Thursday, August 28, 2008

The best lamb I have ever eaten

I am currently on vacation in the mountains of central Washington State.  Our house for the week is nestled between pear orchards, creeks, and towering mountains.  

Eating here has been a bit tricky.  I haven't been able to find good eggs and bacon, which is unfortunate, but there is fruit and veggies a-plenty in every direction.

When we arrived we checked out the local "natural" foods store.  This is a decent place for shipped foods, but local quality is almost impossible in the Supermarket setting.  However the proprietor of the store gave us a list of folks who might have meats and produce.  This is how we found Eric.  

Eric and his wife Catha live in Peshastin, WA, about a ten minute drive from our house.  They primarily make cheese for a living.  They also raise and sell Lamb.  I called Eric and asked about the availability of some lamb.  He said they usually sell quarters and halves, but he would check for something smaller.  About an hour later he called back and told me he had a 5.5 lb leg in the freezer he could sell me for $7/lb.  I said we'd be over the next day to get it.

Now we are here with friends that are not so trusting of small producers, so I felt I needed a bit more information.  The next morning I called Eric before heading over and started to ask him about his slaughtering process:

"how do you process and such things?"  

"well...I do it.  With a knife.  I slit their throats." 

I laughed, and as he launched into the rest of the story I began to realize that this was what I have looked for.  To go to a town, meet and talk with local food producers, support them with our business, this is the virtue of local eating.  

Eric's operation sounded pretty Kosher.  He waits till the fall, when all the flies are dead.  He slaughters the animals in the lower barn.  Lamb can hang and bleed out without being chilled so carefully as beef.  So he lets them bleed out for a few days before transferring the carcasses to his cutter/packer.  This facility handles the cutting, packing and freezing of the meats, which Eric then brings back home and stores for his customers.   

Upon arriving at the farm, Eric greeted us warmly.  He has short dreaded locks, and was wearing a dirty t-shirt and ripped blue jeans.  He didn't seem like any cheesemaker I could imagine.

About thirty minutes later, we were standing in Eric's cheese making room, waiting for him to return with cheese, wine and crackers.  We told him we weren't going to buy any cheese, but he said we had to try some, and that we could not try it without wine and crackers.  His cheese, a brie or camembert type cheese, was terrific, creamy, smooth, but with stinky flavor.

After showing us the spot where the lamb had lived, and introducing us to his pair of Great Pyrenees and his pigs, we were on our way.  He told us the lamb would likely be the best we ever tasted, if, he cautioned, we did not overcook it.  I told him we would take care of it.

Last night we cooked the leg.  5.5 lbs in a convection oven for about 1 hour and 25 minutes.  I prepare my lamb greek style, with a lemon/olive oil baste every 10-15 minutes.   It was most definitely the tastiest lamb meat I have ever eaten.  It was also satisfying to know that we were eating meat of an animal that was raised and killed within 5 miles of our house, by a small self sufficient family.  It was sold at a reasonable price and the quality of the product was supreme.  

I knew everything about the meat I ate last night.  Comparatively, I have eaten lamb in the past that traveled over 10000 miles to arrive at my plate.  Sure it was good, but not like this.  One of my dinner companions said, "If I were in a restaurant and this was $200 a plate, I would believe it was worth it.  Then again, if I were told it was crap I would believe it too.  That's how different this lamb tastes."  Thankfully he liked the flavor, going back for seconds, and thirds

Monday, August 18, 2008

recall blues

When are we going to get the picture?  Stop eating the fucking industrial meat people!
The store that makes us all feel really good while shopping, Whole Foods, has just issued a massive recall on several of its Beef products. Whole foods is not the only store to issue a recall on beef, several supermarkets across the country have responded to the recall by overall craptastic Nebraska Beef bringing the total to over 1.2 million pounds of beef.

