Monday, November 30, 2009

National Chicken Council Comment on Consumer Reports Article: 'Chicken Is Safe'

/PRNewswire/ -- The following is a comment from the National Chicken Council on the Consumer Reports article:

"Chicken is safe. Like all fresh foods, raw chicken may have some microorganisms present, but these are destroyed by the heat of normal cooking. Consumers are encouraged to follow the safe handling and cooking instructions printed on every package of fresh meat and poultry sold in this country.

"A much more comprehensive survey by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found Salmonella and Campylobacter on fewer raw chickens than Consumer Reports. More important is the fact that USDA found that the levels of microorganisms present are usually very low. Consumer Reports failed to perform this analysis. The USDA survey also showed that poultry processing greatly improves the microbiological profile of raw chickens. In fact, the industry does an excellent job in providing safe, wholesome food to American consumers."

The National Chicken Council represents integrated chicken producer-processors, the companies that produce and process chickens. Member companies of NCC account for approximately 95 percent of the chicken sold in the United States.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

FDA Seeks Permanent Injunction Against Sharkco Seafood International Inc.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is seeking a permanent injunction against Sharkco Seafood International Inc., located in Venice, La. The injunction is intended to stop the seafood processing company from distributing scombrotoxin-forming fish in interstate commerce. Consumption of scombrotoxin-forming fish that are not properly preserved or refrigeratedcan result in scombroid food poisoning, a foodborne illness that results from eating spoiled or decayed fish. Scombrotoxin-forming fish most commonly include mackerel, sardines, tuna, bluefish, and mahi mahi.

The government’s complaint, filed today by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana charges Sharkco Seafood and its owners, Khai Q. Nguyen and Tuan Q. Nguyen, with violating the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act by failing to establish and implement an adequate Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan for their scombrotoxin-forming fish. FDA requires all seafood processors and distributors to have a HACCP plan that determines and monitors food safety hazards associated with their products.

“FDA repeatedly warned and tried to work with Sharkco Seafood,” said Michael Chappell, acting associate commissioner for regulatory affairs at FDA. “The company had ample time to take correction action, which it failed to do. An effective seafood HACCP plan is critical to safeguard the health of the American people. We will take prompt action against companies whose poor business practices could jeopardize the public health.”

According to the government’s complaint, FDA inspections showed that the defendants failed to have an adequate written HACCP plan for their scombrotoxin-forming fish operation, despite numerous warnings by FDA. The formation of scombrotoxin can be adequately controlled when fish are appropriately preserved or refrigerated. Once formed, however, scombrotoxin cannot be removed or destroyed by washing, freezing, or cooking the affected fish.

No illnesses have been associated with Sharkco Seafood’s scombrotoxin-forming fish products. The company produces other seafood products, which are not affected by this action.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Tamiflu Overdose? Consequences?

From time to time over the last few months, we seem to stumble across children who were given the wrong dosage of Tamiflu. Are there long lasting adverse side effects to this?

Read the heart wrenching story of this young child who was given an adult dose of Tamiflu--- and then see what you think.

If anyone else has a similar experience, please contact Olivia's mom directly....

Tamiflu Overdose

Olivia was given 2.5 times the children's dose of Tamiflu. Since that time, she has developed neurological problems. In addition, the patient information sheet with the Tamiflu has also been revised.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Study raises concerns about outdoor second-hand smoke

Indoor smoking bans have forced smokers at bars and restaurants onto outdoor patios, but a new University of Georgia study in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that these outdoor smoking areas might be creating a new health hazard.

The study, thought to be the first to assess levels of a nicotine byproduct known as cotinine in nonsmokers exposed to second-hand smoke outdoors, found levels up to 162 percent greater than in the control group. The results appear in the November issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene.

“Indoor smoking bans have helped to create more of these outdoor environments where people are exposed to secondhand smoke,” said study co-author Luke Naeher, associate professor in the UGA College of Public Health. “We know from our previous study that there are measurable airborne levels of secondhand smoke in these environments, and we know from this study that we can measure internal exposure.

“Secondhand smoke contains several known carcinogens and the current thinking is that there is no safe level of exposure,” he added. “So the levels that we are seeing are a potential public health issue.”

