Friday, September 26, 2008

FDA Updates Health Information Advisory on Melamine Contamination

TT Note: What next?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is alerting consumers that seven Mr. Brown instant coffee and milk tea products manufactured in China are being recalled by the King Car Food Industrial Co. Ltd. due to possible contamination with melamine. The products, manufactured by China’s Shandong Duqing Inc., are:

* Mr. Brown Mandheling Blend Instant Coffee (3-in-1)
* Mr. Brown Arabica Instant Coffee (3-in-1)
* Mr. Brown Blue Mountain Blend Instant Coffee (3-in-1)
* Mr. Brown Caramel Macchiato Instant Coffee (3-in-1)
* Mr. Brown French Vanilla Instant Coffee (3-in-1)
* Mr. Brown Mandhling Blend instant Coffee (2-in-1)
* Mr. Brown Milk Tea (3-in-1)

The FDA recommends that consumers not consume any of the above Mr. Brown instant coffee and milk tea products. The FDA also recommends that retailers and foodservice operators remove the products from sale or service.

As of September 25, 2008, the FDA testing of milk based products imported into the United States from China has not found melamine contamination.

The FDA is working with regulatory agencies in other countries. The New Zealand Food Safety Authority reports that its testing of White Rabbit Creamy Candies has shown melamine contamination at high levels. In light of the widespread contamination of milk and milk-based products in China and the New Zealand Food Safety Authority’s finding, the FDA recommends that consumers not eat White Rabbit Creamy Candy and that retailers and foodservice operations remove the product from sale or service.

To date, the FDA is not aware of any illnesses in the United States stemming from consumption of either White Rabbit Creamy Candy or the Mr. Brown instant coffee and milk tea products.

Individuals who have experienced any health problems after consuming either White Rabbit Creamy Candy or any of the identified Mr. Brown coffee and tea products are advised to contact their health care professional.

Background

On September 12, 2008, in light of reports from China of melamine contaminated infant formula, the FDA issued a Health Information Advisory to assure the American public that there is no known threat of contamination in infant formula manufactured by companies that have met the requirements to sell such products in the United States. That advisory also warned members of Chinese communities in the United States that infant formula manufactured in China, possibly available for purchase at Asian markets, could pose a risk to infants.

The FDA had contacted the companies who manufacture infant formula for distribution in the United States and received, from the companies, information that they are not importing formula or sourcing milk-based materials from China.

At the same time, the FDA—in conjunction with state and local officials—began a nation-wide investigation to check Asian markets for Chinese manufactured infant formula that may have been brought into the United States. In particular, this effort focused on areas of the country with large Chinese communities, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and New York. To date, investigators have visited more than 1,400 retail markets and have not found Chinese infant formula present on shelves in these markets.

The FDA also advises consumers not to purchase infant formula manufactured in China from Internet sites or from other sources.

The FDA has taken, and will continue to take, proactive measures to help ensure the safety of the American food supply. In conjunction with state and local officials, the FDA will continue to check Asian markets for food items that are imported from China and that could contain a significant amount of milk or milk proteins. In addition, the FDA has broadened its domestic and import sampling and testing of milk-derived ingredients and finished food products containing milk, such as candies, desserts, and beverages that could contain these ingredients from Chinese sources. Milk-derived ingredients include whole milk powder, non-fat milk powder, whey powder, lactose powder, and casein.

In addition to state and local governments, the FDA is working in close cooperation with Customs and Border Protection within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, other federal agencies, and foreign governments.

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Hopkins Experts: Call for Warning Labels on Energy Drinks about Caffeine

TT Note: This just brings the subject up to the surface. Are energy drinks "spunky" due to the caffeine levels? Thoughts to ponder.

Johns Hopkins scientists who have spent decades researching the effects of caffeine report that a slew of caffeinated energy drinks now on the market should carry prominent labels that note caffeine doses and warn of potential health risks for consumers.

"The caffeine content of energy drinks varies over a 10-fold range, with some containing the equivalent of 14 cans of Coca-Cola, yet the caffeine amounts are often unlabeled and few include warnings about the potential health risks of caffeine intoxication," says Roland Griffiths, Ph.D., one of the authors of the article that appears in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence this month.

The market for these drinks stands at an estimated $5.4 billion in the United States and is expanding at a rate of 55 percent annually. Advertising campaigns, which principally target teens and young adults, promote the performance-enhancing and stimulant effects of energy drinks and appear to glorify drug use.