Hold the phone - I thought Whole Foods had standards, that they had better sources of food then the local supermarket.  More importantly, I thought Whole Foods had the kind of ethically sound, natural and organic products I buy to make me forget that I am part of a culture of destructive consumerism.  Well the meat was actually purchased from Coleman Natural, who seem to say all the right things on their website.  Coleman is run by another company, Meyer Natural Angus, who use Nebraska Beef as their processors.  (They also use the absurd phrase "true corn-fed flavor" when talking about the corn feeds they use)  So this web of businesses, 4 in all, leaves us with a lovely gift, the contaminated product.  But it is not just these 4 companies, one of the problems in tracking the contamination is that nebraska beef moves its product to several different distributors.  So it is difficult to determine where the end-product, the food we eat, came from.

The recall was based on E. Coli contamination.  For those of you who do not know what that means, I'll just say it involves sewage.  This isn't the first time Nebraska Beef has gotten in trouble, in fact it was their third recall in 2 months.  How do these bastards stay open?

One reason is politics.  Ben Nelson, the distinguished Senator from Nebraska, received a few bucks from them, $14,000+ in 2006 alone.  Nelson also sent about $7 million in tax breaks to Nebraska Beef while he was Governor in 1998.  

A large processor like Nebraska must kill and process over 2000 animals every day.  This is anywhere from 10 to 100 times more product then a small house will slaughter.  The employees are under far more stress, and are generally less skilled then those of a small house that processes the farmer's market, halal or kosher meat.

Why would a large processor be more prone to e. coli outbreak?  In the case of Nebraska beef it was likely due to unsanitary equipment.  This means the equipment was not cleaned properly or frequently enough.  In a large slaughterhouse, oversight is much more difficult, and standards must fall to meet the higher demand.  In a large chicken facility for example, an inspector will see 1000 birds in the same amount of time that he or she would see 100 in a small house.  Mistakes are not hard to imagine in these factories, and one needs not imagine them, as several were caught on tape at several facilities in California.  Now, companies like Nebraska Beef, Coleman Natural, Meyer and Whole Foods can soak up the costs of an expensive recall and stay afloat.  Particularly while they are reaping the benefits of tax breaks and other types of corporate welfare.  But a small producer would be instantly destroyed by a contamination.  

Imagine the impact of e. coli from farmer's market meats or vegetables on the industry of small local farming.  It would be devastating.  This is an important market factor.  These producers, either organic, bio-dynamic or humane, with their  pastured animals, are finding the best processors they can.  They are paying a tremendous amount to the slaughterhouses and traveling processors per animal, and their final product is their very livelihood.  There is no political bailout, no team of lawyers, no bean counters, there is nothing to protect these small business people.  The imperative is quality product.  This is why you will pay $3-5 more per pound to purchase your meats.  Bacon costs me twice what supermarket bacon costs, chicken 3 times and beef 5 times.  But I am assured of a quality product from clean, healthy, hearty animals with robust immune systems.  And if I need to see it to believe it, my producers allow me to visit any time.  If I tried to get close to a purdue CAFO or processor I would be arrested by men in HAZMAT outfits.  No, I will gladly pay more for products from men and women who must adhere to the strictest quality standards to secure their livelihood.  Not those big companies that can take a hit and keep trucking.  

If only the rest of us would wake up and stop feeding the maw of the disgraceful, unhealhty, and un-american industrial food production business.  Teddy Roosevelt would have a field day with the current food industry.  

Here is my proposal:  Get a bunch of rabbi's to produce a Golem that is subsumed with the soul of Teddy Roosevelt.  Then just sit back and watch as he shows these bastards what America used to be about.

Be Angry.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The rabbit hole: Diabetes

I was looking around for some info on fiber and I came across this statement from the Diabetes Health Center at WebMD:
"Diabetes Diet Myth 1: Eating Too Much Sugar Causes Diabetes."

Their reasoning?

