Tuesday, May 23, 2006

FDA Releases Benzene Data

On May 19, 2006 the official FDA release was published regarding Data on Benzene in Soft Drinks and Other Beverages in which they name actual brands that were found above the drinking water standard of 5 ppb.

It's a slight change of tone when compared with the March 21, 2006 FDA "Letter Regarding Benzene Levels in Soft Drinks" ...for instance, no mention of public health risk was made in the May release, whereas the March letter indicates "...that low ppb levels of benzene found in these products did not and do not constitute an imminent health hazard."

The timing of the recent FDA data release comes as one news source reports Kraft is now under fire with lawsuits filed against them in 3 States -- in Massachusetts, Florida and reportedly California.

The Massachusetts and Florida lawsuits against Kraft also targeted several other soft drinks makers: PepsiCo, In Zone Brands, Polar Beverages, Talking Rain Beverage Company and John Doe.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

New cGMPs for dietary supplements set for Dec. 2006

The FDA publication of "current Good Manufacturing Practice" for dietary supplements has been set for the end of 2006, however they have stated these guidelines would be released before and have missed previous deadlines.

The cGMPs form part of the Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act (DSHEA), which was signed into law more than decade ago in 1994.

The hold-up over the guidelines has laid DSHEA open to criticism from those, particularly in the medical community, who would have dietary supplements subjected to the same rigorous approvals process as pharmaceutical drugs.

In an interview with NutraIngredients-USA.com early last year John Hathcock, VP for scientific and international affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition, said that the most of the council's members already adhere to manufacturing practices that are as good or better than what the FDA will require.

FreeLife is an excellent example of a dietary supplements firm that goes above and beyond required Good Manufacturing Processes, utilizing a 30-Step process before bringing any supplement to market which includes; scientific and background research, compatibility studies, pharmaceutical grade ingredients, pilot-scale blend and dosage studies, intense screening of raw materials, potency and content uniformity analysis, dissolution testing (for esnuring proper absorbancy by the body) and much more.

Hathcock believes that the FDA has "massively misjudged the economic cost for a company going through the process, especially in record-keeping". It estimates that a company will need to spend around $47,000 on compliance, depending on its size.

Nonetheless, Hathcock sees the cost as entirely necessary. "If you can't afford to make good products, you shouldn't be making products at all," he said, adding that one company that fails to comply gives the entire industry a bad name.

We agree!

NIH Conference on Multi Vitamins

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) will be hosting a "State-of-the-Science Conference on Multivitamin/Mineral Supplements for Chronic Disease Prevention," May 15 – 17, 2006 in Bethesda, Maryland.

According to their news release:
"It is estimated that more than one-third of American adults take multivitamin/mineral supplements regularly. Recommendations regarding supplement use from expert groups vary widely, as does the strength of the evidence supporting such guidelines.

In observational studies, MVM use has been associated with better health outcomes but there are few data available from randomized trials to provide more definitive evidence.

As more and more Americans seek strategies for maintaining good health and preventing disease, and as the marketplace offers an increasing number of products to fill that desire, it is important that consumers have the best possible information to inform their choices. Toward that end, this conference is expected to delineate gaps in current knowledge and to provide guidance about how NIH can help to fill those gaps."

Keep in mind that the NIH is a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is also considered to be the primary Federal agency for conducting and supporting medical research.

Panel chair nominations are made by an organizational committee, which is
made up of OMAR staff, representatives of the NIH Institute or Center proposing the topic, and other interested government agencies (U.S. Food and Drug
Administration [FDA], Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], etc.).

This conference is open to the public.

If you are unable to attend the event, a live Webcast of the conference will be available at http://videocast.nih.gov/.

Benzene lawsuit hits Pepsi-Co

We've been following the benzene trail ever since the news hit:

5/03/2006 - Bad Luck for Soft Drinks Firms

4/17/2006 - Law Suits Filed Over Benzene in Soft Drinks

4/13/2006 - Soft Drinks - Benzene Risks Heat Up

2/17/2006 - Benzene Contamination In Some USA Soft Drinks

It was a matter of time before lawyers would file a lawsuit against one of America's "Big 3" ...namely PepsiCo in California, alleging one of its drinks may contain the cancer-causing chemical benzene. It's happened, according to BeverageDaily
The class action suit, launched against the Pepsi Twist drink, marks the first time one of America's 'big three' soft drinks firms has been drawn into a legal battle over recent concern about benzene in drinks.

"Pepsi Twist has been falsely promoted as a safe consumer product, when in fact, it contains the ingredients ascorbic acid and potassium benzoate, which can and do produce the carcinogenic chemical benzene when exposed to heat and light," the lawsuit, filed by lawyers Howard Hewell and Howard Rubinstein, alleges.

If the lawsuit filed against Pepsi does end up in court, then I have a feeling many more details on what took place 15 years ago will emerge -- specifically regarding research that was completed back then, and even more specifically regarding the agreement reached between the FDA and the soft drinks Industry.

In a way, it isn't just the soft drinks industry on trial here. There's also the "public court of opinion" ...and the "trust" they place in their government to protect them.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Organic Milk - Why You Should Care

Now estimated in excess of $15 billion in annual sales, the organic dairy industry is said to be at risk by those who are willing to twist, manipulate, and even ignore federal organic regulations in their rush to cash in on this growing lucrative market.

