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FDA Calls Off Ban on Animal Antibiotics
(Wall Street Journal) By ALICIA MUNDY and JARED FAVOLE
The Food and Drug Administration said it would continue allowing the widespread use of a class of powerful antibiotics in food-producing animals, making a last-minute reversal after calling the practice a public-health risk in July.
The agency's bid this summer to ban many uses of cephalosporin drugs in cows, swine, chickens and other animals came under fire from the industry. Agriculture groups and animal-drug makers, including Pfizer Inc., said the antibiotics are needed to prevent many infectious diseases in animals.
Public-health officials and the American Medical Association are worried that excessive use of antibiotics -- including in animals -- can promote resistance and produce strains of bacteria that threaten human life. Cephalosporins treat respiratory diseases in cattle and swine but are also often given "off-label" for uses not approved by the FDA to poultry or more generally in livestock for non-approved infectious diseases.
On July 3, the FDA announced a planned crackdown on off-label uses in animals, citing "the importance of cephalosporin drugs for treating disease in humans."
That position was reiterated in September by the FDA's director of veterinary drugs, Steven Vaughn. "We have [bacterial organisms] moving around the world that we have never seen before," he told a conference, according to Dairy Herd Management magazine. Dr. Vaughn, who couldn't be reached for comment, told the group that antibiotic-resistant bacteria are becoming more common in cattle.
Groups such as the Animal Population Health Institute, the Kansas Health Department and the National Turkey Federation, objected to the proposed ban. The American Veterinary Medical Association complained to the FDA that the data on the human impact it used to support the ban were flawed.
On Nov. 25, five days before the ban was to take effect, the FDA quietly revoked it with a notice in the Federal Register. The FDA's statement said the agency received many comments and needed more time to review them. A spokeswoman said the agency still could impose restrictions later.
"You have to give the FDA credit for its good-faith response to our concerns," said Tom Burkgren, director of the Association of American Swine Veterinarians. Dr. Burkgren said some of the new diseases striking swine today aren't mentioned on cephalosporin labels, and there are few alternatives.
Keep Antibiotics Working, a group that promotes agriculture-production changes, denounced the FDA's reversal. "They were under a lot of pressure from companies and agriculture, the producers, to end the ban," said the organization's chief, Steven Roach.
Pfizer, whose cephalosporin drug Excede is approved for certain uses in animals, said more time is needed to analyze the risk posed to treatment of animal diseases from cephalosporin restrictions.
The FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine has been involved in other recent controversies. In June, it abruptly announced it was allowing Wyeth's heartworm drug ProHeart 6 back on the market. It was withdrawn in 2004 amid some 500 reports of dog deaths. 12-09-08

USDA helps test for pesticide residue in beef

WHO sets tolerable daily intake for melamine in food
Source of Article:
12/09/2008-The World Health Organization (WHO) has established a tolerable daily intake (TDI) of 0.2 mg/kg body weight of melamine. While WHO believes that there is no good reason to have any melamine in food products, the TDI is meant to help national authorities set safe limits in food for withdrawal purposes should melamine be detected as a result of intentional adulteration.
This threshold is lower than the European Union¡¯s limitation of 0.5 mg. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration originally set its limit at 0.63 mg but because infants may be more sensitive than adults to exposures the FDA applied an additional 10-fold safety factor. This results in a TDI/10 of 0.063 mg melamine/kg body weight. The TDI is the outcome of a meeting organized by WHO held Dec. 5 in Ottawa, Canada.

Wal-Mart seeks summary judgment in salmonella suit
Source of Article:
CORTEZ, Colo. (Map, News) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has asked a judge for a summary judgment in its favor in a lawsuit filed by a Colorado man who claims he got salmonella from jalapeno peppers purchased at a Cortez Supercenter.
Brian Grubbs of Dolores filed the suit in Montezuma County District Court in September, blaming peppers his family purchased from Wal-Mart in June.
Attorneys for Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart filed a motion last month saying Grubbs' attorneys have produced no evidence that the store is liable.
The judge hasn't ruled on Wal-Mart's request for a summary judgment.
Grubbs' suit seeks unspecified damages from Wal-Mart and an unknown company that supplied the jalapenos to the store.

