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The 10 Most Contaminated Foods in Your Fridge You Need to Trash Right Now—and Healthier Alternatives

AlterNet - Wed, 2017-06-28 02:30
Reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals by replacing some of the toxic foods lurking in your fridge.

As ubiquitous as chemical contamination is in our environment, we often don’t think about our food supply as carrying a high chemical load. But it can—and does. Much of this is added through industrial farming methods, food processing and packaging. Not all of food contamination comes from these industrial activities, however, and awareness can go a long way toward protecting yourself and your family from exposure.

Fortunately, you can flip the switch to have a healthier diet to reduce your chemical exposure. Here are 10 of the most contaminated foods in your refrigerator that you should throw away right now—and healthy alternatives. 

1. Mustard

(image: Yuriy Golub/Shutterstock)

We all know the look of the plastic mustard squeeze bottle that is an iconic image of convenience food in the U.S., a mainstay of backyard barbeques and picnic tables. 

Also: Processed foods and drinks (including unexpected ones, such as cheap beer).

Chemicals of Concern: Food dyes, preservatives, chemicals to adjust textures, emulsifiers, natural and artificial flavorings, plasticizers.

The problem: Concerns include cancer, ADHD and gut-health disruption. Environmental Working Group has a thoughtful discussion of 12 harmful additives and how to avoid them.

Simple switch: Choose food and drinks without chemical additives. Look for artisan producers.

Tips: Shop at health food stores, read labels, call companies for ingredients when labels don’t list additives and eat real food.

2. Unfiltered and/or bottled water and drinks

(image: photo/Shutterstock)

Water is a solvent so it is especially important that we store it in inert containers such as glass or stainless steel.

Also: Juice, soda, other drinks stored in polycarbonate, other plastic, or aluminum cans (as in seltzer); unfiltered water.

Chemicals of concern: Packaging containing bisphenol-A (BPA) (polycarbonate), plastics, aluminum; ground water and municipal water contaminants; #1 Polyethylene terephthalate, PET or PETE (disposable soft drink, juice, water bottles; resins can contain flame retardants; aseptic packaging); #2 HDPE (cloudy milk and water jugs); resins can contain flame retardants, #3 PVC (some soft beverage bottles contain PVC); #7 Polycarbonate (a plastic that contains BPA).

The problem: Water and drinks can be contaminated from chemicals such as BPA leaching out from the packaging, causing endocrine disruption; long–lasting chemicals stored in fat; carcinogens. It is hard to imagine any groundwater system in the world that isn’t contaminated, and municipal water filters a range of chemicals but not all and includes additives. Filtering water is the safest approach.

Simple switch: Drink filtered water and natural drinks stored in glass.

Tip: Note that BPA-free bottles does not mean they are free from endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

3. Bagels

(image: Dariia Belkina/Shutterstock)

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's popular Roundup herbicide, has contaminated a wide swath of the U.S. food supply.

Also: Bread and wheat cereal; GMO foods such as soy, corn, canola, alfalfa, dried legumes, sorghum, grains, and seeds.

Chemicals of concern: Glyphosate “Roundup Ready” herbicide.

The problem: Glyphosate has been reported in scientific reviews to have a negative impact on gut health and cause gluten intolerance and even celiac disease. In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, classified glyphosate as a "probable carcinogen." Many non-GMO grains, seeds and legumes receive a dose of Roundup immediately prior to harvest—a process know as desiccation.

Simple switch: Choose organic, non-GMO labeled foods.

Tips: Look for the “Non-GMO” label or make your bagels at home with organic ingredients.

4. Cheese in plastic packaging

(image: 54613/Shutterstock)

Plastic tends to migrate into fatty foods, especially hot fatty foods, leaching endocrine disruptors. 