"How does diabetes happen? The causes are not totally understood.  What is known is that simply eating too much sugar is unlikely to cause diabetes. Instead, diabetes begins when something disrupts your body’s ability to turn the food you eat into energy."

In their entire discussion of causality in Diabetes, the words "Insulin resistance" are not used.  There is also the strange term "unlikely" applied to sugar as a risk factor.  They mention Obesity as a risk factor, however, not considering for a moment how obese people become obese.

Then I went on:

"Diabetes Diet Myth 3: Carbohydrates Are Bad."

Let's see their reasoning on this one:

"In fact, carbohydrates are good. They form the foundation of a healthy diabetes diet – or of any healthy diet.
Carbohydrates have the greatest effect on blood glucose levels, which is why you are asked to monitor how much carbohydrate you eat when following a diabetes diet."

Why is this all a problem?  

The answer begins with Hippocrates.  Any diet recommendations fall under the umbrella of "Preventive Medicine".  Preventive medicine is most profoundly beholden to the Hippocratic oath, which is a lovely statement descrying harmful prescription.  Yet the folks at WebMD are doing just that.  
This has been going on for generations.  

The initial argument was that a high percentage carb diet held a lower risk of heart disease.  Which is true only in select studies, and only very slightly when compared to a high percentage fat diet. (The high carb diet holds a higher risk of stroke and cancer in all studies, but these aspects of diet studies are seldom reported.)

The long tumble down the hill of bad science and medical clap-trap began with this correlation.  (high fat = heart disease)

It was assumed that obesity was also correlated with a high fat diet, based not on data or science, but on intuition.  The syllogism would properly read:  If dietary fat is correlated with obesity, and obesity is correlated with heart disease, then dietary fat must be correlated with heart disease.  But this was not their logic.  Their logic links obesity and dietary fat through heart disease.  It would be as if a man were convicted of killing another man, because he happened to be standing next to the actual killer during the act.

To make matters worse, the chain continued, as Diabetes was brought into the mix.  There is absolutely no evidence that a high percentage of natural dietary fats (saturated, or otherwise, anything but trans fats) have any correlation with a higher rate of Diabetes.  Nor is there any evidence that dietary fats have any correlation with obesity.  But, we assumed, because it seemed to make sense.  

Why did it seem to make sense?
Because MD's and biochemists seldom understand the first thing about physics.  When discussing diet many scientists will hearken to the First Law of Thermodynamics. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the law, it states:

"The increase in the internal energy of a system is equal to the amount of energy added by heating the system, minus the amount lost as a result of the work done by the system on its surroundings."

This law is invoked when talking about Calories.  A calorie is a calorie is a calorie - the mantra of bad dietary science.    They suggest that the amount of calories that is consumed in the diet must equal the output of energy.  Food with a higher calorie rating must require more energy to break down, and thus, the less active we are the less calories we break down.  The idea is based on a positive or negative caloric balance.  But it is an oversimplification of human biology.  It ignores the body's fat storage mechanisms, it ignores defecated waste, it ignores water losses through perspiration.  

1.  Fat storage - before fatty acids are converted into energy they have the option of becoming stored fat.  This process was discussed heavily in my post a few days ago.  If they do this then they will not enter the energy output cycle.  This process is heavily influenced by the content of our diet, not the total caloric quantity.  
2.  Defecation - as any raw foodist will tell you, eating more fibrous foods (cellulose particularly) will increase bowel motility.  The problem with their theory of course is that less nutrients are absorbed...but we'll leave them alone for a bit.  The point here is that if we are defecating more thoroughly we will be releasing more food content.  So bowel variation has a part in food absorption.
3.  Perspiration - when I eat Congee with Pork and Thousand Year Egg I sweat.  I sweat a lot.  When I drink Oolong tea I sweat.  This isn't much, it is not going to tip the scales one way or another, but if it is happening then we know ATP is being manufactured, as heat is the bi-product.  If our food can enable or disable this body function then we must consider it as part of overall metabolism.  