Athens-Clarke County, Ga., enacted an indoor smoking ban in 2005, providing Naeher and his colleagues and ideal environment for their study. The team recruited 20 non-smoking adults and placed them in one of three environments: outside bars, outside restaurants and, for the control group, outside the UGA main library. Immediately before and after the six-hour study period, the volunteers gave a saliva sample that was tested for levels of cotinine, a byproduct of nicotine and a commonly used marker of tobacco exposure.

The team found an average increase in cotinine of 162 percent for the volunteers stationed at outdoor seating and standing areas at bars, a 102 percent increase for those outside of restaurants and a 16 percent increase for the control group near the library.

Naeher acknowledges that an exposure of six-hours is greater than what an average patron would experience but said that employees can be exposed for even longer periods.

“Anyone who works in that environment—waitresses, waiters or bouncers—may be there for up to six hours or longer,” Naeher said. “Across the country, a large number of people are occupationally exposed to second-hand smoke in this way.”

Studies that measured health outcomes following indoor smoking bans have credited the bans with lowering rates of heart attacks and respiratory illness, but Naeher said that the health impacts of outdoor second-hand smoke are still unknown.

In Naeher’s study, cotinine levels in the volunteers at the bar setting saw their levels increase from an average pre-exposure level of 0.069 ng/ml (nanograms per milliliter) to an average post-exposure level of 0.182 ng/ml. The maximum value observed, however, was 0.959 ng/ml. To put that number into context, a widely cited study has determined that an average cotinine level of 0.4 ng/ml increases lung cancer deaths by 1 for every 1,000 people and increases heart disease deaths by 1 for every 100 people.

Still, the researchers caution that it’s too early to draw policy conclusions from their findings. Cotinine is a marker of exposure to tobacco, Naeher said, but is not a carcinogen. The team is currently planning a study that would measure levels of a molecule known as NNAL, which is a marker of tobacco exposure and a known carcinogen, in people exposed to second-hand smoke outdoors.

“Our study suggests that there is reason to be concerned about second-hand smoke levels outdoors,” said study co-author Gideon St. Helen, who is pursuing his Ph.D. through the university’s Interdisciplinary Toxicology Program, “and our findings are an incentive for us to do further studies to see what the effects of those levels are.”

The study was funded by the Northeast (Georgia) Health District, the Athens (Georgia) Community Wellness Council and the Athens Tobacco Prevention Coalition.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Healthy Oceans Can Help Save Us From Climate Change

/PRNewswire/ -- A large international coalition today urged the United States to support marine conservation options that will help mitigate climate change.

The 'Blue Climate Coalition,' comprised of sixty-six conservation groups and interests and over 150 marine scientists and professionals, from 33 countries, issued communications today addressed to President Obama and the United States Senate.

Together, the coalition letters request the option for marine conservation solutions to climate change to be considered in national climate change legislation and international climate change treaties, and support for marine science research that further explores this concept.

Eminent oceanographer and conservationist, Dr. Sylvia Earle, endorsed the letters as the first scientist to sign-on. In her latest book, 'The World Is Blue,' Earle reveals how dangerous oceanic change threatens the very existence of life on Earth and argues for renewable strategies that safeguard the natural systems that sustain us.

News of the coalition's effort made its way to Hollywood, and to the notice of Gilles Marini, most recently of 'Sex and the City' and 'Dancing With the Stars.' Gilles signed the letters as a supporter of healthy oceans.

Philippe, Jr., and Alexandra Cousteau, grandchildren of Jacques-Yves Cousteau, signed-on, representing their respective conservation organizations EchoEarth International and Blue Legacy International.

A wide range of interests were represented in the coalition letters: environmental conservation, climate change education and advocacy, ecosystem restoration, the dive industry, ecotourism and sustainable travel, carbon offsetting, fishing, and scientific research.

Scientific Backing

The coalition's message is supported by reports released recently by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). UNEP's 'Blue Carbon' report highlights the carbon storage potential of coastal and marine ecosystems, such as mangrove forests, seagrass meadows, and saltwater marsh lands.

The UNEP report found that the restoration of coastal and marine ecosystems and a reduction in the clearcutting of tropical forests could mitigate anthropogenic carbon emissions by up to 25%.