Also: Other foods and leftovers packaged or stored in plastic, especially hot fatty foods (such as those heated in plastic a microwave)

Chemicals of concern: Leaching plasticizers such as phthalates and BPA; #1 Polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE) (disposable soft drink, juice, and water bottles; boil-in-a-bag foods, aseptic packaging); #2 High density polyethylene HDPE (tubs for butter and other dairy products); #3 polyvinyl chloride (PVC) (meat wrap, bottles for salad dressing); #4 low density polyethylene LDPE (cling wrap, sandwich bags, plastic squeeze bottles); #5 polypropylene (PP) (cloudy plastic water bottles; yogurt cups and tubs; food packaged hot, such as syrups; #6 polystyrene (PS) (disposable hot beverage cups and plates, clamshell take-out containers; egg cartons); #7 polycarbonate (hard plastic such as baby bottles, some reusable water bottles; stain-resistant food storage containers).

The problem: Almost all plastic products, including those advertised as "BPA-free," have been found to leach endocrine-disrupting chemicals, which are implicated in the precipitous rise in breast and prostate cancer as well as ADHD and other cognitive disorders.

Simple switch: Store in glass.

Tips: Make sure you don’t take cheese in plastic on picnics when the weather is warm. Stock up on glass food containers or stainless steel for children’s lunches and snacks when glass containers could be dangerous.

5. Take-out leftovers

(image: ThamKC/Shutterstock)

Many food wrappers and takeout containers have high resulting fluorine, an indicator of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), a chemical similar to Teflon.

Also: Polystyrene, paper coated with Teflon-like chemicals, plastic containers.

Chemicals of concern: #6 polystyrene (PS) may leach styrene; plastic migration into food from plastic containers; PFC.

The problem: Endocrine-disrupting chemicals, industrial chemicals stored in fat, neurotoxic chemicals in polystyrene, Teflon-like chemicals that are long-lasting in the environment and our bodies.

Simple switch: Glass; food-grade butcher’s paper.

Tip: California is the first state to ban PFCs.

6. Spaghetti sauce cooked in aluminum/non-stick pans and/or from cans

(image: Hurst Photo/Shutterstock)

Chemicals from the pans you cook with can leach into your food. Acidic foods such as tomato sauce are especially prone to leach chemicals from pots and cans.

Also: Anything cooked in non-stick or aluminum pans, canned food.

Chemicals of concern: Aluminum, perfluorooctanic acid (PFOA), BPA and other plasticizers.

The problem: Aluminum and/or non-stick pan PFOA contamination migrating into food. PFOA is long lasting in the body and is a likely carcinogen and endocrine disruptor, plasticizers are widely known to be endocrine disruptors, aluminum can accumulate in the brain with unknown consequences.

Simple switch: Cook in inert pans/materials, such as glass, baked enamel and stainless steel.

Tip: Anodized aluminum cookware has placed a hard, non-reactive surface over the aluminum, blocking the leaching. Because a can’s label says it is BPA-free doesn’t mean the replaced plasticizer isn’t an endocrine disruptor.

7.  Swordfish

(image: Marina Onokhina/Shutterstock)

Ocean water carries a lot of toxic chemicals, including neurotoxic mercury, and they find their way into the bodies of fish. The more long-lived and high on the food chain, the more toxic the fish can be.  

Also: Shark, king mackerel, tilefish, northern pike, marlin, tuna, imported Mahi Mahi, Atlantic and Pacific cod, Atlantic halibut.

Chemicals of concern: Mercury, heavy metals.

The problem: Mercury and other heavy metals are highly toxic to the peripheral nervous system and have a negative effect on the digestive and immune system; they can cause heart problems.

Simple switch: Track the healthiest fish to eat at Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch.

Tip: As coal-fired plants are being reduced in number, the amount of mercury found in tuna, for example, is dropping. Track the progress at seafoodwatch.org.

8.  Strawberries

(image: KatyaPulina/Shutterstock)

Heavy industrial farm spraying leaves residues on fruit and vegetables.

Also: Spinach, nectarines, apples, peaches, pears, grapes, cherries, celery, tomatoes, potatoes, and sweet bell and hot peppers. (This list is from the May 2017 “Dirty Dozen” report by the Environmental Working Group.)

Chemicals of concern: Pesticides, herbicides.

The problem: Neuorotoxic, carcinogenic.

Simple switch: Buy organic.

