Friday, June 15, 2007

OECD report reveals growing counterfeit problem

Kiwis, conserved vegetables, milk powder, butter, ghee, baby food, instant coffee, alcohol, drinks, confectionery, and hi-breed corn seeds are among the most counterfeited articles in the world according to a new report from the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), to be published this June.

“Trade in counterfeit goods is a big problem and getting bigger,” said John Dryden, Deputy Director of the OECD’s Science, Technology and Industry Directorate. “It is pervasive, it involves some pretty unsavoury and ruthless characters, and it has serious implications for health, safety, living standards and jobs. It is also a major disincentive to invent and innovate.”
The market for counterfeit and pirated products can be divided into two important sub-markets. In the primary market, consumers purchase counterfeit and pirated products believing they have purchased genuine articles. The products are often sub-standard and carry health and safety risks that range from mild to life-threatening. In the secondary market, consumers looking for what they believe to be bargains knowingly buy counterfeit and pirated products.

...In the food and drink sector, few people would knowingly purchase counterfeit food or drink products, due in part to the potential health risks involved. Such risks range from general discomfort, to serious illness and even death. As discussed in the sectoral assessment, this has been the case for poorly distilled raw spirits and fake baby formula.

The OECD report makes a number of recommendations for ways to address the issues and calls on governments to clamp down. Click to view the Executive Summary (pdf format) of the report online.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Tainted Pet Food Reaches Pork

In our earlier story about tainted pet food, we mentioned the concern some experts had about the melamine-tainted wheat gluten entering our food supply. This concern was expanded to a rice protein, also imported from China. According to AOL News today, this may have happened -- not directly, but indirectly through pork. (link)
WASHINGTON (April 26) - Several hundred of the 6,000 hogs that may have eaten contaminated pet food are believed to have entered the food supply for humans, the government said Thursday. The potential risk to human health was said to be very low.

In the state-by-state breakdown of potential hogs contaminated, it's the South Carolina investigation which caught my attention:
SOUTH CAROLINA: Urine tests done on some of the 800 hogs now quarantined at a farm have tested positive for low levels of melamine. None went to slaughter. According to the state veterinarian, none of the suspect feed was fed to the hogs. Federal tests on the feed have come up negative. The positive urine tests could not be immediately explained, although contaminated feed could have escaped detection during tests, the FDA said.

If they did not eat the tainted pet food in question, then one has to wonder how melamine could have gotten into this group of hogs.
CLEMSONews indicated;
The potentially contaminated feed was bought as salvage pet food from Diamond Pet Foods Inc., which received contaminated wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate from China. ...State officials are waiting for guidance from the FDA, FSIS and EPA as to the significance of these tests and other pending tests.

Livestock and Poultry Health is a unit of Clemson University Public Service and Agriculture. The agency inspects and regulates the state meat and poultry industries.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Pathogens Transmitted Commonly Through Food

The USA Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a new report last week that reveals startling deficiencies in food safety. For examples, there has been a 50 percent increase in E coli infections since 2004, and a whopping 78 percent increase in Vibrio infections (generally caused by eating raw shellfish) over the past decade.

Progress was made against rising cases of food contamination through consumer education, where the USDA and other Government entities promoted fully cooking of meat products (such as sea food, poultry, eggs, and beef) and thoroughly washing surfaces that came into contact of such raw produce.

BUT, the huge outbreaks associated with spinach, lettuce, tomatoes and peanut butter that have occurred over the last 6 months suggest the battle for reducing foodborn illnesses is losing ground. The problem has spread to foods that are commonly eaten raw.

As important as it is to detect contamination and quickly pull such products from the market is equally important -- MORE important in my humble opinion -- to prevent contaminations at the source.

As BeverageDaily writes, " absolute priority needs to be better systems for prevention."
Voluntary guidance or industry self regulatory schemes is a short sighted answer to a growing problem that calls for immediate and permanent solutions, according to Consumers Union...

ConAgra [in response to the Peter Pan Peanut Butter contamination responsible for at least 4 deaths] said it "had plans in place to address this kind of situation". Now the firm is totally renovating and redesigning its plant to separate raw ingredients from finished products, as well as appointing a Global Food Safety executive and forming a Food Safety Advisory Committee.

These are all positive moves, it's just a shame they needed to be prompted by disaster. Learning from mistakes is good, but preventing them is even better.

Salmonella infections cause an estimated 1.4 million human illnesses and 400 deaths annually in the United States, according to the CDC. In total, the CDC estimates that 76 million Americans get sick and 5,000 die from foodborne hazards each year in the United States.


CDC Report (link): "Preliminary FoodNet Data on the Incidence of Infection with Pathogens Transmitted Commonly Through Food --- 10 States, 2006"

BeverageDaily (link): "Food contamination: time for action"

CDC Report (link): "Multistate Outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium Infections Associated with Eating Ground Beef --- United States, 2004"

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Taste Test for Smokers

"With a few modifications to their diet - consuming items that make cigarettes taste bad, such as a cold glass of milk, and avoiding items that make cigarettes taste good, like a pint of beer - smokers can make quitting a bit easier," says Dr Joseph McClernon, lead researcher on a new study that was conducted by researchers at Duke University Medical Center.

