Is it safe to eat (white) snow?

Jeff S. Gaffney, a professor of chemistry at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, told NPR that if we were to package snow and put it on grocery store shelves, the ingredient list would be, “Primarily water,” but also “various and sundry things depending on where it [comes from]” — things like sulphates, nitrates, formaldehyde or mercury.

Dont-eat-yellow-snow4As it falls through the sky, snow, with its intricate latticework, forms a sort of net for catching pollutants that may be in the atmosphere. The most common is black carbon, or soot, released by coal-fired plants and wood-burning stoves.

That’s why John Pomeroy, a researcher who studies water resources and climate change at the University of Saskatchewan, suggests it’s better to wait until a few hours into the snowfall to gather your fresh catch. Snow acts like a kind of atmospheric “scrubbing brush,” he explains. The longer the snow falls, the lower the pollution levels in the air, and thus in the snow.

But even if you start to collect as soon as it begins to flurry, Gaffney reassures me that contaminants in snow are “all at levels well below toxic.”

Don’t you eat that yellow snow — or wild mushrooms

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland is advising people not to eat mushrooms they find growing in the wild as the foraging season begins.

Dont-eat-yellow-snow4Last year, 19 cases of poisoning relating to wild mushrooms were notified to the National Poisons Information Centre. 18 have already been notified this year, involving seven adults and 11 children.

Mushroom foraging can be done safely, but requires expertise in distinguishing poisonous varieties from edible ones.

Cooking poisonous mushrooms does not kill off toxic chemicals contained in the fungus itself, and the results can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and even liver failure.

“The high number of cases involving children in particular points to the need for parents and guardians to be vigilant and to teach children not to eat wild mushrooms,” said Ray Ellard of the FSAI.

“In our opinion, websites and books showing visuals of mushrooms are not sufficient to identify safe mushrooms and we would not recommend people to solely rely on these to determine the safety of a wild mushroom.”

Food preparer Gordon Ramsey is boring, ineffective and inaccurate

The National Hockey League season debuted on Thursday, and all 30 teams played on Saturday, including games in Finland and Sweden, the later featuring a ceremonial puck dropping by one of Heston Blumenthal’s love fathers, former Toronto Maple Leaf Mats Sundin.

The less I play hockey, the more I watch, which is somewhat sad. But it is fun to watch various coaching styles. The yellers never prosper, because after awhile, the players just don’t respond to the yelling.

Struggling microbiologist and food preparer Gordon Ramsey is an “,” and that’s probably why people watch him. But he’s a lousy coach.

Gonzalo sent me this youtube clip from Hell’s Kitchen last week, demonstrating coach Ramsey’s unique take on determining whether chicken, and later fish, is cooked or not.

About 1:25 minutes into the clip, Ramsey puts his slimy hands on some chicken and declares,

“Pink bloody chicken. That one is cooked, that one is raw.”

And Ramsey does a full Baby Huey by kicking a garbage can; that’s what happens when the yelling doesn’t work.

Gordon, baby, color is a lousy indicator of whether a piece of chicken is cooked or not. This picture of chicken courtesy of Pete Snyder (left), has been cooked to the required 165 F.  Stick it in, man. And stop being so boring.

I might be movin’ to Montana soon …

Just to raise me up a crop of Dental Floss.

Frank Zappa (right, exactly as shown) came to mind as I read this morning why children shouldn’t eat snow. I ate lots of Ontario snow, Amy ate lots of Montana snow, but we both avoided that yellow snow.

Julie Deardorff writes in the Chicago Tribune that,
"University of Toronto environmental chemist Frank Wania reports that the atmosphere is exceedingly efficient at transporting pollutants—so efficient, in fact, that industrial pollutants released into the atmosphere in India could be found in snow in northern Canada only five days later.

"Argonne National Laboratory’s Dr. Jeff Gaffney is more specific. He says snowflakes can contain anything that floats in the air: the chemicals that fall in acid rain, bacteria, sulfates, nitrates and even lead from areas in the world that still burn leaded gasoline."


Watch out where the huskies go, and don’t you eat that yellow snow

Frank Zappa (right) would be proud.

And parents who warn their kids not to eat dirty snow (especially the yellow variety) are left wondering whether to stop them from tasting the new-fallen stuff, too, because of Pseudomonas syringae, bacteria that can cause diseases in bean and tomato plants.

A paper published last week in the journal, Science, found that snow — even in relatively pristine spots like Montana and the Yukon — contains large amounts of bacteria.

Dr. Penelope Dennehy, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ committee on infectious diseases, said,

"It’s a very ubiquitous bacteria that’s everywhere. Basically, none of the food we eat is sterile. We eat bacteria all the time.”

Dr. Joel Forman, a member of the pediatric academy’s committee on environmental health, said,

"We eat stuff that’s covered with bacteria all the time, and for the most part it’s killed in the stomach. Your stomach is a fantastic barrier against invasive bacteria because it’s a very acidic environment. … I can say that I’m not aware of any clinical reports of children becoming ill from eating snow. And I looked,” Forman says.