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Jewish World Review March 5, 2002 / 21 Adar, 5762

Dr. Ed Blonz

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Consumer Reports

Stay away from the creamers -- DEAR DR. BLONZ: I recently purchased a book on low-fat cooking. The author states that liquid nondairy creamer can be used as a substitute in creamed dishes, soups etc. When I looked at the label, I saw partially hydrogenated soybean oil listed as the second ingredient. Since I have followed your column for a number of years, you can imagine how that made me cringe. Could you please comment on whether she is right? Or should I forget the whole idea? I would appreciate your comments, because I have high cholesterol and need to watch my diet carefully. -- R.P., San Diego

DEAR R.P.: Coffee creamers are an interesting story. As cholesterol consciousness began to take hold, a rash of cholesterol-free products began to sprout up in the marketplace. Nondairy creamers found a niche, as people felt a need to shift from milk or half-and-half to a cholesterol-free alternative. These creamers were thought to represent a healthier choice, but it was a dubious move, in my opinion. The products usually contain a similar amount of fat, and it's doubtful that the 5 milligrams of cholesterol per tablespoon of half-and-half have any real impact on one's health.

To compound the problem, most coffee creamers contain partially hydrogenated oil as the No. 1 ingredient (after water). There is an ever-increasing body of research which, from a health standpoint, shows that this is the worst type of fat we can consume. The nondairy creamers, nonetheless, were touted as a better (cholesterol-free) alternative for coffee and breakfast cereals. How ironic that consumers might be drawn to such products in the belief that they represent a more healthful choice. My advice is to steer clear of the recipes that rely on nondairy creamers -- unless, of course, you can find one that is made without partially hydrogenated oil.

DEAR DR. BLONZ: My question has to do with the safety of hard-cooked, dyed Easter eggs. I will be making bag-lunches for Easter for a group of homeless people. If they dye hard-cooked Easter eggs to put in the lunches, how long will these eggs keep without concern for food poisoning? These lunches would be given out one to two days before Easter, and there would be no refrigeration available after the bag lunches are given out. -- C.P., San Francisco, Calif.

DEAR C.P.: Hard-cooked eggs, whether for Easter or any other use, are a perishable food. Because they are such a plentiful source of nutrients, they are just as attractive to microorganisms as they are to us. The hard-boiling process might help destroy the bacteria and other microorganisms inside the egg, but it will also help destroy the natural protective coating on the egg.

Basic food safety dictates that a perishable food, such as an egg, should not be considered "safe" if it is away from refrigeration for over two hours. The food won't automatically make you sick after this time, but the degree of risk begins to grow at a rapid rate. Unless you are very efficient, it's unlikely that you will be able to go through the egg-dying and distribution process within a two-hour period.

You mentioned that the lunches would be given one to two days before Easter without refrigeration. Add to that the fact that you are planning on distributing the eggs to the homeless, a group in which food supplies are at a premium. This makes it almost certain that the eggs will be eaten. From a food-safety point-of-view, the eggs in the lunch are a risky idea.

JWR contributor Ed Blonz, Ph.D., is a nutrition scientist and author of Power Nutrition and the "Your Personal Nutritionist" book series. Send questions to him by clicking here.


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02/19/02: Is decaf dangerous?
02/12/02: Do veggies prevent mineral absorption?
02/05/02: Incompatibility problems between calcium and vitamin C; Can supplements prevent blindness?
01/29/02: What's wrong with the meat?; Does tuna packed in water still have high levels of omega-3?; Avoid "fractionated vegetable oils?"
01/22/02: Is all soy milk created equal?; foods containing magnesium; why do vitamins expire?
01/15/02: Three cheers for chocolate?
01/08/02: Making sense of labels
01/03/02: "Thermogenic" weight loss
12/26/01: What's up with ephedra?
12/18/01: Is new supplement a scam?

© 2002, NEA