Overall, dairy products (such as milk or cheese), non-caffeinated beverages (such as water or juice), and fruits and vegetables were found to worsen the taste of cigarettes, by 19 percent, 14 percent and 16 percent of respondents respectively.

Forty-four percent of participants reported that alcoholic beverages enhance the taste of cigarettes; 45 percent reported caffeinated beverages, such as tea, cola and coffee; and 11 percent reported meat.
If you've been looking for ways to kick the habit, you might want to consider a few changes to your menu plan. Visit this link for more details on this new report.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Pet Food Recall Widens

Del Monte Foods, Nestle Purina PetCare Co., Hills Nutrition and Menu Foods are all part of a growing list of pet food manufacturers who are recalling specific brands of pet food which have been formulated with the contaminated wheat gluten imported from an Asian source.

The latest disturbing news on this is that according to Del Monte (quote):
Del Monte Foods has confirmed that the melamine-tainted wheat gluten used in several of its recalled pet food products was supplied as a "food grade" additive, raising the likelihood that contaminated wheat gluten might have entered the human food supply....

Del Monte issued a voluntary recall Saturday for several products under the Gravy Train, Jerky Treats, Pounce, Ol' Roy, Dollar General and Happy Trails brands.
Wheat gluten is sold in both "food grade" and "feed grade" varieties. Either may be used in pet food, but only "food grade" gluten may be used in the manufacture of products meant for human consumption. Wheat gluten is a common food additive used as a thickener, dough conditioner, and meat substitute. It is widely used as an additive in commercial bakery items and special purpose flours.

Persons suffering from celiac disease must avoid foods containing all forms of gluten. If this particular shipment of gluten has indeed entered the food supply chain, it could have far reaching consequences.
Meanwhile, the FDA now says the contamination in wet pet food that has injured and killed pets across the country may not have been the pesticide aminopterin but possibly a fertilizer and plastics agent called melamine.

...FDA investigators are not certain how melamine would sicken or kill dogs and cats; there is little scientific information available about melamine exposure in animals.
One firm in New York disputes the melamine theory as the source of the many peat deaths and illnesses. They claim the traces of aminopterin discovered are a more likely source owing to its known toxicity as a rat poison and cancer drug treatment.
Earlier in the day, the FDA said its labs found no aminopterin in its tests. Neither did labs at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University in New York. Cornell has been involved in testing of the Menu Foods since the first indication of the problem, "We have not been able to confirm aminoptrin in the food or body samples," says Donald Smith, dean of the college.
For details on the wide range of pet foods recalled by Menu Foods, vist their pet food recall information website here. You can also find the "Frequently Asked Questions" on the Menu Foods pet food recall this site.

Purina's recalled products include:
13.2-ounce and 22-ounce ALPO Prime Cuts cans and 6-, 8-, 12- and 24-can ALPO Prime Cuts Variety Packs. They have four-digit code dates of 7037 through 7053, followed by the plant code 1159. Those codes follow a "Best Before Feb. 2009" date. This information should be checked on the bottom of the can or the top or side of the multi-pack cartons.

Purina's 5.3-ounce Mighty Dog pouch products, manufactured by Menu Foods, were previously withdrawn from the market as a precaution on March 16 as part of the Menu Foods recall.
Hill's Science Diet Savory Cuts Feline canned cat foods, manufactured by Menu Foods, were previously withdrawn from the market as a precaution. Hills Nutrition products are generally only available through a vetrinarian source. Hills' affected products include:
The affected products:

• Prescription Diet™ m/d™ Feline dry food, 4 pound bag, 52742 42770(all lot numbers)

• Prescription Diet™ m/d™ Feline dry food, ten pound bag, 52742 42790(all lot numbers)

The company advised consumers to stop using the product and return it for a refund. Hill's is reformulating the food so that it will not contain wheat gluten, the company said.
Please don't consider the above the ony products affected. There are more not mentioned above which can be found at the various manufacturers' websites.

And as I mentioned, the recall is widening ...the list is still growing as this story continues to evolve.

Yesterday, the FDA announced that it has traced the contaminated wheat gluten to a single processor, Xuzhou Anying Biological Technology of Peixian, China, but has not released the name of the U.S. distributor who supplied the product to Del Monte, Menu Foods, Nestle Purina, and Hills Nutritional.

In all, more than 70 brands and over 60 million cans and pouches of dog and cat food are now part of this massive recall, as well as at least one brand of dry cat food.

We'll bring you more on the subject as the story unfolds.

Friday, March 30, 2007

The Gap in Life Expectancy

"There is a big gap between 'total life expectancy' and 'healthy life expectancy'," Professor David Richardson, scientific adviser to the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN UK), is quoted saying in this recent article.