Raw milk man fined $55,000
Posted: December 08, 2008, 5:52 PM by Rob Roberts
Source of Article:
By Melissa Leong, National Post
A southern Ontario milkman has been fined $55,000 for selling milk straight from a cow¡¯s udder. In October, Michael Schmidt, a 54-year-old organic farmer, was convicted of defying a court order by continuing to sell raw, unpasteurized milk from his 30 cows. He was informed of the fine ? $5,000 on the charges and $50,000 for court costs ? last week.
He said he intends to appeal the conviction and will continue to provide milk to his customers. ¡°It takes more than that to stop me,¡± the raw-milk activist said today.
He will be holding a press conference Wednesday at Queens Park.
He faces 22 charges at another trial in January, following a raid on his farm by armed Ministry of Natural Resources officers in 2006.
The farmer, whose supporters say they have raised $120,000 for his defence, said he is eager to confront authorities about the public safety of milk.
For 14 years, Mr. Schmidt, who grew up in Germany, has struggled for the right to sell unpasteurized milk, forbidden under laws governing the production and sale of milk.
He said 150 families each own a share in cattle, who graze on pasture in Grey County about 200 kilometres northwest of Toronto. The shares allow each family to a share of a cow¡¯s milk production.
Canada is the only country in the G8 that requires pasteurization of all milk, he said.
¡°People need to decide for themselves what is good for their body and what is not good,¡± he said. ¡°Unpasteurized milk, compared to any other food, has a much higher safety standard than most foods.¡±
In May, 2007, applying the Health Protection and Promotion Act, a court ordered Mr. Schmidt to stop ¡°offering for sale, selling or distributing, unpasteurized milk and unpasteurized milk products in the jurisdiction of York Region.¡±
Mr. Justice Cary Boswell of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice said York region did a ¡°flawed¡± job of trying to prove Mr. Schmidt defied the order; they did not seize any milk products to be tested.
But Mr. Schmidt convicted himself, the judge said, with comments he made to the Toronto Sun proving that his farm still sells raw milk.
Conservative MPP Randy Hillier posted a note of support on his Web site for Mr. Schmidt, calling him a ¡°man of conscience and conviction.¡±
He said the Ontario government has an obligation to review its legislation surrounding raw milk, which is has not been re-visited since 1939.

Ireland's food crisis spreads to beef
Source of Article:
Reuters, Tuesday December 9 2008
By Carmel Crimmins
DUBLIN, Dec 9 (Reuters) - Three cattle herds in Ireland were contaminated with dioxins, authorities said on Tuesday, dragging the country's crucial beef industry into a scandal that has already sparked an international recall of Irish pork products.
One of the world's top five beef exporters said there was no need to recall any Irish beef products because the level and extent of contamination in the affected animals was much lower than the levels discovered at 10 pig farms.
"This is not a public health issue," Farm Minister Brendan Smith told a news conference. "I'm pleased and relieved with these results."
But the discovery will further undermine Ireland's reputation as a supplier of wholesome foods, particularly in Europe, where Ireland is the biggest supplier of imported beef.
The European Commission said EU food safety regulators were satisfied with Ireland's reaction to the cattle issue so far.
Government officials said tests were being carried out on 34 more cattle herds. They identified a total of 45 herds that had been exposed to dioxins. If the tests come back within acceptable limits those animals will be released into the food chain.
Feed contaminated with dioxins was also fed to some cattle in the British province of Northern Ireland, Britain's food safety watchdog, the Food Standards Agency, said on Tuesday.
The FSA said it was awaiting the results of tests to determine the levels of contamination, if any, which may be present in the Northern Irish herds.
Tainted feed was also sent to nine pig farms in Northern Ireland and an EU official said that Britain must tell EU food safety regulators by the end of Tuesday what it will do about pork coming from those farms.
Earlier this week, more than 20 countries cleared their shelves of Irish pork after 80-200 times the legal level of dioxin was found in some pig farms.
In some forms and with long exposure, dioxin can cause cancer and fertility problems.
"In the case of the beef, the levels were two to three times the legal limit," Alan Reilly, chief executive of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, told reporters.
"For these things to be a risk, it has to be long-term exposure and the exposure here is very short term."
The number of cattle from the three herds account for 0.08 percent of total annual production and will be removed from the food chain, Reilly said.
"The industry's priority now is to communicate this positive message to customers of Irish beef at home and internationally," said Cormac Healy, director of Meat Industry Ireland.
Cattle and beef account for more than one-quarter of Ireland's total agricultural output, according to trade body Food and Drink Industry Ireland.

