Wednesday, January 28, 2009

First Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed in Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Peanut Corporation of America

(BUSINESS WIRE)--The sudden and unexpected death of a Minnesota woman who fell victim to a nationwide Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak has prompted a wrongful death lawsuit against Virginia-based Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) -- a maker of bulk peanut butter and peanut paste.

Fred Pritzker, founder and president of national food safety law firm Pritzker | Olsen, P.A., filed the complaint Monday in Hennepin County District Court in Minneapolis for the heirs and of Shirley Mae Almer, 72, of Perham, Minnesota: Jeffrey Almer as trustee of the heirs of Shirley Mae Almer v. Peanut Corporation of America, a Virginia business entity and King Nut Companies, an Ohio business entity.

King Nut Companies is an Ohio-based firm that allegedly distributed the contaminated peanut butter that came out of PCA's plant in Blakely, Georgia, according to the complaint.

According to the complaint, the product was delivered to a nursing home in Brainerd, Minnesota, where Mrs. Almer was temporarily residing.

The complaint alleges that her death on December 21 was a direct result of consuming peanut butter that contained the same genetic strain of Salmonella that has sickened more than 500 other people in 43 states. On January 13, the FDA announced that PCA initiated a recall that included the product that had been served to Mrs. Almer.

"This is a very large and significant recall," Pritzker said. "It points to a number of vulnerabilities in our food safety system that require legislation and funding to correct. Consumers should feel concerned and demand a significant overhaul."

The complaint alleges negligence on behalf of PCA and King Nut for failure to train and properly supervise peanut butter production workers and other employees; failure to safely produce, store and transport its products; failure to maintain sanitary conditions during and after production; failure to prevent cross-contamination and failure to properly test its products, as well as other acts of negligence.

The complaint also alleges that PCA and King Nut are negligent per se for failing to comply with Minn. Stat. Chapter 31 and 21 USC Sec. 331.

The complaint also makes a claim for damages under the doctrine of strict liability.

Pritzker said Mrs. Almer was the "canary in a coal mine" whose death helped lead health investigators to the plant in South Georgia. Now federal officials view the PCA plant as the outbreak's lone, known source.

According to the complaint, Mrs. Almer's children were notified January 6 that she died with a Salmonella infection. Days later, the Minnesota departments of health and agriculture traced the problem to a five-pound pail of King Nut creamy peanut butter that had been in use at the nursing home.

Pritzker said grieving family members were angered to learn that the peanut butter served to Mrs. Almer contained the same deadly pathogen associated with hundreds of Salmonella infections since mid-September.

Mrs. Almer, who grew up in New York Mills, Minnesota, still owned a bowling alley in Wadena. She had survived two bouts with cancer in recent years and was cancer free when she was sickened with Salmonella. Just before she became ill, family members were planning to take her out of the nursing home. Instead, she became so sick from the bacteria that she was taken to a hospital, where she died.

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ALDI Statement Regarding Peanut Butter Products Recall

ALDI has two suppliers who manufacture the Cambridge cheese crackers with peanut butter, one of which is Kellogg's. As a precautionary measure, as of Jan. 15 ALDI and Kellogg's voluntarily recalled the Kellogg-produced peanut butter crackers due to industry reports of salmonella at affiliated plants, though no illnesses have been reported regarding these Kellogg-manufactured products. The second manufacturer of our cheese crackers with peanut butter does not use the peanut plant where the salmonella outbreak was reported. However, as a further precautionary measure, as of Jan.20 ALDI has recalled the additional Cambridge cheese crackers with peanut butter as well as our Grandessa peanut butter cookies.

To tell the difference between the two manufacturers of Cambridge cheese crackers with peanut butter, customers should look at the net weight on the front of the package of crackers. A net weight of 7.44 oz (210 grams) was produced by Kellogg's while a net weight of 7 1/3 oz (208 grams) was produced by our second manufacturer.

All other ALDI peanut products or products that contain peanuts or a peanut paste have not been the subject of concern regarding potential salmonella poisoning.

Salmonella is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis and arthritis. For more information on Salmonella, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Web site at

Consumers who have purchased the recalled products are urged to return them, regardless of the manufacturer, to receive a refund. ALDI Consumer Affairs may be reached at 630-761-2740.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

FDA Warns Consumers Against Dietary Supplement Containing Undeclared Drug

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers not to take Venom HYPERDRIVE 3.0, a product sold as a dietary supplement and containing sibutramine. Sibutramine, a controlled substance with risks for abuse or addiction, is a potent drug that poses potential safety risks.

"Sibutramine is the active ingredient in an FDA-approved prescription drug used as an appetite suppressant for weight loss," said Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. "But when present in a dietary supplement, it may harm unsuspecting consumers because sibutramine can substantially increase blood pressure and heart rate (pulse), and may present a significant risk for people with a history of heart disease, heart failure, irregular heart beats or stroke."

Venom HYPERDRIVE 3.0 is marketed by Applied Lifescience Research Industries Inc. (ALR Industries), Oak View, Calif. On Dec. 24, 2008, ALR Industries initiated a recall of all lots of Venom HYPERDRIVE 3.0 after the FDA laboratory analysis showed samples of the product contained undeclared sibutramine. Although ALR Industries claims on its Web site that only "trace amounts" of sibutramine were found in this product, the FDA laboratory tests showed that Venom HYPERDRIVE 3.0 contains a significant amount of sibutramine per dosage unit.

The product was sold via distributors and in retail stores nationwide as well as in Canada, Poland, Sweden, Hungary, South Africa, the Netherlands, Australia, France and the United Kingdom. The product was packaged in red plastic bottles containing 90 capsules each with the UPC# 094922534743.

Consumers who have this product should stop taking it immediately and contact their health care professional if they have experienced any adverse effects. Consumers can contact the company at to receive further instructions for returning the product and to ask any questions.

Health care professionals and consumers may report serious adverse events (side effects) or product quality problems with the use of this product to the FDA's MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program either online, by regular mail, fax or phone.

* Online:
* Regular Mail: use postage-paid FDA form 3500 available at: and mail to MedWatch, 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville, MD 20852-9787
* Fax: (800) FDA-0178
* Phone: (800) FDA-1088

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Motorcycle Seats NOT The Cause of Impotence or Erectile Dysfunction for Bikers

TT Note: Just in case you had a burning desire to know.

/PRNewswire/ -- "A 2005 Japan impotence study uses soft words about hard seats suggesting motorbike 'vibration may cause ED' and 'more studies are needed to determine the cause,' " says patent-granted author Randall Dale Chipkar. "Based upon limited information one cannot conclude motorcycle seats as causation for impotence."

"Bicycling or hard scooter seats on rough roads are much more rigorous on the groin rather than modern day cruising seats. Not to mention motorcycle rubber-mounted engines, sophisticated suspensions, smooth asphalt and contoured padded seats," Chipkar says.

"Subtle groin vibrations increase blood flow and are actually stimulating not debilitating on our tissues. Regular motorcycle seat vibration is not going to damage penile nerves," Chipkar adds.

