Posts Tagged: Food & Drug Administration

An apple a day . . . or not

Almost every day I put an apple in my son’s lunch because it’s one of the few fruits he eats.  While I worry about his limited palate, I’ve always thought, “well, at least he’s eating an apple a day,” as the saying goes.  So the USDA’s announcement that apples contain the highest concentration of pesticide residue of any produce – and are ranked number one on the Environment Working Group’s list of the “dirty dozen” fruits and vegetables – was a punch to the gut. (more…)

See your fridge differently with help of FDA food recall database

Eddie Gehman Kohan writes on Obama Foodorama (try reading “foodorama” ten times to yourself) about the Food & Drug Adminstration’s latest initiative to open up the food recall process to citizens.  The FDA database may not be blessed with the catchiest name (“Recalls, Market Withdrawals, & Safety Alerts”), but it might end up saving your health, time, and money.  It allows you to search by food item, by infection or illness that a contaminated or otherwise dangerous food product can cause, and by store.  My searches using terms like “salmonella”, “broccoli”, “sam’s club”, “ham”, “hillandale” and “wegmans” all turned up relatively recent product recalls, with specifics gleaned from company press releases.   The database might not reach out and stop you from buying something that could make you sick, but it’s a good way to check your fridge and shelves at home if you’ve heard rumors about a recall.

With Senate vote, FDA embraces slow(er) food movement

Gardiner Harris and William Neuman’s report in the New York Times at the Senate vote approving new food inspection powers for the Food and Drug Administration hints at a key question: how will the FDA manage its new responsibilities?  The change, which now must be approved in the House, is significant:

The bill is intended to keep unsafe foods from reaching markets and restaurants, where they can make people sick — a change from the current practice, which mainly involves cracking down after outbreaks occur.

As a result, the FDA will gain new powers to inspect sources of food products overseas and in the U.S.  It will be able to “recall tainted foods, increase inspections, [and] demand accountability from food companies and oversee farming.”

But changing the culture at FDA will be hard. (more…)

In real life, not so easy to ban BPA (but who said life was going to be easy?)

Denise Grady’s insightful report in the New York Times makes it clear why it’s so hard to remove the plastic bisphenol-A, or BPA, from various products — and from our own bodies.  The reason is America’s general approach to food and product safety.  This approach puts the onus not on industry, but on scientists (in and out of government), who must prove that it a product is unsafe after it has already been introduced.  Grady contrasts our approach to that of the European Union, which favors the “better safe than sorry”  method for approving the use of chemicals people are going to ingest.   Seems like in America, it’s better sorry than safe. (more…)

You too can get sick for just pennies a day

The trade off between safer eggs and the risk of a deadly salmonella outbreak is just pennies a dozen, according to a in-depth look at the industry by P.J. Huffstutter in the Los Angeles Times.

Slightly stricter guidelines in California have helped egg producers avoid bacterial contamination in recent years, but in an industry where the bottom line reigns supreme, tighter rules have caught on in only nine of the 50 states. (more…)

Preventive Journalism update: Gardiner Harris on FDA and medical tubes

A simple solution to a lethal problem could come with the stroke of a pen — and save lives.  It remains out of reach because the Food and Drug Administration’s unwieldy review process.  Gardiner Harris of the New York Times investigates something  basic and alarming — the misconnection of plastic tubes that are used to deliver medicine, anaesthetic, and other vital substances to patients in America’s hospitals.  The tubes are often very similar, and can easily be fitted into many different devices.  The result can be painful and sudden death when medical workers make errors and connect the wrong tubes — liquid food can be inserted into a vein, and air bubbles can end up in people’s blood streams. (more…)

If you can’t trust the government . . .

When the people whose very livelihood depends on the government say they don’t trust the government, we’ve got a lot to worry about. David A. Fahrenthold and Juliet Eilperin report in the Washington Post that Gulf Coast shrimp fishermen, told by the Obama administration that they can start shrimping today and that their catch is safe, are wary of fishing again in spite of government reassurances. (more…)

No fish story: genetically-modified salmon

Federal regulators are on the verge of approving the world’s first ‘Frankenfish’ — genetically modified Atlantic salmon engineered to grow from fingerling to filet in half the time.  According to Les Blumenthal of McClatchy Newspapers, “if the Food and Drug Administration approves it, the salmon would be the first transgenic animal headed for the dinner table.” (more…)

Too much to recall: busy consumers don’t return dangerous items

Instead of just product recalls, how about a new approach to consumer safety that provides incentives and penalties to companies based on how well they protect the public safety?

Getting people to return defective and dangerous products takes much more than simply issuing a recall notice, reports Lyndsey Layton of The Washington Post.   The Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Food and Drug Administration, two agencies that are involved with product recalls, face a significant problem: thousands of Americans buy everything (more…)

BPA: Statistically insignificant quantities

For an instructive view into the legislative sausage factory, look no further than the battle over Bisphenol A. (more…)