Baby Oh: 1 in 94

November 29, 2008 in ASD, gluten, milk

Live blogging Thanksgiving 2008

This is our sweet and loving Baby Oh and he is autistic.

His mommy, daddy, and two older sisters are going to do what ever it takes to guide him to safe shores where he can share his dreams with us and then blast off into his beautiful life.

1 in 94 boys, 1 in 150 children, in the US are autistic.

I hope the docs are wrong but that doesnt matter right now. Baby Oh doesnt talk and he is hard to reach. We are going to fight this and do what it takes to keep him from slipping away.

This is one of the reasons I have not been able to blog as much and it will continue to impact all parts of our lives in the future.

I share this not for sympathy or as an explanation. I think I share this so that I can hide less from it, meet it head on, in all parts of my life.

Melamine, oh thy name is legion

October 28, 2008 in Food Science, gluten, Local Food, melamine

More egg business - Egg underwater

Melamine is the scourge that was completely optional; it really didn’t have to happen. It’s all about greed and industrial food gone wholly amok.

Melamine poisoning spans animal feeds, pet foods, milk, baby formula, fish, wheat gluten, and now EGGS.

Wheat gluten, eggs and milk are everywhere. If you think you can protect yourself from tainted dairy and egg products from China, think again.

This post is all about melamine: what it is, how it hurts you, how it got in your food.

What exactly is Melamine?

Melamine is an organic compound (learn more) that is a key component in fire retardants and it is also a pesticide (this sets off major flags for me, more later).

It can be combined with formaldehyde to make a plastic compound and a foaming polymeric cleaning product. It is a primary component of a colorant in inks and plastics called Pigment Yellow 150.

A specific type of melamine is added to cement to make it hyper-plastic, flexible, so that it can have more attractive structural qualities.

In the 50s and 60s there was some use of melamine as a fertilizer but it proved to be inefficient as it would crystallize into salts and not be available to plants.

The thing about melamine that made people interested in using it as a fertilizer, the nitrogen aspects (amines), is what brings us closer to the current problem.

Plants need nitrogen to make proteins.

The use of melamine as a NonProteinNitrogen (NPN) in animal feeds was tested back in the 50s but it was shown that the cows didn’t use this sort of nitrogen very well.

Melamine is not that great for helping plants or animals make protein BUT it fools low-cost testing methods into thinking that it IS protein. (tests like Kjeldahl and Dumas tests estimate protein levels by measuring the nitrogen content, so they can be misled by adding nitrogen-rich compounds such as melamine. See note at bottom of this post).

Melamine itself is relatively low in toxicity but it becomes quite lethal when made into melamine cyanurate.

IMG pending

What the Chinese are putting in food, milk, feed and lord knows what else – Melamine Cyanurate

The kind of melamine implicated in the Chinese scandals is called melamine cyanurate (learn more), a chemical that is commonly used a fire retardant (as with straight melamine). It is considered more toxic than melamine or cyanurate, from which it is made.

When melamine cyanurate is ingested by mammals (those poor dogs and cats in the massive melamine Chinese pet food scandal (learn more)) it hurts the kidneys and throws the animal or person into acute renal failure.

LD50 in rats and mice (ingested):

  • 4.1 g/kg – Melamine cyanurate

From USA Today’s article “Poison pet food woes seem to hit cats harder”:

“FDA scientists explained that when melamine and cyanuric acid are absorbed into the bloodstream, they concentrate and interact in the urine-filled renal microtubules (sic), then crystallize and form large numbers of round, yellow crystals, which in turn block and damage the renal cells that line the tubes, causing the kidneys to malfunction.”

Besides renal failure (which is seen in the recent baby formula scandal – something like 94,000 children hospitalized and 4 dead from melamine poisoning Learn More), melamine has been implicated in possibly causing kidney stones, bladder cancer and reproductive organ damage.