The pelvis and perineum are designed for prolonged sitting properly displacing pressure and any eventual discomfort can be walked off without sustaining biological harm or compromised blood flow.

"Causation of impotence or erectile dysfunction involves many issues including lifestyle habits. Unfortunately, I feel there is a much greater issue than pressure or vibration linking impotence to motorcycle riders," says Chipkar.

"Most motorcycles have electrical components beneath the seat. Extremely low frequency electromagnetic field (ELF EMF) radiation passes through the seat penetrating into the rider's groin. ELF EMFs can disrupt zinc ions which are linked to impotence and erectile dysfunction. Furthermore, excessive ELF EMF invasion compromises electromagnetic homeostasis involving neuron function, hormone imbalance and adrenal fatigue all linked to impotence and libido loss," Chipkar says.

"I discovered up to 500 milliGauss of ELF EMF radiation above motorcycle seats zapping the prostate. In contrast, many doctors raise cancer concerns involving 3 to 5 milliGauss of ELF EMF exposure from hydro tower power lines and other sources," adds Chipkar.

"On my website doctors prove ELF EMF danger. Impotence, erectile dysfunction, infertility, sterility, prostatitis, and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) are linked not to motorcycle seats but what's 'rising up' through them," Chipkar says.

Chipkar authored Motorcycle Cancer? to expose the truth. Chipkar is now campaigning worldwide to enhance the motorcycle industry to keep riders safer.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Why Don't Democrats Avoid Tens of Thousands of Job Losses?

/PRNewswire/ -- The following is being released today by the Council of Independent Tobacco Manufacturers of America:

At a time of national economic crisis and with job loss announcements racking up daily in the tens of thousands, why won't Senate and House Democrats take action to save tens of thousands of jobs through the simple stroke of a pen? The proposed S-Chip legislation that will come before the Senate this week contains a little noticed funding provision that will increase the federal excise tax on roll-your-own (RYO) tobacco from $1 per pound of tobacco, to over $24 per pound: a staggering 2,100% increase. To put the proposed increase into perspective, in the same bill, the tax on a pack of cigarettes will rise by only 156%, from 39 cents per pack to $1.00 per pack, and the excise tax on other tobacco products, such as smokeless and pipe tobacco, will more or less double. Indications from the Hill suggest the high excise tax on RYO may be a result of some bad math in legislative drafting of the bill.

One could argue, well it's tobacco, and who cares anyway? But with tens of thousands of industry jobs dependent on this little segment of the overall tobacco industry, it would seem little effort is required by this Congress to achieve some 'stimulus' for the economy, simply by taking the excise tax increase on RYO back to the $8.92 per pound level proposed in the earlier version of S-CHIP, that House and Senate members voted on in late 2008.

It would perhaps behoove our political leaders to make the easy saves in the economy that would help keep hard working Americans gainfully employed right now. This is an easy fix for Congress, so what strong-minded stimulus driven Democrat will rise to the occasion and help save tens of thousands of jobs at the stroke of a pen by writing $8.92, instead of $24. It's your guess.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Canadian Company to Pay U.S. More Than $1 Million Related to Sale of Defective Bullet-Proof Vests

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Barrday Inc. and two related companies have agreed to pay the United States more than $1 million to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act in connection with their role in the weaving of Zylon fabric used in the manufacture and sale of defective Zylon bullet-proof vests, the Justice Department announced today. Barrday, headquartered in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada, is a weaver of ballistic fabrics and designs and produces specialty industrial textiles.

The United States alleged that Barrday's woven Zylon fabric was used in the manufacture of bullet-proof vests sold by Second Chance Body Armor Inc., Point Blank Body Armor Inc. and Gator Hawk Armor Inc. These vests were purchased by the United States, and by various state, local, and/or tribal law enforcement agencies, which were partially reimbursed by a Justice Department program. The government alleged that the Zylon in these vests lost its ballistic capability quickly, especially when exposed to heat and humidity.

Barrday was reportedly aware of the defective nature of the Zylon by at least December 2001, but continued to sell Zylon for use in ballistic armor until approximately 2003, when two police officers were shot through their Second Chance Zylon vests. In 2003, Barrday was the first weaver to permanently withdraw from the Zylon market.

"When a supplier of a component part distributes its product with knowledge of latent defects, that company violates the False Claims Act," said Michael F. Hertz, the acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division. "This settlement will help ensure that component suppliers are held responsible for materials that put our first-responders at risk."

This settlement is part of a larger investigation of the body armor industry's use of Zylon in body armor. As part of today's agreement, Barrday has pledged its cooperation in the government's on-going investigation. The United States previously has settled with four other participants in the Zylon body armor industry for over $46 million. Additionally, the government has pending lawsuits against Toyobo Co., Honeywell Inc., Second Chance Body Armor Inc. and four former Second Chance executives.

Today's settlement with Barrday was the result of an ongoing investigation by the Justice Department's Civil Division, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia, the General Services Administration Office of the Inspector General, the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the U.S. Army Criminal Investigative Command, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, the Department of Energy Office of the Inspector General, the U.S. Agency for International Development Office of the Inspector General, and the Defense Contracting Audit Agency.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Peanut Corporation of America Expands Nationwide Recall of Peanut Butter

Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), is expanding the recall of peanut butter and voluntarily recalling peanut paste made at its Blakely, Georgia facility because the products have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella. Salmonella is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis and arthritis.

The recalled peanut butter and peanut paste were distributed to institutions, food service industries, and private label food companies in 24 states, the province of Saskatchewan in Canada, Korea and Haiti. The U.S. states are the following: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Virginia. In addition, affected product was used as an ingredient in other products that may have been distributed in other states.

None of the peanut butter being recalled is sold directly to consumers through retail stores by PCA.

The recalled peanut butter in the expanded recall is sold by PCA in bulk packaging in containers ranging in size from five to 1,700 pounds. The peanut paste is sold in sizes ranging from 35-pound containers to tanker containers. The lot numbers for all recalled products are at the end of this news release. All of the peanut butter and peanut paste in the expanded recall was made on or after July 1, 2008, and only at the Georgia facility.

The potential for contamination was noted after a small number of samples from unopened containers and environmental samples from the Blakely, Georgia facility tested positive for Salmonella. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has said the investigation is "very active and dynamic," and PCA continues to work closely with the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as they continue their investigation into the nationwide outbreak of Salmonella.

The Blakely, Georgia facility has currently stopped producing all products as the FDA and CDC continue their investigation, but some PCA staff remain to assist in the on-going investigation.

PCA is notifying customers that may have received the recalled product by phone and/or in writing. Customers should segregate and hold the product and call PCA at 1-877-564-7080 for further instructions. "We deeply regret that this product recall has expanded, and our first priority is to protect the health of our customers," said Stewart Parnell, President of Peanut Corporation of America.