The IUCN report, titled 'The Ocean and Climate Change,' finds that failure to recognize the ocean in climate change discussions will have profound consequences for humanity. The report also recommends for additional research to quantify the carbon value of ocean ecosystems. This recommendation is echoed in the coalition letters, to ensure full scientific backing any future natural ocean carbon policies.

"Utilizing the natural carbon functions of both the green and blue biospheres of our planet is an option that we simply cannot afford to ignore if we are serious about tackling climate change and making the transition to a sustainable low-carbon economy," said Mark J. Spalding, President of The Ocean Foundation and signatory to the coalition letters.

The Urgency of Action

"The United States will play a crucial role in next month's climate change discussions in Copenhagen," said Steven J. Lutz, Executive Director of Blue Climate Solutions, the group that organized the letters. "We are asking the United States to show global leadership by advancing solutions for climate change that involve coastal and marine conservation. Many U.S. federal and state agencies are already pursuing actions that could be considered climate mitigation, such as the restoration of coastal and estuarine habitats. These actions need to be continued and encouraged."

Recognizing the carbon value of healthy coastal and marine ecosystems may be significant for achieving consensus at the Copenhagen negotiations. The health of coastal ocean ecosystems is a critical issue for many developing countries, especially small island developing states. The need to restore the ocean's natural carbon function could help direct billions of dollars towards conservation efforts, while simultaneously supporting local economies and countering the threat of climate change throughout the globe.

Economic stimulus associated with restoring the ocean's natural carbon function include funding and investment for activities such as improving water quality, ecosystem restoration, coastal surveying, and the innovation of new environmental monitoring and restoration technologies.

"Restoring the ocean's natural ocean carbon function is proposed as an alternative to potentially harmful ocean geo-engineering schemes recently discussed in Congress," said Lutz. "Restoration activities that naturally fix carbon in to forms other than dissolved carbon will also not increase ocean acidification."

Environmental co-benefits associated with natural ocean carbon solutions include renewed and sustainable fisheries, the conservation of endangered marine species and birds, and the restoration of certain coastal ecosystems. Mangrove forests are considered essential habitat for many fish species, and healthy seagrass meadows are indispensable for endangered sea turtles and manatees.

"Sea turtle hatchlings need healthy coastal and marine ecosystems in order to survive," said Lutz. "It just so happens that we also need the same healthy ocean ecosystems to survive on this blue planet."

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Smoking Causes Blindness

/PRNewswire/ -- AMD Alliance International strongly urges all smokers to participate in the Great American Smokeout on November 19 to save their eyes and protect their vision from the debilitating effects of macular degeneration.

Research has demonstrated that age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a progressive disease that causes the loss of central vision, is two to three times as frequent among tobacco smokers, and the risk is dose dependent(1, 2). In other words, the more you smoke, the greater the risk and the faster the progression of the disease. For patients with certain genetic backgrounds, regular heavy smoking can increase the risk of AMD a stunning 144-fold(3).

AMD is the leading cause of blindness among those older than 50.

"We salute the American Cancer Society and its efforts on behalf of the Great American Smokeout," said David Herman, Chairman of the global AMD Alliance International. "And we add vision loss to the list of significant and debilitating health risks that are caused by smoking. If you quit today, you can immediately begin lowering your risk of losing your sight to macular degeneration."

In addition to quitting smoking and maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle, AMD Alliance International recommends regular visits to the eye doctor to check for onset of macular degeneration.

For more information about how to prevent, treat and manage AMD, please visit AMD Alliance International at www.amdalliance.org.

Notes:

1) Seddon JM et al. A prospective study of cigarette smoking and age-related macular degeneration in women. JAMA 1996 Oct 9 276 1141-1146.

2) Christen WG et al. A prospective study of cigarette smoking and risk of age-related macular degeneration in men. JAMA 1996 Oct 9 276 1147-1151.

3) DeAngelis, Margaret M. et al. Cigarette Smoking, CFH, APOE, ELOVL4, and Risk of Neovascular Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Archives of Ophthalmology January 2007 125 49-54.