So, thermodynamics when applied to human dietary physiology might look a bit circuitous.  A calorie is a calorie in the stomach, but to the duodenum it is a glucose or a fatty acid;  to the pancreas it is a 'make insulin now' and to the gall bladder it is a "bile - GO!".  Then the liver takes some charge of the situation and the calorie becomes one of several possible outcomes, as outlined above.  It could be energy, as glucose usually is directly after consumption, or fatty acids are most of the rest of the time.  Or it could be fat storage, or it could not be assimilated at all, and defecated.  All these factors must be parsed and counted to have an accurate idea of the effect of different diet components on the body.  This is far too complex for a typical prospective diet study.  

The point of all this is that all calories are very likely not created equal.  Because the foods that the "calorie" ratings are applied to have different actions on the internal mechanisms of the body.  These actions have different effects on metabolism.  

What if there were a car factory that could make a fuel efficient compact, a mid-size family sedan, and a 7 seater SUV, all with the same apparatus?  The operators would simply insert a different blueprint when they wanted one or the other, allowing the machines to do the rest.  

This is what our body does naturally.  What a beautiful machine it is!  It is capable, based on input, of producing such a variety of end products, that it boggles the mind.  The input is our dietary contents.  The output is always different, dependent upon the particular ingredients of our diets.  Different inputs can make us fat, thin, strong, weak, healthy or disease-ridden. 

High fat diets, with low carbohydrate content (not percentage, but overall content) are repeatedly among the safest and healthiest diets found in prospective studies, such as those run by the National Center for heatlh statistics.  The recommendation for "lean proteins" constantly bandied about by the AHA or the ADA are based on no science.  

And yet, on both their websites ( and you find the recommendation for "non-fat dairy" and "lean protein", as well as a foundation of carbohydrates.  

These recommendations have been around for about 30 years.  (or perhaps upwards of 60, but more powerfully the last 30)  In that time we have seen an increased incidence of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, bowel diseases and dementia.  Thanks to other medical advances, we have seen life expectancy rise amid the deluge of disease.  Americans are living longer with heart disease then they used to.  

So what dietary ingredient has increased since 1970?  According to these USDA statistics, between 1970 and 2005, grain availability increased by 41%, of which 89% went to our diets in refined form; fruits and veggies increased by 19%, and meats by a paltry 7.5%.  This accompanied a growth in US population of 45%.  
If you count sugars and sweeteners you get a further 19% growth in refined carb load.

So, in a period which saw a 45% growth in population, we find a complimentary growth in only one major ingredient:  Refined Carbohydrates.  

If, as many scientists do, we assume that diet has some relationship to disease incidence, we find the only logical culprit for the increased incidence of disease in America to be refined carbs.  All other food types have not been produced and consumed in such quantity as to keep up even with population growth.  

And yet, we are still recommending Carbs as the foundation of a healthy diet.  Sure, they are saying "whole grains" these days, but who actually follows that advice?  

Come on people, wake up and eat your bacon.  Drink your fatty milk, eat your pasture beef, fry those pasture eggs in butter.  

And leave the toast in the bread basket.  You'll thank me when you are 90 and still driving around the neighborhood. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Top Chef tries "healthy"

Every four months I get a couple weeks to chill, Acupuncture school is 3 years, 9 semesters, and the 2-3 week breaks we get are never quite as long as I want them to be.  That said, they do afford me the opportunity to catch up on Top Chef.  

Watching Tom Colicchio rip these jackasses a new one is always a pleasure.  

Anyway, in the episode I just watched, the chefs were to come up with a "healthy" dish for members of the Chicago Police Department.  The producers brought on Sam from Season 2 to be the guest judge.  Sam is a diabetic, and tells the chefs that he often has trouble finding foods that are low in carbs and sugars.  The meal must be "healthy" and "diabetic friendly".  