The following is a list of all the products affected by the original recall and the amended recall:

PCA Stock # Pack Size Description Affected:

551000 6 ct / 5 lb Creamy Stabilized Peanut Butter

551000 AZ 6 ct / 5 lb Creamy Stabilized Peanut Butter with Sugar

551006 6 ct / 5 lb Crunchy Stabilized Peanut Butter

551020 35 lb Creamy Stabilized Peanut Butter

551022 35 lb Natural Course Peanut Paste

551025 35 lb Old Fashioned Creamy Peanut Butter w/ 1% Salt

551026 35 lb Old Fashioned Crunchy Peanut Butter w/ 1% Salt

551034 35 lb Crunchy Stabilized Peanut Butter

551035 35 lb Crunchy Natural Peanut Butter

551040 35 lb Creamy Natural Peanut Butter

551049 50 lb Sugar Free Creamy Stabilized Peanut Butter

551050 50 lb Creamy Stabilized Peanut Butter

551050-PO 50 lb Creamy Stabilized Peanut Butter with Palm Oil

551050-D 50 lb Dark Creamy Stabilized Peanut Butter

551050-XS 50 lb Creamy Extra Stabilized Peanut Butter

551051 50 lb Creamy Stabilized Peanut Butter with Monodiglyceride

551053 50 lb Crunchy Stabilized Peanut Butter

551053-OS 50 lb Extra Crunchy Stabilized Peanut Butter

551059 475 lb Creamy Natural Peanut Butter with Stabilizer

551060 35 lb Organic Natural Creamy Peanut Butter

551061 35 lb Organic Old Fashioned Crunchy Peanut Butter

551062 35 lb Organic Crunchy Natural Peanut Butter

551063 35 lb Organic Old Fashioned Creamy Peanut Butter

551064 35 lb Organic Natural Creamy Peanut Butter

551072 45 lb Peanut Butter Variegate

551080 475 lb Creamy Natural Redskin Peanut Butter with Salt

551082 475 lb Creamy Natural Peanut Butter

551082-DR 475 lb Dark Roasted Creamy Natural Peanut Butter

561000 35 lb Pet Food Paste

561000 475 lb Feed Grade Peanut Butter

100TPASTE 1700 lb Creamy Natural Peanut Butter

RM-PASTE 1700 lb Peanut Paste

Lot Numbers Affected:

8183 8184 8185 8186 8187 8188 8189 8190 8191 8192 8193 8194 8195 8196 8197 8198
8199 8200 8201 8202 8203 8204 8205 8206 8207 8208 8209 8210 8211 8212 8213 8214
8215 8216 8217 8218 8219 8220 8221 8222 8223 8224 8225 8226 8227 8228 8229 8230
8231 8232 8233 8234 8235 8236 8237 8238 8239 8240 8241 8242 8243 8244 8245 8246
8247 8248 8249 8250 8251 8252 8253 8254 8255 8256 8257 8258 8259 8260 8261 8262
8263 8264 8265 8266 8267 8268 8269 8270 8271 8272 8273 8274 8275 8276 8277 8278
8279 8280 8281 8282 8283 8284 8285 8286 8287 8288 8289 8290 8291 8292 8293 8294
8295 8296 8297 8298 8299 8300 8301 8302 8303 8304 8305 8306 8307 8308 8309 8310
8311 8312 8313 8314 8315 8316 8317 8318 8319 8320 8321 8322 8323 8324 8325 8326
8327 8328 8329 8330 8331 8332 8333 8334 8335 8336 8337 8338 8339 8340 8341 8342
8343 8344 8345 8346 8347 8348 8349 8350 8351 8352 8353 8354 8355 8356 8357 8358
8359 8360 8361 8362 8363 8364 8365 8366 9001 9002 9003 9004 9005 9006 9007 9008
9009 9010 9011 9012 9013 9014 9015 9016

PCA Stock # Pack Size Description Affected:

561058 Tanker Coarse Natural Paste

Lot Numbers Affected:
8169 8170 8172 8173 8174 8184 8185 8186 8187 8203 8204 8205 8206 8214 8215 8216
8217 8219 8220 8221 8222 8223 8225 8226 8227 8228 8259 8260 8261 8262 8263 8264
8280 8281 8282 8283 8302 8303 8304 8305 8308 8309 8310 8311 8343 8344 8345 8346
8347 8350 8351 8352

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

CPSC, Manufacturers Announce Changes to 1998 Recall Program to Replace Dangerous Home Heating Vent Pipes Remedy Changes for Registrations after May 1

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and various home heating furnace, boiler, and high-temperature plastic vent (HTPV) manufacturers are urging home owners who have not yet responded to the previously-announced 1998 recall, to do so immediately. After May 1, 2009, the remedy consumers receive under the existing program, which has been operating continuously for almost 11 years, will change.

The recall, first announced in February 1998, included about 250,000 Plexvent and Ultravent HTPV pipe systems attached to gas or propane furnaces and boilers in homes. The HTPV pipes can crack or separate at the joints and leak deadly carbon monoxide (CO) gas. The following table includes the different remedies available to consumers with qualifying heating systems vented with two leading brands of HTPV pipe - Plexvent and Ultravent.

For valid claims initiated on or before May 1, 2009, with remediation completed and required documentation submitted by October 1, 2009: Plexvent owners will receive a new, professionally-installed venting system free of charge or a rebate up to $$400 towards purchase of a new, high-efficiency appliance from the same manufacturer that does not require HTPV. Ultravent owners will receive a new, professionally-installed venting system for about $$250 or a rebate of $$250 towards purchase of a new, high-efficiency appliance from the same manufacturer that does not require HTPV.

For valid claims initiated after May 1, 2009: Plexvent owners will receive a rebate up to $$400 toward either an HTPV replacement system, or a new, high-efficiency appliance from the same manufacturer that does not require HTPV. Ultravent owners will receive a rebate up to $$250 toward either an HTPV replacement system, or a new, high-efficiency appliance from the same manufacturer that does not require HTPV.

Consumers who register after May 1, 2009 and who choose to repair their systems will be responsible for up-front payment of parts, labor and permits, and will be responsible for arranging to have the work performed.

Consumers should determine whether they have a recalled HTPV pipe system by checking the vent pipes attached to their natural gas or propane furnace or boiler. Vent pipes subject to this recall can be identified as follows:

the vent pipes are plastic;

the vent pipes are colored gray or black;

"Plexvent," "Plexvent II" or "Ultravent" is stamped on the vent pipe or printed on stickers placed on pieces used to connect the vent pipes; and

the vent pipes are located on furnaces (and the pipes go through the sidewalls of structures) or on boilers.

Other plastic vent pipes, such as white PVC, are not included in the recall.

