Articles Posted in Food Safety

Marijuana-206x300Let’s give them their just deserts and dispatch them with alacrity. In this week’s hokum alert:

Darkchocolate-300x180Although most of our elders have preached at us from a chapel of common sense, dietary nonsense seems to rain on our heads faster than the autumn leaves.  It ought to go without saying that dark chocolate really isn’t a health food. And, to repeat again something that many pregnant women ought to know already: Getting your placenta commercially prepared after your baby’s born, and eating it isn’t a great idea.

Vox, the online news site, deserves credit for debunking a long campaign by candy makers and Big Sugar to persuade consumers that dark cocoa products somehow are “superfoods” like red wine, blueberries, and avocados.

Special interests, Vox reports, have poured tens of millions of dollars into “nutrition research” that purports to show chocolate’s health benefits. The problem is the science here is less than objective and sound: “Here at Vox, we examined 100 Mars-funded health studies, and found they overwhelmingly drew glowing conclusions about cocoa and chocolate — promoting everything from chocolate’s heart health benefits to cocoa’s ability to fight disease.” The Vox story later points out:

fda-300x125Uncle Sam, estimating that 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases each year in the United States, has pledged to step up preventive and protective measures to prevent these all too common health banes. Here’s the dirty secret about that vow: The federal Food and Drug Administration lacks the staff to do so in some key ways. And it faces further cuts in its funding.

Inspectors from the federal Health and Human Services department (HHS) have audited FDA inspection data from 2011 to 2015, finding, according to the Washington Post:

Government inspectors failed to take action on one of every five serious food-safety risks identified in manufacturing facilities. … In the remaining cases, the [FDA] almost always asked food manufacturers to correct violations voluntarily. In one incident in 2013, FDA inspectors found listeria in a facility where rain dripped through holes in the ceiling onto food prep areas. While FDA asked the facility to address the problems, samples from the factory still tested positive for listeria two years later. That same year, FDA inspectors found salmonella in a facility that made ready-to-eat seafood, salads and dips. They did not send the facility a warning letter or initiate any other corrective actions.

fish-300x232If you’re an expectant mom trying to diversify your diet and to eat healthier this summer, two federal agencies are offering evidence-based advice about seafood dining: Use a little caution with servings of certain fish like king mackerel, marlin, shark, swordfish, and bigeye tuna that tend to carry higher levels of problematic mercury.

The federal Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency have teamed up to revise their safe fish guidelines and to offer these in a handy guide to not only pregnant women but to all parents really.

The agencies say that fish can be a tasty, protein- and nutrient-rich part of Americans’ diets with grown-ups and kids encouraged to eat two to three servings or roughly 8- to 12-ounces-per-week. But fish also carry mercury traces, which “can be harmful to the brain and nervous system if a person is exposed to too much of it over time.”

ExpiredDrug-300x225Americans each year needlessly toss hundreds of millions of dollars in costly, valuable, and still potent drugs, a wasteful practice driven by a “myth,” the mistaken belief in and scrupulous adherence to already debunked product expiration dates.

Drug discards, including of medications that may be in short supply nationwide, occur all along the distribution chain, from corner druggists up to giant health system pharmacies.

The practice flies in the face of known evidence, much of it developed, verified, and shared by the same force that presses for expired meds to get tossed: Uncle Sam.

kidguns-300x168We love our kids dearly, and most of us would do most anything for them. So why can’t folks with sway get it together to make some straight-forward, common sense changes that would significantly benefit young people? Here are three suggestions, based on recent reports:

  1. Congress should make clear that it not only supports but it will fund public health research into gun violence, which is killing kids at unacceptable rates.
  2. Hospitals and surgeons should make public and transparent their surgical volume and outcome data on procedures performed on youngsters.

embarrass-300x172Health news readers look out: media organizations seem to be struggling with an outbreak of the whoopsies—as in, “Whoopsie, if we had more sense, we wouldn’t have put out the story you just read.”

The flare-up of embarrassing content, as chronicled well by the Healthnewsreview.org, a health information watchdog site, also seems to be a double problem for some media outlets that ironically have just warned their audiences about fake news.

As always, the dubious, low-value information concentrates on diet and nutrition topics — for instance, that small amounts of alcohol or coffee sway cancer risk or that eating chocolate makes your heart beat more regularly.

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.

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