Tip: Buy foods from the list of the safest “Clean Fifteen” non-organic foods.

9.  Full-fat milk

(image: Dan Groy/Shutterstock)

Animals high on the food chain can have high concentrations of industrial chemicals stored in their fat. Humans are at the top of the food chain.

Also: Other foods high on the food chain, such as beef, pork, chicken, fish, and other dairy.

Chemicals of concern: PCBs (insulators and coolants), PBDEs (flame retardants), dioxin and DDT.

The problem: The chemicals are long-lasting in the environment and in our bodies. They can cause cancer, liver damage, birth defects, reproductive disorders and more, depending on the contaminant.

Simple switch: As often as you can, eat low on the food chain, such as organic produce, grains and legumes.

Tip: Prioritize a plant-based, low-fat diet.

10. Peeled garlic cloves from China

(image: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock)

While sometimes difficult to isolate, much produce from China is heavily contaminated with lead and other heavy metals.

Also: Other foods imported from China have a strong probability of lead and heavy metal contamination; even so-called “organic” foods imported from China deserve scrutiny.

Chemicals of concern: Heavy metals such as lead.

The problem: Lead is very neurotoxic and can lower the IQ, heavy metals can cause a host of health problems including to the heart.

Simple switch: Buy U.S.-grown organic produce.

Tip: Country of Origin labeling is complex. Check out this excellent overview from the American Frozen Food Institute.

Protecting your health and the health of your family from the chemical assault of industrialized agriculture and toxic food packaging can seem daunting. But if you follow these simple tips, you're well on your way to becoming more aware of what kinds of foods to stay away from, and what kinds to buy. You'll soon find that keeping the toxic stuff out of your kitchen and home will become second nature.

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Telemarketers for the nonprofit, Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism (Case), were instructed in contracts signed by Sekulow to urge people who pleaded poverty or said they were out of work to dig deep for a “sacrificial gift”.

“I can certainly understand how that would make it difficult for you to share a gift like that right now,” they told retirees who said they were on fixed incomes and had “no extra money” – before asking if they could spare “even $20 within the next three weeks”.

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Attorneys and other experts specialising in nonprofit law said the Sekulows risked violating a federal law against nonprofits paying excessive benefits to the people responsible for running them. Sekulow declined to detail how he ensured the payments were reasonable.

“This is all highly unusual, and it gives an appearance of conflicts of interest that any nonprofit should want to avoid,” said Daniel Borochoff, the president of CharityWatch, a Chicago-based group that monitors nonprofits.

Sekulow, 61, is the president of Case and the chief counsel of its sister organization, the American Center for Legal Justice (ACLJ). He has become one of Trump’s most vocal defenders since joining the team of attorneys representing the president amid investigations into possible ties between his campaign and Russia.

Sekulow did not respond to a series of detailed questions from the Guardian.

His spokesman, Gene Kapp, said in an emailed statement: “The financial arrangements between the ACLJ, Case and all related entities are regularly reviewed by outside independent compensation experts and have been determined to be reasonable. In addition, each entity has annual independent outside audits performed by certified public accounting firms. Further, the IRS has previously conducted audits of the ACLJ and Case and found them to be in full compliance of all applicable tax laws.”

Sekulow is an ally of the conservative televangelist Pat Robertson and made his name in Washington by fighting against abortion rights and efforts to legalise same-sex marriage. 

He founded Case in 1988 to build on a successful appearance at the US supreme court on behalf of the group Jews For Jesus, after an earlier career as a real estate attorney ended in bankruptcy and legal disputes. Sekulow has gone on to use Case as a platform for legal action to defend Christians against perceived encroachments on their rights.

Case raises tens of millions of dollars a year, much of it in small amounts from Christians who receive direct appeals for money over the telephone or in the mail. The telemarketing contracts obtained by the Guardian show how fundraisers were instructed by Sekulow to deliver bleak warnings about topics including abortion, Sharia law and Barack Obama.

“It’s time to let the president know that his vision of America is obscured and represents a dangerous threat to the Judea-Christian [sic] values that have been the cornerstone of our republic,” one script from 2015 said.