After checking the vent pipes, consumers should call (800) 758-3688 between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. ET Monday through Friday to sign up for HTPV pipe system replacement. The following manufacturers are participating in this program:

Armstrong Air Conditioning Inc., Bard Manufacturing Co., Burnham Corp., Dunkirk Radiator Corp., Evcon Industries Inc., Heat Controller Inc., International Comfort Prod. Corp.(USA), Lennox Industries Inc., Nordyne Inc., Peerless Heater Co., Pennco Inc., Plexco Inc., Raypak Inc., Rheem Manufacturing Co., Slant/Fin Corp., The Trane Co., Trianco-Heatmaker Inc., Utica Boilers Inc., Vaillant Corp., Weil-McLain, Westcast Inc., York International Corp.York International Corp.

CPSC reminds all consumers to have fuel-burning appliances professionally inspected each year to check for cracks or separations in the vents that could allow CO to leak into the home. In addition, CPSC recommends that every home should have at least one CO alarm.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Lance Sandwich Crackers NOT Impacted by Recent Peanut Butter Recall

(BUSINESS WIRE)--In response to a growing number of consumer inquiries, Lance, Inc. released the following statement about its sandwich crackers containing peanut butter.

No Lance sandwich crackers containing peanut butter are affected by this week’s recent peanut butter recall. In fact, all Lance, Inc. information and recent testing reinforce that there is no concern with the quality or safety of peanut butter used in Lance sandwich crackers.

Based on this week’s news, the Food Safety Division of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture visited Lance’s Charlotte, N.C., bakery yesterday. After reviewing the Lance food safety programs and records specific to peanut butter, Lance was given a clean bill of health.

Lance manufactures 100% of the peanut butter used in its sandwich crackers and does not receive peanut butter from the supplier involved in the recall.

Lance enforces a very stringent food safety program with the raw ingredients and final product coming in and out of Lance facilities -- particularly with peanut butter. Lance regularly conducts extensive microbial testing of its peanut butter to ensure only high-quality, safe food ingredients are used.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Carbon Bigfoot: 2009 Inauguration Expected to Generate More Than a Half-Billion Pounds of CO2

/PRNewswire/ -- Next week scores of celebrities including Leonardo DiCaprio, Sharon Stone, Sting, and Steven Spielberg are all expected to flock to the nation's capitol, many by private jets, to the historic inauguration of Barack Obama. The swearing-in extravaganza will surely be the largest yet and is seeing ballooning costs and a major environmental footprint.

In a report released today, the Institute for Liberty (IFL) utilizes data from federal agencies, environmentalist organizations, and news accounts to extrapolate the estimated environmental impact for the 2009 Inauguration. IFL estimates that, given the millions of people expected to converge on the nation's capital. IFL concludes:

-- The 600 private jets expected to fly visitors to and from the event
will produce 25,320,000 POUNDS of CO2
-- Personal vehicles could account for 262,483,200 POUNDS of CO2
-- In the Inaugural parade, horses alone will produce more than 400
-- The total carbon footprint for the Inauguration will likely exceed 575
million POUNDS of CO2
-- It would take the average U.S. household 57,598 years to produce a
carbon footprint equal to that of the new president's housewarming

The Inauguration of President Obama is truly an historic occasion that should be celebrated," said IFL President Andrew Langer. "However, it would be very hypocritical for the scores of celebrities, VIPs and political elites to lecture on environmental policy to middle America and small businesses that are merely trying to survive in these difficult economic times, and then turn around and contribute to the half-billion pounds of emitted CO2. This is a celebration -- DC's small businesses, and thus DC's working families, are going to greatly benefit from this event. The rest of America should share in that opportunity."

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Coca-Cola Sued Over Deceptive VitaminWater Claims

/PRNewswire/ -- A class action lawsuit was filed late yesterday in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California against the Coca-Cola Company alleging that Coca-Cola has used deceptive advertising in marketing its VitaminWater line of beverages. The plaintiff is represented by Whatley Drake & Kallas, LLC ("WDK"), Reese Richman LLP, and the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

The complaint alleges that Coca-Cola deceived consumers by marketing VitaminWater as a healthy alternative to soft drinks formulated to provide a host of health benefits including reducing the risk of certain diseases, promoting healthy joints, and supporting optimal immune function. Contrary to Coca-Cola's claims of health benefits, the complaint alleges that the 33 grams of sugar in each bottle of VitaminWater may contribute to serious health problems, such as obesity and diabetes.

"Consumers are increasingly health-conscious, with more and more people avoiding soft drinks in favor of healthier alternatives," said WDK attorney Patrick Sheehan. "Coca-Cola has taken advantage of that trend -- and of consumers -- by purposefully misrepresenting their product as 'healthy' when in fact it is essentially sugar water with a few added vitamins. Consumers should not have to look beyond the misleading claims on VitaminWater labels in order to discover the truth on an ingredients list."

VitaminWater does not name Coca-Cola anywhere on its packaging or labeling, instead marketing these purportedly healthy drinks without any reference to the soft drink manufacturer that produces them.

"It's clear that Coca-Cola has attempted to market an alternative to its soda products in a way that deliberately deceives consumers," continued Sheehan. "Whatley Drake & Kallas is proud to be playing a role in protecting those consumers through this class action suit filed on their behalf."

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Co-Payment Increases Result in Gaps in Veterans' Prescription Usage

TT Note: It just doesn't seem right that our men and women who fought for our country should have to choose whether or not to take medicine.

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Fewer veterans filled their prescriptions for cholesterol-lowering drugs after an increase in co-payment costs for prescription drugs, researchers report in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

In February 2002, the Veterans Administration (VA) increased prescription co-payments from $2 to $7 per 30-day drug supply.

To determine the impact of the co-payment increase on cholesterol-lowering medication adherence, researchers examined the electronic records of 5,604 veterans treated at the Philadelphia Veterans Administration (VA) Medical Center from November 1999 to April 2004.

They compared veterans in the all co-payment group and the some co-payment group with veterans who were exempt from making prescription drug co-payments. The all co-payment group paid co-pays for all drugs and the some co-payment group paid co-pays only for drugs for non-service connected health problems with out-of-pocket expenses capped at $840 per year.

Researchers analyzed the differences in cholesterol-lowering medication adherence during the 24 months before and 24 months after the institution of co-payments. Evidence of veterans having cholesterol-lowering medication 80 percent or more of the time were considered adherent.

Researchers found:
-- The number of patients who had medications available for more than 80
percent of the time declined by more than 19 percent in both the all
co-payment group and the some co-payment group. In comparison,
veterans exempt from co-payments, used as controls in the study, had a
decline of 12 percent.
-- The odds of having a continuous gap without medications for more than
90 days was three times higher among patients in the all co-payment
group and twice as high in patients in the some co-payment group when
compared to the exempt group.

"The increase in co-payments adversely impacted lipid-lowering medication adherence among veterans," said Jalpa A. Doshi, Ph.D., lead author of the study and research assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. "Of even greater concern is our finding on the similar adverse effect of the co-payment increase in veterans who are at higher risk for coronary artery disease taking the medications for primary or secondary prevention."

Statins and other cholesterol-lowering drugs have been shown to reduce the risk of future coronary events and cardiovascular mortality in patients at high risk, Doshi said.

