Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The English Get Something Right and Why Is There Flame Retardant In My Soda?

Some important articles from TreeHugger

£400 Million Later, and All UK Eggs are Free-Range or From "Enriched" Cages

It's official: As of January 1, 2012, all eggs in the European Union (EU) are supposed to be hatched by hens kept in free-range barns or "enriched" cages. Happily, the UK has gone the full nine yards and spent £400 million on meeting the new standards.
Starting now, cages will have to provide enough space for birds to be able to move around. According to the British Hen Welfare Trust, the new cages "can hold up to 90 birds, which will have space to spread their wings, perch and be able to go from one end of the cage to the other. The cage will now have to provide 750 square centimetres of space for each bird."
The last battery-housed hen, called Liberty, has just been re-housed by the Trust, to a farm in Devon.

Some Countries Lagging Behind Egg Policy

However, there are 11 countries that have not signed up to the agreement. It is estimated that anywhere from 50 to 80 million eggs will still be produced from illegally caged hens.
Spain and Poland, who are amongst Europe's largest egg producers, will not be ready to scrap battery cages, despite having over 12 years to prepare for the new law. Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Portugal and Romania are also dragging their feet.
This raises two important issues. Firstly, countries complying are concerned that the illegal eggs will be cheaper and therefore they will lose sales. It has been estimated that its costs 8% more to produce eggs under the new, and better conditions. Most of the illegal eggs will be used in imported, pre-made foods such as pastas, Scotch eggs, quiches and cakes produced outside of the UK.

yourpaintings/Public DomainJug and Eggs, Mary Fedden, 1972.
The other issue is how consumers will be able to tell the difference between the good eggs and the bad ones. There has already been one case where a farmer sold more than a hundred million eggs as organic, and they weren't.
However the answer for the UK is simple: buy British.
Animal welfare groups are saying buy only free range eggs. Most of the supermarkets are selling free range or their own brand eggs now. Some are refusing to sell eggs from enriched cages, but other supermarkets are stocking them.

Is That Flame Retardant In Your Soft Drink?

Rachel Cernansky
Living / Health
December 13, 2011
Brominated vegetable oil is patented as a flame retardant and it's banned in food all over Europe and Japan, but it's on the ingredient list of about 10 percent of sodas in the U.S. It's not in Coca-Cola, but is in Mountain Dew, Fanta Orange, and in some flavors of Powerade and Gatorade.
What brominated vegetable oil (BVO) does to soda is, Coca-Cola explains, "prevent the citrus flavoring oils from floating to the surface in beverages." The fruit flavors that are mixed into a drink would otherwise settle out. What BVO does when it's acting as a flame retardant is not much different: It slows down the chemical reactions that cause a fire.
Safe For Consumption?
The FDA established safety limits for the substance in the 1970s, butEnvironmental Health News reports about growing concerns that the limit was informed by reports put out by an industry group containing outdated and, as industry-generated information tends to be, less-than-comprehensive data.
After a few extreme soda binges — not too far from what many gamers regularly consume – a few patients have needed medical attention for skin lesions, memory loss and nerve disorders, all symptoms of overexposure to bromine. Other studies suggest that BVO could be building up in human tissues, just like other brominated compounds such as flame retardants. In mouse studies, big doses caused reproductive and behavioral problems.
EHN explains that BVO was pulled from the Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) list for flavor additives in 1970, "bounced back after studies from an industry group from 1971 to 1974 demonstrated a level of safety," at which point the Flavor Extract Manufacturers’ Association (which actually exists—not to be confused with the government agency FEMA) "petitioned the FDA to get BVO back in fruit-flavored beverages, this time as a stabilizer, which is its role today."
Interim Approval -- For More Than 30 Years
Today, more than 30 years (and much animal testing, including on pigs andbeagles) later, the approval status for BVO is still listed as interim. EHN reports that changing that status would be expensive and quotes FDA spokesman Douglas Karas saying it "is not a public health priority for the agency at this time."
With BVO banned in so many countries, there are feasible alternatives. And that brings us to the unsurprising but disturbing note on which the EHN story ends:
Wim Thielemans, a chemical engineer at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, said since the alternatives are already used in Europe "their performance must be acceptable, if not comparable, to the U.S.-used brominated systems." That means "the main driver for not replacing them may be cost," he said.
"It is a North American problem," Vetter added. "In the E.U., BVO will never be permitted."
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