Professor Richardson points out in his new report that as people age their energy intake declines, making it much more difficult to ensure the micronutrient intake of diet as a whole. Such a deficit in micronutrient intake offers an opportunity for food supplements.
The report focuses on a wide range of health conditions and how the diet and micronutrients may offer protection, including cognitive function, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, cancer, cognitive function, gut health and immunity, and bone and joint health.

If more attention was placed on improving healthy ageing, the potential economic, health and social burdens could be reduced, said Richardson.
The report, titled "Nutrition, Healthy Ageing and Public Policy", will be available at the "International Perspectives on Dietary Supplement Regulation" workshop on April 17, at Yokohama in Japan, and organised by the International Alliance of Dietary/Food Supplement Associations’ (IADSA) to address the evolution of dietary supplement regulation.
The elderly currently make up 10 per cent of the global population – a figure that is expected to double by 2050, placing increasing demands on public health systems and medical and social services. In 2005 the World Health Assembly addressed the issue by adopting a resolution to strengthen and promote active and healthy ageing.

According to IADSA's healthy ageing report, evidence supports the premise that good nutrition, specific nutrients and other food substances can play a major role in maintaining and enhancing physical and mental performance.
Taking the example of omega-3 fatty acids, Prof. Richardson pointed out that it is "almost impossible" for the elderly population to achieve the recommended intakes from the diet, based on current consumption.
“Increases in healthcare expenditure will outpace economic growth in many countries, so health professionals and policymakers will need to give greater priority to maximising the quality of life of older people and to ensuring the most cost-efficient methods of nutritional support,” said Professor Richardson.

“Healthcare strategies, including the wider use of food supplements, could favourably modify the age-related decline in most organ functions and the development and progression of many chronic diseases.”
Meanwhile, here in the USA, physician and alternative medicine veteran Dr. Julian Whitaker, who runs the Whitaker Wellness Institute in Newport Beach, California, pitted mainstream medical practice and the pharmaceutical industry against the potential of the dietary supplement industry to act preventatively.

In this article, he said the medical establishment sets the definitions of disease so that more and more people fall within diseased ranks and need to be medicated.
"You create the conditions, you sell the conditions...," United Natural Products Alliance executive director Loren Israelsen said in his introductory comments. "Whoever defines these terms is likely to win the game."

So far, pharmaceutical companies and their political clout are winning the game, while the public and the dietary supplement industry lose, according to Whitaker.

...Whitaker cited that in 2004, the US spent $1.9mn on national health care expenditure and this figure is set to double over the course of the next decade. Despite this colossal investment, Americans rank 22nd out of 23 countries in terms of their health.

"In order to get people to take these drugs, they have to create fear," said Whitaker, pointing-out that pharmaceutical companies spend $4bn yearly on direct-to-consumer marketing in the US The only other developed country that permits such a practice is New Zealand.
Interestingly, the FDA is currently looking to increase regulations/guidelines on both "supplements" and "funtional foods." More on that in a future post here at BLV Health Watch.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Update on March 2007 USA Food Recalls

There are a few very large recalls underway in the USA that consumers should be aware of:

1. U.S. Chicken Breast Recall (link):
Carolina Culinary Foods, a West Columbia, S.C., firm, initially recalled 52,650 pounds of fully cooked chicken breast strips on Feb. 18 because of possible bacterial contamination with Listeria monocytogenes. The FSIS said the expansion of the recall of 6- and 12-ounce packages distributed to retail establishments nationwide was based on additional sampling initiated by Kraft Foods and conducted at a non-government laboratory.

The FSIS said the front of each recalled package bears the establishment number "P-19676" inside the U.S. Department of Agriculture mark of inspection. Each recalled package also has a "Use by" date of earlier than "28 MAY 2007."

The expanded recall totals approximately 2.8 million pounds.

2. Summer Sausage Recall (link) in some States:
Sixteen-ounce packages of "RESER'S FINE FOODS, Premium BEEF SUMMER SAUSAGE, Natural Smoke Flavoring Added" -- distributed to retail stores in Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington -- are being voluntarily recalled by the Hempler Foods Group of Ferndale, Wash., owing to the presence of the presence of milk protein (hydrolyzed sodium caseinate), a potential allergen.

Each label bears the establishment number "EST. 6410" inside the USDA seal of inspection. Each package also bears a "Sell by" date of "3/13/07," "3/18/07," "4/25/07," "5/16/07," "6/16/07" or "8/27/07."

3. Ground beef recall (link) in western U.S.:
Tyson Fresh Meats Inc. of Wallula, Wash., is recalling approximately 16,743 pounds of ground beef that may be contaminated with E. coli bacteria.

The U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service says the ground beef was distributed in Oregon, Idaho, Washington and Utah in 60-pound boxes, each containing six 10-pound chubs of "ROUND, COARSE GROUND BEEF, 85/15." The box end also bears a label with the establishment number "Est. 9268" as well as a "BEST BEFORE OR FROZEN BY" date of "03/08/07" and packaging date "02/16/07."