Without adequate, prominent labeling; consumers most likely won't realize whether they are getting a little or a lot of caffeine. "It's like drinking a serving of an alcoholic beverage and not knowing if its beer or scotch," says Griffiths.

Caffeine intoxication, a recognized clinical syndrome included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and the World Health Organization's International Classification of Diseases, is marked by nervousness, anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, gastrointestinal upset, tremors, rapid heartbeats (tachycardia), psychomotor agitation (restlessness and pacing) and in rare cases, death.

Reports to U.S. poison control centers of caffeine abuse showed bad reactions to the energy drinks. In a 2007 survey of 496 college students, 51 percent reported consuming at least one energy drink during the last month. Of these energy drink users, 29 percent reported "weekly jolt and crash episodes," and 19 percent reported heart palpitations from drinking energy drinks. This same survey revealed that 27 percent of the students surveyed said they mixed energy drinks and alcohol at least once in the past month. "Alcohol adds another level of danger," says Griffiths, "because caffeine in high doses can give users a false sense of alertness that provides incentive to drive a car or in other ways put themselves in danger."

A regular 12-ounce cola drink has about 35 milligrams of caffeine, and a 6-ounce cup of brewed coffee has 80 to 150 milligrams of caffeine. Because many energy drinks are marketed as "dietary supplements," the limit that the Food and Drug Administration requires on the caffeine content of soft drinks (71 milligrams per 12-ounce can) does not apply. The caffeine content of energy drinks varies from 50 to more than 500 milligrams.

"It's notable that over-the-counter caffeine-containing products require warning labels, yet energy drinks do not," says Chad Reissig, Ph.D., one of the study's authors.

Griffiths notes that most of the drinks advertise their products as performance enhancers and stimulants - a marketing strategy that may put young people at risk for abusing even stronger stimulants such as the prescription drugs amphetamine and methylphenidate (Ritalin). A 2008 study of 1,253 college students found that energy drink consumption significantly predicted subsequent non-medical prescription stimulant use, raising the concern that energy drinks might serve as "gateway" products to more serious drugs of abuse. Potentially feeding that "transition" market, Griffiths says, are other energy drinks with alluring names such as the powdered energy drink additive "Blow" (which is sold in "vials" and resembles cocaine powder) and the "Cocaine" energy drink. Both of these products use the language of the illegal drug trade.

Griffiths and colleagues are currently collecting case reports of intoxication from energy drinks in children and adolescents. If readers are interested in learning more, go to http://www.bpru.org/energydrinks/ .

Eric C Strain, M.D., from Johns Hopkins also contributed to this study.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Irradiate this...

I've been reading about the horrible condition of our food producing system since I was a teenager. It has gone past horrible to deplorable. Now, in an attempt to compensate for cleanliness, the government is going to allow irradiation of spinach and lettuce and, at the same time, going to relax the reporting of irradiation (see release below).

I'll say up front that I don't know how to fix the system. We are mass producing foods and the cost to do so are astronomical. Adding the irradiation layer is, by the way, going to increase the cost of certain foods. Seems to me it would be cheaper in the long run to just use a bit of common sense cleanliness and improve the system rather than trying to kill our foods.

It's bad enough already that by the time they get through processing food there's barely any nutritional value left.

This year I grew my own tomatoes and realized anew just how horrible store-bought tomatoes really are! Talk about a taste difference. I may try to figure out how to grow some indoors through the winter now that my bushes have slowed down production. Next year I'm going to add a few more favorites to the garden. I may have to try my hand at spinach, which is one of my favorites. I've already switched to the more costly organic version and wash it again no matter what the bag says about being pre-washed.

E.coli doesn't come from people not washing the lettuce well enough, it comes from people doing things in public waters and near public waters that shouldn't be done. Put in more toilets and fire anyone who doesn't use them. Voila, 99% of the problem solved.

OK, here's a gross thought... we talk about the potential for terrorists to poison our food supply? Nah, I'm not going to paint the picture that flashed through my mind as I typed the previous paragraph, you have just as warped an imagination as yours truly I'm sure .

Here's the release (older, but I'm just getting to that date as I'm going through my in-box, sorry if I've missed your email!) - jmd

Feds Approve Irradiation of Spinach, Lettuce - Opponents say irradiation no substitute for careful handling of food

August 22, 2008

Irradiation
• Feds Approve Irradiation of Spinach, Lettuce
• FDA Proposes Relaxing Irradiation Labeling
• Irradiation Debate Flares Amid Food Poisoning Outbreaks
• Study: Irradiation Could Reduce Food-Borne Illness
• Irradiated Food Saves Lives, Study Finds
• USDA Approves Expanded Irradiation of Meat, Poultry
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• More about Food Safety ...
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has flashed a green light for two green vegetables to be zapped with radiation to kill bacteria and reduce foodborne illness. The FDA said the process would also give the produce a longer shelf life.
Both spinach and lettuce were associated with recent outbreaks of E. coli. Hundreds of consumers nationwide were sickened in late 2006 and dozens had to be hospitalized.
Although it is controversial, the irradiation process is nothing new. It has already been approved for use on meat, poultry, and shellfish such as oysters, mussels and clams.

