Monday, August 25, 2008

Trouble in big brand land

Maple Leaf Foods, Inc. recalled over 200 products after discovering listeria bacteria at plant 97B in Toronto.

From:, Monday August 25, 2008

Maple Leaf temporarily closed one of its Toronto plants after the bacterium was found on some of its products.

Laboratory tests have conclusively linked some of the products to the deaths of four people, three in Ontario and one in B.C.

There have been 21 confirmed cases of listeriosis in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan, and 30 cases remain under investigation.

On Sunday, federal Health Minister Tony Clement said the number of cases is expected to rise, since people can be infected for a length of time before showing symptoms.

Symptoms of listeriosis — which include high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness and nausea — occur up to 70 days after consuming contaminated food, though the average incubation period is 30 days.

The CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) has issued a Health Hazard Alert and provides the full list of 220 products that are being recalled, as well as the ready-to-eat deli meats sold at other retailers. Look for '97B' next to the best before or packed on dates. The number will not appear on the sandwiches.

Maple Leaf supplies deli meats to over 3 dozen brands:
(including McDonald's, Mr. Sub and Tim Hortons)

Artisan Collection, Best Value, Bittners, Boston Pizza, Burns, Campfire, Compliments, Coorsh, Country Morning, Equality, Foodservice, Harmonie, Hickory Farms, Hygrade, Kirkland Signature, Maple Leaf, Mayfair/Marque, McDonald's, Mitchell's, Mr. Sub, No Name, Northern Best Value, Olympic, Overlander, Parma, Pizza Nova, Rouyn, Safeway, Schneiders, Shopsy's, The Butcher's Cut, Tim Hortons, Western Family and Westfair

For more information, consumers and industry can call the CFIA at 1-800-442-2342 / TTY 1-800-465-7735 (8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, Monday to Friday).

Thursday, August 21, 2008

TMI: Too Much Information (so go get the good stuff)

Annapolis ValleyI grew up in Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia where people were down-to-earth, trustworthy and got their fresh milk and eggs from the farmers who worked the land. At the age of 17, I left, seeking the urban lifestyle I craved and spent the next few years doing the back-and-forth between Toronto & Vancouver then decided to leave the country to see the rest of the world. For the next decade I lived in major metropolitan centers in Europe and USA, traveling to other countries to explore the local communities and experience their way of life.

I remember one year while living in San Francisco I went home to Nova Scotia to visit my family and noticed that the leading story on the front of the newspaper was a positive one. The nation's news and world tragedies followed. I thought to myself -- start your day with something good, how profound!

That had an enormous affect on me at the time. Since I was never a big fan of the media (or TV in general -- though there are always exceptions: The Nature of Things, 'This American Life' and 'Dispatches'), I returned with the concept of 'good news' which ultimately inspired my artist moniker girlie8tv, and this blog 'girlie ate television', the idea being to replace traditional media with the shows from life.

One-stop shopping. Great intention, poor delivery

Years later I have returned to Canada. Gone are the days of buying milk & eggs from local farmers. The majority of folks go to the Superstores...massive buildings that contain every product you could ever (want) need.

My problem with most of the large chain stores is not what they are as much as what they have in them. Where are the socially responsible businesses who can provide nourishing/non-genetically modified/poison-free food that hasn't been soaked in preservatives to last through the two weeks it takes to get shipped to us? Or, products that haven't been produced by questionable methods in a third world country that are packaged in unnecessary plastic that ends up in a landfill which is in somebody else's backyard?

Honestly. This doesn't seem outrageous to me.

Anyway, my goal is to present information related to food & nutrition and personal well-being...anything that may benefit those of you who read this. I'd like to stay clear of politics, but as you will find , it isn't always possible as a lot of decisions are fueled by the same corporate leaders who end up in government. Small world.

The first item I am going to share with you is Sweet Misery - A Poisoned World, a documentary about aspartame made in 2004 by Cori Brackett who, after drinking 6 to 10 diet cokes every day for 6 years, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis . This shows what sweeteners do to the human body. Aspartame has been proven to cause brain tumors, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia and other serious health problems, even death.

An eye opener.

Back in action..

After a long period of silence, I've decided to write again. Truth be told, it wasn't for a lack of want, it was entirely health related.

The Journey Begins...

I moved to Canada's capital city, at the end of 2004. My cousin-slash-business partner had just relocated from France and his family planted their roots there for the next few years, so I decided I would make the move and concentrate on our start-up.