So I am watching, and "low carb, low sugar" somehow shifts to the common nutritional knowledge of the day "lean protein, fruit, vegetable, whole grain".  Several times in the episode the chefs make mention of the low cholesterol component of their meals.  The douchebag who went to nutrition school makes sure to say at least 6 times that his dish, a tasteless and insubstantial sushi, is healthy by virtue of it being raw.  

Some day we will let go of these erroneous nutritional recommendations.  Lean meats are no healthier then fatty meats, nor do they taste especially better.  Eating entirely raw food is thought by many to be a healthy cleanse, one to be performed for a few weeks, to clear out some toxins.  But it is not an adequate full time and continuous diet.  
For a whole mess of information on that subject, click here.

Perhaps though things are looking up.  The low sugar, low carb theme was more prominent in the episode then lean meat, or low cholesterol.  And the Raw food guy went home.  

Also, my brother wants me to stop using "Be Well" at the end of posts.  So I came up with a new one for him:

Suck it.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

the rabbit hole - dietary fat vs. adipose fat

Dare you come down here with me?  It is all starting to come clear.  But it is a complicated picture.

Let's begin.  

There are 3 basic parts of our foods.  Fats, Carbs, Protein.  Today we talk fats.  

Fats.  Naturally occurring fats are perhaps our best friends in the food world.  It doesn't matter which kind we are talking about.  All fatty foods contain a combination, and all are useful/healthy in their own ways.  I wrote much more about that here.   Fats are responsible for most of our day to day metabolism.  

I.  Our dietary fat is initially metabolized into free fatty acids.  The flow of free fatty acids from our livers (where the acids begin) to the blood (then to the adipose tissue and all other cells of the body) is vital to proper energy management systemwide.  This flow is enabled by most of our endocrine hormones.  It is disabled by one only one, insulin.  If we increase insulin, we push fatty acids into adipose storage, if we decrease insulin, we release the mechanism for fat storage, and fatty acids are free to roam and provide energy.

So, to sum up this first part:  dietary fat is broken down, the liver then sends the resultant fatty acids out to the rest of the body.  Whether this fat gets stored as adipose tissue, or metabolized, is primarily due to 1) the level of insulin in the blood, and 2) the predisposition of each of our hormones to fat storage.  

Let me make sure to state what adipose tissue growth or reduction is NOT due to:  1) the amount of overall calories we eat, and 2) the amount of exercise we perform.

Why not?

II.  Fatty acids can become energy only if they stay in their free fatty acid state.  The body can instead turn them into Triglycerides which are either locked into adipose tissue (via insulin) or they clog up the blood stream (atherosclerosis, when in large quantities).  So how do free fatty acids triple up to become bulbous immovable triglyceride plaque?

The fatty acids must be joined together, this is accomplished by glycerol 3 phosphate.  Gly-3-p is a product of the metabolism of glucose and fructose (refined sugars).  It forms the backbone of the triglyceride.  The process is illustrated nicely by this table.

How then does that plaque become adipose tissue?
The triglycerides are snared by a protein called LPL which pulls triglycerides out of the blood stream, and into adipose storage.  Therefore, the regulation of LPL is vital to the development of adipose tissue.

{Edit:  I significantly simplified the science here.  Let me fix:  LPL actually breaks the triglycerides down first, then transports.  The free fatty acids either go to fat storage or processing for fuel.  The higher the insulin levels the more LPL action moves toward fat storage, the lower the insulin the more the LPL action moves toward muscle tissue for fuel production.}

How do we get fat?
The LPL activity is increased by insulin.  The more insulin, the more fat accumulation.  Insulin is increased most profoundly by refined sugars.  Particularly glucose.  

To sum up the second part:  Fatty acids become fat (adipose tissue) only when combined into triglyceride form and pushed into adipose accumulation.  This entire process is guided by Sugar, via its direct influence on insulin.