"It is concerning to see that the increase in co-payments adversely affected the use of these usually long-term medications, especially since the prevalence of heart disease is higher in the VA population than in the general population," Doshi said. "These weren't just short gaps interspersed between lipid-lowering medication refills, but continuous gaps for 90 days or more."

The study did not look at the possible increase in use of medical care due to the lack of cholesterol-lowering drugs. Other studies have shown that not taking medications for chronic diseases increases healthcare costs.

"Policymakers need to realize that the one-size-fits-all approach in designing cost-sharing policies can adversely impact high-risk patient groups," Doshi said. "This seemingly small increase from $2 to $7 more than tripled the out-of-pocket costs for veterans, who were more likely to have a lower income than the patients in the private sector."

The VA should at least consider charging lower co-payments for generic drugs than for the brand-name prescription drugs, Doshi said. "Right now the VA charges a flat co-payment for a 30-day prescription, whether it is generic or a brand-name drug. This is particularly relevant in the case of lipid-lowering drugs such as statins, wherein two brand drugs became available as generics in 2006 and are available at significantly lower prices."

She said a more-promising approach is a "value-based insurance design" method that would link co-payments to the patient's need with lower co-payments for drugs with higher expected therapeutic benefit and higher co-payments for drugs with lower therapeutic benefit.

The co-payment was increased from $7 to $8 in 2006, and with present budget constraints, it's likely that the co-payment will be further increased, Doshi said.

The VA Center for Health Equity, Research and Promotion (CHERP), American Heart Association Pharmaceutical Roundtable Award, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the National Institute of Aging and the Penn Institute on Aging funded the study.

Co-authors are: Jingsan Zhu, M.B.A.; Bruce Lee, M.D., M.B.A.; Stephen Kimmel, M.D., M.S.C.E.; and Kevin Volpp, M.D., Ph.D. Individual author disclosures are available on the manuscript.

Statements and conclusions of study authors that are published in American Heart Association scientific journals are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect the association's policy or position. The association makes no representation or guarantee as to their accuracy or reliability. The association receives funding primarily from individuals, foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific association programs and events. The association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and device corporations are available at

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Retailers Suffer Low Sales, Will Have to Refocus

TT Note: Retail sales were slow last year which reflected the downturn in the economy as consumers started to hold on to precious pennies. We've noticed local stores have scaled back in their inventory. In a number of stores, this is welcome as customers can now move around the store without continually bumping into racks full of items meant to become impulse buys. Some stores seem to be refocusing back to the basics of their original lines. Will all survive? Most likely not, but those stores who have the means to refocus quickly have the best shot of making it.

Dismal Retail Sales Revealed; Gross Margins to Tell the Whole Story, Says Grant Thornton

/PRNewswire/ -- Retail sales have been dismal, but the real damage to profitability and viability was unprecedented deep discounting, according to Grant Thornton Corporate Advisory and Restructuring Services. Department stores performed the worst, with the steepest decline in same-store sales, while luxury-apparel stores saw declining sales as consumers traded down and reduced discretionary spending.

"Same-store sales only tell part of the story," said Marti Kopacz, national managing principal at Grant Thornton Corporate Advisory and Restructuring Services. "The real eye-opener will be when gross margins are announced in a couple of weeks. During the holiday sales frenzy, retailers were selling items at 60 to 70 percent off to generate cash and move inventory. Items were sold below cost, which will hurt the bottom line."

This year will bring even greater distress for the retail industry, with many national retailers expected to close stores by double-digit percentages, according to Grant Thornton analysis.

"The current retail model will need to be evaluated from both a financial and operational perspective; retailers will need to remove underperforming stores and shrink to a more profitable core," said Jim Peko, principal at Grant Thornton Corporate Advisory and Restructuring Services. "Cost reduction, store rationalization and inventory management are the keys to operational restructuring. It is critical that merchandising plans be realigned to match expected consumer demand or retailers will not survive the downturn."

Retailers enter 2009 with many challenges. With a continuing lack of consumer confidence and frugality becoming more hip, retailers in the casual apparel and department store categories will experience high leverage and declining sales, according to Kopacz. Even general merchandise stores will take a hit on profitability.

"There will be an uptick in retailers filing for bankruptcy in the first quarter," said Kopacz. "Christmas can make or break this industry, and as we see same-store sales down and margins revealed, companies will be forced to review their operations and restructure their balance sheets. I believe we'll see some tried-and-true retailers re-enter the market this year with less stores and a more concentrated product focus."

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Back in the Day of Americans

Unbelievable. A dress that has the potential to remind some Americans of Southern Belles is now under attack by the Alabama NAACP. Need we remind him that the inauguration is for an American President? Need we remind him that the dresses worn by the Azalea Trail Maids are just dresses? Need we remind him that it wasn't a common sight to see any woman dressed like that way back when?

If people can't tolerate others and differences of taste, then what does that say about those people? Just a thought.

Alabama NAACP criticizes use of Trail Maids in Inaugural Parade

They're part of a long standing tradition that will soon become a part of Presidential history.

The head of the Alabama NAACP, however, wants Mobile's Azalea Trail Maids to stay home on Inauguration Day, claiming the group reminds him of slavery......

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

EPA Calls for Overdue States to Cut Air Pollution in National Parks

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As a result of legal action by three environmental groups, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today determined that more than three dozen states have failed to submit programs required by the Clean Air Act to cut air pollution drifting into national parks and wilderness areas. The determination means that EPA must work with the states to take corrective action or put in place a federal clean air plan.

"Today's action gets the country back on track in restoring clean air to our national parks," said Kevin Lynch, attorney for Environmental Defense Fund based in Colorado. "We look forward to working with EPA's new leadership and the states to clean up the industrial smokestacks that pollute our national parks."

"EPA's action is good news for anyone who enjoys visiting our nation's magnificent national parks," said Earthjustice attorney Jennifer Chavez. "We look forward to working with EPA and the states to achieve clean air and clear vistas in the parks."

The Clean Air Act required states nationwide to submit plans by December 2007 to clean up the air pollution -- and to remedy existing and prevent future visibility impairment -- in 156 premier national parks and wilderness areas ( They include: Acadia (Maine), Grand Canyon (Arizona), Great Smoky Mountains (Tennessee and North Carolina), Mount Rainier (Washington state), Rocky Mountain (Colorado), Shenandoah (Virginia), Theodore Roosevelt (New York), Yellowstone (Idaho/Montana/Wyoming), Yosemite (California), and Zion (Utah).

If states fail to meet these obligations, EPA must identify the deficiencies and work with the states to take corrective action or put in place a federal clean air plan. After states missed this legal deadline and EPA failed to take the corrective action required by the Clean Air Act, Earthjustice, Environmental Defense Fund, and the National Parks Conservation Association recently went to court to compel EPA to take corrective action.

37 states have not submitted the clean air plans for national parks and wilderness areas required by the December 2007 legal deadline, although five of those -- Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, New Mexico, and Wyoming -- have submitted a portion of the required cleanup plans. About 13 states submitted clean air blueprints. The latter group includes: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia. EPA must review these plans for adequacy.

