A.J. McClane, in "The Encyclopedia of Fish Cookery," advises, "Fresh shrimp are firm and smell fresh. Don't be afraid to use your nose. A stale shrimp has an offensive ammonia odor. If there's one bad shrimp in a box you can assume that they are all bad."
Do not confuse the smell of ammonia with the taste of iodine, which has nothing to do with spoilage. Shrimp feeding on certain organisms can produce a distinctive iodine flavor.
Q. Nescafe and Taster's Choice coffee are naturally decaffeinated, so they say. What about Brim and Maxwell House? How can you find out which is done naturally, and what does that mean?
Q. There is some talk of natural as well as artificial removal of caffeine. It would seem that any natural removal process would have to be accomplished before the bean matured on the tree.
Ormond Beach, Fla.
A. The word "natural" has come to mean many things in the food industry. When it comes to decaffeinating coffee, natural means using a water-and- natural-oil process as opposed to using a chemical to remove the coffee
from the bean.
The Harvard Medical School Health Letter provides this information: "In the U.S., methylene chloride is used by General Foods, the marketer of Maxwell House, Sanka, Brim and Yuban. The Nestle Co., which markets Taster's Choice, Maragor Gold, and Nescafe, uses a Swiss-patented water process and natural oils. The Procter & Gamble Co. (Folger's, High Point) uses ethyl acetate, a chemical usually considered to have a relatively low potential for toxicity. However, little information is available on ethyl acetate's long-term health effects, including cancer. A number of premium-priced coffees sold in gourmet stores are decaffeinated with a Swiss water process.
"The Delaney Clause, an amendment to the U.S. Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, requires that the food supply be kept free of additives known to cause cancer. Because methylene chloride causes cancer in animals, it would ordinarily be excluded by the Delaney Clause for use in food products. However, in December 1985 the Food and Drug Administration announced that it believes the cancer risk is very low for people who drink coffee decaffeinated with methylene chloride, and the agency will therefore continue to permit use of this chemical to decaffeinate coffee. The Public Citizen Litigation Group, an organization based in Washington, D.C., is suing the FDA to enforce the Delaney Clause and ban methylene chloride as a decaffeinating agent."
INHALING VEGETABLE SPRAY
Debra Hanby, St. Petersburg, Fla.: "You recently answered a reader's question about Pam vegetable spray for coating pots and pans, concluding that it was harmless. You have made a big mistake. Fourteen years ago when I was a teenager my friends and I used to sniff Pam to get stoned. I know it sounds a little off the wall but, believe me, you can be seriously injured from inhaling too much of the aerosol. My girlfriend died of it while we stood and watched, having burst a blood vessel in her head from sniffing. About three months later we read about a woman in her 70s or 80s who was using Pam to cook with and collapsed and died in her kitchen from inhaling too much."
Cheri Robinson of Costa Mesa, Calif., and Cari Carlsen of Farmington, Utah, two readers, also wrote commenting about the dangers of inhaling Pam spray. I sent these coments to American Home Products Corporation, manufacturers of Pam, and Joel Brandt, a senior attorney of this company's law department, responded:
"Your readers are referring to a previous formulation of Pam and a sociological problem that existed at the time. The propellant was only dangerous in certain instances when it was abused. Some time ago, a problem existed in the form of teenagers attempting to get high by 'huffing' consumer products which contained fluorocarbon propellants. Hair spray, underarm deodorants and Pam were some of the products abused by teenagers in their attempt to get high.
"They contrived means of separating the products from the propellant systems in order to concentrate and inhale the propellant. In some cases, teenagers died while deliberately concentrating and inhaling excessive amounts of fluorocarbon propellants. We are not aware of any individual who was affected by the propellant during the normal use of Pam and are somewhat surprised at the allegations that a woman in her 70s or 80s collapsed and died while using Pam.
"Nevertheless, you may be assured that Pam, as currently distributed, does not use fluorocarbon propellants. Fluorocarbon propellants were banned by the U.S. government in the late 1970s because of their alleged effect on the ozone layer. We have not received any reports of intentional inhalation of Pam as distributed thereafter."
Have a question for Sonja Heinze? Write to her in care of the Daily News, 400 N. Broad St., Phila., Pa., 19101.