But while Ireland's beef farmers breathed a sigh of relief, pig producers and processors were struggling with a major financial crisis.
"This should be our busiest week of the year for getting hams into the factories for the Christmas market and that's a real concern. If we lose that ham market it's a major loss," said Michael Maguire, a pig farmer from County Cavan.
A backlog of 26,000 pigs had built up at farms, putting a strain on farmers, Maguire said. Pork producers are seeking emergency aid to help foot a bill of at least 100 million euros ($128.7 million).
"We are keeping our fingers crossed and praying to all the gods that we know that we will have some progress on this by this evening," said Maguire, who normally sell 400 pigs a week.
"We are hoping that the processors will indicate that they will be open for business, hopefully tomorrow and Thursday at the latest."
Pig processors have refused to reopen their slaughterhouses until they get compensation for the loss of trade. Talks with the government resumed on Tuesday and farmers are hoping production will resume this week.
Nearly 1,400 employees had been laid off from processing plants and up to 6,000 jobs were at risk, the SIPTU trade union said.
"As long as the industry is shut down the losses are escalating every day," Padraig Walsh, president of the Irish Farmers' Association, said.
The European Commission said contaminated Irish pork had been shipped to 21 countries and territories, including Britain, France and Germany within the EU, and Japan, Russia, China and the United States outside the trading bloc. (Reporting by Carmel Crimmins; editing by Karen Foster)

FDA and WebMD team up
Source of Article:
12/04/2008-The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it has formed a partnership with WebMD, the popular health news and information Web site, to expand consumers¡¯ access to the FDA¡¯s timely health information.
As a part of the partnership, a new online consumer health information resource will be created on WebMD? Here, consumers can access information on the safety of FDA-regulated products, including food, medicine, and cosmetics, as well as learn how to report problems involving safety of these products directly to the FDA. In addition, WebMD will bring the FDA public health alerts to all WebMD registered users and site visitors that request them.

Variant of Mad Cow Disease Appears to Be Much More Virulent Than Classical Form
Source of Article:
Newswise An atypical prion strain of mad cow disease, also called bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BS, is more virulent than the classical strain, according to a researcher who spoke Nov. 14 at Kansas State University.Qingzhong Kong from Case Western Reserve University presented "Chronic Wasting Disease and Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy: Public Health Risk Assessment" at the Emerging Infections Symposium: A Tribute to the One Medicine, One Health Concept.
The symposium drew nearly 150 researchers from Europe, Asia, North America and the Middle East. Its major sponsors included the Kansas Bioscience Authority and the Heartland BioAgro Consortium, which is leading an effort to bring the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility to Kansas. K-State is among five finalists for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, a federal center for animal health.
The symposium commemorated the opening of Juergen Richt's laboratory at K-State. Richt is the Regents Distinguished Professor of Diagnostic Medicine/Pathobiology and Kansas Bioscience Authority Eminent Scholar.
In September, Richt and colleague Mark Hall of the National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa, published research findings that showed a genetic mutation in cattle can cause BSE, which is the first report of genetic prion disease in livestock.
In Kong's presentation, he also addressed chronic wasting disease. He said research with humanized transgenic mouse models has shown no transmission of the prevailing chronic wasting disease prion strain, but further research is needed to fully evaluate the diversity of chronic wasting diseases and their public health risks.

