Mary’s Memo – March 3rd


The risks of arsenic in the food supply have been on our radar since tests in 2012 and 2011 found worrisome levels of the heavy metal in rice and apple juice. Now newer evidence released in the past year has increased our knowledge about possible long-term health risks of consuming arsenic. Last July researchers in the United Kingdom and India published the first study to show that frequently eating rice high in arsenic can lead to genetic damage in cells associated with cancer. (It’s not yet clear whether the findings will apply to people in the U.S., who have fewer nutritional problems than those in the study group.) Other new studies suggest that chronic exposure to the toxin, especially in utero or in early childhood, may increase the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and respiratory ailments. Inorganic arsenic is already known to cause cancer of the bladder, lung and skin cancer.

What to do:

Our Food Safety and Sustainability Center is pressing for federal limits on the amount of arsenic allowed in food and beverages.

To cut your risk:

Diversify your grain consumption to include grains other than rice.Rinse rice before cooking using a ratio of 6 cups water to 1 cup of rice to cook it, draining excess water afterwards. Limit children’s consumption of apple and grape juice. Children up to age 6 should have no more than 4 to 6-ounces a day. To learn more about our work on arsenic go to
Source: Consumer Reports on Health, March 2014.


“High intakes of caffeine can cause calcium, as well as some of the other important bone nutrients to be lost via urine” according to Stephan Torres, RD, CDN, at New York-Presbyterian-Weill Cornell Medical Center. Excess sodium consumption also has been found to cause calcium loss via urine and sweat. Moderate alcohol consumption, up to two drinks per day for men and one for women and anyone over age 65, may help protect bone health, but more than that can increase bone loss, according to Torres. He recommends getting as much vitamin D, calcium and other bone-healthy nutrients as possible from foods, including low-fat or non-fat dairy products, soy products (tofu, soybeans, soy milk), salmon and sardines, leafy green vegetables, nuts, fruits and beans. Some foods that are commonly fortified with bone-building nutrients are breakfast cereals, orange juice and rice, almond and other plant-derived milks.
Source: Weill Cornell Medical College Women’s Nutrition Connection, March 2014.


Some research suggests that farmed salmon may harbor higher mercury and pesticides residues and higher levels of possible carcinogens called PCBs. The risks depend on how the salmon was raised and what it was fed. So it makes sense to spring for wild salmon.
Source: Consumer Reports on Health, March 2014.


You can’t always tell by the package where a spice originated and what its production conditions were. To cut your risk, add spices before cooking when possible. Any bacteria are likely to be killed by the high heat. If you’re using seasonings in a dish that’s prepared cold, such as cilantro in guacamole or basil in pesto, consider buying fresh herbs. But wash them carefully in running water first: Even organic herbs can harbor bacteria such as E-coli and cyclosporine that could make you sick.
Source: Consumer Reports on Health, March 2014.


Penne with Sausage and Fresh Asparagus was a big hit when I served it at the Bryan Chief in February.


• 3/4 cup chopped sweet onion
• 1 red bell pepper, chopped
• 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 4 of 5 links of Chief Smokehouse Sweet Italian Sausage
• 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
• 1/2 cup vermouth
• 1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
• 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
• 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
• 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
• 1 lb. fresh asparagus, trimmed and diagonally sliced
• 3 level cups whole wheat penne, cooked according to package directions.

Sauté onions and peppers in olive oil in a large skillet until tender. Remove and set aside. In same skillet, brown sausage on all sides. Drain on paper towel and cut into thin slices. Add tomatoes and vermouth, stirring to dislodge any browned bits. Stir in onion-pepper mixture, sausage and seasonings. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add asparagus and cook until asparagus is crisp-cooked, stirring occasionally. Fold in cooked pasta, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve immediately. Recipe makes 6 servings.
Source: Adapted from Junior League of San Diego Cookbook recipe.

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