New Study Calls for Mitigation, Monitoring of Common Grease-proofing Food Packaging Chemicals

Chemicals used to “grease proof” everything from food packaging to carpets have built up in the environment for decades and contaminate ecosystems across the globe, and a new study is calling for a better understanding of the risks posed by these chemicals

The study, published in the academic journal Trends in Food Science & Technology, collects the proceedings of a symposium chaired by an Iowa State University scientist and issued a call to action on the need for new and better ways to detect and mitigate this class of chemical compounds, collectively known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Evidence indicates exposure to high levels can lead to adverse health effects for humans and other species, and the study stresses the need for new ways to measure and study exposures to these synthetic chemicals from various sources including food.

PFAS accumulate in the environment and do not break down on their own. For instance, the compounds can contaminate waterways after leaching from products discarded in landfills, said Keith Vorst, director of the Polymer and Food Protection Consortium and an associate professor of food science and human nutrition at Iowa State. These entirely manmade chemicals have been used in a wide range of products since the 1940s, and some states have enacted legislation to restrict their use. But their ability to persist in the environment means the compounds that already exist can continue to contaminate the environment.

“They’re out there, we need to be aware of them, and it’s really hard to eliminate them,” Vorst said. “We need to work on mitigation strategies, and we need to be monitoring them and better understand the risks they pose.”

What are PFAS?

PFAS often have been used to coat food packaging as a barrier to keep grease from escaping. Vorst said paper wrappers on hamburgers are often coated in these compounds to prevent grease from leaking onto consumers’ hands. The compounds have also been used widely to coat carpets, in car interiors and in fire-fighting foams.

Some PFAS are no longer produced in the United States, but Vorst said more than 5,000 separate compounds qualify under this category, making it difficult for regulations to keep up with newly developed chemicals.

Studies have indicated that exposure to high levels of some of these chemicals can cause reproductive and developmental, liver and kidney, and immunological effects in laboratory animals, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA reports the most consistent findings are increased cholesterol levels among exposed populations, and studies have found limited evidence for links between high levels of certain PFAS and low infant birth weights, effects on the immune system, cancer and thyroid hormone disruption. (https://www.epa.gov/pfas/basic-information-pfas)

Monitoring and mitigation

The new paper emerged out of a virtual symposium held in June of 2020 organized by the Institute for the Advancement of Food and Nutrition Sciences. The symposium featured scientists, engineers and regulatory professionals from public, private and academic institutions. The symposium addressed science gaps for exposure routes, detection and quantification of PFAS in food. Speakers also noted that, based on limited data to date, there is little PFAS detected in food.

Polymer and Food Protection Consortium researchers Greg Curtzwiler, an assistant professor of food science and human nutrition, and Paulo Silva, adjunct assistant professor of food science and human nutrition, are working with Vorst in the laboratory to study potential mitigation strategies such as high voltage atmospheric cold plasma to change the chemistry of PFAS. This process could work by passing materials that contains PFAS, such as product packaging or even drinking water, through an engineered atmosphere to mitigate the compounds. The research team has tested the method and is working with Iowa State to patent the technology. Vorst’s PFPC lab has been testing new methodologies to detect and monitor PFAS levels in various environments as well. Much of this research was funded by the ISU Polymer and Food Protection Consortium.

“We’re looking at continuous monitoring of exposure limits,” Vorst said. “We’re trying to develop threshold limits for packaging and products. We’re also looking at how we can change these chemistries to get them out of the environment, make them less persistent or sequester them.”

Source: Iowa State University of Science and Technology

Study: Too Much Fish Oil Could Trigger Heart-rhythm Disorder

Amy Norton wrote . . . . . . . . .

A new study confirms that fish oil supplements may raise the risk of a common heart-rhythm disorder — particularly when doses top 1 gram per day.

At issue are medications and supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids, which are naturally found in fish oil.

Fish is considered a generally heart-healthy food, but some studies have linked omega-3 in capsule form to an increased risk of atrial fibrillation, or a-fib.

In a-fib, the heart’s upper chambers quiver chaotically instead of contracting effectively. It is not immediately life-threatening, but over time it can lead to complications such as heart failure or stroke.

