Articles Posted in Food Safety

blueberries-300x225Foolishness about food and its health effects can run not only into the negative — the sky will fall if you even nibble on meat, butter, or eggs! — but also into extremes about its purported benefits. Which is why, as recent news reports indicate, skepticism and care need to be exercised about probiotics, so-called “super foods,” and, yes, once again, the supposed virtues of organic produce.

Aaron E. Carroll, a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine who blogs on health research and policy at The Incidental Economist, tackled the myths that surround probiotics in a recent piece for the New York Times’, evidence-based “Upshot” column.

He reported that one fundamental problem in assessing the many benefits attributed to these food nostrums rests in their proliferation and confusion as to what exactly the are: Must probiotics be live cultures of organisms that are supposed to be safe and beneficial to normal activities that occur in the gut? Or can they be dietary supplements and non-living materials that can be delivered in powders and capsules? What exactly is in probiotics and how safe are they? That’s murky — and risky, he says, noting that these materials have caused illnesses and deaths.

supplements-300x200
Same story, new data, and a message that needs repeating: Over-the-counter supplements — sold as safe alternatives to prescription drugs for weight loss, muscle building, and sexual enhancement — may be risky and not beneficial to your health. Indeed, many of them are adulterated with strong prescription drugs.

As the Washington Post reported of a newly published study:

Researchers found unapproved and sometimes dangerous drugs in 746 dietary supplements, almost all of them marketed for sexual enhancement, weight loss or muscle growth … [A scientific] review of a Food and Drug Administration database of contaminated supplements for the years 2007 to 2016 most commonly turned up sildenafil — the drug sold as Viagra — and other erectile dysfunction drugs in sex enhancement products; sibutramine and the laxative phenolphthalein, both banned by the FDA, in weight-loss supplements; and steroids or their analogues in muscle-building products. About 80 percent of the supplements were contaminated by one pharmaceutical that should not have been in the product. Twenty percent contained at least two such drugs, and two of the supplements contained six unapproved drugs. One product contained a drug that raises blood pressure and another drug that lowers it. Despite these contaminants, fewer than half the products were recalled.

bigmac-300x259Americans can’t stop chowing down on fast foods, despite years of warnings about their health harms.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that 36.6 percent of Americans — 37.9 percent of men and 35.4 percent of women — eat some kind of fast food on any given day.

As the Los Angeles Times reported:

fatshame-300x230The medical establishment needs to take a hard, long look at its failing efforts to combat obesity and overweight, conditions that now affect just under 40 percent of American adults (93.3 million people) and 20 percent of youngsters (13.7 million) in the U.S.

That’s because doctors and medical scientists have “ignored mountains of evidence to wage a cruel and futile war on fat people, poisoning public perception and ruining millions of lives,” Michael Hobbes has reported in a long, strong story on the Huffington Post.

Hobbes has marshaled an array of available data to wag an unhappy finger at U.S. society, acting on conventional medical wisdom, for blaming and shaming those who are overweight or obese, contending that they lack self-control, discipline, and the personal fortitude to deal with what he says is clearly an uncontrolled medical and public health menace.

kiddocs-300x107Moms and dads who have tried to safeguard their kids’ health by emphasizing fresh fruits and vegetables in their diet may need to take yet more steps to protect youngsters from harms associated with chemicals found in common foods and their packaging.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a formal, research-based caution to consumers about “colorings, flavorings, and chemicals deliberately added to food during processing (direct food additives) as well as substances in food contact materials, including adhesives, dyes, coatings, paper, paperboard, plastic, and other polymers, which may contaminate food as part of packaging or manufacturing equipment (indirect food additives).”

As the New York Times reported of the advisory from the group representing 67,000 doctors who care for kids:

water-300x200Families dropping into Baltimore restaurants may be surprised by what is no longer on the children’s menu, thanks to an official mandate: sugary soft drinks.

At the behest of public health officials, Baltimore has become the largest US city and an East Coast pioneer in enforcing a new restaurant ordinance that makes water, milk, and 100 percent fruit juices the default drinks for youngsters.

Parents who really want their kids to have a sugar-laden soft drink can still get them, but the parent has to place the order. The idea is to get parents to pause and think, and nudge them toward healthier choices.

arches-300x263Americans hoping for relaxed, healthful summer days, instead may be getting steady and unwelcome reminders that, despite much publicized claims about regulators’ protective programs, the safeguarding of the nation’s food and water supplies remains a flawed work in progress.

The list only keeps growing of well-known commercial brands affected by tainted food claims, now including:

horse-200x300Big Tobacco seems to have a shiny new billion-dollar Trojan horse. The question now: Will medical scientists be savvy enough to avoid a credibility catastrophe by rejecting funding from  Tobacco’s wealthy new foundation?

Rita Rubin, a seasoned health care writer, reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association that Philip Morris, a global hawker of tobacco wares, has pledged in the next dozen years to pump $960 million into the Foundation for a Smoke Free World. That group, purportedly, aims to fund research “that advances the field of tobacco harm reduction and reduces the public health burden of smoking-related diseases,” Rubin reported.

But this gambit, often referred to in political parlance as “astroturfing,” has been slammed by respected medical and scientific organizations, including the World Health Organization. They have declared it unacceptable for groups that aim to advance the health and well-being of patients to take  “profits from a product responsible for about 1 in every 5 US deaths to fund health research.”

lettuce-300x225After fading from the headlines in 2015-16 when a major restaurant chain struggled with meals that sickened dozens in multiple states, big worries have erupted anew about the safety of the nation’s food. That’s because federal officials and a supersized-farmer are struggling with salmonella outbreaks tied to more than 200 million now-recalled eggs, even as growers, grocers, and eateries  wrestle with dozens of E. coli illnesses linked to romaine lettuce.

The worrisome poultry products came from Rose Acre Farms’ North Carolina operation, which produces 2.3 million eggs a day from 3 million hens. Its products go to stores and restaurants in Colorado, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and the Carolinas, the Washington Post reported. Those eggs have been blamed for Salmonella braenderup infections that have sickened 23 people from nine states. No deaths have been reported.

Rose Acres, which has 17 facilities in eight states, has acted with “an abundance of caution,” federal officials noted, and recalled more than 200 million eggs, sold under the brand names  Great Value, Country Daybreak, and Crystal Farms. Waffle House restaurants and Food Lion stores also were sold the potentially bad egg.

microbiome-300x150Trust your gut: If anyone hypes a diet to you, saying it’s beneficial because it’s somehow tailored to the makeup of your complex, prehistoric, and individual intestinal microbiome, just wink and walk off. You know better, right?

Healthnewsreview.org, the watchdog about accuracy of medical news reports, rightly has taken after the Wall Street Journal for its recent story headlined, “The Food that Helps Fight Depression.”

Writer Michael Joyce reported about the WSJ piece:

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