BY LEE HART
Three supposedly “good news” stories to report on today: 1. Health Canada has approved ground beef for irradiation; 2. Research shows eating saturated fats such as butter and well marbled meat may not be bad for your heart, and; 3. NASA has found seven earth-sized planets that may support life.
After some major ground beef recalls in recent years, Health Canada has approved irradiation as a safe process and an effective way to kill E.coli, salmonella and other microbes that can possibly contaminate meat.
It is a technique that is used in 50 countries around the world. Approved by the World Health Organization, the FDA and Health Canada and even the Consumer Association of Canada. Apparently China is a huge irradiator of food, although I don’t know if that is a ringing endorsement (but if you like to eat chicken feet you have to use every safety measure you can).
From what I read, food is not actually exposed to any radioactive material, but briefly exposed to alpha or gamma rays that kills the harmful organisms. About the same kind of exposure as me running naked from my house to my truck on a bright sunny day… (maybe that’s not a good visual)… This most recent approval is for meat, but apparently irradiation has already been used, or is approved for use, to reduce sprouting in stored potatoes and onions and with wheat and wheat flour to control insects in stored food.
As a trusting soul, I believe it is a safe “food safety” measure, but if products have to be labeled the name will be a tough sell. “Irradiated meat” doesn’t have an inviting ring to it. Wasn’t it gamma rays from radiation that created Godzilla?
The meat industry may need to re-brand the process as “Happy Ray” meat, or something like that.
ABOUT BAD FATS
As is usually the case with most research, if you wait long enough someone will come up with a study, which contradicts the last study. I was reading this morning a report from one nutritionist who points to research that shows eating butter, cheese, marbled meat, and poultry skin (preferred baked crisp or deep fried with a delicious coating of 11 herbs and spices) may not necessarily be bad for heart health.
Heart health is affected more by overall diet and not necessarily one type of fat. So if you put butter on your toast, or eat a AAA-steak (all in moderation), that’s not necessarily bad. But if you have those foods and then follow it up by eating 15 Timbits at night while watching TV that isn’t necessarily a good thing — (I didn’t go looking for them, but someone dropped by for a visit and brought and left snacks and I couldn’t very well just throw them out.)
DO WE HAVE NEIGHBORS?
NASA and a team of research scientists seemed pretty excited this week to discover seven planets revolving around a “dim dwarf star” called Trappist-1. The planets were found within the Aquarius constellation and are only about 40 light years away — although that’s not exactly across the street. The distance to this solar system is estimated at 235 trillion miles away.
However, they measure these things, it’s possible these earth-sized planets could support life, although that is based more on mathematical calculations rather than any visual proof of some alien standing on a hill waving a flag.
I guess it is all “good to know” stuff, but I can’t get excited it will actually mean an awful lot in my lifetime. I don’t discount the possibility there could be alien life forms out there, but I know I don’t have the motivation to pack enough stuff for a 235 trillion mile trip. I have a hard enough time finding the time to visit my kids who are 10 minutes away.
And if you are thinking these planets might offer opportunity for farm expansion, you’ll want to be looking for fast maturing, short season crops. It takes 365 days for the earth to orbit around our sun. These new planets are orbiting their star (sun) every 1.5 to 20 days. You’ll need a drawstring to keep your hat on.
Lee Hart is a field editor with Grainews based in Calgary. Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at l[email protected]