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Industry Reacts to Consumer Reports’ BPA Report

BPA free

Consumer Reports’ recent article on the presence of Bisphenol A in canned food drew widespread interest after it was published this past week. It also quickly drew critical comments from industry groups representing companies that manufacture or use BPA, a chemical whose safety is currently being reassessed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The groups took exception to some parts of the report that found nearly all of the 19 name-brand canned foods we tested contained this chemical, which is used in the linings of most food and beverage cans. They did not dispute the test findings of the BPA levels we measured in canned food. Rather, the discussion focused on our risk assessment of the effects of BPA, which was based on the scientific literature that has become available over the past 20 years.

Here’s a sampling of those reactions, along with a more detailed discussion of some of the research involved in the debate:

1. The American Chemistry Council issued a press release contending that our experts’ recommendations, which include calling for a ban on the use of BPA in all materials that come in contact with food, is “inconsistent with the conclusions of expert regulatory bodies worldwide, all of which have confirmed that BPA exposure levels are low and well within safety standards.”

That is exactly the issue. As our story makes clear, food safety experts at Consumers Union believe federal regulatory guidelines—which are the same as those set by the European Food Safety Authority—are outdated and fail to adequately protect consumers. The FDA’s own scientific advisory board also concluded that the agency’s assessment of BPA’s safety is inadequate. Hundreds of scientific studies have shown harm in animal studies from extremely low levels of BPA—levels that are ten to twenty thousand times lower than what the FDA considered as the basis of its safety assessment in 1988. And even some human studies show a link between elevated BPA levels and harmful effects such as diabetes and cardiovascular risk. Our test results show that consumers may be exposed to potentially harmful levels of BPA that could be reached through a few or multiple servings of the canned foods we tested.

2. The North American Metal Packaging Alliance released a similar public statement. It cited a recently published study funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which the can industry trade group says provides “strong new scientific evidence” that exposure to BPA at levels found in our test results is safe.

It is not surprising that the authors did not find effects from BPA because this study used a specific type of rat (Long-Evans) that has been previously shown to be insensitive or unresponsive to low-dose exposures to BPA and even typical birth-control dosages of synthetic estrogen, which was used as a control in the experiment. The insensitivity to both was confirmed again in this study. In other, more estrogenic-sensitive lab animals, BPA has been shown to cause adverse effects at BPA dose levels used in this study.

3. A blog posted by Trevor Butterworth, online editor of Statistical Assessment Service (STATS), questioned the scientific evidence used in our risk assessments. STATS says it is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that acts as “a resource for journalists and policy makers on major scientific issues and controversies.” In his blog, Butterworth claimed that studies we cited as evidence of harm from BPA at low doses are irrelevant because they involved exposing lab animals to BPA via injection rather than orally.

Kellogg Removing Antioxidant Claims From Some Cereal Boxes

FDA Increases Scrutiny of Food Marketing, Plans New Health Labeling System

rice krispies

By Emily Bryson York via www.adage.com

Published: November 04, 2009

CHICAGO (AdAge.com) — It’s a cold environment for food marketers trying to make health claims. Kellogg Co. today announced it would discontinue marketing Rice Krispies and Cocoa Krispies as products that could boost a child’s immunity. In a statement, the company said it began adding antioxidants to the cereals last year.

“While science shows that these antioxidants help support the immune system, given the public attention on H1N1, the company decided to make this change,” the statement read. “We will, however, continue to provide the increased amounts of vitamins A, B, C and E that the cereal offers.”

Kellogg said it would continue to respond to consumer’s desire for improved nutrition, “and we are committed to communicating the importance of nutrition to our consumers.” But it’s getting a lot harder. In this case, Kellogg was responding to parental concerns that advertising and packaging was preying on fears of the H1N1 virus. But the FDA has been coming down on food marketers with increasing frequency.

“If I was sitting in a food company, I would probably look at all of the messaging on all of my packages to make sure I’m not over-promising and under-delivering to make sure that the [health] claims are not more than they ought to be,” said Susan Moores, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

Last month, the FDA announced it would create its own front-of-pack labeling system, ending not only the Smart Choices initiative embraced by most prominent package-food companies, but all front-of-pack labeling systems.

Smart Choices?

