Thursday, June 3, 2010

oh, to choose a food processor

Earlier today I made a treat for Kiernen because there was a birthday party - these delicious almond butter blondies from where else? Elana's Pantry. That woman has the BEST recipes! I am totally hooked! She also has a brownie recipe that is very similar - just add cocoa powder, basically. When I made the brownies, I burned out my hand blender and had to replace that. I seemed to have forgotten that, and this time when I made these, I burned out the motor on my beloved food processor - the one that has weathered eleven years of marriage with us - the one that has made us so much delicious food. It seems to still spin, but very quietly and accompanied by a burning smell.

Remembering that pretty much all hard plastic contains pthalates, PVC or BPA, I looked up the article I'd read on Zrecommends about food processors - I knew I'd need it one day. I've already replaced my Vitamix container with the BPA-free version long ago, and I figured one day in the future I'd need a new food processor. It turns out that Hamilton Beach makes their wide mouth food processor BPA, pthalate and PVC-free, and they are made from styrene instead.

Hmmm, thought I, styrene? Styrene, the one that causes cancer? In the comments section someone had the same concern:
“The SAN copolymer generally contains 70 to 80% styrene and 20 to 30% acrylonitrile.”
“How likely is styrene to cause cancer?
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has determined that styrene is a possible human carcinogen.”
So, if I interpret these statements correctly, SAN is a possible human carcinogen.
I did my own Google search and found this blog entry on which plaastics are worst from as far back as 2004. Of note:
#6 PS (polystyrene), that white spongey stuff of takeout coffee cups and clamshells, can leach styrene, a possible human carcinogen, when heated or in contact with fatty foods. #7 (miscellaneous), includes polycarbonate plastic, which contains hormone-disrupting bisphenol A. (emphasis mine)
 Okay, that's polystyrene. Would the same apply to the stronger?

More searching led to this entry about plastics, with a bit more information:
Important Note: Two other types of plastic that fall under code 7 are acrylonitrile styrene (AS) or styrene acrylonitrile (SAN), and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS). Both AS/SAN and ABS are higher quality plastics with increased strength, rigidity, toughness and temperature and chemical resistance.   AS/SAN is used in mixing bowls, thermos casing, dishes, cutlery, coffee filters, toothbrushes, outer covers (printers, calculators, lamps), battery housing.  The incorporation of butadiene during the manufacture of AS/SAN, produces ABS, which is an even tougher plastic. ABS is used in LEGO toys, pipes, golf club heads, automotive parts, protective head gear. Our research on risks associated with AS/SAN and ABS is ongoing.
So what this tells me is they are saying, "We don't know if this is safe." Further reading led me only to chemical composition but nothing about possible leaching into food.

Back to Zrecommends, where they essentially say the same thing:
As for SAN, there are a couple of inferences there that go beyond the research we currently see. Yes, styrene is a possible carcinogen. Does that make SAN one? Not necessarily. It is not the safest plastic out there but it tolerates temperature extremes (expected of blenders) and is very strong. The best replacement for it currently is Tritan copolyester and you’ll find that in some newer, high-end blenders like the new Vita-Mixes. But other blenders are going to be either SAN, glass, or polycarbonate, and if you don’t want to go with glass, SAN is a far better choice than PC. 

Now, I know the food processor we were using was very likely the old kind of container that I really even don't want to think about - but it was also somewhere between 11 and 13 years old, which could either mean it's already leached what it's going to leach or we're completely full of BPA in our food and screwed anyway.

Sigh. I have no happy conclusion here. I guess I'm going to go with the unknown element and get the styrene container from Hamilton Beach. I called the company to be sure of exactly which ones are SAN containers, and it turns out they ALL are, even the blenders. It's just what they use - my guess is because it's cheaper rather than the health concerns, but hey, I'm jaded when it comes to profit-making corporations.Is it any wonder why?

So because we don't have $1200 to spend on a stainless steel professional processor, and apparently finding a glass one is nearly impossible (at least on Google), I'm going with this one:

Note: If you apply for the Amazon credit card, you get a $40 credit and basically get the food processor for $7. I was going to buy one of the wide mouth ones - in fact, I did. But when I took it out of the box, I discovered it was so big it dwarfed my Vita-Mix. It took up an insane amount of space in my small kitchen, and it was too big to fit on my cabinet for easy storage. So no thanks - the 10-cup is just fine for my needs.

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