Some consumer groups, including Public Citizen, oppose irradiation, saying it is not as effective as its proponents claim and is a substitute for filthy conditions in the food chain.

"That 5,000 people in the United States die every year from foodborne illnesses is tragic," said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. "Food producers need to address the source of the problem -- too fast processing lines and dirty conditions at plants -- not promote an expensive, impractical and ineffective technology like irradiation."

Irradiation does not kill all the bacteria in food and may undermine other food safety efforts by masking filthy conditions and encouraging improper handling, Hauter said.

Grocers' petition

The FDA said it acted in response to a joint petition by the National Food Processors Association — now the Grocery Manufacturers Association — and The Food Irradiation Coalition. In 2000 the groups asked the FDA to approve radiation for a large number of foods, but scaled back the request to focus on higher-priority foods.

Both spinach and lettuce were seen as prime candidates because of their susceptibility to bacteria. The FDA said both have textured leaves that serve as an ideal habitat for E. coli bacteria, and both are usually eaten raw. Cooking often kills the bacteria.

The FDA and Centers for Disease Control log about 76 million cases of E.coli and other types of food poisoning each year. Symptoms are wide-ranging and can include abdominal cramps, vomiting, nausea and diarrhea. Often, serious kidney damage can occur.

"That 5,000 people in the United States die every year from foodborne illnesses is tragic," said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. "Food producers need to address the source of the problem -- too fast processing lines and dirty conditions at plants -- not promote an expensive, impractical and ineffective technology like irradiation."

Irradiation does not kill all the bacteria in food and may undermine other food safety efforts by masking filthy conditions and encouraging improper handling, Hauter said.

She said irradiation can mask filthy conditions in today's mega-sized livestock slaughterhouses and food processing plants. Slaughterhouses process up to 400 cows per hour or 200 birds per minute, posing an enormous sanitation challenge where E. coli, Salmonella and other potentially deadly food-borne pathogens can be spread through feces, urine and pus.

"Americans do not want to eat feces and pus even if it has been irradiated," Hauter said. "Instead of encouraging expensive treatments like irradiation, USDA should give meat inspectors the tools to test products at the plant and ensure that contaminated meat never reaches restaurants or supermarket shelves."

Monday, September 22, 2008

Compromised US and Chinese Computers Launch Greatest Number of Cyber Attacks, According to SecureWorks' Data

PRNewswire/ -- SecureWorks(R), one of the market's leading Security-as-a-Service (SaaS) providers, has published the locations of the computers, from which the greatest number of cyber attacks were attempted against its clients in 2008. The United States topped the list with 20.6 million attempted attacks originating from computers within the country and China ran second with 7.7 million attempted attacks emanating from computers within its borders.

This was followed by Brazil with over 166,987 attempted attacks, South Korea with 162,289, Poland with 153,205, Japan with 142,346, Russia with 130,572, Taiwan with 124,997, Germany with 110,493, and Canada with 107,483.

"We believe these statistics are significant because it clearly shows that the United States and China have a lot of vulnerable computers that have been compromised and are being used as bots to launch cyber attacks," said Hunter King, security researcher for SecureWorks. "This should be a warning to organizations and personal computer users that, not only are they putting their computers and networks at risk by not securing them, but they are actually providing these cyber criminals with a platform from which to compromise other computers."

Computer security can be greatly improved by keeping your web browser and operating system up to date, using the latest versions of antivirus and antispyware software, following safe computer practices such as being wary of the websites you visit, and not clicking on attachments and links within emails until verifying that the sender intentionally sent the enclosed link or attachment."

"These findings illustrate the ineffectiveness of simply blocking incoming communications from foreign IP addresses as a way to defend your organization from cyber attacks, as many hackers hijack computers outside their borders to attack their victims," said Don Jackson, Director of Threat Intelligence for SecureWorks. "The Georgia/Russia cyber conflict was a perfect example of this. Many of the Georgian IT staff members thought that by blocking Russian IP addresses they would be able to protect their networks, however, many of the Russian attacks were actually launched from IP addresses in Turkey and the United States so consequently they were hit hard. This was a perfect example where we saw Russian cyber criminals using compromised computers outside their borders."