The FDA will now be developing a standardized labeling system, but there’s no guidance yet on when it will be ready. “Consumers trust when they see a health claim,” said Keri Gans, a registered dietitian. “The truth is the majority of these claims have been substantiated through rigorous FDA control, but this Smart Choices program made the FDA take a closer look, and I think that’s a positive thing.”

Ms. Moores said there may be some consumer fallout as a result of some Smart Choices labels, which appeared on items such as mayonnaise and certain cereals in which sugar was the first ingredient listed.

“There were some obvious cases like with Frosted Flakes,” said Don Ochwat, editor of Shopper Marketing Magazine. “That’s going to raise an eyebrow.”

General Mills’ Cheerios was another well-publicized case this spring, as the FDA came down on the cereal, demanding that it cease claims that eating Cheerios as part of a low-fat diet can lower cholesterol 4% in six weeks. Now Kellogg’s Cocoa Krispies has come under fire for claims that the sugary cereal can boost a child’s immunity by providing a dose of antioxidants. The FDA has yet to step in on that matter.

Mr. Ochwat predicts that food marketers will all eventually go through third-party certification as a matter of course in making health claims. Most marketers already do that when making claims about the environmental sustainability. But the next headache would be in discerning which of those organizations were reputable.

To be fair, Mr. Ochwat said relatively few food and beverage marketers are concerned about making health claims, and a tiny percentage of those brands have been called on the carpet. When his trade magazine surveyed food and beverage marketers in January, about 52% of them said they had found ways of promoting the health benefits of their products during 2008, in response to consumer desire for healthier products. “I was a little surprised,” he said. “They haven’t jumped to it as quickly as we’d thought.”

Herbs for the Flu, Tested By Science

Adapted from The Antibiotic Alternative: The Natural Guide to Fighting Infection and Maintaining a Healthy Immune System by Cindy L. A. Jones, Ph.D. (Inner Traditions, 2000).

licorice

It is getting to be time that we all get a bit more sophisticated about the flu, what with the Swine flu fears looming as a possible global pandemic. Vaccinations, antiviral drugs and pharmaceuticals are not the focus of this article, but finding effective herbs to help combat the illness is.

A flu and cold are often difficult to differentiate, but a flu is usually worse. Symptoms include a fever with chills, runny nose, cough, headache, and a feeling of malaise or tiredness. Although the most acute symptoms usually subside within three days, symptoms such as weakness and coughing may persist for ten days. Even though the flu is typically self-limiting, serious complications can arise in the very young or the elderly or those with a preexisting disease.

Two herbs have stood the test of science as being effective against the flu. Find out which ones, here:

The ideal approach to the flu is, of course, prevention. This might be accomplished by improving the immune system, especially in the fall as flu season approaches. Several studies have shown that astragalus (Astragalus membranaceous) extracts can stimulate the immune system. Use astragalus as an extract or add the root to soups.

If you do get the flu, here are two herbs shown to help reduce the severity of the illness.

Sugar Cereals Are ‘Smart Choices’? FDA Not So Sure

smart choices

Ever wondered how that “Smart Choices” sticker wound up on the front of Froot Loops or Cocoa Puffs?

Well, federal health officials are having similar thoughts, and they’re warning food manufacturers.

The Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday that nutritional logos from food manufacturers may be misleading consumers about the actual health benefits of cereal, crackers and other processed foods. The agency sent a letter to companies saying it will begin cracking down on inaccurate food labeling. The FDA did not name specific products or give a timeline for enforcement.

U.S. manufacturers, including Kellogg, Kraft Foods and General Mills, rolled out their so-called Smart Choices program last year, amid growing concern about obesity rates. The green labels appear on the front of foods that meet certain standards for calories per serving and fat content.

But consumer advocates complain about lax standards for the program, with logos appearing on everything from frozen sweets to sugary cereals.

“There are products that have gotten the Smart Choices check mark that are almost 50 percent sugar,” FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said during a call with reporters.

The agency is developing proposed nutritional standards that would have to be met before manufacturers place such claims on their packages, Hamburg said. She added that she hoped industry would cooperate with the FDA to develop standardized “labeling that all Americans can trust and use to build better diets.”

Mike Hughes, chair of the Smart Choices Program, said in a statement that Smart Choices is based on the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

“We believe in the science behind the Smart Choices Program,” he said. “We also look forward to the opportunity to participate in FDA’s initiatives on front-of-package labeling.”