A 2013 script warned listeners that Obama’s signature healthcare law, the Affordable Care Act, promised to give Planned Parenthood federal funding to open abortion referral clinics “in your child’s or grandchild’s middle school or high school”.

Sekulow has assured supporters that his organization “does not charge” for its services. “We are dependent on God and the resources He provides through the gifts of people who share our vision,” he wrote in a letter sent to contributors.

For years, the nonprofits have made a notable amount of payments to Sekulow and his family, which were first reported by Law.com. Since 2000, a law firm co-owned by Sekulow, the Constitutional Litigation and Advocacy Group, has been paid more than $25m by the nonprofits for legal services. During the same period, Sekulow’s company Regency Productions, which produces his talk radio show, was paid $11.3m for production services.

Sekulow also personally received other compensation totalling $3.3m. Pam Sekulow, his wife, has been paid more than $1.2m in compensation for serving astreasurer and secretary of Case.

Sekulow’s brother, Gary, the chief operating officer of the nonprofits, has been paid $9.2m in salary and benefits by them since 2000. Gary Sekulow has stated in Internal Revenue Service (IRS) filings that he works 40 hours per week – the equivalent of a full-time job – for each of the nonprofits. Filers are told to specify if any of the hours were spent on work for “related organizations”. He does not.

Meanwhile, a company run by Gary’s wife, Kim Sekulow, has received $6.2m since 2000 in fees for media production services and for the lease of a private jet, which it owned jointly with Jay Sekulow’s company Regency Productions. The jet was made available for the use of Jay and Pam Sekulow, according to corporate filings.

Jay’s two sons, and Gary’s son and daughter, have also shared at least $1.7m in compensation for work done for the nonprofits since 2000.

Federal law bars insiders at a nonprofit from receiving “excess benefit”, which is defined as payment exceeding the fair market value for goods or services the insider provides. If the IRS finds that an excess benefit has been paid, the recipient may be fined 200% of the benefit’s value, and the nonprofit could be stripped of its valuable tax-exempt status.

“I can’t imagine this situation being acceptable,” said Arthur Rieman, managing attorney at the California-based Law Firm for Nonprofits. “That kind of money is practically unheard of in the nonprofit world, and these kinds of transactions I could never justify.”

The way Sekulow’s nonprofits are set up may obscure how much money goes to his family, according to some experts.

Most payments to the Sekulows are made via Case and listed in Case’s annual filings to the US government. But Case actually fundraises and does business using the name ACLJ. Any donors examining ACLJ filings to see how their money was spent will actually be looking at paperwork for a separate entity, which does not mention Case’s payments to the Sekulows.

“The organizations should be merged to avoid confusion,” said Borochoff of CharityWatch.

In addition to receiving payments for salaries and contracts, the Sekulows have also entered into a series of unusual financial agreements and property deals with their own nonprofits.

In one arrangement, Case paid a company owned by Jay Sekulow to sublet office space from 1998 to 2002. The location was not publicly identified but in corporate filings during that period both Case and the company cited the same suite in an industrial park in Lawrenceville, Georgia, as their headquarters.

Case said in a government filing that the sublet deal was “based on fair market rate”. The then owners of the building told the Guardian that Sekulow’s company paid them $7,700 per month to rent the space, totalling $462,000 for the entire five-year lease. But previously unreported Case accounts say the nonprofit paid Sekulow’s company more than $700,000 for the sublet, attributing some of this total to telephone and utility bills.

“They are asking for trouble, because it would be so easy for them to overpay for services and enrich the people involved,” said Borochoff. “It would be prudent for their own protection to have independent oversight.”

In another deal, Sekulow’s wife Pam, Case’s treasurer and secretary, bought a “retreat property” in North Carolina from Case in 1998 with help from a $245,000 loan out of the nonprofit’s funds. The Case board, controlled by her family, then decided to forgive $217,742 of what Pam owed and count this as compensation, the previously unreported accounts say.

Having taken control of the property, the Sekulows then remortgaged it at market value, and continue to own it today. Case said in the accounts that the house sale to Pam Sekulow “represented estimated fair market value”.