"On the other hand, we have found that many of the Chinese hackers will compromise large networks within their own country and use them as bots to attack other organizations," continued Jackson. "For example, entire university networks in China will belong to local hacker groups."

"China's hackers do create botnets from spamming through email and blogs, but a relatively larger percentage of the compromised hosts under Chinese control are simply machines in schools, data centers, companies -- in other words, on large networks -- that are mostly unguarded and consequently are entirely controlled by hacker groups, as opposed to distributed bots harvested from widely distributed international spam runs, said Jackson. "And often the groups have an insider in the networks they own. We also see many local hacker groups in Japan and Poland compromise hosts within their own country to use in cyber attacks, so the Chinese hackers are not alone in using resources within their own borders."

With hackers utilizing computer resources inside and outside of their borders, SecureWorks suggests that in addition to securing computers with ongoing system and security updates and patches, organizations should utilize a black list to block inbound communications from known malicious IP addresses. Organizations should also block outbound communications to foreign countries known to harbor hackers and block outbound communications to hostile networks known to host criminal activity. This way if your organization does have an infected host within its network, then the host will be blocked from sending personal or company data to the cyber criminals. Of course, some of these hostile networks do support a handful of legitimate sites. In addition to a blacklist, your organization can use a separate whitelist to allow outbound communication only to trustworthy sites on those otherwise hostile networks.

"SecureWorks blocks attacks no matter what machines or countries they are coming from. When a machine represents a clear and present danger our Security Operations Center and technology might decide to block all traffic from that machine forcing the criminals to be constantly finding new machines to attack from," said Jon Ramsey, SecureWorks' CTO.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

FDA Proposes Label Requirements for Refused Imported Foods

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today issued a proposed rule designed to reduce a practice known as "port shopping" which puts the safety of imported food at risk.

"This system will make it more difficult for food importers to evade import controls after being denied admission into the United States," said Randall Lutter, Ph.D., deputy commissioner for policy. "It will complement our ongoing efforts to monitor food imports."

When FDA refuses to admit a food into the United States, the food must be exported or destroyed. But some persons attempt to bring the refused food back into the United States in the same condition by shipping it to another U.S. port in hopes that the food will be admitted there.

The proposed regulation would require that shipping containers of food barred from entry, and any accompanying documents, be labeled as refused. The label would make it easier for FDA to detect previously-refused food.

The proposed rule implements a provision of the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002, which provided the FDA with new authority to protect the nation’s food supply.

Under the proposed rule, all owners or consignees of refused food would be required to affix a label to the shipping container that reads: "UNITED STATES: REFUSED ENTRY" in clear, conspicuous, print. A label would also have to be affixed to all documents accompanying the imported food such as invoices, bills of lading, and electronic documents.

The FDA will accept comment on the proposed regulation for 75 days following its publication in the Federal Register. Written comments may be submitted to:
http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main?main=DocketDetail&d=FDA-2007-N-0465

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Health Alert in Chinese Manufactured Infant Formula

TT Note: This is scary. Guess it's another sign we should use American manufactured goods when we can!

In response to reports of contaminated milk-based infant formula manufactured in China, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today is issuing a Health Information Advisory. This is to assure the American public that there is no known threat of contamination in infant formula manufactured by companies that have met the requirements to sell infant formula in the United States. Although no Chinese manufacturers of infant formula have fulfilled the requirements to sell infant formula in the United States, FDA officials are investigating whether or not infant formula manufactured in China is being sold in specialty markets which serve the Asian community.

The FDA is advising caregivers not to feed infant formula manufactured in China to infants. This should be replaced with an appropriate infant formula manufactured in the United States as mentioned below. Individuals should contact their health care professional if they have questions regarding their infant’s health or if they note changes in their infant’s health status.

The FDA began investigating the reports of contamination immediately and received information from the companies who manufacture infant formula for the American market that they are not importing infant formula or source materials from China. The following manufacturers have met the necessary FDA requirements for marketing milk-based infant formulas in the United States: Abbott Nutritionals, Mead Johnson Nutritionals, Nestle USA, PBM Nutritionals, and Solus Products LLC. Also, one manufacturer, SHS/Nutricia, Liverpool, England, markets an amino acid based exempt infant formula that does not contain any milk-derived ingredients.

We are asking state officials to work with the Agency to assist with the removal of any Chinese infant formula found on store shelves, and to warn members of the Asian community to avoid using Chinese manufactured infant formula.