Op-Ed: Fight To Overcome Autism Gets Major Boost, Higher Priority

sebelius

By Kathleen Sebelius, Health and Human Services Secretary, Mon Oct 5, 2:29 am ET

Washington, DC — Last Wednesday, President Obama visited the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to announce the single biggest investment in biomedical research in American history. Among the $5 billion in grants he announced are new explorations of longtime research targets from cancer to heart disease. But the grants also include the largest-ever investment in an Obama administration priority that has so far gone mostly unnoticed: autism research.

President Obama has made autism a focus from the first days of his presidency. Less than a week after he was sworn in, my department’s Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee released its first-ever strategic plan for government autism research. And President Obama has backed this plan by adding $1 billion to his budget for autism over the next eight years. Altogether, the federal government will provide nearly twice as much funding for autism research in the upcoming fiscal year as we had just three years ago.

We needed a new focus and new resources because autism has emerged as an urgent public health challenge. As recently as the 1990s, scientists thought autism was a rare disorder that affected 1 in every 2000 kids. Earlier this decade, we revised that estimate to say that 1 in every 150 kids was somewhere on the autism spectrum. Our most recent data suggest that autism may be even more common than that. Almost every American I talk to about this issue knows at least one family that is affected by autism.

Autism has created new challenges for families, schools, and health care providers. When parents discover that their child has autism today, they’re left with a lot of questions, but few answers. What causes autism? How can it be prevented? Which treatments can help? Where can I get needed services? These questions aren’t new. And the government has tried to address them in the past, most notably with the Combating Autism Act, which passed in 2006. But there has never been a comprehensive, well-funded effort across government to overcome autism – until now.

As Secretary of Health and Human Services, I oversee many of the agencies that are participating in this effort. At the NIH, new research funds are being used to address every aspect of autism from testing innovative treatments to exploring the unique needs of the growing number of adults with autism to searching for the genes underlying the disorder.

At the Health Resources and Services Administration, they’re helping train health professionals to recognize autism early when we know treatments can be more effective. They’ve also created two national autism research networks that will allow researchers to gather data from different sites in order to identify the most promising treatments for autism. These networks will also create channels for these best practices to flow back to parents and providers around the country, so that Americans can have the latest evidence on which treatments work and which don’t.

The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services is working with states to provide targeted case management that helps kids with autism get the support they need at home and at school. And for the first time ever, they’re supporting medical home models that can help children with autism get the kind of coordinated, family-centered care that helps them thrive.

President Obama is also taking steps to make sure health insurance reform will address the needs of families with autism. Under the plan he has proposed, private insurance companies would no longer be able to deny you coverage just because you or someone in your family has a condition like autism. And in order to participate in new health insurance exchanges, insurance companies will have to agree to offer mental health services that help families with autism on par with other benefits.

Like public health challenges such as polio in the 1950s and HIV/AIDS in the 1980s, we must address the rising prevalence and complex needs of people with autism. We still have more questions than answers. But with additional funding and a new coordinated national strategy, we are working harder and more closely together to find those answers than ever before.

Kathleen Sebelius is the Secretary of Health and Human Services in President Barack Obama’s Cabinet. She was the Democratic governor of the state of Kansas from 2003 to 2009.

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A Solution For Diabetes: A Plant-Based Diet

Diabetes
original link: www.HuffingtonPost.com
By Kathy Freston, Author, Health and Wellness Expert

I’ve been researching the most common and devastating diseases Americans are dealing with, with the aim of finding a common thread running throughout both cause and reversal. As it is now, one out of every two of us will get cancer or heart disease, and one out of every three children born after the year 2000 will be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. These are devastating diseases, certainly to those who are burdened by them, but also to a health care system that is struggling to keep up.

The extraordinary doctors and nutritional scientists I’ve talked with seem to be saying – and saying fervently – the same thing: a diet high in animal protein is disastrous to our health, while a plant-based (vegan) diet prevents disease and is restorative to our health. And they say this with peer-reviewed (the gold standard of studies) science to back them up. Even the very conservative ADA (American Dietetic Association) says: “Vegetarian diets are often associated with a number of health advantages, including lower blood cholesterol levels, lower risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure levels, and lower risk of hypertension and type 2 diabetes. Vegetarians tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI) and lower overall cancer rates.”