Case separately loaned Jay Sekulow $209,968 in 1999. Over the following years, the Case board voted to forgive $211,305 of the loan and interest payments – more than the original amount Sekulow had borrowed – and classify all this as compensation.

These forgiven loan repayments were detailed each year in Case’s audited accounts, but were usually not listed in its annual “form 990”, a disclosure document that all tax-exempt organizations must file to the IRS and which is more readily available to the public.

In 2004, the Case board also wrote off $769,143 that it was owed by Amerivision, an Oklahoma-based firm selling telephone services where Jay Sekulow was a director. Amerivision had recently declared bankruptcy. Despite suffering such a loss from the relationship, Case lent Amerivision another $187,500 in 2005. The Case board further agreed to accept “donated equipment” from a production company owned by Sekulow instead of the $43,402 that company owed the nonprofit.

The Sekulows also received assistance from Case in their accommodation. A townhouse in Washington bought by Case with $1.5m in contributions from its supporters has been used as a residence by Sekulow’s son Jordan, who is a director of the nonprofit. Jordan and his wife remain registered to vote at the property.

For several years, Case leased yet another property it owned to Jay Sekulow’s parents. Case accounts said Sekulow’s parents paid the nonprofit $1,550 per month to rent the unidentified house, based on an estimate of “fair market rates”.

Legal experts said the arrangements raised questions. “While I can’t comment on the specific legality here, there certainly does appear to be an unusual number of related-party transactions,” said Jeffrey Tenenbaum, a Washington-based attorney who represents nonprofits. “Generally speaking, that would usually create significant risk of private inurement and impermissible private benefit.”

Attorneys said that in anticipation of questions being raised by any potential IRS audit, Case should have retained documentation justifying their expenditures, such as salary surveys, property appraisals and competitive bids for contracts.

“$60m is a lot of money,” said Charles Bridgers, an Atlanta-based attorney practising in nonprofit law. “If the IRS did an audit, they’d want to understand what they based that value on. We need to understand whether it might have conferred an excess benefit.”

 

 

 

 

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Tierney Sneed contributed reporting.

Senate leaders’ plan to pass a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act before the July 4 recess has hit a roadblock: a mini-revolt by a cadre of Republicans from both the moderate and far-right wings of the party who announced Monday they would not vote to advance the bill as it’s currently written.

On Tuesday morning, a fifth senator joined the opposition: Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). Lee had previously excoriated the bill as a “caricature of a Republican health care bill,” noting that it leaves in place many of Obamacare’s regulations and prioritizes tax cuts for the wealthy as well as payments to insurance companies. A spokesperson for Lee told TPM: “We are still working with leadership to change base bill.”

The opposition from Lee, Susan Collins (R-ME), Rand Paul (R-KY), Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Dean Heller (R-NV) effectively halts the bill’s progress, and with several other Republicans voicing doubts and concerns, the Senate’s multi-month effort to roll back Obamacare appears to be in jeopardy if changes are not made.

In response, GOP leaders and their allies are pulling out all the stops by inviting some dissenters to dine at the White House, running attack ads against others, and issuing dire warnings that if the bill fails, the party will lose leverage on every other issue it hopes to make progress on in the years to come.

But several Republican lawmakers continue to wobble despite those carrots and sticks.

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) on Monday night told reporters that the bill does not do the one thing he said was his priority: reduce premiums and out-of-pocket costs for health insurance consumers. “It doesn’t,” he acknowledged.

Cassidy was not yet ready to say whether he, too, would vote no on a motion to proceed with the bill, but said that “more time would be better than less.”

“A lot of my colleagues feel, as do I, that we have a lot of questions still, and would like to have answers before we proceed,” he said.

Due to Republicans’ narrow majority in the Senate, the GOP can only afford to lose two members’ votes, and even then can only pass the bill if Vice President Mike Pence casts a tie-breaking vote. Even more Republicans may bail if the ship is seen to be sinking, not wanting to be saddled with a doomed and extremely unpopular bill going into a midterm election year.

