Search for Food Recalls

December 31, 2008

Which foods are dangerous?

This database contains all allergy-related food recalls by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture from Oct. 1, 1998 through Oct. 1, 2008 — about 2,800 total. Also included are New York state alerts publicized by the FDA.

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A Step in the Right Direction

December 31, 2008

No More Goodies for Doctors

Last year, besides giving away nearly $16 billion in free drug samples to doctors, pharmaceutical companies spent more than $6 billion on “detailing” – an industry term for the sales activities of drug representatives including office visits to doctors, meal-time presentations and branded pens and other handouts, according to IMS Health, a health care information company.

The industry code also permits drug makers to pay doctors as consultants “based on fair market value” – which critics say means that companies can continue to pay individual doctors tens of thousands of dollars or more a year.

“We have arrived at a point in the history of medicine in America where doctors have deep, deep financial ties with the drug makers and marketers,” said Allan Coukell, the director of policy for the Prescription Project, a nonprofit group in Boston working to promote evidence-based medicine. “Financial entanglements at all the levels have the potential to influence prescribing in a way that is not good.”

About 40 drug makers, including Eli Lilly & Company, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer, have signed on to the code. Representatives of several pharmaceutical makers said their companies intended to comply with the guidelines, but they declined to discuss past marketing programs involving branded gifts.

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Nothing Special About Your Head…!

December 18, 2008

Six Homespun Medical Myths Debunked

Drs. Vreeman and Carroll generated a list of six popular beliefs associated with either winter or the holiday season and searched the medical literature for evidence one way or another.

It turns out that:

* Holiday sweets don’t make the kids more hyperactive.
* Suicides don’t go up over the holidays.
* Poinsettias aren’t poisonous.
* Avoiding eating at night won’t keep the pounds off.
* The only way to cure a hangover is not to get one in the first place.

Oh, and the hat thing. The roots of the myth probably lie in military tests, in which volunteers were dressed in arctic survival suits but no hats. When researchers measured heat loss, most of it — for obvious reasons — was from the unprotected head.

But if the myth was true, the researchers said, “humans would be just as cold if they went without trousers as if they went without a hat.”

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Increasing the Numbers of the Uninsured

December 7, 2008

When a Job Disappears, So Does the Health Care

About 10.3 million Americans were unemployed in November, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of unemployed has increased by 2.8 million, or 36 percent, since January of this year, and by 4.3 million, or 71 percent, since January 2001.

Most people are covered through the workplace, so when they lose their jobs, they lose their health benefits. On average, for each jobless worker who has lost insurance, at least one child or spouse covered under the same policy has also lost protection, public health experts said.

Expanding access to health insurance, with federal subsidies, was a priority for President-elect Barack Obama and the new Democratic Congress. The increase in the ranks of the uninsured, including middle-class families with strong ties to the work force, adds urgency to their efforts.

“This shows why — no matter how bad the condition of the economy — we can’t delay pursuing comprehensive health care,” said Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio. “There are too many victims who are innocent of anything but working at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

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FDA Contradicts Itself

December 2, 2008

With the FDA having become a politicized entity, I am not sure I can trust any of its findings and especially when they contradict itself. So which is it: melamine and cyanuric acid in baby formula is OK or not OK?

FDA Discounts Danger From Melamine in U.S.-Made Infant Formula

Levels of melamine found in a sample of U.S.-made infant formula do not pose a safety risk, the FDA said.

The agency detected trace amounts of the toxic chemical in a single sample of Nestle Nutrition’s Good Start Supreme Infant Formula with Iron.

Melamine was found in concentrations of 137 and 140 parts per billion. In an updated risk assessment, the FDA said that concentrations less than 1,000 parts per billion do not raise safety concerns. Earlier the FDA had said no level of melamine was safe. (See: FDA Says No Safe Level of Melamine in Baby Formula)

Agency testing also found cyanuric acid — a chemical relative of melamine — at concentrations of 247, 245, and 249 parts per billion in a single sample of Mead Johnson’s Enfamil Lipil with Iron. Levels below 1,000 parts per billion are considered tolerable, according to the updated risk assessment.

The FDA is still awaiting results from 13 of the 87 samples tested.

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Report Ties Children’s Use of Media to Their Health

December 2, 2008

Full Story Here

Dr. Emanuel, Mr. Steyer and others plan to brief Washington policy makers on the study on Tuesday. Joined by researchers at Yale University and California Pacific Medical Center, Dr. Emanuel’s team analyzed almost 1,800 studies conducted since 1980 and identified 173 that met the criteria the researchers set.

In a clear majority of those studies more time with television, films, video games, magazines, music and the Internet was linked to rises in childhood obesity, tobacco use and sexual behavior. A majority also showed strong correlations — what the researchers deemed “statistically significant associations” — with drug and alcohol use and low academic achievement.

The evidence was somewhat less indicative of a relationship between media exposure and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, the seventh health outcome that was studied.

Dr. Emanuel, whose brother, Rahm, is the president-elect’s chief of staff, said he was surprised by how lopsided the findings were. “We found very few studies that had any positive association” for children’s health, he said.

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Abusive Character and Medical Malpractice

December 2, 2008

Arrogant, Abusive and Disruptive — and a Doctor

It was the middle of the night, and Laura Silverthorn, a nurse at a hospital in Washington, knew her patient was in danger.

The boy had a shunt in his brain to drain fluid, but he was vomiting and had an extreme headache, two signs that the shunt was blocked and fluid was building up. When she paged the on-call resident, who was asleep in the hospital, he told her not to worry.

After a second page, Ms. Silverthorn said, “he became arrogant and said, ‘You don’t know what to look for — you’re not a doctor.’ ”

He ignored her third page, and after another harrowing hour she called the attending physician at home. The child was rushed into surgery.

“He could have died or had serious brain injury,” Ms. Silverthorn said, “but I was treated like a pest for calling in the middle of the night.”

Her experience is borne out by surveys of hospital staff members, who blame badly behaved doctors for low morale, stress and high turnover. (Ms. Silverthorn said she had been brought to tears so many times that she was trying to start her own business and leave nursing.)

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