Diabetes does not just mean you take a pill or injection every day. It means you can lose a decade of life. And you while you inch toward that uncomfortable end, you deal with an increased risk of heart attack, blindness, amputation, and loss of kidney function. It’s a very serious disease. The good news is that diabetes can be halted and reversed in a very short time through some diet modifications.

To understand diabetes better, and to learn how to reverse it, I’ve talked with Dr. Neal Barnard, president of The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine. He is an adjunct associate professor of medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine, and the author of numerous scientific articles in leading peer-reviewed journals, and a frequent lecturer at the American Diabetes Association’s scientific sessions. His diabetes research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Government’s research branch. He is also the author of Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes.

KF: Why is type 2 diabetes suddenly so prevalent?

NB: Diets are changing, not just in the U.S., but worldwide. Diabetes seems to follow the spread of meaty, high-fat, high-calorie diets. In Japan, for example, the traditional rice-based diet kept the population generally healthy and thin for many centuries. Up until 1980, only 1-5% of Japanese adults over age 40 had diabetes. Starting around that time, however, the rapid westernization of the diet meant that meat, milk, cheese, and sodas became fashionable. Waistlines expanded, and, by 1990, diabetes prevalence in Japan had climbed to 11-12%.

Doctor Admits Vaccine Is More Deadly Than Swine Flu Itself & Will Not Give It To His Kids

Bio
Kent Holtorf, M.D. is an expert in natural bioidentical hormone replacement and optimization for women and men, endocrinology, thyroid dysfunction (difficult thyroid cases), fatigue syndromes, adrenal insufficiency, growth hormone replacement, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, chronic infections and multiple endocrine dysfunction.

Dr. Holtorf is diplomate and a board examiner for American Board of Anti-Aging Medicine (ABAAM). As a board examiner, Dr. Holtorf is responsible for administering the oral portion of the board exam and evaluating the physicians’ responses to determine if their knowledge base in endocrinology and natural hormones is high enough to receive board certification in this field. Dr. Holtorf received his doctorate of medicine from St. Louis University with residency training at UCLA.

He has personally trained physicians across the country in the use of bioidentical hormones, hypothyroidism, complex endocrine dysfunction and innovative treatments of chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and chronic infectious diseases, including Lyme disease. He was the founding medical director and developed the protocols for Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers and other centers across the country. Dr Holtorf is a Guest Editor/Reviewer of a number of medical journals including the journal Endocrine.

Autism Rates: Government Studies Find 1 in 100 Children Has Autism Disorders

Autism

original link: via www.HuffingtonPost.com

CHICAGO — Two new government studies indicate about 1 in 100 children have autism disorders – higher than a previous U.S. estimate of 1 in 150.

Greater awareness, broader definitions and spotting autism in younger children may explain some of the increase, federal health officials said.

“The concern here is that buried in these numbers is a true increase,” said Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health. “We’re going to have to think very hard about what we’re going to do for the 1 in 100.”

Figuring out how many children have autism is extremely difficult because diagnosis is based on a child’s behavior, said Dr. Susan E. Levy of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics subcommittee on autism.

“With diabetes you can get a blood test,” said Levy. “As of yet, there’s no consistent biologic marker we can use to make the diagnosis of autism.”

The new estimate would mean about 673,000 American children have autism. Previous estimates put the number at about 560,000.

One of the studies stems from the 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health. The results were released Monday, and published in October’s Pediatrics.

In that study, based on telephone surveys, parents reported about 1 in 91 children, ages 3 to 17, had autism, including milder forms such as Asperger’s syndrome.

The other government estimate has not been formally released yet. But because of the new published findings, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention decided to announce Friday during an embargoed press briefing that their preliminary findings also show about 1 in 100 children have the disorders.

The CDC uses an in-depth method for its estimate, said CDC researcher Catherine Rice. An agency network reviews the education and health records of 8-year-old children in selected cities and determines whether the children meet the diagnosis. Autism experts generally consider this method more rigorous than a telephone survey.

9 in 10 High Schoolers Short on Fruits, Veggies

fruit veg

original link: www.ap.org
By MIKE STOBBE
AP Medical Writer

ATLANTA (AP) — Less than 10 percent of U.S. high school students are eating the combined recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables, a finding that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called “poor” in a report Tuesday.