Much of the pollution problem in national parks comes from old power plants and factories with inadequate pollution controls. Emissions from these plants can travel hundreds of miles, contributing to regional haze that obscures scenic vistas over large areas. Each state's clean air plan must include rules to limit these emissions, limits that will achieve cleaner, healthier air for our people and our parks.

According to the National Park Service, human-caused air pollution reduces visibility in most national parks throughout the country. Average visual range -- the farthest a person can see on a given day -- in most of the western United States is about one-half to two-thirds of what it would be without man-made air pollution (about 60 to 100 miles). In most of the east, the average visual range is about one-fifth of what it would be under natural conditions (less than 30 miles).

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

EIP: Latest TVA Ash Spill Site in Alabama Contains Even More Toxic Metals Than Harriman, Tennessee Spill Site From December

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) apparently has reported a new spill at the Widows Creek Fossil Plant in northeast Alabama. According to TVA's own data, the Widows Creek plant disposed of even more toxic metals in its coal ash ponds than the TVA Kingston plant, which was the site of a widely publicized pre-Christmas coal ash spill.

A comparison of Kingston and Widows Creek toxic metal pollution -- based on industry reports to the USEPA's Toxics Release Inventory -- can be found in a detailed analysis released by the Environmental Integrity Project on January 7, 2009. The full EIP report is available online at A new chart focusing specifically on the Kingston and Widows Creek pollution data is available online at

The EIP's report from earlier this week warned that nearly 100 largely unregulated "wet dumps" across the United States comparable to the TVA's breached site in Harriman, Tennessee for the storage of toxic pollution from coal-fired power plants have a place on one or more of the "worst site" lists for six toxic metals, including arsenic and lead.

The Tennessee TVA site was on the "worst site" list for five of the six toxic metals. The site of today's spill -- TVA Widows Creek Fossil Plant, Jackson, AL -- was one of five toxic coal pollution storage sites that showed up on all six of the six worst-site lists for toxic metals. The other four sites are: Duke Energy Gibson Generating Station, Gibson, IN; Georgia Power Scherer Steam Electric Generating Plant, Juliette, GA; Kentucky Utilities Co Ghent Station, Ghent, KY.; and Louisville Gas & Electric Co. -- Mill Creek Station, Louisville, KY.

Using industry-reported data collected by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Toxic Reporting Inventory (TRI) data system for 2000-2006 (the latter being the most recent year for which complete data is available), EIP looked at the presence of arsenic, chromium, lead, nickel, selenium and thallium in the waste at Tennessee-style pollution dumping sites across the nation. The EPA has determined that these "surface impoundment" ponds (also known as "wet dumps") are the most likely storage sites to leak pollution into groundwater and surface water, even without a catastrophic failure such as the one before Christmas at the TVA's Kingston Steam Plant coal ash retention pond, which burst and covered the nearby area with more than a billion gallons of toxic-laden sludge.

The EIP analysis shows that a total of 13 states were found to have at least three coal-fired power plant "surface impoundment" dumping sites on the six 50-worst toxic chemical lists: Indiana, 11 dumps; Ohio, eight dumps; Kentucky, seven dumps; Alabama, seven dumps; Georgia, six dumps; North Carolina, six dumps; West Virginia, four dumps; Tennessee, four dumps; Illinois, three dumps; Michigan, three dumps; Pennsylvania, three dumps; Florida, three dumps; and Wyoming, three dumps.

Eric Schaeffer, director, Environmental Integrity Project, said: "The Tennessee eco-disaster and now the Alabama coal spill have cast a spotlight on what is a very serious national problem -- the existence of under-regulated toxic pollution coal dump sites near coal-fired power plants that pose a serious threat to drinking water supplies, rivers and streams. Our analysis confirms that this problem is truly national in scope and that Tennessee may end up only being a warning sign of much more trouble to come. In addition to so-called 'surface impoundments' in ponds, we need to be concerned about inadequate oversight and monitoring of land-based disposal and other 'storage' of these toxic wastes. We can no longer afford to ignore this problem and we certainly can't be content to just sit around and wait for the next Tennessee-style disaster to happen."

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Friday, January 09, 2009

FDA Awaits Court's Entry of A Permanent Injunction Against Actavis Totowa, LLC

Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that it had filed a Consent Decree on December 23, 2008, and currently awaits the court's entry of a permanent injunction that bars Actavis Totowa, LLC, Actavis, Inc., and their officers, Sigurdur Oli Olafsson and Douglas Boothe, from manufacturing and distributing drugs at the Actavis Totowa facilities. The injunction will remain in effect until Actavis Totowa comes into compliance with U.S. current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) requirements, and obtains FDA's approval to manufacture and distribute drugs in the United States. The companies and their officers had also been manufacturing and distributing unapproved drugs in the United States.

The defendants signed a consent decree that permits them to resume operations with respect to three categories of drugs only after an expert certifies that the drugs comply with the CGMP requirements and have FDA approval, and FDA inspects to confirm compliance with the law. The consent decree also requires defendants to destroy any remaining drugs that they recalled in April-July 2008, that are currently in their possession.

To view the complete list of unapproved drugs made by Actavis Totowa see List. The safety and effectiveness of these drugs has not been established because the company has not submitted for FDA review and approval new drug applications for them. FDA advises patients who have been using these products to discuss alternative therapies with their health care provider. Pharmacists should discontinue dispensing all unapproved drugs manufactured by Actavis Totowa.

"The FDA will not allow manufacturers to put the public's health at risk," said Janet Woodcock, M.D., director, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, FDA. "These unapproved new drugs have not undergone FDA review for safety and efficacy and may pose potential health risks."

The consent decree also authorizes FDA to order the defendants to cease operations in the event of future violations. It further subjects the defendants to liquidated damages of $15,000 per day if they fail to comply with any of the provisions of the decree, and to the payment of an additional $15,000 for each violation, up to $7 million per year.

Actavis Totowa manufactures, processes, packages, labels, holds, and distributes drugs from two sites in Totowa, N.J., and one in Little Falls, N.J. FDA inspected Actavis Totowa's Riverview Drive facility in Totowa from March-May 2008, and found that the company had significant cGMP violations and continued to manufacture unapproved drugs. As a result of this inspection, which led to this action, Actavis Totowa recalled all products manufactured and distributed from its three facilities. Actavis Totowa is a wholly owned subsidiary of Actavis, Inc., the manufacturing and marketing arm of Actavis Group hf, a generic pharmaceutical company based in Reykjavik, Iceland.

"The FDA will carefully monitor the provisions of this injunction to ensure compliance, said Michael Chappell, FDA acting associate commissioner, Office of Regulatory Affairs. "Companies should know that FDA will investigate and take action against other marketers of unapproved drugs."

The government's complaint, filed Nov. 14, 2008, by the U.S. Department of Justice in the District Court for the District of New Jersey, alleged that the defendants violated the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act by not complying with cGMP requirements and failing to obtain FDA's approval of some of its drugs, two requirements designed to ensure the safety, effectiveness, and quality of pharmaceutical products.