But while some studies have found a heightened risk of a-fib among omega-3 users, others have not, said Dr. Christine Albert, a professor of cardiology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

So she and her colleagues performed a meta-analysis, pulling together the results of seven previous clinical trials testing omega-3 medications and supplements.

“With a meta-analysis, you can see if there are effects not detected in a single trial,” Albert said.

The analysis — published recently in the journal Circulation — involved over 81,000 patients in total. During the study period, 3.6% developed a-fib.

Overall, Albert and her team found, trial participants given omega-3 were more likely to develop a-fib over an average of five years, versus those given a placebo.

And the dose mattered: Among patients taking more than 1 gram per day, the risk of a-fib was 49% higher, compared to placebo users. In contrast, the risk was increased by only 12% for patients taking 1 gram or less per day.

Prescription-strength omega-3 fatty acids — brands like Vascepa and Lovaza — are often prescribed to people with very high triglycerides, a type of blood fat linked to increased risks of heart attack and stroke.

Vascepa has also been shown to lower the risks of heart attack and stroke when taken along with a cholesterol-lowering statin. That is not true, however, of other omega-3 medications or over-the-counter supplements.

Albert said that people who’ve been prescribed omega-3 should not stop taking it on their own, but may want to talk with their doctor about the risk of a-fib if they haven’t already.

“I don’t want to scare anyone,” Albert said.

At the same time, she added, people should be aware of the possibility of developing a-fib while on omega-3 — and know the potential symptoms, such as a rapid, fluttering heartbeat and dizziness.

People with possible symptoms should tell their doctor, Albert said — though, she noted, a-fib can also be symptom-free and may only be detected during a medical appointment.

As for over-the-counter supplements, Albert again suggested people speak to their doctor. Even though they are marketed as supplements, she said, it cannot be assumed they are perfectly safe. Plus, evidence of any heart benefit is lacking.

“Think of it like taking a drug, and talk to your doctor about whether it’s right for you,” Albert said.

For its part, the American Heart Association (AHA) encourages people to get omega-3 from fish.

“Fish is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, as well as protein and many other important nutrients,” said Linda Van Horn, a member of the AHA’s nutrition committee.

Specifically, people should strive for two weekly servings of fatty fish like salmon, trout or albacore tuna, said Van Horn, who is also a professor of nutrition at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

“Fish oil supplements are not the same, and should be discussed with your health care provider,” she said.

It’s unclear why taking omega-3 might raise a-fib risk, even though one prescription medication appears to lower heart attack and stroke risk. But a-fib, which is a problem with the heart’s electrical activity, differs from heart attack and stroke — which are usually caused by blockages in the arteries.

And it is plausible, Albert said, that omega-3 affects the risks of those conditions differently.

Source: HealthDay

Stuffed Chicken in a Blue Cheese and Pecan Sauce

Ingredients

4 chicken escalopes (about 4 oz each)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 Tbsp fresh whole wheat bread crumbs
2 Tbsp pecans, chopped
5 scallions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped
2 tsp lemon juice
zest of 1 medium lemon
2 Tbsp butter, melted

Sauce

1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
6 Tbsp dry white wine
4 Tbsp soft blue cheese, crumbled
2 Tbsp pecans, chopped
4 Tbsp fresh watercress, chopped
4 Tbsp plain yogurt
lemon wedges and watercress, to garnish

Method

  1. Rinse the chicken under running water and pat dry. Place between two sheets of wax paper and beat with a mallet until 1/4-inch in thickness. Be careful not to pound too thin. Cut a slit in the side of each escalope to form a pocket. Season the inside of the pocket with salt and pepper.
  2. Mix the remaining stuffing ingredients together and spoon into the pockets, pressing in with the back of a spoon.
  3. Put the chicken pieces in the top of a steamer lined with damp wax paper. Cover and steam for 15 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.
  4. Melt the butter for the sauce in a pan and add the flour. Cook for 1 minute and gradually stir in the milk and wine. Bring to a boil until the sauce thickens.
  5. Add the cheese, pecans, watercress, and yogurt, and heat gently until the cheese has melted.
  6. Remove the chicken from the steamer and place on a warmed serving plate. Spoon on the sauce and serve garnished with lemon and watercress.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Steam Cuisine


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