The last piece of the puzzle.
Some people get fat, some don't.  The last element seems to be a hormonal imbalance in those that become Obese.  They are especially prone, in the Hypothalamus, to the effects of insulin.  If the (ventromedial) hypothalamus cannot properly regulate insulin then we will fatten.  Fattening will make us hungry, as there will be more need for fuel, and the vicious cycle of obesity will begin.

So, the final sum-up:

Sugars and refined grains raise insulin levels quickly and dramatically, their metabolism produces a bi-product that builds triglycerides.  The heightened insulin raises the amount of triglycerides that get stored as adipose tissue, causing obesity.

Let me again state what does not cause obesity:  Perverse appetite and lack of exercise.

So I guess the only question left is:  Is obesity bad?  


So why eat fats?  Fatty foods are high in nutrients, and if properly raised/produced will have an excellent Omega 6:Omega 3 ratio (as close to 1:1 as possible is best).  This study shows the benefits of a lower ratio.  Beef alone (when raised properly!) contains all essential amino acids and all but 1 of the essential vitamins, C.  C is readily available in citrus, among other foods. (although it may not be as necessary as we think)  Fats also provide lasting energy, and the means for excellent cell communication through the free flowing adipose tissue.  They are also associated with higher HDL and (only slightly) overall cholesterol, but lower VLDL triglycerides in the blood.  This is the structure of health the western medical establishment has embraced.  

The fats to stay away from:  
* Do not cook with polyunsaturated vegetable oils.  They should only be used at room temperature, such as in salad dressings.  
* Eat fried foods infrequently.  I don't know enough about this yet.  If you fry, fry your foods in lard.  Never fry in polyunsaturated oils.  
* Trans fats.  These oxidizing fats became very popular with the villification of saturated fats in the 50's and 60's.  However they go back to 1911, when crisco was invented.  The reason?  The almighty need for greater shelf-life.  They are hydrogenated vegetable oils, and they are to be shunned.

The fats to eat:
All the others!  Chow down!  Get the image of eggs, milk, beef, fatty bacon and heart attacks gone from your minds.  But remember, you must be eating pasture eggs, meat and cheeses to get the proper benefits.  Cows that grew up on grains do not produce meat that is all that nourishing when compared to pasture cows eating mostly grass.  This holds true for all livestock.  Also, hit your fatty veggies, the great beans (NOT soy!) and your flax seed and oils.  Fish oil, fish, chicken, olive oil, this is the food of everlasting health.  

Lastly, don't listen to the establishment.  The american heart association is recommending to this day a diet that is low in saturated fats, cholesterol, both of which have been demonstrated to be associated with higher rates of obesity, diabetes, stroke, cancer, bowel disease, and overall mortality.  But the conventional wisdom is powerful, and the anti-quackery boys are always out in force.

Note on sources:  Most of my information is based on the work of Gary Taubes, from his book "Good Calories, Bad Calories.  Challenging the conventional wisdom on Diet, Weight Control and Disease".  His source material is vast, and I am sitting squarely on his shoulders as I write this.  To learn more about his theories, watch this video:

Slow Foods

That bastion of hope for local food systems, community food production and dinner table eating, Slow Foods International, have completed plans for their first major American Event, Slow Food Nation '08.  It will take place in San Francisco from Aug. 29th - Sept. 1st.  With a tasting pavillion, a community marketplace, various talking events, music and more, San Francisco will be alight with tasty local food.

Check it out.  Hopefully we will get one of these festivals in NY in the near future.

love the fast food.

I found this on 

fail owned pwned pictures

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Sugar Kills

Anybody who has had a conversation with me in the last month knows that I am on a crusade to vilify refined sugar and flour.  I am working on eliminating these elements from my own diet, and I am telling anyone who will listen to do the same.