“The bottom line is: you’re not going to get 49 [votes]. You’re either going to get 50 or probably like 35,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told reporters Monday. He offered with a laugh that he would not be “the guy” to bring the bill down, but the same cannot be said for some of his more vulnerable colleagues.

Noting the demands for more time to consider the bill, Graham said that no amount of time could fully bridge the divisions in the Republican Party and so he believes it may be better to vote sooner rather than later.

“I don’t know if you took another year it would change much,” he said. “There seems to be a real philosophical divide. Some people think the Medicaid growth rates are not generous enough. You have people who believe there is too much Obamacare left. I don’t know how you bridge that gap.”

Jason Chaffetz: Congress Would Be Happier With $2500/Month Housing Allowance

Crooks and Liars - 6 hours 38 min ago

While average Americans wait to see if they will have health insurance next month, "retiring" member of Congress and "I can't investigate Hillary Clinton so bye" Republican Jason Chaffetz has a helpful suggestion as the door hits his buttocks.

The taxpayers should give each member of Congress $2500 a MONTH for housing in Washington DC!

Chaffetz doesn't think there's an environment for a congressional pay raise, but this is the equivalent of a $30,000 a year raise. $30,000 is nearly double what is considered "the poverty line," you know, what people who will LOSE THEIR OBAMACARE make in a year.

I am totally not making this up. The Hill:

“Washington, D.C., is one of the most expensive places in the world, and I flat-out cannot afford a mortgage in Utah, kids in college and a second place here in Washington, D.C.,” Chaffetz said. “I think a $2,500 housing allowance would be appropriate and a real help to have at least a decent quality of life in Washington if you’re going to expect people to spend hundreds of nights a year here. ...

There are dozens upon dozens of members living in their offices, and I don’t know how healthy that is long term.”

read more

Trump Aims To Boost 'Energy Dominance' Of US By Increase In Oil, Gas Exports

Talking Points Memo - 6 hours 39 min ago

WASHINGTON (AP) — With U.S. exports of oil and natural gas surging, President Donald Trump says the U.S. is on the brink of becoming a net exporter of oil, gas and other resources.

Trump is highlighting what he calls “energy dominance” as the White House hosts a series of events focused on jobs and boosting U.S. global influence. The self-proclaimed “energy week” follows similar policy-themed weeks on infrastructure and jobs.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry said Monday the Trump administration is confident officials can “pave the path toward U.S. energy dominance” by exporting oil, gas and coal to markets around the world, and promoting nuclear energy and even renewables such as wind and solar power.

“For years, Washington stood in the way of our energy dominance. That changes now,” Perry told reporters at the White House. “We are now looking to help, not hinder, energy producers and job creators.”

The focus on energy began at a meeting between Trump and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with U.S. natural gas exports part of the discussion. Trump is expected to talk energy Wednesday with governors and tribal leaders, and he will deliver a speech Thursday at the Energy Department.

Trump has long used “dominance” to describe his approach to energy, and Perry and other administration officials have begun echoing the phrase as a short-hand for policies that “unleash” unfettered energy production on U.S. land and waters. Similarly, during his administration Obama spoke about an “all of the above” energy policy intended to reassure skeptics that he supported a wide range of U.S. energy production.

Trump signed an executive order in April to expand oil drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, reversing restrictions imposed by Obama. Trump has also pushed to revive U.S. coal production after years of decline. Coal mining rose by 19 percent in the first five months of the year as the price of natural gas edged up, according to Energy Department data.

U.S. oil and gas production have boomed in recent years, primarily because of improved drilling techniques such as fracking that have opened up production in areas previously out of reach of drillers.

A report released in January by the Energy Information Administration said the country is on track to become a net energy exporter by 2026. The report, issued two weeks before Trump took office, projects continued increases in oil and gas production, combined with a decline in coal and an increased market shares for both natural gas and renewable energy such as wind and solar power.

Obama signed a law in December 2015 lifting a decades-old ban on most crude oil exports, resulting in millions of barrels of exports every month to China, Italy, the Netherlands and other countries. The U.S. began exporting liquefied natural gas to India, China, Brazil and other countries in February 2016.

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