Grocery Manufacturers Association Conference Focused on Improving Food Safety
Through Harmonization of Global Third Party Food Safety Audit Criteria
Source of Article:
Last update: 5:48 p.m. EST Dec. 2, 2008
WASHINGTON, Dec 02, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX/ -- The Grocery Manufacturers Association today kicked off a two-day meeting of industry experts to identify essential criteria for third party food safety audits. Third party food safety audits are already playing an integral role in ensuring the safety and security of the food supply, and that role is expected to grow as public and private sector agents continue to work towards strengthening our food safety net.
"The full potential of third party audits has yet to be realized, which is why this meeting is critical," said Dr. Robert Brackett, GMA senior vice president and chief scientific and regulatory affairs officer. "The sooner we can harmonize global audit criteria, the sooner we can fully leverage third party audits to the maximum benefit of the consumer."
The conference, titled Bolstering Consumer Confidence: Identifying Essential Third Party Food Safety Audit Criteria, featured public sector speakers Rich McKeown, chief of staff, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and David Acheson, M.D., associate commissioner for foods, U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The program also includes representatives of the Consumer Federation of America, the World Bank and Bumble Bee Foods, LLC President and CEO Christopher Lischewski. In addition to general sessions and panel discussions, attendees will also participate in breakout sessions designed to cull from their experiences new and innovative approaches to harmonizing the global food safety system.
The American National Standards Institute, the National Fisheries Institute and the Seafood Products Association co-sponsored the conference with GMA. For more information on this event, please visit
The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) represents the world's leading food, beverage and consumer products companies. The Association promotes sound public policy, champions initiatives that increase productivity and growth and helps to protect the safety and security of the food supply through scientific excellence. The GMA board of directors is comprised of chief executive officers from the Association's member companies. The $2.1 trillion food, beverage and consumer packaged goods industry employs 14 million workers, and contributes over $1 trillion in added value to the nation's economy. For more information, visit the GMA Web site at
SOURCE Grocery Manufacturers Association

Canadian E. coli Outbreak Declared Over
Date Published: Monday, December 8th, 2008
Source of Article:
The Canadian E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that sickened dozens of diners who patronized separate eating establishments is now being declared over by Ontario¡¯s Ministry of Health, The Saint Catherines Standard is now reporting. According to The Standard, bit has been over 20 days since the last ¡°probable outbreak-related case¡± was discovered.
The Standard said that 56 people were sickened after eating at Little Red Rooster in Niagara-on-the-Lake and M. T. Bellies Tap and Grillhouse in Welland this autumn. However, health officials confirm that neither restaurant is the source of the contamination, citing California-imported romaine lettuce as the likely culprit.
E. coli are a group of bacteria found in animal intestines and feces and have been known to cause contaminations in meat, produce, and water supplies. While some E. coli strains are necessary for digestion; some are harmful, deadly, and toxin-producing and part of a group of E. coli called Verocytotoxigenic E. coli, or VTECs, also known as Shiga-producing E. coli. Of particular concern is the virulent, sometimes deadly E. coli O157:H7 strain that is part of this group, is generally found to be the culprit in E. coli-related food-borne illness outbreak, and was to blame in the Canadian outbreaks. E. coli may cause fatal blood poisoning, cystitis, deadly septicemia, and death.
Symptoms of E. coli infection include stomach cramps and watery diarrhea that may turn bloody within one to three days. More and more, E. coli is turning up in produce and water and seems to be sweeping North America in recent months with outbreaks popping up in a variety of states in the U.S. and Canada. E. coli taints meat through improper butchering and processing practices and, once released in the body, produces the Shiga-producing toxins that has been linked to kidney damage in young children, and can also lead to kidney failure and death.
Food borne contaminations are exacerbated with a food path that is difficult to police because the food-surveillance system is outdated, under-funded, and overwhelmed by the emergence of mega-farms, -distribution centers, and -transporters. Couple this with the overarching problem with infectious diseases, which are now becoming more resistant to bacteria because of antibiotic overuse and abuse. And now, drug resistant E. coli are being reported world-wide and there is also compelling data that the negative health effects of E. coli can remain for months and years later confirming these illnesses can have long-term, lasting effects that can either linger for months or years or can show up months or years?as late as 10-to-20 years?after the original illness.
In the U.S. alone, E. coli is the leading cause of food-borne illness, sickening about 73,000 and killing 61 each year and, last year, over 22 million pounds of beef and vegetables were recalled due to E. coli outbreaks.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) Food Outbreak Report 2008
Source of Article:
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) identified a total of 5,778 outbreaks of illness linked to specific foods, involving 168,898 individual illnesses that occurred between 1990 and 2006. An outbreak involves two or more ill people. The food categories most commonly linked to outbreaks were:
- Seafood: 1,140 outbreaks involving 11,809 cases of illness
- Produce: 768 outbreaks involving 35,060 cases of illness
- Poultry: 620 outbreaks involving 18,906 cases of illness
- Beef: 518 outbreaks involving 14,191 cases of illness
- Eggs: 351 outbreaks involving 11,143 cases of illness

