Articles Posted in Food Safety

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.

sugarspoon-300x211Grownups shouldn’t be surprised that child obesity is a major and rising concern for 1 in 5 of the nation’s young, putting their short- and long-term health at serious peril: That’s because Big Sugar and major food makers persist in  a costly, relentless barrage on kids and adults for unhealthful products, notably sweet drinks that hook children into hard-to-break habits for a lifetime.

Although pediatricians and nutrition experts keep warning that babies and tots, especially, should get much lower amounts of sugar in various forms in their daily diet, almost “two-thirds of the $2.2 billion in beverages marketed to children contained added sweeteners, according to a report released last week by the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at the University of Connecticut,” the New York Times reported.

Rudd researchers found that just three food industry titans sprinkled $21 million in advertising for sugary liquids.

eatingseniors-300x131To the myriad struggles that residents of nursing homes endure, from poor health to inattentive staff, add this new one:  “crappy conditions” in kitchens and other areas where their food gets prepared and served.

Marjie Lundstrom, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, conducted a five-month, nationwide investigation for the consumer web site Fair Warning, with the results also shared by NBC News. The dirty dig found this about nursing home food prep:

“Flies buzzing the under cooked hamburgers. Cockroaches scurrying for cover behind the oven. A moldy ice machine. Mystery debris, clinging to the crevices of a meat slicer. Hundreds of mouse droppings, trailing across the hood of the stove. These incidents are not logged in any restaurant inspector’s notebook. They are among the thousands of food safety violations discovered in the last three years in America’s nursing homes, where fragile residents can least tolerate such lapses. While allegations of elder abuse and neglect dominate the horror stories in long-term care settings — bedsores, falls, medication errors, sexual assaults — food handling remains a consistent and often overlooked hazard …”

broillondonwikipedia-300x225The elite of public health organizations are up in arms about a new report from a group of international researchers who looked at red meat and its health benefits and harms, and more or less shrugged. The new take goes like this, reported the New York Times:

“If there are health benefits from eating less beef and pork, they are small, the researchers concluded. Indeed, the advantages are so faint that they can be discerned only when looking at large populations, the scientists said, and are not sufficient to tell individuals to change their meat-eating habits.”

That view, of course, contradicts what public health and nutrition experts have recommended for years, and so blue-chip health outfits like the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, and Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health condemned the researchers for supporting what now may be akin to a health heresy.

bestdrink-300x150Milk and water — it’s that simple. That’s the latest and official recommendation for what children 5 and younger mostly should drink.

For parents, if any doubt persists, that advice comes from leading health authorities, including Healthy Eating Research, a nutrition advocacy group funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The group developed the kids’ drink guidelines with the backing of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Heart Association, and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.

The experts cautioned grown-ups about giving children sugary drinks, including, in a sure-to-be-contested suggestion, recommending a hard cap on fruit juices: for 100% juice, less than a cup a day.

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