The report based on 2007 data found that only 13 percent of U.S. high school students get at least three servings of vegetables a day and just 32 percent get two servings of fruit. Less than 1 in 10 get enough of both combined.

Some states – including Arkansas and North Carolina – were significantly below those averages. But some New England states, particularly Vermont, were notably better.

The CDC said the report was the first to give such detailed information on adolescents’ fruit and vegetable consumption. The information comes from a national survey of about 100,000 high school students in 2007.

CDC officials said the findings indicate a disheartening gap between how people should be eating and what they’re actually doing in an era of rampant obesity.

Federal nutrition goals for 2010 call for at least 75 percent of Americans to eat two servings of fruit each day and at least 50 percent to eat three vegetable servings.

“This is a call for states, communities, schools and families to support increased fruit and vegetable consumption,” said Heidi Blanck, a CDC senior scientist who worked on the report.

The CDC also released data on a survey of adults. It found fruit and vegetable consumption was basically unchanged from when a similar survey was done in 2005: About 27 percent got at least three servings of vegetables a day, and 33 percent got two servings of fruit.

People who participated in the survey were asked, essentially, how many times a day they had fruit or vegetables. Fruit juice counted but pieces of fruit are considered preferable, because they’re more filling alternatives to fatty, processed snacks, Blanck said.

Vermont and other states that had higher rates of fruit and vegetable consumption also have more farmers markets per 100,000 people than the national average. And schools in those states were more likely to stock pieces of fruit in vending machines or at snack shops, Blanck said.

The report did not have numbers for every state. For twelve of them, high schooler survey samples were not considered large enough to provide a statistically reliable number.

Side Effects of Medications Can Be Dangerous to Children

Kids Drugs

original link: www.healthnews.com
Article by Drucilla Dyess

Although side effects of commonly used medications are often mild and temporary, many can be harmful to children. Over the period of a decade, medication side effects alone sent over half a million American children to outpatient clinics and emergency rooms annually.

The disturbing statistics come from a group of researchers at Children’s Hospital in Boston. Their study found that between the years 1995 and 2005, a total of 585,922 incidents of adverse drug events occurred annually among children 18 years and younger. Although most of these children received treatment at outpatient clinics, 22 percent resulted in a visit to a hospital emergency room. The findings were recently published in the journal Pediatrics.

The study analyzed data from the National Center for Health Statistics and found that as many as 13 outpatient visits per 1,000 children occur due to drug-related adverse events; an indication that medication complications are common in pediatric care. The greatest risk of medication side effects was discovered to be among children ages four and younger, accounting for approximately 43 percent of all events. The second highest risk was found to be among teens between the ages of 15 and 18 at a total of 23 percent.

Of all medicine related complications among children, skin-related disorders, including rashes, were revealed to be the most common at a total of 45 percent, while gastrointestinal complications accounted for more than 16 percent. Over half of children (52 percent) who suffered adverse events, were found to have experienced symptoms of allergic reaction to a medication.

In 27.5 percent of incidents, adverse drug events were linked to the use of antibiotics such as penicillin. Among children under the age of 4, nearly 40 percent of the adverse drug events leading to hospital or clinic visits involved the use of antibiotics. Allergies to antibiotics are often discovered when a young child obtains a first dose. In addition, there is a higher risk of errors in medication dosing among younger children.

Among older children, the most likely culprits were found to be neurologic and psychotropic medications that accounted for slightly more than six percent of adverse events, while hormones were the cause of six percent. This is likely due to increased use of antidepressants and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) meds among teens for emotional and behavioral disorders, as well as the use of birth control among teen girls.

The study authors urged doctors to be more vigilant in helping to curtail potential medication-related adverse events in children and provide parents of children being treated with information regarding possible drug interactions. In a news release, study leader Dr. Florence Bourgeois of Children’s division of emergency medicine said, “One approach to reducing adverse events is to ensure that clinicians have ready access to complete information on the adverse effects and comparative effectiveness of medications. This information should derive from data on the real-world use of the drugs, not just from the package inserts.”

It is important for parents to understand that in most cases the benefits of treatment with medication outweigh the risks. Based on previous research, only about 1 percent of children treated on an outpatient basis suffer from drug related adverse events. However, remaining watchful and being aware of potential problems is key. After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.