This chart shows the relative rates of illnesses linked to outbreaks among the food categories when adjusted for consumption during the period of 1999 to 2006. Since Dairy is the lowest risk food category per serving consumed, we set its rate of illness as ¡°1¡± in order to facilitate a comparison between categories.

Remember, CSPI is counting only those illnesses that are "officially" reported. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 76 million foodborne illness cases occur in the United States every year. This amounts to one in four Americans becoming ill after eating foods contaminated with such pathogens as E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, Hepatitis A, Campylobacter, Shigella, Norovirus, and Listeria. On an annual basis, approximately 325,000 people are hospitalized with a diagnosis of food poisoning, and 5,000 die

The Center for Science in the Public Interest recommends:

1. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) should continue to improve outbreak reporting and surveillance. The CDC has improved its reporting and surveillance system, but gaps still remain. For example, nearly half of all states do not follow national standards for tracking disease outbreaks. Those gaps are particularly troubling given the numerous recent large outbreaks. Improvements in state oversight and coordination and increased funding at state level would allow CDC to act more quickly and could reduce the sizes of foodborne illness outbreaks.

2. Congress should pass legislation to modernize food safety laws and increase funding, starting with FDA¡¯s food safety program. While creating a unified, independent food- safety agency would be the best solution in the long run, the crisis in confidence in FDA¡¯s ability to manage food safety problems creates an urgency for making improvements at that agency. Outbreaks occur, in part, because of inadequate regulatory authority, inadequate monitoring, and inadequate funding. Congress should separate food safety from drug approvals, by creating a new Food Safety Administration at the Department of Health and Human Services. A new Administrator would oversee the modernization of the food safety program, with an enhanced mission in the areas of prevention, inspection and enforcement and would help restore consumer confidence.
Posted on November 29, 2008 by Food Poisoning Lawyer

Cranberry can inhibit E. coli growth in ground beef, says US study
By Jane Byrne, 05-Dec-2008
Source of Article:
The addition of cranberry concentrate to ground beef may serve as an supplementary hurdle to control potential E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks associated with ground beef, claims a new US study.
Researchers at the University of Maine examined the potential for cranberry concentrate (CC) to be used as a natural food preservative by examining its antimicrobial effect on the growth of Escherichia coli O157:H7 inoculated in ground beef as well as its organoleptical effect on beef burgers.
The findings of the research, which was published in the journal Food Microbiology, indicated that cranberry concentrate at the tested concentrations did not cause significant negative impact on the flavour, taste or colour of burgers and also possessed antimicrobial effects.

Innovative research
The application of cranberry concentrate at low concentrations in ground beef as an additional hurdle to prevent possible E. coli O157:H7 contamination has not been previously reported, claim the authors.
Ground beef is a potentially hazardous food which can harbour pathogenic microorganisms and permit their growth or the production of toxins if temperature and time are not controlled, claim the authors of the study.
E. coli O157:H7 can survive in healthy cow guts and may contaminate beef when cows are slaughtered.

In the US this year, millions of pounds of raw ground beef were recalled because of E. coli O157:H7 contamination, and the researchers stress that effective methods to prevent and eliminate such contaminations in ground beef are as such essential for the food industry and consumers.
Consumers today tend to choose food products that are natural, safe, and with multi-health benefits; burgers with cranberry concentrate, according to the researchers, may be a product that can meet their requirements.
The article reports that American cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) contain many bioactive compounds that have antioxidant, anti-mutagenic, antihypercholesterolemic and other beneficial health properties. However, the authors said that they included sensory evaluation as part of their research to determine if consumers would accept the organoleptical properties of ground beef inoculated with cranberry concentrate.