Not knowing anyone else aside from my family, I was missing my friends. I spent a lot of time at the gym to get my frustrations out through pilates, yoga and high-impact aerobics. After a few months of this I was at the top of my game, and then -- this is where it all goes pear-shaped -- my back blew out. Not just a little pain for a few months, but an injury that had me mostly incapacitated and in constant pain for the next 2+ years.

It hijacked my life. Twice during this period, I was confined to my bed with sciatica for 3 months at a time. Nothing I did would relieve me from the burning, knife-like intensity that was consuming my mind as well as my body. I was trapped. I am a dreamer in both the literal and figurative sense of the word, but let me tell you dear reader, my dreams had left and I was living one monster of a nightmare.


I was taking the lowest dosage of pain medication I could get away with (I am not a fan of pharmaceuticals), but after the first year of 24-7 pain, no sleep and deep depression, I needed something strong. Reeeeally strong. I simply couldn't take it any longer. My back specialist prescribed "Oxycontin" -- an opiate used for pain-relief -- and for the next few weeks, I lost the ability to think. I lived in a bubble of pain and fuzziness, AND, received no relief from the pain! It was horrible. I chose not to continue the medication.

What was my future going to be like? Was I going to be like this perpetually? How could I continue?

Denied by 'The Man'

My back specialist referred me to the Chief of Neurosurgery. I was optimistic...maybe I could get operated on! At the beginning, surgery was the last thing I wanted, now I just wanted the agony to stop. I had a small glimmer of hope...

8 months pass (yes, 8 months) and I finally get the call to meet with the Chief. Within minutes of my consultation he flat out refused me for surgery. I immediately broke down into tears. I hyperventilated. I pleaded -- I can't live like this! But it was over. No glimmer of hope for me. You will learn to live with it, he said.

Wait a minute. I'm still young! What do you mean I'll learn to live with it?!

For the next few days all I could do is cry.

Give up? Ha! Surely you jest

I'm happy my mother and father raised me to be a positive person, albeit a stubborn one. I was determined to find a glimmer of hope. When all else fails kiddo, try and try again. I had read many discussions online by people who were in the same boat, so I had an idea of what was out there for alternative treatments. I had heard about Spinal Decompression Therapy and was interested in pursuing this as it seemed like a good fit for my condition. Unfortunately only a select few cities in Canada had the technology, and I was unable to travel. But, as fate would have it, I stumbled upon a website for the first Spinal Decompression Center in Ottawa which had just got the city's first decompression machine.

Enter Dr. Lawrence

I immediately called the Broadview Spine & Health Center. My initial consultation with Dr. Joseph Lawrence was to qualify (or disqualify) me for Spinal Decompression therapy. It's not for everyone as there are numerous causes of back pain, but with my herniated disc and location of the damage, I passed as a good candidate for the treatment. As this is a new and 'experimental' treatment in Canada (at the time there were only 10 machines in the entire country compared to 7000+ in the United States), it's not covered by health insurance. I decided it was worth the risk of it not working. *I* was worth the risk. I moved ahead.

Strapping in

For the next few months I dutifully went to the clinic, getting harnessed and strapped onto the bed of the DRX9000. I watched DVD's while it was happening and noticed it was surprisingly not difficult, in fact the treatment felt good. Finally, relief! The most challenging part was getting off the machine when the session ended, I could barely walk, but then I got to wear a big ol' back brace with an ice pack shoved inside to help sort things out after the treatment.

I spent the next few months in little to no pain for the most part, but the doctor said it can take upwards to a year to heal completely from this procedure. My mobility was limited. I had to be very careful with my movements else I would hurt. Part of the post therapy treatment is a rehabilitation fitness program at the clinic with an amazing woman by the name of Marla Ericksen. With her help, I got back to the basics and taught my body how to function again.


I'd say in February was the first time I started to feel 'normal' again. I braved 'sitting for a long period of time' on an airplane and visited my in-laws in the Dominican. It's now nearing the end of August and I can say that I am happy, inspired and creative again. Mark and I have cultivated our own vegetable garden for the past 3 years which makes me so happy (and healthy) and I have just begun swimming after years of no physical activity. I am constantly inspired by the natural abundance of resources our planet has to offer, and the people who recognize the same.

I move forward with humility and determination to share the wealth of knowledge that I have gathered during all of those moments I was confined to my bed with my laptop.

(+ I'm dreaming again)

I hit restart on this blog...