Monday, July 15th, 2013
The US Food & Drug Administration has announced it will limit the amount of inorganic arsenic allowed in apple juice drinks, proposing a limit that would be the same as is allowed in drinking water. The news comes after decades of debate, which flared in 2011 when Dr. Mehmet Oz released a widely publicized study finding higher-than-allowed amounts of total arsenic in popular brands of apple juice, including Gerber.
Oz’s research did not distinguish between “organic” and “inorganic” arsenic, which scientists liken to cholesterol, which has “good” and “bad” types that should be measured separately. At the time, Oz argued for the inorganic arsenic level to be lowered to the allowable drinking water level, which the new FDA announcement appears to do.
More on the new ruling from Reuters:
“This action level will keep any apple juice that may have more inorganic arsenic than that out of the marketplace,” Michael Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, said in a blog post.
Last year the agency tested 94 samples of arsenic in apple juice and found that all were below the 10 ppb threshold for inorganic arsenic. The FDA is now setting that limit as the allowable future benchmark. It will accept public comments on its recommendations for 60 days.
Inorganic arsenic may be found in foods because it is present in the environment, both as a naturally occurring mineral and due to the use of arsenic-containing pesticides.
Inorganic arsenic has been associated with skin lesions, developmental effects, cardiovascular disease, neurotoxicity and diabetes. Organic forms of arsenic, also found in soil and ground water, are considered essentially harmless.
Some consumer groups said the limit on arsenic is a good first step, but the carcinogen needs to be limited further.
“The standard they’ve chosen may not be adequate to fully protect the public,” said Caroline Smith DeWaal, director of food safety at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Image: Apple juice, via Shutterstock
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Monday, July 8th, 2013
Whole Foods Market stores have recalled cheese made by Crave Brothers Les Freres because of a number of cases of listeria contamination. Listeria is a bacteria that is of particular danger to pregnant women or people with compromised immune systems. More from NBC News:
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Whole Foods says the cheese may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. It was sold in 30 states and Washington DC under names including Les Freres and Crave Brothers Les Freres. The cheese was cut and packaged in clear plastic wrap and sold with Whole Foods Market scale labels. The company is posting signs in its stores to inform customers about the recall.
Officials said cases have been identified in at least three states. Public health officials in Illinois said Wednesday that one resident became sick after eating contaminated cheese in May. Minnesota officials said Thursday that one elderly person in the state died and another was hospitalized after illnesses linked to the cheese. Both of those illnesses happened in June.
Listeria can lead to severe illness for women who are pregnant or people who have weakened immune systems. In healthy individuals, it can cause symptoms including high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea.
Tuesday, June 4th, 2013
A frozen fruit mix made by the company Townsend Farms has been identified as a cause of an outbreak of hepatitis A in five Western states–Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 30 people have been infected, and 9 have been hospitalized. More from CNN:
Eleven of 17 ill people interviewed reported eating Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend, a mix of frozen berries and pomegranate seeds.
Company records show that the fruit mix with contaminated ingredients was sent to only Costco stores, said William E. Gaar, an attorney for Townsend Farms. Costco has removed the product from its shelves, he said.
The outbreak has been traced to a type of pomegranate seeds from Turkey that are in the Townsend Farms fruit mix, Gaar said. The mix contains pomegranate seeds and other produce from Argentina, Chile and the United States, according to the label.
“There is no indication that cherries and other berries are contaminated,” Gaar said.
State health departments, the Food and Drug Administration and the CDC continue to investigate. The company was notified about the outbreak Thursday by the CDC, which sent investigators to the Townsend Farms processing plant in Fairview, Oregon, Gaar said.
Hepatitis A is usually transmitted via contaminated food or water, or by someone who’s infected, according to the Mayo Clinic website. Frequent hand-washing is recommended to limit the spread of hepatitis A.
The highly contagious infection inflames the liver and limits its ability to function.
“Mild cases of hepatitis A don’t require treatment, and most people who are infected recover completely with no permanent liver damage,” the Mayo Clinic website says.
Image: Frozen fruit, via Shutterstock
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Monday, May 6th, 2013
One hundred forty eight people across four states were sickened in January 2012 with camphylobacter bacteria that was traced back to raw, or unpasteurized milk sold by a Pennsylvania dairy farm. As MSNBC.com reports, the milk outbreak affected people from ages 2 to 74, and is particularly alarming because the dairy had all its proper permits, and had passed all inspections required for selling unpasteurized milk:
The [CDC] report, which details what happened during the outbreak, said the dairy that sold the milk had a permit for selling unpasteurized milk, and had passed all inspections. The farm was among the largest sellers of unpasteurized milk in the state.
The dairy also tested its own milk for E. coli bacteria more often than was required. The vast majority of the sick people drank the milk before its “best by” date.
The only deficiencies that investigators found were that a mechanical milk bottle capper was broken, so employees had capped the bottles by hand, and that the water used to clean equipment was cooler than recommended (110 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, instead of 160 to 170 degrees F).
But these issues were “minimal,” and this campylobacter outbreak demonstrates “the ongoing hazards of unpasteurized dairy products,” according to the report authors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health departments. The findings were detailed online April 26 in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.
“Raw milk is riskier than most foods,” said Douglas Powell, a professor of food safety at Kansas State University. While certainly a larger number of people get sick yearly from eating tainted tomatoes or lettuce, there are many more consumers of those foods than consumers of raw milk, he said.
Bacteria commonly found in the digestive tracts of farm animals, including campylobacter and E. coli O157, can easily find their way into milk as it is pumped and bottled on a farm, Powell said.
“Fecal matter just ends up in the milk — it’s not like you can see it,” he said. “No inspectors can see it — this isn’t CSI, where the bacteria just magically line up.”
Nearly a third of those sickened in the outbreak were children, the report said. Children, along with pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems, are at high risk of complications from campylobacter infections.
Powell said he advises that raw milk not be given to children. “As adults, you’re free to choose,” he said. “But don’t give it to your kids.”
Image: Milk via Shutterstock
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Monday, December 31st, 2012
As we turn our calendars to 2013, it’s only natural to look back at the year we’re leaving behind. To that end, Parents.com has published our picks for the top parenting stories of 2012.
Because the piece was written by your very own Parents News Now blogger, I can share with you that the original list contained 11 stories, on topics ranging from autism to to politics to vaccinations and food safety. As the year drew to a close, though, the scandal that led to the resignation of Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash, and the unspeakable tragedy of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, necessitated last-minute additions to the feature.
Click here to see the full list of the top 13 parenting news stories of 2012.
Wishing you all a peaceful, joyful 2013, and looking forward to continuing to provide you with the news that affects you, your children, and your families.
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