Inoculated ground beef was added with CC and stored at 4¡ÆC for five days, said the authors. Cranberry concentrate (2.5 per cent, 5 per cent, and 7.5 per cent w/w) reduced E. coli O157:H7 population by 0.4 log, 0.7 log, and 2.4 log, respectively, when compared to the control on day five, claims the team. They added that the inhibition effect of cranberry concentrate increased with time and concentration. In addition, 50 panelists evaluated the burgers supplemented with CC, and no differences in appearance, flavour, and taste were found among burgers with 0 per cent, 2.5 per cent, and 5 per cent CC.

Source: Food Microbiology
Published online ahead of print
Title: Application of cranberry concentrate (Vaccinium macrocarpon) to control Escherichia coli O157:H7 in ground beef and its antimicrobial mechanism related to the downregulated slp, hdeA and cfa
Authors: V. C.H. Wu, X Qiu, B. G. de los Reyes, C.S. Lin, Y. Pan

Study shows antimicrobial effective against listeria in soft cheese
Source of Article: Jane Byrne, 03-Dec-2008
Enterococcus faecium WHE 81, a multi-bacteriocin producer, is effective as an antimicrobial against Listeria monocytogenes in Munster cheese, a red smear soft cheese, according to a French study.
The authors of the study, which was published in the journal Food Microbiology, said that it is well established that soft cheese is amongst the products that pose the highest risk with regard to human listeriosis.
The researchers said that this present study, along with their previous research provides strong evidence that, in case of smear soft cheese, bacteriocin-producing lactic acid bacteria can perform efficiently to control L. monocytogenes when used as surface cultures.

The purpose of the current research, according to the scientists involved, was to investigate the antilisterial effectiveness of E. faecium WHE 81 used as culture for surface smear in Munster cheese. E faecium WHE 81, isolated from Munster cheese has been reported to be a reputed multi-bacteriocin producer with up to four independent antimicrobial peptides produced, two of which are enterocins A and B, which are known to be effective antilisterial agents, claims the report.

The researchers said that, during the ripening period, L. monocytogenes rapidly initiated growth in control samples, with counts of approximately 104 CFU g?1 on day 17 and of approximately 105 CFU g?1 on day 21. Conversely, in the test samples limited increases or no increase at all in L. monocytogenes counts was recorded during the cheese ripening. At the term of the ripening period, L. monocytogenes often remained below enumeration levels and most of the samples analyzed were free from the pathogen, claims the study. And, according to the published findings, the inoculation of the cheese with E. faecium WHE 81 did not result in any perceivable change in pH, fungal flora or pigmented bacteria in the cheese rind during ripening. ¡°In our experiments, L. monocytogenes could not initiate growth and was even eradicated in most cheeses analyzed. ¡°Therefore, the supplementary use of bacteriocin-producing E. faecium appears to be a promising measure to combat L. monocytogenes in an infected production line,¡± claim the researchers.

Mutli-bacteriocin approach
However, the scientists note that the continuous use of a bacteriocin is questionable as a primary means of food preservation as resistant Listeria mutants often occur as a result. ¡°In this regard, the fact that E. faecium WHE 81 could produce several bacteriocins with different structures is an interesting feature, especially since synergistic activity has been shown between enterocin A and enterocin B, two of the bacteriocins produced by this strain," claim the research team. They argue, therefore, that the use of E. faecium WHE 81 as an antimicrobial could be considered as a mutli-bacteriocin hurdle approach, likely to be more efficient in preventing the growth of undesired bacteria than the use of a single bacteriocin producer.
Source: Food Microbiology Volume 26 Issue 1 February 2009, Pages 16-20
Published online ahead of print
Title: Smearing of soft cheese with Enterococcus faecium WHE 81, a multi-bacteriocin producer, against Listeria monocytogenes
Authors: E. Izquierdo, E. Marchioni, D. Aoude-Werner, C. Hasselmann, S. Ennahar

