"We're going to eat more frozen vegetables," my mother-in-law said.
My first thought was how great it was that she was opening up her mind to the possibility that a lot of foods were harmful, but, like myself when I remember when I started going the healthy route so I don't think that she has quite as much information as she needs to make an informed decision. I decided to research exactly why her comment had given me such pause.
Are frozen fruits and vegetables healthy?
Frozen produce is usually cheaper than buying it fresh at the grocery store. You can find varieties of produce that are out of season this way. Vegetables and fruits are generally frozen right after they're picked, so the produce is supposed to be good for you. Frozen foods have a longer shelf life than fresh.
The FDA says frozen produce is good for you.
According to the US FDA, "Frozen produce has the same benefits and nutrients as fresh." When I found the above statement I knew that I had to dig further. It's hard to trust the FDA since they have approved GMOs for the last twenty years.
Frozen produce is frozen at it's prime, but many non-organic companies, such as Green Giant, include additives like trans fat and non-organic vegetable oil. What about additives? How can we guarantee that all additives are organic?
My next thought was that frozen produce shouldn't be too bad as long as you buy organic..., but then I thought about all the warnings about buying organic items and that made me research the differences between 100% organic and ones that are only so-so organic.
What does 'Organic' mean in packaged foods?
According to the FDA, organic can be 100-75% organic.
Section 205.301 establishes the organic content requirements for different labeling provisions specified under this program. The type of labeling and market information that can be used and its placement on different panels of consumer packages and in market information is based on the percentage of organic ingredients in the product. The percentage must reflect the actual weight or fluid volume (excluding water and salt) of the organic ingredients in the product. Four categories of organic content are established: 100 percent organic; 95 percent or more organic; 70 to 95 percent organic; and less than 70 percent organic. (Organic Labeling Preamble)If it's 100% organic, then all the contents of the packaged food are organic including the additives and the processing. If 95%, then it contains organic ingredients. In 90-75% organic, then everything else that is not organic could be ANYTHING else. 70% organic can contain GMOs, sewage, and pesticides. Those are the ones you have to watch out for!
Then I started thinking about what else do I need to be aware of to make an informed decision on frozen produce? If the bag says 100% organic, then is there anything else to think about?
All frozen items come in plastic.
They have to or the box would deteriorate. However, that plastic that wraps up that organic produce is not necessarily toxic free.
Under the Toxic Substances Control Act, the law that regulates industrial chemicals in the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has required safety testing on only 200 of these chemicals, and of those, only five have been banned from manufacturing (including asbestos and dioxin).BPA is only one toxic, synthetic plastic that can be found in canned food linings, beverage can linings, and other plastics. This toxic plastic interferes with human hormones including the endocrine system. BPA and other plasticizers leach into food when it comes into contact with oils or fatty food, when heated, or if the plastic is old.
Commercial frozen produce comes from the freezer section in the supermarket
A study by Environmental Investigation Agency – an international campaigning organization – claims that greenhouse gases used in large freezers and fridges by supermarkets are as harmful to the environment as plastic bags.
In the 1990′s HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons) were introduced to replace ozone depleting CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) and HCFCs hydrochlorofluorocarbons). However this switch to refrigerants that do not damage the ozone layer brought in a generation of chemicals with a greenhouse effect thousands of times stronger than CO2 (Guardian).
The Guardian states that chemicals released by fridges account for 30 percent of supermarkets’ direct emissions, yet only 0.5 percent of stores have been fitted with greener equipment, according to the EIA’s report, called Chilling Facts.
If these items are causing environmental problems, then I cannot be assured that they will not do the same to the human body. According to the EPA, greenhouse gases are mainly carbon dioxide gases that are pollutants from fossil fuels.
My personal recommendation: DO NOT CONSUME COMMERCIALLY FROZEN FOOD!
After much thoughtful consideration, I cannot recommend eating anything that will be harmful to the human body and that includes commercially frozen food. If I want to save my fresh produce, then I will personally freeze it myself in glass containers using this method by Eating Well. I also will remember that frozen food cannot be kept too long or it will lose it's nutritional value. When reheating frozen vegetables it is recommended to steam them when you cook so that you will retain all the nutritional value.
Until next time, remember to eat organic, local or make/grow your own!