Articles Posted in Food Safety

Apple-Juice-286x300For parents who struggle to ensure their kids eat right, news reports in recent days have offered some notable insights:  They may wish to pack school lunches with whole fruit, and be wary of youngsters’ over-consumption of fruit juices. They also may want to cast a skeptical eye on claims for “organic” milk.

And, even as school food programs seem to be making nutritional headway, moms and dads may need to keep a close eye on the lunch rooms due to Trump Administration policy changes.

Although many grownups rightly have sought to exile sugary sweet drinks, especially sodas, from youngsters’ diets, researchers say fruit juice should be substituted sparingly. It should be an occasional treat, not a big part of every meal.

pthiel-200x300Although attention has focused on the GOP-promised repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, other big changes also are afoot in the federal government that will have significant effects on health care in this country.

There are appointments pending from President Trump at the federal Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sonny Perdue, the administration’s pick for Agriculture secretary, also will play a big public health role, as will the personnel decisions that may be made at the troubled National Institutes of Health, where, for now, Francis Collins will continue to lead.

Will the FDA be run by a venture capitalist?

Cattle-300x219What happens on farms in Georgia and Oregon or ranches in Texas and Wyoming has a direct and significant effect on how healthy hospitalized patients stay in Buffalo, Baltimore, or Los Angeles. And now federal regulators have put in full effect a big change to help protect humans’ well-being by ensuring medically important antibiotics don’t get squandered in agriculture, where they’re used mainly to make livestock bigger and more profitable for farmers and ranchers.

Under new federal Food and Drug Administration regulations, antibiotics that are used to treat people and their diseases cannot be fed to animals principally to promote their growth. Before such drugs can be added to feed, a veterinarian now must approve and supervise their use—a new step that will make them more expensive and inconvenient.

Animal consumption of antibiotics has soared in recent years. Even with growing pressure from public health officials concerned that the medications’ germ-fighting capacities are diminishing due to over-use, American farmers and ranchers increased their antibiotic purchases by 2 percent in 2015 versus the year previous, federal data show. Growers pumped 9.7 million kilograms of the valuable bug-fighting drugs into cattle, pigs, and chickens destined for American kitchens and dining tables.

peanutsAlthough many of us would like nothing better than to dote on a favorite baby all day long, medical experts have offered some surprising turnarounds and concessions for the new year about what they do and don’t know about infant care-giving.

They have made a 180-degree reversal on their advice to parents on dealing with the rising problem of peanut allergies, while also suggesting that a familiar product may be more useful than thought to combat a common skin woe. And they have said that 90 percent of the medications given to newborns aren’t approved for such uses by the federal Food and Drug Administration.

Feed the baby peanuts, docs now say

Because the holidays should be filled with abundant joy, here are a few ways to safeguard the health and well-being of you and yours in the days ahead:

house fireDon’t ignore deadly fire dangers

The tragic Oakland, Calif., warehouse-concert hall blaze that claimed at least 36 lives has provided a timely reminder: Fires remain a huge concern, and, especially as cold weather sets in and families add seasonal lighting displays, caution needs to be a watchword. Yes, building codes have improved admirably over time, and fire fighters and many inspectors do a public service that deserves a salute. But affordable housing, especially in big cities like Washington, D.C., remains in crisis shortage. This has forced many, including young people, into overcrowded, substandard housing—some as little more than squatters in dangerous, vacant, or dubious buildings. Meantime, many homeowners resort to space heaters or other devices (including turning on kitchen stoves and ovens) as temperatures fall. Or they’re putting up flashy holiday light displays or even Christmas trees with risky electricals. These excesses can overwhelm safety systems, and not every property owner does due diligence to maintain now common household alarms.  The National Fire Protection Association reports that firefighters across the country in 2015 responded to more than 1.3 million blazes, which killed more than 3,200 Americans and injured almost 16,000, and caused more than $14 billion in damages.  U.S. fire departments, between 2010 and 2014, responded to an estimated average of 210 home fires per year that began with Christmas trees. These blazes caused an annual average of six civilian deaths, 16 civilian injuries, and $16.2 million in direct property damage. Common sense doesn’t change: Be careful while cooking holiday feasts. Think super safety when setting up holiday displays. Reconsider if portable heaters make sense in your home. Ensure your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are working. Click here for some seasonal fire safety ideas.

Just some quick updates on some topics that the blog has followed in recent days:

Big Soda, Big Pharma spending big to battle ballot measures

Raw_cane_sugar_lightWe’ve seen this playbook before, and it’s never pretty how wealthy industries can distort scientific research and harm the public health for decades. Think tobacco and cancer, oil and climate change, football and brain injury. Now: sugar.

Big Sugar secretly paid influential experts, steered and reviewed their inquiry, and, as a result, American health policy at a critical point in the 1960s–and since–has emphasized the role of fats and downplayed sugar’s harms in the rising incidence of heart disease, researchers have found.

This influence-peddling involved then-prominent (now dead) Harvard nutrition experts and the highly respected New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). The prevailing ethics then differed. Authors were not required by medical journals to disclose conflicts of interest, as they are supposed to now.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Although food-related health risks likely will be dipping a little with Americans’ outdoor feasting winding down with the summer-ending Labor Day holiday, state and federal health officials have confirmed they are investigating an outbreak of hepatitis A in Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, and North Carolina.

At least 70 infections have been linked to tainted frozen strawberries used in frozen smoothies served in various locations of the Tropical Smoothie Café chain. The firm has apologized publicly for any issues created by its products and said it voluntarily pulled the berries as soon as it learned of their contamination.

Although hepatitis A is not the most severe from of the viral liver infection, half of the 44 consumers infected in Virginia were sickened sufficiently to require hospitalization.

SPORTS-DRINKSWith the summer’s sizzle, it’s vital to stay hydrated. But take with a grain of salt the hype that prevails−for athletic “performance” drinks, and about recent reports on cancer risks and alcohol. For those who cut up limes in big quantities for their refreshments, it also may be worth taking note of a quirky health issue that may result−call it the margarita burn.

The Washington Post deserves credit for scrutinizing the claims made by sugary sports drinks, pitches that the paper says will increase in time for the Summer Olympic Games and likely will target kids. The paper says these drinks were developed for demanding athletes whose strenuous work-outs so depleted them that they might need special replenishment.

But kids, lounging around the house or even chasing Pokemon characters in the park, don’t fit this bill, and, other than expansive selling, it’s hard to see how sports drinks have saturated themselves into a $6.8 billion market, the paper says.

cookie monsterIn case you missed it, Uncle Sam has found a health monster of sorts in your home-made cookies: the raw dough that so many chefs and kids like to lick off the spoon or out of the bowl.

It turns out that more than three dozen Americans in 20 states have been felled with illnesses caused by Shiga toxin-producing E coli O121 bacteria. Investigators from the federal Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have traced the taint to contaminated flour from a General Mills factory in Kansas City, Mo. Ten of the illnesses, which include stomach cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting, have been severe enough to require patients to be hospitalized.

The FDA has ordered the recall of more than 10 million pounds of flour produced in the mill last November and December.

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