Articles Posted in Food Safety

Rigorous, reliable research on diet and nutrition is not common, so it’s worth paying close attention to the results of an $8-million, year-long study conducted at Stanford University with more than 600 test subjects. Its recommendations are filled — in a good way — with common sense and moderation.

The New York Times reported of the study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Nutrition Group and others, that its findings will help debunk some long-held notions about dieting — and some diet fads. Here’s the core of the newly published work’s key findings, according to the newspaper:

The new year is bubbling with numerous reports about  “raw water.” Enthusiasts are flocking to outlets — in Oregon, Maine, San Diego, San Francisco, and the Silicon Valley — for unfiltered, untreated, and unsterilized H2O from springs. They’re paying dearly, for example $36.99 for a 2.5-gallon glass orb of “off the grid” Live Water from a West Coast vendor.

Devotees insist “raw water” tastes better. They contend it’s healthier when free of chemicals, like purifying chlorine and tooth- and bone-protecting fluoride, and replete with “probiotics,” bacteria and microscopic life such as algae that they claim are beneficial.

Such claims fly in the face of at least a century of public health experience and progress, a period in which science-based hygiene has helped to rid the nation of epidemics due to water-borne bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Cholera, typhoid fever, dysentery, and hepatitis A no longer flourish in water supplies, killing thousands annually as these banes once did. It goes without a thought for most Americans that they can turn the spigot at home or the office, drink freely and deeply and not end up getting deathly ill — risks that may be posed by “raw” water.

fdanulogo-300x126Watchdogs have caught the Federal Food and Drug Administration dogging one of its most basic and important tasks — getting contaminated and potentially dangerous foods off the shelves quickly.

Federal inspectors spot-checked several dozen recalls among 1,557 the agency conducted between 2012 and 2015, partly to see how the FDA used wider powers given to it under the Obama Administration to protect American consumers from food-borne illness.

The agency dawdled for weeks and even months, adding to delays that might increase the risks of harms to the public, said investigators under the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services. As the New York Times reported:

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, 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.

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