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New Report Reveals Dramatic Rise in Pesticide Use on Genetically Engineered (GE) Crops Due to the Spread of Resistant Weeds

/PRNewswire/ -- Genetically engineered (GE) corn, soybeans and cotton have increased use of weed-killing herbicides -- a type of pesticide -- by 383 million pounds in the U.S. from 1996 to 2008, according to a new Organic Center report titled "Impacts of Genetically Engineered Crops on Pesticide Use in the United States: The First Thirteen Years" announced today by The Organic Center (TOC), the Union for Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the Center for Food Safety (CFS). In addition, GE corn and cotton have reduced insecticide use by 64 million pounds, resulting in an overall increase of 318 million pounds of pesticides over the first 13 years of commercial use.

Based upon data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), report author Dr. Charles Benbrook presents compelling evidence linking the increase in pesticide use on GE, "herbicide-tolerant" (HT) crops to the emergence and spread of herbicide-resistant weeds. This report comes at a time when farmers are increasingly critical of GE crops because of drastically rising biotech seed prices and increasingly resistant weeds.

The agricultural biotechnology industry claims that the much higher costs of GE seeds are justified by multiple benefits to farmers, including decreased spending on pesticides. The price of GE seeds has risen precipitously in recent years, and the need to make additional herbicide applications in an effort to keep up with resistant weeds is also increasing cash production costs. As an example, corn farmers planting "SmartStax" hybrids in 2010 will spend around $124 per acre for seed, almost three times the cost of conventional corn seed. In addition, new-generation "Roundup Ready" (RR) 2 soybean seed, to be introduced on a widespread basis next year, will cost 42 percent more than the original RR seeds they are displacing.

"The drastic increase in pesticide use with genetically engineered crops is due primarily to the rapid emergence of weeds resistant to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup herbicide," said Dr. Charles Benbrook, report author and chief scientist of The Organic Center. "With glyphosate-resistant weeds now infesting millions of acres, farmers face rising costs coupled with sometimes major yield losses, and the environmental impact of weed management systems will surely rise."

Today's report refutes industry's assertions that its crops have reduced pesticide use. Last April, UCS released a report that found engineered crops have largely failed to increase crop yields, despite the industry's consistent claims to the contrary. "Dr. Benbrook's work shows that the overall chemical footprint of today's engineered crops is massive and growing," said Dr. Margaret Mellon, food and environment program director for the Union of Concerned Scientists. "That growth in pesticide use has important implications for farmers' bottom lines, public health and the health of the environment."

"This report confirms what we've been saying for years," said Bill Freese, science policy analyst for the Center for Food Safety. "The most common type of genetically engineered crops promotes increased use of pesticides, an epidemic of resistant weeds, and more chemical residues in our foods. This may be profitable for the biotech/pesticide companies, but it's bad news for farmers, human health and the environment."

Industry claims that GE crops are benefitting the environment ignore the impacts of the 300+ million additional pounds of pesticides required over the period covered by this study, as well as growing reliance by farmers on high-risk herbicides including 2,4-D and paraquat. In addition to the environmental harm, a report released earlier this year by TOC demonstrated that exposure to pesticides is linked to increased risk of reproductive abnormalities, birth defects and neurological problems.

The analytical work required to complete this report was funded by a coalition of non-governmental organizations including the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Center for Food Safety, the Cornerstone Campaign, Californians for GE-Free Agriculture, Greenpeace International and Rural Advancement Fund International USA.

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Holiday plants best for looking pretty, not eating

University of Georgia horticulturalist Paul Thomas can’t think of any common gift plants that are necessarily poisonous -- most of the poisonous plants are those cut for Christmas decorations. He can, however, think of one that will light a child’s or pet’s mouth on fire.

Ornamental peppers sold around the holidays come in merry white and Christmas red. And these, he said, are usually bred from some of the hottest peppers on the market.

“They can be, and often are, flaming, wish-you-were-dead hot,” Thomas said.

Peppers can add interest to a table or garden area. But, anyone who has children should purchase them with caution.

“Keep in mind, if you decided to go with ornamental peppers, that they’re not going to kill a child, but you’re going to have a very unhappy baby or child if they eat them,” Thomas said. “They’re not going to understand they bit into a hot pepper. They’re just going to panic.”