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Thursday, January 08, 2009

Antibiotics as Loss Leaders?

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics (APUA) strongly opposes the new marketing campaigns by Wal-Mart, Stop and Shop, Publix, and other large chains, to provide free prescribed antibiotics to customers. These offers are portrayed as cost-saving but they will actually lead to increased costs in the form of treatment failures because of antibiotic resistance. While the public's need for affordable healthcare is indisputable, providing free antibiotics is a misguided answer, which will inevitably result in unintended costly public health consequences. Any large-scale program which focuses on providing antibiotics for free, will promote antibiotic misuse and consequent increases in resistant bacteria in our communities. This concern is heightened by the fact that the new antibiotic pipeline is nearly empty so that we need to be careful to preserve the power of existing antibiotics.

The Centers for Disease Control, APUA and others have documented that half the medically prescribed antibiotics used in this country are not needed and that this antibiotic overuse is already leading to loss of antibiotic effectiveness and treatment failures throughout the country. These new commercial marketing campaigns will make the situation even worse.

These campaigns denigrate the value of these therapeutics, discourage their proper stewardship, and imply that these drugs are a ready treatment for colds and flu. One ad offers free antibiotics while stating that, "with cold and flu season in full swing we want to do what we can to help keep you and your family feeling your best during the winter months."

This advice contradicts medical dogma, that cold and flu are caused by viruses not bacteria. Antibiotics treat bacteria not viruses. The campaigns will certainly lead patients to pressure physicians to prescribe unnecessary antibiotics, which will now cost less than symptomatic relief medicines. While the antibiotics will still require a prescription, there is no control on refills and stockpiling, which will incur misuse and overuse of these drugs and resultant drug resistant infections.

Antibiotics are powerful life saving medicines for use in serious bacterial infections. The rationale for these commercial offers seem counter-productive since they are intended to serve health needs of patients but will mainly act to produce new and more costly ones.

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Credit Analyst Warns of Trap for Credit Card Customers

/PRNewswire/ -- "Many people will have their credit scores lowered this year if they're not watchful, know what to do and take action," said Eddie Johansson, president of Credit Security Group, a leading nationwide credit score analysis and rescoring firm.

Credit scores are used by lenders to determine credit risk. Lower scores result in loss of credit and higher interest rates. Financial analysts predict cuts up to $2 trillion in credit card account lines over the next 18 months.

"This will have very bad consequences for consumers who are not prepared," said Johansson, speaking recently about credit scores at the Texas Bankers Association's Financial Literacy Summit.

Analysts predict many card companies will be canceling unused cards and lowering limits this year. According to Johansson, "This is how the trap will be set: you have a $4,000 balance on a card that the company lowers your limit from $10,000 to $5000. You don't know it, but your credit score has just taken a hit -- and it's only beginning." Johansson says credit companies constantly monitor your credit score, which causes the trap to spring.

"Another company lowers your limit and increases your interest rate, 'due to decreased credit score.' This lowers your credit score further. Another company cancels an unused card. The cycle snowballs with other cards, and then the same ones over again. If you are planning a major credit move -- say, refinancing your house for lower rates, your lower credit score hurts your chances of refinancing and greatly increases the interest rate offered."

Johansson points out that the consumer here has done nothing different, hasn't gone into more debt, hasn't missed any payments. Yet, his rates have gone up and his ability to use credit has been damaged -- while he was unaware. And once ensnared it's difficult to get out. "This is why it's a trap," Johansson said.

"You can prevent this from happening to you," he said, "if you know how."

"The critical piece of this trap is your credit score," said Johansson. "It's what keeps the snowball rolling. Your credit score is also the sole measure used to determine your credit risk and interest rates in the future. You should carefully guard it as it comes under attack this year," he said.

With the amount of credit reduction projected, almost everyone will lose some credit availability, Johansson said. "You can't control credit card companies reducing the amount of credit in the system, but you can make sure it does not hurt your credit score - and this is critical to maintaining your ability to manage your finances in addition to saving you thousands of dollars in fees and interest payments."

Johansson gives specific advice on what to do. The key is in your credit scores -- knowing how the scoring system works and how to avoid hits to your score. In brief, the steps are:

1) Keep your balances low on existing cards.

2) Remember it's the balance/limit ratio that counts -- not the balance amount. If a credit card company lowers your limit, immediately lower your balance if necessary to stay under eight percent. Try to keep all cards under the eight percent guideline.

3) Charge small amounts on your old, unused credit cards. This makes them active which increases the limit portion of your balance/limit ratio.

4) Avoid opening new lines of credit if at all possible. Use new credit sparingly and for your best advantage.

5) Don't price-shop where the seller pulls your credit score. This includes homes and cars among other products and services. If you're not sure, make sure -- tell them not to pull your credit report.

6) Whatever it takes, avoid any negative events on your credit report.

7) Monitor your credit reports; be alert for any changes. Correct inaccurate information in your report, or hire a professional to do so. Besides keeping your score from decreasing, many people increase their scores by correcting their data at the credit bureaus.

More detailed information on these steps and what to do can be found at the Credit Security Group web site, .

Johansson said that consumers' lack of knowledge about the credit systems is especially costly to them in these times and there is a great deal of misinformation. "Common sense and credit sense are not the same thing."

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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Tyson Foods Pleads Guilty and Agrees to Pay Fine For OSHA Violation That Led to Worker Death

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Tyson Foods Inc. pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Arkansas and agreed to pay the maximum fine for willfully violating worker safety regulations that led to a worker's death in its River Valley Animal Foods (RVAF) plant in Texarkana, Ark., the Justice Department announced.

According to the information filed along with a plea agreement, Tyson operated several RVAF plants that recycled poultry products into protein and fats for the animal food industry. As part of the rendering process in four of the plants, the company used high-pressure steam processors called hydrolyzers to convert the poultry feather into feather meal.

Decomposition of biological material such as poultry feathers produces hydrogen sulfide gas, an acute-acting toxic substance. Employees at the Tyson facilities often were exposed to the toxic gas when working on or near the hydrolyzers, which required frequent adjustment and replacement.

As of October 2003, corporate safety and regional management were aware that hydrogen sulfide gas was present in the RVAF facilities and three of the four facilities with hydrolyzers had taken measures to protect employees from hydrogen sulfide gas near the hydrolyzers. However, Tyson Foods did not take sufficient steps to implement controls or protective equipment to reduce exposure within prescribed limits or provide effective training to employees on hydrogen sulfide gas at the Texarkana facility despite an identical exposure, resulting in hydrogen sulfide poisoning of an RVAF Texarkana employee in March 2002.

As a result, at approximately 1 a.m. on Oct. 10, 2003, RVAF maintenance employee Jason Kelley was overcome with hydrogen sulfide gas while repairing a leak from a hydrolyzer and later died. Another employee and two emergency responders were hospitalized due to exposure during the rescue attempt. Two employees also were treated at the scene.