For recent information on the scale (94,000!) of impact of the tainted milk scandal read this October 8, 2008 report from Reuters “China milk victims may have reached 94,000

The government has not updated figures issued on September 21, when it said that 12,892 infants were in hospital, 104 with serious illness, and close to 40,000 others were affected but did not need major treatment.

But reports from local media across the country compiled by Reuters suggest the number of affected children has risen to nearly 94,000, although most are not in a serious condition.

China Floats in an Ocean of Melamine

China is one nexus in the coming and current collapse of food production (fertilizer, falling acres of non-toxic land, water shortages, etc). They, like the rest of us, MUST find a way to boost soil fertility even though they (nor any other large concern) is going about it in a rational way, only in an industrial, non-sustainable way.

To this end, China has been deliberately pushing to increase it’s melamine production (from coal gasification) in recent years. Coal gasification is used to make urea – the key nitrogen component in plant fertilizers around the world. Urea, being derived from a non-renewable resource that is under massive demand pressures, is becoming more and more expensive. Because of this, many melamine manufacturers and suppliers outside of China have found it too expensive to make locally and so chose to source this from China’s growing surplus of melamine.

Even though melamine is a poor fertilizer, it is also a pesticide, so it “seems” it is attractive still. This may be scary, true, but this may be NEXT WEEK’s scandal as the melamine outbreaks we have been suffering through in recent times is due to something else.

As I mentioned, melamine can be used to dope foods so that they can LOOK protein rich while being very weak knock-offs of the original. Its like a sick pathetic rational extension of the piracy ethic in China, “fake it till you make it” no matter the costs. The same thing happened with the Baxter Heparin scandal, exact same sort of doping only with different chemicals for a different use.

The contaminant has been identified as an “over-sulphated” derivative of chondroitin sulfate, a popular shellfish-derived supplement often used for arthritis. Since this “over-sulphated” variant is not naturally occurring and mimics the properties of heparin,the counterfeit is almost certainly intentional as opposed to an accidental lapse in manufacturing. The heparin was cut from anywhere from 2-60% with a counterfeit substance due to cost effectiveness, and a shortage of suitable pigs in China. (SOURCE)

HEAT egg

It’s the Eggs, kids. Its in the eggs, in China. Are we next? Is it already happening to us?

The New York Times reported on 10/26/08 in an article “Tainted Eggs From China Discovered in Hong Kong” by David Barboza:

SHANGHAI — Hong Kong food inspectors have found eggs imported from northeast China to be contaminated with high levels of melamine, the toxic industrial additive at the heart of an adulteration scandal in Chinese milk products.


The discovery of contaminated eggs in Hong Kong was announced Saturday by the Center for Food Safety, a Hong Kong government agency, which said the eggs had been imported from a farm in the city of Dalian, in northeastern China. The center reported that the melamine level was almost double the legal limit for food sold in Hong Kong.

The general wisdom is that the melamine gets into the eggs because the chickens are fed feed doped with melamine (by feed producers to fool the farmers or is it farmers who are desperate for any nitrogen in the feed – I am guessing the former).

This phenomenon is called bioaccumulation (learn more) of toxins in eggs and tissues of animals fed a poison (think about how DDTs were making some birds go extinct due to DDT buildup in scavenger birds leading to egg failures). Its also known as Biomagnification (learn more)

An article out of China on two possible sources of melamine in chicken feed (“Melamine Scandal Hits China’s “King of Eggs” October 28, 2008 at

According to Wang, two reasons most probably account for the melamine in eggs. Feed producers may add melamine directly into chicken feed, or the feed may contain overdue milk powder with high level of melamine content. “Either can lead to melamine residue in eggs.

“Many illegal additives, appearing as “new technology,” have brought an unprecedented crisis over quality to China’s feed processing industry,” said an expert of a national research institution to China Business News.

This is why we grow our own chickens for our own eggs and drink milk from our own goats in our backyard

You can learn a whole lot more about the Chinese and US FDA inaction on the problem of toxic eggs from Chinese and potentially US producers by a former emergency programs specialist with the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) on DailyKos at this diary “Melamine just reported in eggs…as I warned in 2007” and this diary “The ominous silence about eggs from gluten-fed chickens”

Is there an even larger crisis “we” are not talking about?

