If you can't get it fresh, get it frozen

PHOTO: If you can't get it fresh, get it frozen

"When you eat a head of lettuce in a salad, you get several coatings of pesticides," said Andrew Berliner, CEO of a US$500-million (S$641 million) business dealing with organic convenience food.

He and his wife, Rachel, visited Manila recently not only to launch Amy's Kitchen, America's top natural foods brand, but also to pitch the virtues of frozen and organic foods.

The products are available in Rustan's and Shopwise and the local distributors, Sonia Trading, are vegetarians.

The Berliners' business was established 24 years ago when Rachel was on her last term of pregnancy and could no longer cook.

Berliner went to their favorite natural foods store to look for ready-to-cook meals. "They were bad-tasting. I thought there must be other people like us who don't have time to cook but want to eat something great tasting and nutritious, with organically grown ingredients," he said.

The family enterprise was established after the birth of their daughter Amy.

Their company offers a diverse range, from meatless lasagnas, Asian and Mexican, to Indian vegetarian burgers, pizzas, pot pies and pasta sauces.

The Consumer Report even voted the cheese pizza from Amy's Kitchen as the best-tasting.


Minerals and enzymes

Berliner explains: "Frozen food has a lot more minerals and enzymes than produce that you buy in the grocery store or market. The latter has been picked for days; as you keep it in the refrigerator, it keeps degrading and oxidizing."

The Daily Telegraph reports that as much as 45 per cent of vital nutrients in food have been depleted by the time they are eaten.

It can take up to two weeks for fresh produce to reach your plate from the time they were harvested.

By then, green beans, for instance, would have lost 45 per cent of the nutrients; broccoli and cauliflower, 25 per cent; and carrots, 10 per cent.

The UK-based Institute of Food Research claims that if produce is frozen as soon as it is harvested, it will contain more nutrients sealed in.

Likewise, the Daily News quotes the American Dietetic Association as saying that frozen vegetables are a healthier choice for people who don't have time to market and cook.

Frozen at the peak of their ripeness, they will maintain their natural goodness.

"The best is to eat fresh food straight out of the garden. No. 2, frozen produce has higher mineral and nutritional content over fresh ones," said Berliner.

He added that Amy's Kitchen's canned foods such as the beans and soups can last for two years, although the flavor degrades after a year.

However, scientists say that the shelf life could run up to seven years.

"Canning is a way of keeping something stable for a long time without refrigeration. Instead of cooking in a pot at home, you cook part in a kettle and the second half in the can under vacuum. There's no oxygen to degrade the food."

This is why canned foods are recommended for storage in times of emergency.

Berliner said their foods are prepared as if done at home, using organic ingredients handled with loving hands rather than machines.

"There are no funny chemical words when you read the ingredients," he said.

"If you buy a pop tart off the shelf, it has a lot of preservatives. Ours is frozen so it maintains freshness beautifully. It eliminates the need for preservatives."



Rachel pointed out that none of their ingredients are derived from GMOs (genetically modified organisms).

Berliner explained: "The DNA has been altered so you can spray pesticides without hurting the plant. Nobody has done studies on the effect of GMO food like soy, corn, beets on people. They are not placed on the labels so people in the US and even here don't know when they're eating GMOs. In Europe, it's required on the label."

Their company have been gathering research on the case for organic farming as a solution to global warming.

A study from the Rodale Institute cites that over a billion pounds of pesticides are discharged into the environment and leave remainders long after utilization.

Tests from the US Department of Agriculture revealed that conventionally cultivated produce contain a high percentage of chemical residue, unlike organic fruits and vegetables.

Moreover, if the American croplands adapted organic farming, it would be the equivalent of eliminating 217 million cars, or a third of all the vehicles in the world.

In health, organic food reduces the growth of antibiotic resistant microorganisms.

The BBC reported a study showing a link between pesticide use and Parkinson's disease.

The Environmental Health Perspectives conducted studies that revealed how pregnant women exposed to pesticides were vulnerable to birth defects.

Also, children who ate commercial fresh fruits and vegetables had high concentrations of pest pesticides in their urine.

Similarly, the University of Washington Department of Health Education collected urine samples from 96 children.

Only one child, who was raised on purely organic food, had no metabolite in his system.

"Children are very sensitive to pesticide," said Berliner. "They find it in the bloodstream. Why are there more diseases? It's related to the food you eat. "

Researches from the University of Liverpool deem that exposure to pesticides increase the risk of developing cancer, and that the public should take preventive measures such as improving the diet.

Rachel added: "People realize they have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes. They don't know how to have a healthy diet. They think healthy food tastes bad. What we've done in the US, and here, too, is that you can have something that has vegetables and tastes good."