"Federal laws require employers to undertake steps that limit exposure to dangerous substances like the gas that killed Jason Kelley. Tyson Foods willfully ignored these regulations and today is being held responsible," said Ronald J. Tenpas, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "The Justice Department takes its enforcement responsibility seriously and companies that ignore these laws and risk their employees' lives will be prosecuted."

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) requires that employers furnish places of employment free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees. This includes taking steps to ensure that employee exposure to dangerous substances such as hydrogen sulfide gas remains within prescribed limits. Tyson Foods pleaded guilty today to a "willful violation of an OSHA standard resulting in the death of an employee," the most serious offense available to OSHA.

According to today's plea agreement, Tyson Food has agreed to pay $500,000, the maximum criminal fine. The company also will serve one year probation.

The investigation was conducted by the Department of Labor and prosecuted by the Justice Department's Environmental Crimes Section and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Arkansas under the Environmental Crimes Section's worker endangerment initiative.

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Saturday, January 03, 2009

FDA Prevents Two Dairies from Adulterating Animal Drugs and Food

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced today that the District Court for the District of New Mexico has enjoined Do-Rene and Clover Knolls Dairies and their owners, Douglas B. Handley and Irene Handley, from adulterating new animal drugs and introducing adulterated food into commerce. Both companies are based in Clovis, N.M.

FDA has cited the defendants on multiple occasions, most recently following inspections of the dairies from June 24 to July 1, 2008. During these inspections the FDA investigator noted that the defendants were not keeping adequate medication records to prevent unsafe drug residues in cattle offered for slaughter, that they failed to review treatment records prior to offering an animal for slaughter, and that they were using medications for unapproved indications not specified on the drug label. Although using drugs in this "extralabel" manner is legal with a valid veterinarian-client-patient relationship, the defendants did not have such a relationship.

FDA previously inspected Do-Rene Dairy on Feb. 1-5, 2005, and subsequently sent the owners a Warning Letter summarizing the deviations, which were similar to those found in the 2008 inspection. The letter informed the owners that a failure to correct all violations may result in enforcement action, including seizure or injunction.

In tissue samples collected since 2003, FDA determined that Do-Rene and Clover Knolls Dairies offered 12 animals for slaughter with illegal drug residues. The animals included dairy cows that tested positive for illegal levels of the drugs flunixin, penicillin, neomycin and sulfadimethoxine, a drug expressly forbidden for use in lactating cows. In addition, four bob veal calves tested positive for sulfamethoxazole. (Bob veal calves are calves less than 30 days old and may be as young as two days at slaughter.) These residues may cause allergic reactions in extremely sensitive individuals, and they may contribute to forming antibiotic-resistance in bacteria.

Under the terms of the consent decree, the defendants and their employees cannot introduce any adulterated food into commerce, use animal drugs in an "extralabel" manner without a valid veterinarian-client-patient relationship, or use drugs in animals in which such drugs are expressly forbidden. Failure to obey the terms of the consent decree could result in civil or criminal penalties.

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Obesity Comes With a Price Tag

(BUSINESS WIRE)--There are hard dollars-and-cents costs to being overweight or obese, according to Humana (NYSE: HUM), one of the nation’s largest health benefits companies.

Specifically, Humana estimates these costs at the following for 2009:

* $19.39 in added health care costs for every overweight pound;
* $1,037.64 for every overweight individual;
* $127 billion added to the national health care bill.

Overweight people are more prone to heart disease, stroke, diabetes — even some kinds of cancers. Chronic diseases that are a result of weighing too much are an ever-increasing part of America’s health care bill.

Carol McCall — a research actuary at Humana — culled through national health care data and the data from Humana’s members, and here is what she found.

Like butter and sugar, obesity has a cost per pound

On average, the annual per-pound cost of being overweight — that is, the added cost per added pound of the overweight and the obese — is $19.39. The cost increases with age.

For 25-year-olds, it averages $10.25 for every overweight pound. By age 64, it increases to $26.32. (On average, overweight people are 29 pounds overweight; the obese are 82 pounds overweight.)

For someone age 25, the added annual health care cost is $209 for the overweight and $960 for the obese. By age 64, this grows to $610 extra for the overweight and $2,300 for the obese.

Why this impacts the national healthcare crisis

There are more than 122 million overweight and obese Americans between the ages of 20 and 65. On average, their additional health care costs are $534 per year for an overweight person and $1,614 for an obese person. Those costs add up to a $127 billion crisis. The increase in obesity prevalence – going from 23 percent to 33 percent between 1994 and 2004 – added $34 billion to the annual health care bill.

A person who is 25 and obese today, and remains obese until they’re 65, will average $179,000 more in health care costs (in 2009 dollars, assuming health care inflation of 4 percent a year) over those 40 years.

A new way to look at and to count calories

Maintaining all of those extra pounds requires Americans to take in 23 trillion calories a year. That’s the equivalent of 46 billion Big Macs, 114 billion Krispy Kreme donuts or 152 billion bags of chips.

These calories have the same energy as the following:

* 10 1,000-megawatt power stations generating for a year
* 788 million gallons of gasoline
* 10 million tons of coal
* 96 trillion AA alkaline batteries

There is a way to get out of this national problem

The good news is that Humana’s data also indicates that just a small change – a reduction of 276 calories a day for the overweight – makes a big difference. Cutting that little from each day’s intake would start moving millions of Americans from the category of overweight to healthy. That means people don’t have to re-engineer their lives to get on a healthier path. Incremental change — giving up one soft drink and walking an extra 2,500 steps each day, for example — will do the job.

“If obesity were eliminated, or even significantly reduced,” says McCall, “the money saved would be significant. It could pay for food for the poor, health insurance for the uninsured or millions of college educations every year.”

Dr. Jonathan Lord, Humana’s Chief Innovation Officer — who oversees Humana’s efforts to reduce health care costs by engaging people in healthy behaviors — put it this way: “In this time of financial crisis, it’s now clear that Americans can improve the economy as well as their own health prospects by giving up a few pounds.”

“Riding a bike and taking a walk in the park burn calories,” Dr. Lord says, “but those activities are also fun. Life is so hectic and we are so dependent on cars that many of us have forgotten that.”

Humana’s Innovation Center is full of teams trying to find new ways to engage people in their health. The company believes that the key to success is to meet people where they are: at school, playing video games, on cell phones, walking or riding bikes in the park.

Humana, for example, created the Freewheelin bike-sharing program, which debuted at the Democratic and Republican national conventions last summer. In less than two weeks, 7,523 rides were taken, 42,000 miles were ridden, 1.3 million calories were burned – and participants who hadn’t been on a bike in years raved about the experience. Now, Humana is partnering in B-cycle, a new company it created to sell bike-sharing programs to cities and universities.

Humana also is partnering in Sensei, a cell phone application to support people in making better nutritional choices and in physical activity. And the company has also pioneered several very successful pedometer programs in England and in this country.

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