The best solution, as with any plant, is to keep them out of the reach of children.

Poisonous plants

Parents and others who may have children over for the holidays should watch out for a few plants commonly used as decoration that are poisonous. These include amaryllis, calla lilies, English ivy, mistletoe, holly, juniper, lantana and yew, according to the UGA Extension publication “Poisonous Plants in the Landscape”.

Poisonous parts include:
• Amaryllis – the bulbs and seeds
• Calla lily – all parts
• English ivy – leaves, stem and fruit
• Holly – berries
• Juniper – berry-like seeds
• Lantana – fruit
• Mistletoe – berries
• Yew – berries and foliage

“The term poisonous does not imply that the plant is fatal,” said Gary Wade, a UGA Extension horticulturist. “Some plants may be only mildly toxic and may cause stomach ache or mild irritation of the mouth and throat when ingested.”

Prevention is the best medicine when it comes to poison, he said. Keep an eye on what children, especially babies, are chewing on, and keep them away from plants.

In case of a poison emergency or to get poison information, always keep the Georgia Poison Center number near your telephone. They can be contacted at (800) 222-1222 or (404) 616-9000. For general information, visit their Web site at www.georgiapoisoncenter.org.

If a poisoning occurs and the person is having trouble breathing, experiencing seizures or won’t wake up, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Pretty poinsettias

Poinsettias, despite their reputation, aren’t poisonous, Thomas said.

“They won’t even make a cat, dog or a child sick if they do eat a leaf or get sap on their skin,” Thomas said.

Some people will itch when they come in contact with poinsettias. This is because they’re having an allergic reaction to the latex found in the plants.

Poinsettia sap can be irritating if it gets in the eyes or on sensitive skin. If this happens, wash the affected area immediately with water.

By Stephanie Schupska
University of Georgia

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Friday, November 13, 2009

FDA Statement on Vibrio Vulnificus in Raw Oysters

/PRNewswire/ -- Several weeks ago, the FDA announced its intent to change, by summer 2011, its policy regarding the post-harvest processing of raw Gulf Coast oysters harvested in the warmer months. The intent of this change in policy, which would affect about 25% of the total annual harvest, would be to substantially reduce the number of Americans who suffer severe and painful illness and death from the Vibrio vulnificus bacteria. The FDA's announced change in policy was modeled on a successful California initiative that was implemented in 2003.

As a public health agency, the FDA is committed to identifying reasonable and workable approaches to reduce unnecessary suffering and death from preventable causes. The FDA staff work every day with state and local counterparts around the country to stop outbreaks of all types of infectious disease. Illnesses from bacteria like Vibrio vulnificus are particularly important to prevent because they can cause loss of skin, kidney failure, amputations, excruciating pain, and death.

Since making its initial announcement, the FDA has heard from Gulf Coast oyster harvesters, state officials, and elected representatives from across the region about the feasibility of implementing post-harvest processing or other equivalent controls by the summer of 2011. These are legitimate concerns.

It is clear to the FDA from our discussions to date that there is a need to further examine both the process and timing for large and small oyster harvesters to gain access to processing facilities or equivalent controls in order to address this important public health goal. Therefore, before proceeding, we will conduct an independent study to assess how post-harvest processing or other equivalent controls can be feasibly implemented in the Gulf Coast in the fastest, safest and most economical way.

While this study is ongoing, the FDA will continue to reach out to state authorities and the Gulf Coast industry to discuss their concerns about the agency's policy and measures the industry is pursuing to make oysters safer. The FDA is committed to assisting local farmers in the implementation of post-harvest processing through all possible means.

The agency looks forward to working with Gulf Coast officials and industry to accomplish the goal of protecting consumers from Vibrio vulnificus in a manner that is feasible and minimizes impacts on the oyster industry.

Some actions that the FDA will undertake over the next weeks and months include:

#1. Continuing to discuss future collaboration with the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference to address Vibrio vulnificus in the region, including discussing the scope of needed studies, and meeting with the Board in March 2010.