Nut allergy fears becoming hysterical: BMJ
By Stephen Daniells, 10-Dec-2008
Source of Article:
Fears over the dangers of peanut allergy, a potentially deadly allergy for certain people, are becoming sensationalist and hysterical, according to a Harvard professor.
A level-headed approach is needed before the situation spirals out of control, wrote Professor Nicolas Christakis from Harvard Medical School in the British Medical Journal.
The food industry is already bound by certain regulations, depending on the country, to highlight possible allergens in a food product, such as the EU¡¯s Labelling Directive 2000/13/EC.
But Prof Christakis said that such an approach, however well intentioned, may actually ¡°fan the flames, since they signal to parents that nuts are a clear and present danger.
¡°This encourages more parents to worry, which fuels the epidemic. It also encourages more parents to have their children tested, thus detecting mild and meaningless ¡®allergies¡¯ to nuts. And this encourages still more avoidance of nuts, leading to still more sensitisation.
¡°The cycle of increasing anxiety, draconian measures, and an increasing prevalence of nut allergies must be broken,¡± he said.
Peanut allergies are rising in humans, with an estimated 2.5 million people in Europe and the US now vulnerable to the food allergy.
There is no current cure for food allergy and vigilance by an allergic individual is the only way to prevent a reaction but a peanut allergy can be so severe that only very tiny amounts can be enough to trigger a response.
Current recommendations in many countries, such as the UK and the US, for would-be mothers are to avoid peanuts during pregnancy, breastfeeding, and infancy.
However, a recent study comparing incidence of peanut allergy in Jewish children in the UK and Israel (where no such recommendations exist) showed that children in the UK were 10 times more likely to suffer from peanut allergy than their Israeli counterparts.
Findings in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology showed that 69 per cent of Israeli children were consuming peanut, while only ten per cent of the children in the UK were eating peanuts.

Mass hysteria?
¡°Measures to control nuts are instead making things worse in a cycle of over-reaction and increasing sensitisation,¡± said Prof Christakis.
One example cited in the BMJ article involved the evacuation and decontamination pf a school bus in the US following discovery of one peanut on the floor. The school bus was full of ten year olds, who could arguably have been told simply to not eat food off the floor.
The "gross over-reaction to the magnitude of the threat" is very similar to mass psychogenic illness (MPI), said Prof Christakis, previously known as epidemic hysteria.
Outbreaks of MPI involve healthy people in a flow of anxiety, most often triggered by a fear of contamination, he said. Being around individuals who are anxious heightens others' anxiety.

Lightning bolts are equally as dangerous
In attempt to add perspective, the Harvard professor notes that 150 people die each year from food allergies in the US. On the other hand, 100 people die from lightening strikes, 45,000 die in automobile accidents, and 10,000 are hospitalised for traumatic brain injury from playing sport. ¡°We do not see calls to end athletics,¡± he said. ¡°There are no doubt thousands of parents who rid their cupboards of peanut butter but not of guns,¡± he added. ¡°And more children assuredly die walking or being driven to school each year than die from nut allergies.¡±
Source: British Medical Journal
2008; 337: a2880
¡°This allergies hysteria is just nuts¡±
Author: N.A. Christakis

Report pushes for enhanced monitoring of GE crops
Source of Article:
12/09/2008-The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released a report in which it examines the current state of regulation over genetically modified crops and makes suggestions on how to improve oversight of the crops. Due to the unauthorized mixing of some GE crops with non-GE crops, GAO felt it necessary to examine: 1. unauthorized releases of GE-crops; 2. coordination among the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Food and Drug Administration (FDA); and 3. additional actions they have proposed to improve oversight.
While the USDA, EPA, and FDA have proposed regulatory changes intended to improve their oversight of GE crops, GAO concluded that they could improve their efforts. GAO recommends that:
1. FDA make public the results of its early food safety assessments of GE crops.
2. USDA and FDA develop an agreement to share information on GE crops with traits that, if released into the food or feed supply, could cause health concerns.
3. USDA, EPA, and FDA develop a risk-based strategy for monitoring the widespread use of marketed GE crops.
The FDA agreed with the first recommendation, and, with the USDA, agreed in part with the second. In addition, the agencies agreed in part with the third recommendation.

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