It has been reported that a number of infants in China who have consumed Chinese manufactured infant formula are suffering from kidney stones, a condition which is rare in infants. The Chinese manufactured infant formula may be contaminated with melamine. Melamine artificially increases the protein profile of milk and can causes kidney diseases such as those seen in these Chinese infants.

FDA requires that all infant formula manufacturers register with the Agency and adhere to specific labeling and nutritional requirements. All properly registered infant formula manufacturers marketing infant formula in the United States undergo an annual inspection of their production facilities.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

September 11th, 2008

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the attack on the United States by terrorists.

A month of so after the attack, when everyone was still sporting American flags on their lapels and in their yards, I remember talking to my husband about the renewed patriotism and the single spirit we as a nation seemed to have at the time. I hated the reason, but was thrilled to see such a monumental change in our country's attitudes.

I thought he was being overly cynical when he said it wouldn't last very long. Unfortunately, he was right and I was wrong.

It didn't last very long in the scheme of things. It didn't take long for the flags to fade from the windshields and the solidarity t-shirts to end up in the rag bag.

If anything, we seen to be more divided than we were before 9/11. Politics is nastier than ever. Less seems to be done every day to promote our love of country.

Everyone supports the troops now, at least on the surface. Some of us truly care and believe, others mouth the sentiment because it is politically correct to do so. It's also a potential career killer if you don't talk the talk at least, even while doing damage to the cause for which they're fighting.

Tomorrow John McCain and Barack Obama will hold a truce for a short day, then go back to fighting.

Tomorrow school children will be fed a spoonful of information about September 11th. Then they will go back to their normal lessons and play.

Tomorrow people will dig out their flags and spend a few moments reflecting on the horrific day that changed our world. Then they'll pack up the flags and patriotism for the year and go back to their routine and forget about it all for another year.

I'm proud that we have some who value their freedoms and are willing to fight for them. I'm not simply talking about our soldiers who put their lives on the line to protect those freedoms. I'm talking about groups like the Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution who try to promote patriotism throughout the year. I'm talking about individuals who make sure their flags are flown properly and who make sure they always fly. I'm talking about those who work in so many ways to help protect the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and all that has made our country shine.

We need our patriots, we need those who love our country and we need people who are able to look beyond their own needs to see the bigger picture.

We need to remember September 11 and it's lessons every day, not just one day a year.

- jmd
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Thursday, September 04, 2008

“Private Browsing” Not So Private

TT Note: Interesting. Be aware that private browsing only protects you on your computer and not from prying eyes outside your computer. Read on to learn more.

(BUSINESS WIRE) --Microsoft announced last week that the upcoming Internet Explorer 8 would include the rumored “private browsing” mode, designed to conceal a user’s activities from other users of the same PC. A privacy mode is already a feature of Apple’s Safari browser, and a similar technology is available in Mozilla’s Firefox, as well as the newly announced Google Chrome. Private browsing mode utilizes techniques that automatically delete search history, page cache, and browsing history so the next user can’t see where you’ve been or what you’ve been up to.

Unfortunately, this mode does nothing to provide real privacy from hackers, spyware, and network-based attacks that pose significant and growing threats to users’ finances and identities.

“The private browsing mode avoids embarrassment, and prevents your spouse from learning about the surprise gift you’re researching for them,” says Ray Dickenson, Authentium’s CTO. “But it doesn’t prevent the disclosure of your usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, and other personal information to criminals. While we applaud the feature as a valuable tool for users, we’re concerned the name will only exacerbate the current explosion of digitally cultivated identity theft by fooling users into thinking they’re protected.”

Authentium, maker of the leading secure browsing companion SafeCentral, cautions users not to trust these privacy features as a means of protection from fraud.

“Whether using Safari, Firefox, or the upcoming Internet Explorer 8, users need to be aware that the private browsing mode is for local protection only, and is not a deterrent against identity theft,” says Corey O’Donnell, Vice President of Marketing for Authentium. “While I can’t suggest a better name, we’re certainly concerned that the private browsing moniker will give users a false sense of security and put them at increased risk when conducting transactions online. Independent of our goals and mission of providing advanced protection with our SafeCentral service, we feel it’s important to alert the public about the actual functions of this feature.”

Authentium issued the warning in conjunction with the recent announcement and posted notifications to its antivirus customers and security partners via the corporate blog. Authentium is attempting to ensure that the security community, including its roster of high-profile partners, was prepared to respond to customer inquiry on the feature.

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