I am just going to throw this out for those of you who have had the tenacity to read to this point. This may be an algebra that will become critically important to the entire world as time passes.

– If we know that melamine has some nominal and sub-par attraction as a fertilizer
— Then it may be being used in China (elsewhere?) as a fertilizer

– If it is known that melamine falls out of solution and accumulates as salts in soils
— Then misguided use of melamine as a fertilizer and pesticide will lead to increasing retained toxin loads in soils across China and the world (3rd world countries?)

– If China has a melamine surplus
— Then China may be channeling that into even more melamine for local and misguided global use as a fertilizer, pesticide, and dope for feed stock (land and water livestocks such as fish farms that under massive pressure to source cheaper and more abundant protein)

– If there is a growing soil toxicity with yearly added melamine
— Then more and more crops will become and maintain dangerous levels of melamine toxicity
It seems to me that this is MUCH more relevant and dangerous than any GMO crop yet this crisis is flying totally under the radar.

To me, that is a global malfeasance on the part of all countries.

In one of those Daily Kos diaries, the comment stream reveals these nuggets:

The FDA, USDA, and the EPA is not our friend in these matters, especially Bush’s FDA, USDA, and EPA. For example, in 1999, the EPA tolerance level for melamine was lowered after a request by Novartis.

Melamine is also a breakdown product of cyromazine (pesticide) which bioaccumulates. It seems that (all?) the testing (ever?) done on cyromazine was done by Ciba-Geigy.

And there is this comment:

A few months ago, the Admin made subtle changes in oversight requirements for regs. If you aren’t familiar with reading this sort of language, you would not see flashing red lights – assuming you stayed awake past the first few lines.
Among the agencies affected was the FDA. Here are a few links to posts on these changes:
The Executive Order’s Effect on Regulation: Science & Technology Hearing;
White House Power Grab by OMB Regulation

Bottom Line(s):

  • DeGlobalize/ReLocalize your food, take it back America
  • Need I really say it? – EAT LOCALLY, ALWAYS
  • Eat NOTHING from China
  • Find out if your favorite prepared foods or even your fresh veggies and fruits are sourcing from China, they way well be
  • the FDA has grown VERY lax under the Bush administration and is not protecting us from this grave Chinese-related risk
  • Melamine contamination (and what else?) should be considered potentially widespread throughout our food system and that of others
  • The ubiquity of gluten, dairy, and egg products almost ensures widespread and nonconsensual exposure to these tainted source proteins in prepared foods and infant formulas
  • Be vigilant

Resource Pages:

About the Kjeldahl and Dumas tests:

Traditionally, food protein is measured by a method developed by Danish brewer Johann Kjeldahl in the late 1800s. In this analytical technique, a strong acid digests a sample, breaking down the organic matter and releasing nitrogen, which is then converted to ammonia. The amount of ammonia indicates how much nitrogen was in the original sample and, hence, the amount of protein. This “proved to be a robust, precise method,” says Julian McClements, a food scientist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. It is attractive because it can be used for a variety of products and protein types. Another, similar nitrogen-based technique, called the Dumas test, is also popular with industry. It relies on burning the sample to release nitrogen. The Association of Analytical Communities (AOAC) International, a scientific association that sets standards for analytical methods, lists the Kjeldahl and Dumas techniques as the standard methods for measuring protein in food.

Sweet Summer Solstice: Dribbling Night onto the Sun

June 21, 2007 in breakfast, Food Porn, gluten, recipe

To celebrate the [tag]summer solstice[/tag], I made sunny yellow cornmeal “[tag]mush[/tag]” with [tag]blackstrap[/tag] [tag]molasses[/tag] for [tag]breakfast[/tag] this morning.

We are enjoying an overwhelmingly beautiful bright sunny yet not-to-hot day here in central [tag]Massachusetts[/tag].