The basic idea is this:  Refined sugar (and thus diets that are absurdly high in sugar) is a simple carbohydrate.  It metabolizes so quickly that our system reacts almost violently to it.  Our blood glucose shoots up, and our insulin levels shoot up in response.  Doing this once in a while is not a problem, the body is equipped for small bouts of hyperglucosemia, and Hyperinsulinemia, for that matter.  The problem is that rich european and american culture has been doing it way too much.  Up to 200 lbs per year per American.  200 lbs.  Every year.  Of sugar.  Diabetes and Obesity are increasing in incidence, as is Hypertension, Cancer, Chronic Bowell Diseases, the hallmarks of Western Medical disrepair. 

How do we know sugar is the crucial element?  In countless reports over the last 200 years we have seen the same pattern repeat itself.  Non-european isolated culture group eats diet that is devoid of refined products.  (Masai, Zulu, Pima, Inuit, and many others)  They are healthy, without incidence of Obesity, Diabetes, Heart disease, Cancer.  Yet within one generation of commerce with western countries, the diseases of the west catch and take hold.  The one factor that is ALWAYS present is the introduction of refined grains and sugar.  No other factor (change in environment, environmental stressors;  change in other dietetic elements) is consistent throughout.  So how does sugar do it?

Sugar consumption diverts insulin from the myriad roles it must perform in the body, the body is neglected, chronic illness results.  How can we see this?  Look at Ovarian Cancer, for example.  The major controllable risk factor for Ovarian cancer is Obesity.  Upon diagnosing cancer, many woman will go on insulin therapy to help their conditions, as these will reduce the glucose in their bloodstream, which seems to help.  The ovaries are very delicate endocrine organs.  They are guided each month by the dramatic work of various hormones.  Insulin seems to be somewhat regulatory in the overall work of the ovaries.  

So the picture is:  a woman consumes too much sugar for her system, her insulin is diminished system wide, as it is constantly at work lowering the blood sugar level, and the Ovaries, for this reason, suffer.  More insulin is introduced to the system to help, but this has other problems, as the body can in turn become insulin resistant.  This in fact occurs, as many women who suffer from Ovarian Cancer will become Diabetic in time.  

There are so many more awful elements to the story, but the bottom line is:  wipe it out of your diet.

However, if you don't want/need a nutritional reason, let me appeal to your humanity.

It seems that our friends at Imperial Sugar have had a little accident. A deadly explosion in one of the company's refineries left 13 dead and over 50 injured.  In a sugar refinery a by-product of the process of refining is a fine dust.  If not dealt with properly, the highly combustible dust can explode, which is precisely what occurred at the company's refinery in Port Wentworth, GA in february.  

The Company has been fined over $5 Million by OSHA, as the factory was found to be severely under code, and this was judged to have laid the groundwork for such a terrible and explosive fire.

After the explosion, 5 weeks after, when OSHA went to inspect another of the Sugar Giant's factories, this time in Louisiana, they found that it was similarly under code, and they placed "Imminent Danger" signs at the factory and fined the company another $3.7 Million.  

This is the true face of factory food production.  Each year, thousands of workers are maimed or injured in the american workplace, many of them in food factories.  According to this article the beef industry alone is responsible for 40,000 injuries every year. (this was as of 1999)  

The sad part is that refined sugar is not even a useful or necessary part of the human diet.  We would live longer lives, with less incidence of chronic illness if we eliminated this nefarious simple carbohydrate, and yet we hold onto it like a cross in a sinner's hand.

So what are we to do?  I say, just drop this shit, get rid of it.  Slowly reduce the amount of sugar you use, and you will find, in time, that it gets easier and easier.  I have spent the last 15 years reducing sugar.  First in tea, then in Coffee, then in cold drinks, and finally in eating less of my beloved cookies.  I have found that a slow reduction works tremendously well.  After a while food that is too sweet becomes sickening.  

Additionally, you can use the natural sweeteners, which seem to have far less troublesome effects as refined sugars.  Honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, fruits (eaten in small amounts).  
But the first step is drop the refined.  And no substitutes either, but that is for another time.