#2. Working in conjunction with the National Marine Fisheries Service, the FDA will offer technical assistance to facilitate implementation of post-harvest processing or equally effective alternatives, including:

1. Validation of processing parameters that can be applied to post-harvest
processes to achieve non-detectable levels of Vibrio vulnificus, while
also preserving acceptable taste and texture, and ensuring that this
information is in the public domain so that all processors can use it.
2. Studying alternatives to post-harvest processing, including off-shore
relaying in which oysters are harvested and moved to salty waters where
the high salinity kills Vibrio vulnificus.
3. Providing technical assistance to firms in development of their
post-harvest processing processes and HACCP plans.


#3. The FDA will work with other federal agencies, such as the USDA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the Department of Commerce to review what types of grants and other forms of economic assistance may be available to support establishment of processing cooperatives or other mechanisms to ensure widespread access to post-harvest processing facilities.

#4. As USTR and the oyster industry work to foster wider access to international markets that are now closed because of concerns about Vibrio vulnificus, FDA's new approach should provide public health and science data to support the safety of these products for human consumption in the U.S. and abroad.

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FDA To Look Into Safety of Caffeinated Alcoholic Beverages

The Food and Drug Administration today notified nearly 30 manufacturers of caffeinated alcoholic beverages that it intends to look into the safety and legality of their products.

“The increasing popularity of consumption of caffeinated alcoholic beverages by college students and reports of potential health and safety issues necessitates that we look seriously at the scientific evidence as soon as possible,” said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, principal deputy commissioner of food and drugs.

Of the combined use of caffeine and alcohol among U.S. college students in the few studies on this topic, the prevalence was as high as 26 percent.

Under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, a substance added intentionally to food (such as caffeine in alcoholic beverages) is deemed “unsafe” and is unlawful unless its particular use has been approved by FDA regulation, the substance is subject to a prior sanction, or the substance is Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS). FDA has not approved the use of caffeine in alcoholic beverages and thus such beverages can be lawfully marketed only if their use is subject to a prior sanction or is GRAS. For a substance to be GRAS, there must be evidence of its safety at the levels used and a basis to conclude that this evidence is generally known and accepted by qualified experts.

The FDA alerted manufacturers to the fact that the agency is considering whether caffeine can lawfully be added to alcoholic beverages. The FDA noted that it is unaware of the basis upon which manufacturers may have concluded that the use of caffeine in alcoholic beverages is GRAS or prior sanctioned. To date, the FDA has only approved caffeine as an additive for use in soft drinks in concentrations of no greater than 200 parts per million. It has not approved caffeine for use at any level in alcoholic beverages.

The FDA requested that, within 30 days, the companies produce evidence of their rationale, with supporting data and information, for concluding that the use of caffeine in their product is GRAS or prior sanctioned. FDA's letter informed each company that if FDA determines that the use of caffeine in the firm's alcoholic beverages is not GRAS or prior sanctioned, FDA will take appropriate action to ensure that the products are removed from the marketplace.

In the past year, Anheuser-Busch and Miller agreed to discontinue their popular caffeinated alcoholic beverages, Tilt and Bud Extra and Sparks, and agreed to not produce any caffeinated alcoholic beverages in the future.

The federal agency with primary responsibility for regulating alcoholic beverages, the Treasury Department's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, requires that alcoholic beverages contain only ingredients that satisfy FDA's requirements for use.

In late September, the FDA received a letter from 18 Attorneys General and one city attorney expressing concerns about caffeinated alcoholic beverages.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Poll Finds Americans Very Concerned About Exposure to Toxic Chemicals

/PRNewswire/ -- A poll conducted in August by Lake Research Partners found Americans very concerned with how chemicals are regulated for consumer use in the U.S. The findings come as overhaul of the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) will be introduced soon in both Houses of Congress.

Voters are concerned that, under TSCA, chemicals in existence prior to 1976 were grandfathered in to be used and produced in the U.S. without testing or regulation. (87 percent were somewhat or very concerned). Eighty percent of voters were concerned that the EPA was unsuccessful in banning asbestos under current law. Eighty-four percent were concerned that the EPA has mandated testing of barely 200 out of the over 80,000 on the market since 1976.

"Voters across almost all demographic and political groups said that regulations on chemicals were not strong enough," said pollster Celinda Lake. "People definitely are not confident about how chemicals are currently regulated, but they're ready to give the EPA authority to protect consumers."

