Articles Posted in Food Safety

becerra-150x150biden-150x150With the Biden Administration battling the coronavirus pandemic and Democrats in the throes of determining what could be big spending for major changes in the U.S. health care system, even the president’s biggest supporters are baffled why he still hasn’t nominated a commissioner to head the federal Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA, entrusted to safeguard the safety and quality of the nation’s prescription drugs, medical devices, and foodstuffs, has a huge lift in the best of times.

In the Biden administration’s 10 months, the agency — demoralized and banged up, big time, by the Trump Administration and its politicization of health matters across the board — has found itself in a relentless crossfire in areas in which the 18,000-employee organization holds sway.

cdcheatwarn-263x300Climate change — to those who indulge in counter-factual thinking and who hold anti-science beliefs — may be an abstraction and a mere theory. But weather extremes became a startling, real, and deadly health threat to tens of millions in a swath of the Pacific Northwest in this country and Canada.

Days of unrelenting, record-shattering heat have been blamed directly for at least 100 deaths, with hundreds more fatalities occurring during the historic torpor, the New York Times reported in a news article describing the toll in Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia.

Surges in emergency departments

airliftwatertexasfreeze-300x227The climate change deniers can holler their heads off. But for all too many people from coast-to-coast, Mother Nature’s fury is tragically clear — as is the importance of not only future thinking but also emergency planning, by individuals and institutions.

This includes knowing common sense steps to safeguard one’s self and loved ones, in unusual circumstance, from misuse and abuse of ordinary products that also may have their own shortcomings, defects, or dangers.

Huge hurrahs, of course, are in order for the overworked, overstressed, and valiant doctors, nurses, and other health workers who — even while battling the over load of the coronavirus pandemic — have kept up medical services in hard hit areas of Texas and elsewhere during a brutal winter storm and its harsh freeze. The nightmarish conditions afflicted not only big hospitals but also those who provide desperately needed at-home care to the vulnerable.

babechow-200x300Although parents exult when their babies start eating solids, moms and dads may be dishing up for their little darlings unexpected and harmful ingredients in commercially prepared foods — heavy metals, including arsenic, cadmium, and lead at levels that may exceed federal limits.

A subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform received lots of media attention when it publicly reported its findings on problems it says it sees with baby products from the likes of Gerber, Walmart, Campbell Soup, and Sprout organics.

Some of the makers, at the panel’s request, provided data on their products and testing for toxins, while others declined the disclosure of did not respond. As the Washington Post reported:

artjanlett5-300x164In yet another instance of disregarding fact-based advice, the Trump Administration, after hearing public comments and assembling a panel of diet and nutrition experts, has rejected their  recommendations on how the federal government should update its counsel to Americans about optimizing their eating.

The federal advisories, refreshed every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will stay mostly the same, with the administration turning away experts who told the government that it should urge the public to reduce consumption of sugar and alcohol. USDA did tweak its guidelines for babies and toddlers.

But the agency decisions were a disappointing turn in a periodic process that affects real people’s lives, experts said, with the New York Times reporting:

candymexico-300x169Stepped up vaccinations, bans on junk food for kids, worries about domestic abuse and booze consumption by men — yes, these seemingly disparate things have something in common. They’re all getting heightened attention from experts due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Let’s start with a grito (a whoop) for the leyes antichatarra or anti-junk food laws targeting youngsters and spreading across states in Mexico. The laws take aim at high calorie, low nutritional value foods and drinks, the Washington Post reported:

“[They would prohibit the sale of] chips, candy, soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages to children under 18, putting these foods in the same category as cigarettes and alcohol. The law[s establish] fines, store closures and jail time for repeat offenders. The ban also applies to vending machines in schools.”

mitch-150x150It’s a little hard to fathom but actions speak louder than words: For political partisans, what seems to be scarier than a novel coronavirus that has infected more than 1 million Americans and claimed more lives in a few weeks than years of U.S. involvement in Vietnam?

Trial lawyers. Like me. Really?

Politico, the news web site, reported that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy have grown adamant that “any” legislation Congress considers in the days ahead involving Covid-19 must shield an array of business interests from liability from “frivolous” lawsuits. Politico quoted him, thusly:

coverhungsaexpress-300x140The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed millions of Americans to huge problems in one of the most basic elements of their health and well-being — their food supply.

It’s past time for all of us to demand changes, and we may want to ask why, in the midst of a global economic calamity, that politicians persist in pursuing policies that will mean men, women, and children across this land will go hungry.

As the jobless numbers skyrocket toward Depression era figures, people in need — from coast to coast — have queued up in sometimes miles-long lines to get donated staples. Schools, including those throughout the Washington, D.C., area, have put together giant programs to sustain student meal plans, providing myriad youngsters what may be their only reliable nutrition. Social service agencies have launched targeted efforts to ensure that seniors, especially shut-ins, get fed.

Consumers need to stay informed and to protect their own interests, especially because big businesses — whether they’re car makers, grocers, or manufacturers of off-road vehicles — may put their own interests ahead of public safety.

With car makers, a leading highway safety group has spotlighted how only a select few of these global enterprises have reckoned with an unexpected consequence of high-tech, energy saving advances: Just six of the 2020 passenger vehicles deemed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) offer top-rated headlights as standard equipment. This is not just an issue for gear heads but is an important safety consideration affecting not only motorists’ capacity to navigate roads well but also to protect vulnerable pedestrians who are becoming traffic victims in rising numbers.

Grocers, meantime, have gotten called out by a notably public interest group for their lax approach in informing their customers about tainted food and recalls of risky products.

tday-300x141With the launch of a season of eating, drinking, getting together with friends and family, and celebrating, it may be worth a moment to ponder how to keep those you care most about as healthy and safe as possible, but with a good dollop of fun too. Herewith some suggestions:

Food safety

When it comes to the centerpiece of Thanksgiving — the festive eating — hygiene and moderation matter. Nothing would ruin the holiday more than to sicken the guests, right? So, cooks and their helpers should take special care to keep their hands washed, the tools and prep areas sanitary, and to ensure that the food gets handled correctly, especially in thawing and thoroughly cooking the turkey and stuffing. It may seem counter intuitive, but experts warn against rinsing the turkey or any other fowl that might be store-bought and served. That’s because the birds get cleaned as part of the processing and rinsing with warm water may only spread microbial contaminants all around the kitchen. The key to kill off harmful bugs, by the way, rests in cooking foodstuffs for long enough and at high enough temperatures to ensure they’re safe to eat. Consult those published recipes carefully. Cooks need to plan well, so they get various menu items in and out of the stove and oven, so hungry diners get their fill at the appointed time.

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