A new report/survey published by the Cornucopia Institute titled -- "Maintaining The Integrity Of Organic Milk" (.pdf document) -- allows consumers to easily identify those organic dairy products that have been produced with the best organic practices. It also reveals some of the "FRAUDS" in the marketplace ...and indepth coverage of apparent government carelessness (for lack of a better term) regarding the organic industry.

The survey rates 68 different "organic" dairy brands and private-label products found across the country. Nearly 20% of the name-brands now available on grocery shelves scored a substandard rating.

"By purchasing organic products, consumers have demonstrated that they are interested in healthy, whole foods, grown without the potential for contamination by toxic agrichemicals or drugs, including antibiotics and growth hormones. And for some, the added bonus of supporting environmental protection and sustainability is a strong inducement. ...We intend this organic dairy brand scorecard to empower organic consumers and wholesale buyers in the marketplace, equipping them with the knowledge to make good and discerning purchasing decisions."
In response to the results of the report, The Organic Consumers Association is calling for an allout boycott of bogus organic milk brands.

Some of the brands named that rated a BAD SCORE include:

Stremicks (Heritage-Foods), Santa Ana, CA: Supplied by factory farm under investigation. Farm paid $300,000 settlement for abusing workers.

Organic Cow (Dean Foods), Dallas, TX (Northeast): Purchased by Horizon, then Dean Foods. Organic Cow is a brand managed by Dean.

Horizon (Dean Foods), Dallas, TX: $11 billion--the nation's largest conventional & organic milk marketer. Owns 4000 cow "farm".

Back to Nature (Kraft): Glenview, IL Produces Cheese products distributed nationwide but landed on the "Ethically Challenged" list.

Visit here for the full report/scorecard.

Organic vs. Non-Organic -- Why Should You Care?

Let's start with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) -- manufactured and marketed by Monsanto. It was one of the first genetically engineered agricultural production products to be sold in the USA.

Designed to boost a dairy cow's milk output and approved for use by the FDA on November 5, 1994, rBGH has played a significant role in the industrialization of dairy production. It has serious implications for animal welfare and poses a potentially serious health threat to dairy cows. The synthetic hormone's impact on human health is still being vigorously debated. It's banned for use in Canada and the UK.

Some of the larger "so-called organic" dairy farms sell off all of their calves at birth and buy conventional replacement heifers at approximately one year of age. This saves them the expense of feeding the calves organic feed for the full two years of their lives prior to their entering the milking line which could result in dairy cows that have been raised using organic-rating prohibited materials (ie. milk replacer/cow's blood, antibiotics, conventional feed containing potential pesticide contamination, genetically engineered feed, poultry manure, etc.).

Consumers should also be aware that milk from factory-farm operations may be less nutritious than that from pastured dairy cows. What cows eat affects their milk's nutrition.

The Danish Institute of Agricultural Research recently reported that organic milk -- defined as produced by pastured cows -- is 50% higher in vitamin E, 75% higher in omega-3 fatty acids, and 200%–300% higher in antioxidants than conventional milk.

And The Union of Concerned Scientists has just released the first comprehensive study that confirms that beef and milk from animals raised entirely on pasture have higher levels of beneficial fats that may prevent heart disease and strengthen the immune system.

Additionally, many consumers believe that their patronage of organic brands connects them more directly to family farmers, who they respect and want to financially support. They feel good about the fact that farming organically allows these farmers and their children to avoid occupational exposure to toxins, which has resulted in conventional farmers having the highest rates of cancer of any occupation.

A Final Note...

"Knowledge is power. And that is evidently what many of the largest corporate players in organic food are afraid of: empowering consumers." Quoted from the "Maintaining The Integrity Of Organic Milk" Report

As you might guess, the Cornucopia Institute is facing a great deal of adversity for their organic dairy survey results from industry heavy-weights, including the Organic Trade Association (OTA) themselves ...a once highly respected, now sadly tarnished organic industry group.

I refer you back to our "USA Food Fight" article. If you are relying on Federal governing bodies (such as the FDA, USDA, etc.) to protect your health and oversee food quality -- and safety -- in the USA, think again.

Perhaps a new label is required on ALL our food products:

"This product, in whole or in part, contains genetically altered ingredients and/or ingredients produced by factory farming and/or genetic-engineering methods."

But then we'd have to inform the public about factory farming, and that could stir up a whole bunch of trouble for the heavy-hitters, wouldn't it?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Bad Luck for Soft Drinks Firms

New benzene lawsuits, in addition to those we mentioned in our previous benzene article, have been filed against soft drinks firms alleging their drinks were contaminated with the cancer-causing chemical benzene above America's legal limit for drinking water.

And now... a new report comes out of Japan.

Coca-Cola began recalling more than 500,000 bottles of soft drinks in Japan on Monday, after drinks were found contaminated with iron powder.

Add to this the recent push to get junk food out of schools, and you might agree that soft drinks firms are facing a LOT of bad luck lately.

BUT, is it luck? ...or is it an example of Industry Giants' close relationships with Government bodies and lawmakers that has bred a certain lack of attention and/or concern towards the affects their products may have on public health?

Has it given Manufacturers (and their related lobby groups) a false sense of security in that they may not be taken to task for their manufacturing processes and/or products?

When you consider that 15 years ago the benzene situation was discovered and discussed by the FDA ...and an agreement made with Industry to deal with the problem/s instead of the FDA making the situation public and/or putting safety precautions and legislation in place to prevent the problem in future ...it makes me nervous to even think of the National Uniformity for Food Act being placed under their care.