Hundreds of recent scientific studies associate chemicals like bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates, which are used in baby bottles, pacifiers, canned foods and toys, with a variety of chronic diseases, including diabetes, asthma, increased risk of certain types of cancer and infertility.

"The public is aware of a growing body of science linking common chemicals to chronic diseases and they're waking up to the fact that the existing law isn't working," says Andy Igrejas, director of the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition. "Americans are doing their best to shop smart, but we can't protect our families without help, and without strong reforms to put common sense limits on toxic chemicals."

Majorities of Democrats, Independents and Republicans say they would support legislation that would take toxic chemicals off the market if they have been detected in babies at birth or in infants, and exposure to other known toxic chemicals, such as formaldehyde, that have been extensively studied, will be reduced to the maximum extent possible.

The poll was commissioned by the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition and has a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent. The poll was conducted among 1,000 registered voters nationwide Aug. 25 to 31, 2009. More detailed poll results available at www.saferchemicals.org.

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

FDA Warns Consumers on Sexual Enhancement Products

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers that Stiff Nights, a product marketed as a dietary supplement for sexual enhancement, contains an ingredient that can dangerously lower blood pressure and is illegal.

Over the past several years, the FDA has found many products marketed as "dietary supplements" for sexual enhancement that contain undeclared active ingredients of FDA-approved drugs, analogs of approved drugs and other compounds that do not qualify as “dietary ingredients.” The FDA has issued multiple alerts about these contaminated dietary supplements.

Consumers and health care professionals should be aware of this problem and the health hazard it presents. Sexual enhancement products that claim to work as well as prescription products are likely to contain a contaminant. Use of such products exposes consumers to unpredictable risk and the potential for injury or even death.

In the case of Stiff Nights, following a consumer complaint, the FDA determined that the product contains sulfoaildenafil. This is a chemical similar to sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra. Sulfoaildenafil may interact with prescription drugs known as nitrates, including nitroglycerin, and cause dangerously low blood pressure.

The product is distributed on Internet sites and at retail stores by Impulsaria LLC of Grand Rapids, Mich. It is sold in bottles containing 6, 12, or 30 red capsules or in blister packs containing one or two capsules.

"Because this product is labeled as an ‘all natural dietary supplement,’ consumers may assume it is harmless and poses no health risk," said Deborah M. Autor, director of FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research Office of Compliance. "In fact, this product is illegally marketed and can cause serious complications.”

The FDA advises consumers who have experienced any adverse events from sexual enhancement products to consult a health care professional. Consumers and health care professionals should report adverse events to the FDA's MedWatch program at 800-FDA-1088 or online at www.fda.gov/medwatch/report.htm

The FDA remains committed to stopping the illegal marketing of unapproved drugs and will continue to protect the public with vigorous law enforcement and criminal prosecution of violators.

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Public Weighs in With Nearly 100,000 Comments for Grand Canyon Protection

/PRNewswire/ -- After nearly 100,000 members of the public called for protecting the Grand Canyon from mining, a Pew Environment Group ad (http://www.pewminingreform.org/pdf/WishAd.pdf) today urged Congress to support legislation that would permanently ban new mining claims on public lands surrounding the park. Under the antiquated mining law of 1872, more than one thousand uranium mining claims have been staked just outside park boundaries.

H.R. 644, authored by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), chair of the House National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee, would protect approximately one million acres of U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands surrounding Grand Canyon National Park from new mining claims. The bill would make permanent a moratorium on claim staking called for in July by U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

As the initial public comment period for the Department of Interior's environmental review of the withdrawal proposal ended October 30, 98,355 messages had been received in support. Called for by Grijalva and Representative Nick Rahall (D-WVA), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, along with Pew and other conservation groups, the withdrawal is a response to federal data that show thousands of mining claims within five miles of Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Arches and other national parks.

"Presidents since Theodore Roosevelt have recognized that the Grand Canyon, America's national icon, must be preserved for future generations to enjoy," said Jane Danowitz, director of Pew Environment Group's public lands program. "Now it's time for Congress to safeguard the Grand Canyon from threats posed by the 1872 mining law and permanently protect this natural wonder."