The [tag]garden[/tag] is soaking up the sun and growing with leaps and bounds, our moods are sunny, and all is right with the world. The only downside to the solstice is that we are now on the other side of curve and the day length will begin to decrease every day until the winter [tag]solstice[/tag].

Mush is something my mom used to make for us as kids. It is real down-home [tag]comfort[/tag] [tag]food[/tag] and it is an excellent way to use excess [tag]grits[/tag] or [tag]polenta[/tag] (which are the same thing). I love and adore blackstrap molasses so I use this on mush and [tag]pancake[/tag]s.

Cornmeal mush with blackstrap molasses (gluten free too!)


  • grits or polenta – made as per package/recipe (In this post, I describe making grits)
  • cooking spray
  • bread loaf pan
  • foil
  • cast iron pan
  • oil
  • warmed blackstrap molasses or maple syrup


Line the bread loaf pan with foil and spray with cooking spray.

Make your grits or polenta and pour into the lined loaf pan. Cover with extra foil. Allow to cool overnight (or until cold).

Slice and then pan fry until golden brown and warn throughout.

Serve with butter and molasses/syrup.


Related Posts:

Low GI Recipe: Whole wheat tortilla ginger tumeric tofu wrap with young spring peas

April 23, 2007 in diabetes, Food Porn, gluten, low glycemic index, recipe


I am continuing to explore [tag]low GI cooking[/tag] that not only appeals to me but also must pass the very rigorous and often fickle family test. I like to cook with [tag]tofu[/tag] but my 10 year old has decided she doesn’t like it while the rest of the family will eat it happily. When I set out to cook the above [tag]wrap[/tag] for yesterday’s lunch, I was aiming to make tofu in a way that my daughter likes and will eat because she has my body type and needs to develop better eating habits and likes. Previously, I have served her tofu, [tag]stir-fried[/tag] in many different ways, but never as part of a wrap like you see above. Its the [tag]tortilla[/tag] that I think made all the difference. Below, I am going to share my “recipe” for this relatively simple and very [tag]low GI[/tag] lunch and the results of the Family Voting Panel.

Even though you see various [tag]recipe[/tag]s posted here that doesn’t mean I am a recipe-following kind of cook. Its a strange dichotomy.. its more like I am a recipe creator because I want to share some of my ideas, not because I like recipes in and of themselves. I love [tag]cookbook[/tag]s, not because of the recipes so much as the photos, the anecdotes and the notes written by the author.

Because I do not do the recipe thing, I don’t go to the store with a list of things to buy. Rather, I go to the store and, within the budget, buy things that I find interesting. This makes the shopping trip last longer but I promise you, I spend less time shopping and cooking than the average [tag]Rachel Ray[/tag] fan spends watching her show on how to cook in the least amount of time (that has always seemed oxymoronic to me).

Sometimes, I come to the checkout with foods that the cashier has never seen someone buy. Thats sort of odd but I guess that the grocery store TRIES to have new and interesting things but probably many people do not deviate from their usual list.

La Tortilla Factory

In the most recent trip, I noticed a product I had not seen before (I was also shopping in a store far from my home and a new one at that, [tag]Hannafords[/tag]), [tag]La Tortilla Factory[/tag] low carbo low fat high fiber whole grain tortillas (they also have [tag]gluten-free[/tag] tortillas). I picked these up as an alternative to the white flour ones we tend to buy for [tag]quesadilla[/tag]s.

I bought them with some trepidation because when I have bought [tag]whole wheat[/tag] ones previously (different brands, not this one), I have been unhappy as those tortillas had several problems: they can be really dry or dry out very quickly or they can be really excessively gummy in an unpalatable way. I found these La Tortilla Factory tortillas to be hardy, able to retain their moisture during the foil-wrapped warming up process I put them through and also while sitting on the plate. They are not only tasty and a robust product, they are just fantastically good for you. They are high in fiber so that they have only 5 [tag]effective carbs[/tag] on board per tortilla.

