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Internet Food Scares – Part 2 of 2
Flame Retardant Soda and Arsenic Filled Rice

Which one of these is not like the other? Answer...Albert!
Which one of these is not like the other...
Fresca, Fanta, Mountain Dew, Fire Extinguisher and Sun Drop.

Answer: Albert!

Last week I exposed a couple of the more popular internet food rumors that regularly pop up in my email. This week I'd like to share a couple more.

Sodas are mixed with flame retardant chemicals!

Oil and water don't mix well. Citrus flavors like grapefruit, lemon, lime and orange are all oily. When you add those flavorings to a soda, they float to the top.

To fix the problem, drink companies figured out how to bond oil to the element bromine. Since bromine is heavy, it prevents the oil that it's bonded with, from floating to the top. Citrus oils bonded with bromine stay mixed in the drink. It's called brominated vegetable oil or BVO. (The first commercial use of BVO came after it was patented as a flame retardant.)

In 1958 the Food and Drug Administration called BVO "generally recognized as safe." But after some troubling studies came to light, they gave it an "interim" status in the 1970s. The intention was to have beverage manufacturers use it in limited amounts until they got the results of additional studies.

Big surprise, the studies were never done. Over time, BVO has been banned in Europe and Japan because of possible health risks. Studies have found that people who drink 8 to 16 cups of sodas with BVO in them can develop health problems. Symptoms include fatigue, headaches, loss of muscle coordination and memory. In rare cases victims can develop swollen hands, oozing sores and may even require dialysis.

Here's the strange part. BVO is found in drinks like Fanta Orange, Fresca, Gatorade, Mountain Dew, Powerade, Squirt, Sun Drop and Sunkist Peach Soda. Most of those drinks are found in Europe and Japan, which means beverage companies have figured out how to make them without BVO. Why they continue to sell them in this country is a mystery.

Let's deal with the real issue. If you're drinking 4 cups or more of regular soda a day, you've got problems far worse than BVO to deal with. A single can of regular Mountain Dew has 46 grams of sugar. Since someone eating 2,000 calories a day should limit their sugar intake to around 50 grams a day, one Mountain Dew is almost the limit.

Switching to diet drinks isn't much better. Yes, you avoid the sugar, but drinking diet soda stimulates appetite. When your stomach registers the taste of a diet drink, it also expects calories to come along. When there are none, signals go out to get some nourishment. Thirty minutes after the drink, you're more tired and hungry than when you started.

Try these options.

  • If you must have citrus soda, limit yourself to no more than one diet beverage a day.
  • When you drink it, include a snack of 100 to 200 calories so your body gets the energy it's expecting.
  • If you can skip the soda, squeeze a little lemon or lime juice into a glass of water, mix and enjoy.

Rice is full of cancer-causing arsenic!

In November 2012, Consumer Reports released a bombshell report after testing more than "200 samples of a host of rice products." They said, "In virtually every product tested, we found measurable amounts of total arsenic in its two forms. We found significant levels of inorganic arsenic, which is a carcinogen, in almost every product category..."

For many people, rice was suddenly off the menu. But just how much arsenic do we get from rice? According to a 2009-2010 study by the Environmental Protection Agency, rice is responsible for 17% of dietary exposure to inorganic arsenic. Fruits and fruit juices are responsible for 18% and vegetables are at 24%. It would be a really bad idea to eliminate fruit and vegetables from our diet, yet that's what people are suddenly saying about rice.

How much rice do Americans consume? According to the USA Rice Federation (a trade group) Americans each about 25 pounds of rice per person, per year. Chinese eat an average of 210 pounds a year and Vietnamese eat 365 pounds per person a year. If long-term consumption was a significant health issue, the cancer rates in those countries would be higher, but it's not.

There are some very simple things you can do if you're concerned.

  • First, rinse the raw rice thoroughly. Then use 6 cups of water to each cup of rice when cooking. Once it's finished, drain the excess water. You may lose a little of the rice's vitamins and nutrients, but you also dump out 30% of the inorganic arsenic.

  • Second, eat a variety of grains. Amaranth, millet, oats, quinoa and wheat are all acceptable alternatives. Though not arsenic-free, they do have lower amounts than rice because of the way they're grown.

Part 1 2

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