Roughly five million people from around the world visit the Grand Canyon each year. The Colorado River, which has shaped the canyon's dramatic twists and turns, is an important source of water for more than 25 million people downstream. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Southern Nevada Water Authority have both raised concerns about uranium mining near the Grand Canyon.

Hardrock mining is responsible for the largest toxic releases in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The 1872 law allows corporations and individuals "free and open access" to more than 350 million acres of public lands across the West, resulting in $1 billion annually of gold, uranium and other metals mined from public lands without payment of a royalty, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Toxic BPA Contamination - Groups Support Consumers Union Call for FDA Protection From BPA in Canned Food

/PRNewswire/ -- In response to Consumer Reports' new report on contamination of canned food products with the synthetic sex hormone bisphenol A (BPA), the Breast Cancer Fund, Clean Water Action, Clean New York, Center for Health, Environment & Justice, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Oregon Toxics Alliance and other environmental health advocates support Consumers Union's call for FDA to immediately act to protect consumers from BPA.

BPA is linked to neurological, endocrine and reproductive health effects, breast cancer and other serious health problems.

"Consumer Reports' results are sobering, and confirm what we already know: Americans are exposed to toxic BPA every day through canned food," said Janet Nudelman at the Breast Cancer Fund. "A synthetic estrogen linked to breast cancer should not be in our food, period. It's well past time to ban BPA from food and beverage containers."

Bobbi Chase Wilding of Clean New York says, "Consumers should not have to read scientific journals to determine what is safe when shopping for their families. FDA needs to step up and step in."

Mike Schade from the Center for Health, Environment & Justice adds, "We know there are companies that want to do the right thing. Wal-Mart, Target, Babies R Us, Nalgene, CamelBak and others have been working provide their customers with safer, BPA-free products -- the products consumers want. The time has come for the food industry to follow suit."

The product testing found that almost all of the 19 name-brand foods tested contain measurable levels of bisphenol A (BPA). Results are in the December 2009 issue and are available free online at www.ConsumerReports.org

Consumers Union sent a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg requesting that it move this year to ban the use of BPA in food- and beverage-contact materials.

Congress is currently considering legislation that would ban the use of BPA in all food and beverage containers.

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Community Pharmacists Report Supply Shortages, Insurance Red Tape in Growing Fight against H1N1 Flu

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Community pharmacists have stepped up to meet the shortage of Tamiflu by compounding doses for children suffering from the H1N1 flu virus, but they are struggling with supply problems and insurance plans, according to the National Community Pharmacists Association.

Tamiflu’s manufacturer, Roche, asked pharmacists to compound the medicine until supplies improve. The time-intensive process involves extracting powder from capsules, calculating the quantity of medicine, and mixing the right amount with liquid, such as cherry syrup, to produce a suspension with the appropriate prescribed strength for young children.

Over a recent 48-hour period, 80 community pharmacists from around the country told NCPA about their experiences compounding Tamiflu. Nearly half (48%) reported preparing 25 or more suspension compounds since Sept. 1. Virtually all (97%) experienced difficulty in obtaining commercial Tamiflu suspension and many (48%) said the same about Tamiflu capsules, consistent with a front-page story in The Washington Post.

Most prescription coverage is administered by pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and 61% of pharmacists surveyed had difficulty adjudicating claims with them for compounded Tamiflu. Most commonly mentioned were the big three – CVS Caremark, Express Scripts, Inc. and Medco Health Solutions, Inc. – but nearly every PBM was identified as a source of difficulty.

Experts advise starting antiviral treatment as quickly as possible. But one pharmacist said, “We had several children that are ‘covered’ by the federal employee [health benefits] program [administered by CVS Caremark] and were told that this compound requires prior authorization which can take from 24 to 72 hours to obtain.”

“Compounding has long been a specialty of independent community pharmacists, and they’re working overtime against H1N1,” said NCPA Executive Vice President and CEO Bruce T. Roberts, RPh. “They’ve helped countless children and won the gratitude of just as many parents.”

“Unfortunately, this is harder than it should be,” Roberts added. “We hope insurance plans and PBMs will reexamine their claims processes to ensure kids get relief as quickly as possible.”

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