There are a variety of ingredients in this wrap that are low GI, are tasty, and will be really good at inducing the “[tag]Second Meal Effect[/tag].”

Some of them are:

  • [tag]Soy beans[/tag] have a VERY low GI – something like 18. As you might imagine, [tag]tofu[/tag] is also very low in the [tag]glycemic[/tag] [tag]index[/tag], if any [tag]carbohydrate[/tag] at all.
  • [tag]Chickpea[/tag] [tag]Hummus[/tag] (with [tag]sesame[/tag] [tag]tahini[/tag]) has a [tag]GI[/tag] of 6!
  • Low Carb Low Fat Tortillas (5 effective carbs, not likely specifically tested yet
  • Fresh [tag]sweet pea[/tag]s have a GI of 3
  • The side of [tag]grapefruit[/tag] slices – GI is around 25.

I did not have to try very hard to put these ingredients together. I mostly went with what caught my eye at the store and what I have been [tag]craving[/tag].

One more note before I get to the recipe, I used tumeric in my tofu stir-fry. Like tofu, I tend to crave [tag]tumeric[/tag]. Not only is it amazing in it’s ability to perk up the color of any food but it is also deserving of your respect on the grounds that it is a potent [tag]medicinal[/tag] agent.

I am going to do a post on tumeric in the future but suffice it to say that tumeric is a very good thing to cook with. Anecdotally, but relevant to my life, I really feel an increased sense of well-being when I eat foods with it. I hope you will give it a try and also come back for the post on tumeric to learn more about this amazing spice.

Low GI whole wheat tortilla tofu wrap


  • Homemade hummus, made as you desire
  • La Tortilla Factory tortillas
  • 1 block extra firm organic tofu
  • 1/2 small spanish [tag]onion[/tag], sliced thinly
  • 1/8 teaspoon minced [tag]garlic[/tag]
  • 1 teaspoon sliced [tag]ginger[/tag] (leave in large chunks, remove at end)
  • 1/4 teaspoon tumeric
  • pinch of [tag]sea salt[/tag]
  • 3 tablespoons [tag]organic[/tag] [tag]soy sauce[/tag]
  • 1-2 tablespoons [tag]olive oil[/tag] (add sesame oil if you have it and like it) to saute
  • 1/2 C frozen sweet peas
  • fresh [tag]basil[/tag] leaves


Turn the oven on to 200 F, wrap your tortillas in foil and warm them while you prepare everything else.

Rinse the tofu block and then wrap in paper towels. Put it on a cutting board and put another one on top. Put weights on the upper board to press out excess packing liquid. Watch the boards so that your weights do not fall off and scare the child, cat or dog that is at your feet in the kitchen. After about 20 minutes, unwrap the tofu and slice into cubes, set aside.

Make your hummus the way you prefer it and let it sit in the fridge, covered, while you make the rest of this. I make hummus like this: in a food processor dump in 2 cans organic chickpeas, 3 tablespoons sesame tahini, 3 tablespoons lemon or lime juice (or both!), pinch of sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic. Mix and then add a dribble of water until its the consistency you like it. I also added some basil leaves. Taste for seasoning and then store cold and covered.

In a low-medium heat saute pan add the olive oil, onions, ginger, and tumeric; heat through to begin cooking the onions. Turn up the heat to medium and add the garlic and then the tofu chunks. Saute until the tofu gets some color. Add the frozen peas and then add the soy sauce, allowing it to simmer down to a thicker sauce. Turn off the heat.

Take out one warmed tortilla, spread a layer of hummus, put down a laye of basil leaves, add the tofu stir-fry, wrap up, and enjoy!

I served this with a couple slices of sweet ruby red grapefruit and tangerine iced tea with sugar free ginger ale.

Results of the Family Tasting Panel:

  • The 10 year old LIKED it and wanted more, said it tasted like meat
  • The Husband said a similar thing and that it was pretty filling
  • The 3 year old said “Mommy, can I have some more please?”

Ingredient Information:

Sites of Interest:

Related Posts: