Wednesday, July 30, 2008

FDA Extends Consumer Warning on Serrano Peppers from Mexico

Laboratory testing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has confirmed that both a sample of serrano pepper and a sample of irrigation water collected by agency investigators on a farm in the state of Nuevo Leon, Mexico, contain Salmonella Saintpaul with the same genetic fingerprint as the strain of bacteria that is causing the current outbreak in the United States.

As a result, until further notice, the FDA is advising consumers to avoid raw serrano peppers from Mexico, in addition to raw jalapeño peppers from Mexico, and any foods that contain them.

The test results announced today are part of the FDA's continuing intensive investigation into the outbreak of Salmonella Saintpaul. The investigation has involved tracing back, through complex distribution channels, the origins of products associated with clusters of illness in the United States, as well as inspections and evaluation of farms and facilities in this country and in Mexico, and the collection and testing of environmental and product samples. One of these tracebacks led to a packing facility in Mexico, and to a particular farm, where the agency obtained the samples.

Previously, FDA inspectors collected a positive sample of jalapeño pepper from a produce-distribution center owned by Agricola Zaragosa in McAllen, Texas. The FDA continues to work on pinpointing where and how in the supply chain this first positive jalapeño pepper sample became contaminated. It originated from a different farm in Mexico than the positive samples of serrano pepper and irrigation water.

The FDA is still analyzing many of the samples taken at various farms in Mexico. If laboratory results warrant, the FDA will provide consumers with additional cautions or warnings necessary to protect their health.

On July 17, the FDA announced it had determined that fresh tomatoes now available in the domestic market are not associated with the current outbreak. As a result, the agency removed its June 7 warning against eating certain types of red raw tomatoes.

FBI Warns of Storm Worm Virus

The FBI and its partner, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), have received reports of recent spam e-mails spreading the Storm Worm malicious software, known as malware. These e-mails, which contain the phrase “F.B.I. vs. facebook,” direct e-mail recipients to click on a link to view an article about the FBI and Facebook, a popular social networking website. The Storm Worm virus has also been spread in the past in e-mails advertising a holiday e-card link. Clicking on the link downloads malware onto the Internet connected device, causing it to become infected with the virus and part of the Storm Worm botnet.

A botnet is a collection of compromised computers under the remote command and control of a criminal “botherder.” Most owners of the compromised computers are unsuspecting victims. They have unintentionally allowed unauthorized access and use of their computers as a vehicle to facilitate other crimes, such as identity theft, denial of service attacks, phishing, click fraud, and the mass distribution of spam and spyware. Because of their widely distributed capabilities, botnets are a growing threat to national security, the national information infrastructure, and the economy.

“The spammers spreading this virus are preying on Internet users and making their computers an unwitting part of criminal botnet activity. We urge citizens to help prevent the spread of botnets by becoming web-savvy. Following some simple computer security practices will reduce the risk that their computers will be compromised,” said Special Agent Richard Kolko, Chief, FBI National Press Office.

Everyone should consider the following:

* Do not respond to unsolicited (spam) e-mail.
* Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as officials soliciting personal information via e-mail.
* Do not click on links contained within an unsolicited e-mail.
* Be cautious of e-mail claiming to contain pictures in attached files, as the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.
* Validate the legitimacy of the organization by directly accessing the organization's website rather than following an alleged link to the site.
* Do not provide personal or financial information to anyone who solicits information.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

What's Lurking in Your Granite Countertop Can Kill You!

TT Note: Whoa, Nelly. What's this? Slick marketing or is it more? Funny how there appears to be no "solid" evidence of the claims made by the nonprofit that appears to be funded by someone who benefits. Oh the other hand..........I guess perhaps they can't bite the hand that feeds them.

But then again, those of us who live anywhere near "radon central - big granite outcrop" most likely don't have to worry about a few extra linear feet in our homes. Gee, I wonder who wrote this story?? Must have been someone who is between a rock and a hard place.

24-7 - When marketing a product, one expects a bit of hype. The idea is to show that the product is the best over the competitor's line of product. That is the trade of advertisers and the history of marketing. Some tactics used to sell can be humorous or as serious as the competition between manufacturers. Marketing tactics that play on fears of the general public can be a very powerful tool.

In the present day, there's a very popular angle of "green." This is prevalent everywhere in the media. So what happens when you mix a scare tactic under the guise of environmental concern?

Buildclean found the answer to that question. The premise seems of the nonprofit organization seems to be admirable but the fact that the "awareness campaign" that Buildclean is currently using seems to be curiously slanted. In fact, the target seems to be the natural stone industry.

When Sara Selber of BuildClean was asked how she got involved in natural stone and radon, she explained how she was approached by the owner of C&C North America, a company that produces two products - granite and a quartz product called Silestone.

"C&C North America then recruited a quartz company called Cambria, after they learned quartz was an issue, she further explained that the two companies hired her to test quartz, granite and other surfaces for radon emission. Both companies are testing their products through BuildClean, and they contracted two labs - one in New York and one in Israel.

We have looked all over the C&C website but cannot find any mention of natural stone.

When ask what granites emit radon, Sara Selber said; "Not all granites emit radon or radiation. There are some that clearly do. There are some that absolutely don't. We don't know," she said.

They're being set up as a non-profit, and they're funded with two large donations.
The first is $250,000 from the makers of 'Silestone.' They manufacture quartz countertops, which is a direct competitor to granite. Silestone finance records show that they started out in April of 1998 with a an initial investment of $410K, made there first million in 1998, sales in 2002 was over $70M, and sales in 2006 was well over $260M. it is not hard to see that they have the money to invest $250,000 in a new advertising campaign.

BuildClean is also getting money from Cambria, another quartz manufacturer. In fact, Cambria's marketing director is on BuildClean's board of directors.

When asked about the funding Sara responds: I don't believe the issue is who our founders are. And I'm not going to have that debate." That answer seems to be clear enough.

In a recent interview Mrs. Selber mentions teaming up with Al Gerhart who has some interest in the granite radon scare.

Al Gerhart is a carpenter who happens to own a website called the Solid Surface Alliance .org. He educated himself, regarding materials he works with that may expose him to harmful elements.

Upon further review it seems this "personality" is well known for his view of natural stone. All one has to do is look at the website to get the gist of his viewpoint. Coincidentally, there also seems to be a new business venture for Solid Surface Alliance as the website now sells Geiger counters to detect radiation...
His debates have earned him quite a place online in forums discussing the subject.

After a certain debate on a well known residential forum, a renowned geoscientist in the industry concluded:
"Al attempts to hijack debates by choking the system with verbal diarrhea. The problem appears to be that he has a bit of knowledge about some things but not enough sense and understanding of the subjects. In that debate on the Garden Forum he threw in so many fabrications (plain made up lies) that his credibility just plummeted to zero.

Anyone who operates this way (by including a number of facts to gain an element of credibility in the eyes of a generally uninformed audience, twisting facts deliberately or because of his lack of understanding, and then throwing in a number of lies) does not deserve extended airtime. Many years ago when doing science psychology I still remember my professor giving the advice to his students that you should never engage a nutter in debate. You can never win an argument with such people. I recognized this early in the forum and that is why I would not engage him in "debate".

One of his major problems is that he does not know what the numbers mean and how they are derived."

In response to the BuildClean(TM) tactics, The Marble Institute of America is in the process of doing their own independent study:

"The Marble Institute of America (MIA) is grateful for the preliminary response from the members to the newly established Truth About Granite Fund. Based on this positive response, it's clear that their colleagues share their commitment to protect consumers from needless fear mongering by establishing standards for the testing of granite so consumers can safely and comfortably enjoy the beauty, durability and practicality of this natural stone."

When we asked the MIA why Sara Speer Selber consider The Truth About Granite Fund as a draconian move that is being waged against BuildClean(TM), they simple responded:

"The Truth About Granite Fund was established to help raise funds to develop unbiased, scientific standards for the granite industry, including the testing of granite for radon. No such standards currently exist in the natural stone industry. Previous tests of granite samples have found they are safe. However, the Truth in Granite Fund aims to take advantage of new, advanced scientific instruments that make testing both more practical and more accurate. Our goal is to make sure testing follows consistent protocols, so that future studies are meaningful and based on consistent, approved science - not isolated methodologies or unapproved instruments. Ultimately, our goal is to make sure the granite we sell is safe."

This latest sales tactic received the attention of an independent group called the Natural Stone Restoration Alliance (NSRA). The NSRA saw Radon testing as an added service that their members could provide to the homeowners along with all their other services for natural stone. Josveek Huligar, one of the lead testers and trainer for the NSRA , invited times Members of the Solid Surface Alliance dot org to discuss and provide proof of this threat to the home owners.

The Solid Surface Alliance dot org agreed to provide an alleged radiation producing granite sample that they claim to have in their possession to do independent testing. After an initial agreement between the two groups it seems the Solid Surface Alliance dot org has reneged on the delivery of the alleged material. Mr Huligar was disappointed of the outcome. The NSRA than requested the name of the company that Mr. Gerhart claimed to just have rejected over 10k worth of radon producing granite. When the information was not provided, Huligar ask if he could purchase the next slab that Mr. Gerhart rejected. But for some reason Mr. Gerhart could no longer find a sample for testing. Mr. Huligar went on to say: "All we care about at this point. As for whether are not Stone adds a measurable amount of "radon" in a home, Mr. Gerhart had agreed to come to NY and pick out a hot slab that I would place in my own home after testing my home for radon. Once the granite was installed I would test my home again as described by the EPA and have it tested by someone approved by the EPA. Not only would we do the short and long term test, we would also video tape the whole event, the selection, the creation, the install, and than setting up cameras for anyone to view the stone and meters on the net. I was looking forward to do this, but at this time it appears that Mr. Gerhart has no plans on doing as he said which is a big disappointment."

The NSRA plans to push for this simple test, they feel that the consumers only care about one thing; "whether or not adding granite in your home would significantly change the radon levels in a home". At present, the most prudent consumer should watch the outcome of this debate and make an informed decision, not taken in by a scare tactic by advertisers.

EPA Confirms That Granite Countertops Pose No Significant Health Risk. Click here to read their story.

Fayette Front Page
Community News You Can Use

FDA Advises Against Consumption of American Lobster (Maine Lobster) Tomalley

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today warned consumers to avoid eating tomalley in American Lobster (Maine Lobster), regardless of where the lobster was harvested, because of potential contamination with dangerous levels of the toxins that cause Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP).

American lobster, also known as Maine lobster, are harvested from the waters of the Atlantic Ocean from Northeastern Canada to South Carolina, inclusive.

The FDA advisory applies only to tomalley, the soft, green substance found in the body cavity of the lobster that functions as the liver and pancreas. Cooking does not eliminate the PSP toxins. However, studies have shown that, even when high levels of PSP toxins are present in lobster tomalley, lobster meat itself is typically unaffected.

Symptoms of PSP include tingling and/or numbness of the mouth, face or neck; muscle weakness; headache; and nausea. In extreme cases, when large amounts of the toxin are consumed, these symptoms can lead to respiratory failure and death. Symptoms usually occur within two hours of exposure to the toxin. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek medical attention.

PSP toxins normally occur from time to time in clams and other shellfish and are carefully monitored by state regulatory authorities. The FDA learned of this problem after routine sampling conducted by regulatory authorities in Maine and New Hampshire found dangerous levels of the toxins in lobster tomalley. Some shellfish beds have been closed in recent months due to elevated levels of PSP toxins.

Lobster tomalley normally does not contain dangerous levels of PSP toxins. The current high levels of PSP toxins likely are associated with an ongoing red tide episode in northern New England and eastern Canada. Authorities in Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, as well as in Canada, have issued advisories cautioning against eating tomalley.

Monday, July 28, 2008

U.S. Grown Jalapeño and Serrano Peppers Not Connected to Salmonella Saintpaul Outbreak

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is advising consumers that jalapeño and Serrano peppers grown in the United States are not connected with the current Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak.

However, the FDA continues to advise consumers to avoid raw jalapeño peppers--and the food that contains them--if they have been grown, harvested or packed in Mexico.

In addition to domestically grown raw jalapeño peppers, commercially canned, pickled and cooked jalapeño peppers from any and all geographic locations also are not connected with the current Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak.

The FDA is working with state regulatory agencies and food industry groups that represent restaurants, grocery stores and wholesalers to ensure everyone clearly understands this new, more narrow, advisory. The FDA will continue to refine its consumer guidance as the agency’s investigation continues.

The more narrow advisory the FDA is issuing today (July 25, 2008) is based on evidence gathered during a multi-week, intensive investigation conducted in partnership with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and public health authorities in several U.S. states to find the source of the contamination that led to the outbreak. The collective review of the current traceback investigation and harvesting dates, matched with the dates that people became ill, have combined to indicate that the contaminated jalapeño pepper originated in Mexico.

Additional traceback and traceforward information obtained last week has led to the determination that the Agricola Zarigoza produce-distribution center in McAllen, Texas--from where FDA took the positive jalapeño pepper sample--was not the original source of the contamination.

The FDA is continuing to advise that people in high-risk populations, such as elderly persons, infants and people with impaired immune systems, avoid eating raw Serrano peppers from Mexico or food made from raw Serrano peppers from Mexico until further notice.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Class Action Charges Botox Killed, Injured Consume

TT Note: We've always wondered about potential dangers with the popular use of botox injections. This story really made the hair on our heads stand up. We knew you'd want to read it as well.

Botox users and their families have filed a class action lawsuit against Allergan, claiming the company failed to adequately warn users of the drug's dangers....

Read the story.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

HHS Announces New International Programs to Enhance Drug and Food Safety Joint Inspections with European Union and Australian Regulators

HHS Announces New International Programs to Enhance Drug and Food Safety Joint Inspections with European Union and Australian Regulators; Third-Party Certification Program Are Latest Steps toward Implementing New Import Strategy

U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Mike Leavitt today announced two groundbreaking programs designed to enhance the safety of food and medical products exported to the United States.

"These programs will significantly increase our collaboration with international and private sector partners to enhance the safety of imported food and medical products," Secretary Leavitt said. "Working together, we intend to offer expedited access to those products shown to
meet our standards and to focus more of our resources on those products that present higher risks."

Secretary Leavitt made the announcement in a speech to hundreds of industry leaders at an Import Safety Summit in Washington. He described the twin initiatives as the latest steps in a fundamental, government-wide shift to implement the Interagency Import Safety Action Plan finalized in November 2007. Historically, U.S. authorities have primarily relied on intervening at the border to intercept unsafe goods.

The new strategy calls for actively working with trading partners to help ensure they build quality into every step of a product's life cycle, targeting critical points where risk is greatest, and focusing attention and resources on these areas.

The first initiative is a pilot project the HHS Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is undertaking with its counterparts in the European Union and Australia to jointly plan, allocate for and conduct inspections of drug-manufacturing facilities. The project will initially focus on makers of active pharmaceutical ingredients. If successful, this program could expand to include other types of manufacturing facilities. The novel collaboration will allow HHS/FDA to
more fully take advantage of information gathered by trusted inspection and regulatory systems in other countries.

The second initiative is a third-party certification pilot program involving aquacultured (farm-raised) shrimp. HHS/FDA is seeking the participation of certification bodies that currently certify foreign processors of aquacultured shrimp for compliance with the FDA's seafood regulations. The project is designed to help HHS/FDA learn how to evaluate third-party certification programs and implement them in the field -- a key part of leveraging the additional resources of the private sector and other regulators.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Americans Eating More Processed Sugar, Study Finds

Americans are getting more than 10 percent of their daily calories from fructose, used mainly in sugar-sweetened beverages and processed foods, a new study finds.

The study, analyzing the amount and sources of dietary fructose consumption among U.S. children and adults from 1988 to 1994, was published in the July 9, 2008 issue of The Medscape Journal of Medicine.

Fructose occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables, however, it is added to many processed foods as table sugar (sucrose) and high-fructose corn syrup.

"Measurement of fructose consumption is important because growing evidence suggests that it may play a role in health outcomes," says lead study author Miriam Vos, MD, MSPH, assistant professor of pediatrics, Emory University School of Medicine.

Vos and colleagues examined fructose consumption patterns by sex, age group, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status and body mass index for 21,483 U.S. children and adults. They used a single 24-hour dietary recall administered in the third National Health and Examination Survey (NHANES), the only nationally representative survey in the past 20 years to include fructose content as a reported variable.

The study found that U.S. children and adults consumed 54.7 grams of fructose per day, an almost 50 percent increase from a national study sample conducted in 1977-1978, which estimated mean consumption of fructose at 37 grams per day.

Fructose consumption was highest among adolescents ages 12 to18 at 72.8 grams per day. Among racial and ethnic groups, non-Hispanic blacks consumed the most fructose at 57.7 grams per day, or 11 percent of total calories. Normal-weight participants (56.2 grams) consumed more fructose than obese persons (51.1 grams). And those in the highest-income category consumed less of their total calories from fructose than those in the lowest-income category.

The largest source of fructose was sugar-sweetened beverages (30.1 percent), followed by grains, which include processed foods such as cakes, pies and snacks, breads and cereals (21.5 percent), and fruit or fruit juices (19.4 percent).

"Short-term studies have shown that fructose can elevate plasma triglycerides," says Vos. "Further surveillance and research are needed to assess trends in fructose consumption and to develop a better understanding of the health impact of this common additive in the food supply."

India's Public and Private Sectors Should Unite to Address Diabetes Epidemic

Central and state governments as well as private industry and universities are among some of the groups that should unite to enact policy changes addressing India's growing diabetes epidemic, say leading U.S. and global diabetes researchers.

The researchers include Karen Siegel, MPH, a research associate at MATRIX Public Health Solutions, Inc., K. M. Venkat Narayan, MD, MSc, MBA, of Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health, and Sanjay Kinra of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in the United Kingdom. Their recommendations for diabetes prevention and control policies in India are published in the July 8, 2008 issue of Health Affairs.

"Diabetes is part of a larger global epidemic of noncommunicable diseases," says Narayan. "Because these diseases share many risk factors, policies that encourage healthy eating and active living will prevent not only diabetes, but also obesity, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory illnesses and diet-related cancers. An integrated system can maximize disease prevention while avoiding the need to develop separate courses of action."

India is currently home to 35 million people with diabetes, a number that is expected to double by the year 2025. This places a large burden on India's health system, and threatens to cripple the country's rapidly growing economy. The World Health Organization estimates that India will lose $237 billion in national income due to diabetes, stroke and heart disease.

Siegel, lead author of the paper, adds, "Economic growth policies aimed at transforming India into a developed nation by 2030 are contributing to escalating diabetes rates that threaten to cripple the rapidly emerging economy. Research shows that diabetes is preventable through physical activity and healthy eating, but current conditions in India promote sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy eating.

"Updated policies and comprehensive action to address diabetes are needed to incorporate health as a national priority, and to encourage healthy lifestyles as well as economic growth," says Siegel.

Among the policy recommendations proposed by Siegel and Narayan are comprehensive, multisectoral national actions that address diabetes risk factors.

Players, they say, should include central/state governments, multilateral organizations, private sector, nongovernmental organizations, academics and researchers, public-private partnerships, health care sector and the media.

Siegel and Narayan also recommend "best buys" for diabetes prevention and treatment based on impact, cost and effectiveness, including:

• Working with the private sector to encourage investments in employee health Promoting physical activity, especially active transport
• Modifying agricultural policies and practices to encourage consumption of fruits and vegetables
• Creating research and development policies that focus on innovative ways to deliver affordable fruits and vegetables on a mass scale
• Spearheading national efforts to reduce salt, fat and sugar in processed foods
• Building capacity in public health schools, medical schools and other institutions

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

'Natural' On The Label Can Be Misleading

TT Note: Yet another reason not to believe everything you hear--

The government has some very precise rules about what food can be labeled "organic." But there are few real rules to govern the use of "natural," and the result, food producers warn, can lead to consumer confusion......

Read the story.