of media-driven scare campaigns by environmental and self-appointed consumer protection groups that are intended to ruin it with claims that everything you eat or do has the potential of killing you and your loved ones.

Here’s an example; in December 2011 GreenLivingIdeas.com posted an article by Sanya Kanelstran to let everyone know that, during the Christmas season, “A heart attack can strike at any time in a person with coronary artery disease, but heart attacks are more likely during the festive season and especially between the Christmas and New Year period because of the change in diet and lifestyle around the holidays.” So, happy holidays and try not to die.

The folks at Naturalnews.com posted an item on December 17, 2010 that warned that “Those Christmas-colored snack chips and store-bought cookies, but watch out. Eating them may cause side effects such as hyperactivity, especially in children. That’s because nearly all Christmas-colored foods achieve their colors through the use of artificial coloring chemicals, including Red #40.”

ItsMyHealth.com issued a warning in November by Julie Robotham. “Traditionalists love their roast turkey with all the trimmings on Christmas day, but with food poisoning from poultry more prevalent than ever, it pays to take care with the preparation of raw meat.” Properly cooking turkey or any other meat is sufficient to kill most, if not all, bacteria.

The Internet is filled with these posts and, during the holiday season, you can count on the media to repeat them because scaring people is the stock-in-trade of most reporting. A welcome change from this is Fox News channel’s John Stossel who has devoted his career to debunking food and other claims that do not stand up to the scrutiny of fact-checking.

On a November 29, 2012 program, aired on Fox Business and Fox News, Stossel revisited the lies about finely textured, 95% lean beef. As I wrote in a commentary debunking the lies about “pink slime”, a term applied to this, “This lean beef is routinely added to lower quality hamburger to increase its protein content and its production has long been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It actually improves the nutritional quality of a lot of cheaper hamburger.”

Stossel reported that “What some media outlets call ‘pink slime’ is perfectly safe because it’s just meat. It’s made from the meat that clings to the bones—the parts that the meat cutters missed. An added safety factor to kill any bacteria is its treatment with a tiny ammonium hydroxide gas.” There have been no reports of illness from the consumption of finely textured lean beef. Moreover, the process is also used to protect processed cheese, chocolate, and soda. And it exists naturally in beef!

In May, the Washington Times published a commentary by J. Justin Wilson, a senior research analyst at the Center for Consumer Freedom, a group devoted to debunking food and other product scares. In “Funny Food Hypocrisy” Wilson examined the ‘pink slime” campaign waged against finely textured lean meet. Along with a “bug juice” scare campaign, he identified them as “clever hooks adopted by activist food snobs who raised ill-conceived firestorms about lean beef trimmings and cochineal red food dye.”

Wilson wrote, “Contrary to the overhyped reports, lean beef trimmings make meals healthier, safer, cost-efficient and less animal-intensive. Cochineal food dyes, while derived from bugs, are actually all-natural replacements for artificial colors.”

At this time of the year and all year long consumers have to be skeptical of “fashionable prejudices against ‘processed food’”, said Wilson. “These people hoped to turn the ‘yuck factor’ into an irrational boycott.” As for finely textured lean meat, Wilson noted that, “As any butcher will tell you, people have used and eating trimmings in sausages and hamburger for centuries.”

If finely textured lean meat was removed from use “one estimate says we’ll need to slaughter an additional 1.5 million cows a year.” That’s a lot of cows!

Every year at this time I receive dozens of catalogs from food vending companies offering all manner of delicious items from steaks to nuts. These companies, food producers, as well as your local supermarket are not in the business of killing consumers, nor is there any evidence of widespread food poisoning. The government has an army of inspectors at work to ensure that any reports are swiftly acted upon and, yes, they do track down and close facilities where any conditions warrant it.

Those Christmas cookies are not death traps for the kids and the Christmas turkey is not a mine field of bacteria. That hamburger you eat is as safe as modern technology and processing can make it and that’s very safe. Proper handling and cooking is the key to enjoying Christmas dinner.

My late Mother taught the art of gourmet cooking for over three decades, in addition to writing two cookbooks. She taught me and thousands of her students of the importance of keeping all kitchen surfaces on which food is prepared clean at all times. It’s very good advice and, along with the vast amount of food, meat, chicken, turkeys, and baked goods, you can expect to enjoy a very merry Christmas.

Don’t let the Christmas food killjoys kill your holiday with false food claims.

© Alan Caruba, 2012


Dave's Daily Day Dream said...

Yikes! I was just on my way out to get some hamburger for a pot of chili. Now, I think I'll buy a live cow and just use what I need each day. Isn't that the best way to be assured of fresh meat?

Alan Caruba said...

Dave, life does not come with a guarantee...other than an end date.

Unknown said...

I enjoy home-cooked meals and ignore the nay-sayers. Life is too short to live on celery sticks.