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Food & Nutrition

Democrats aim for new vote on U.S. food safety law

Food & Nutrition • • Public HealthJul 31 09

House Democratic leaders may try for the second time in two days on Thursday to pass a sweeping reform of the U.S. food safety system that would step up federal inspection of food makers.

The bill, drafted in response to recent outbreaks of illnesses linked to peanut butter, spinach and peppers, would give the Food and Drug Administration the power to order food recalls, require facilities to have a food safety plan in place and give FDA more access to company records.

Representatives defeated the bill on Wednesday, when it was debated under special rules that limited debate to 40 minutes but required a two-thirds majority for passage. The vote of 280-150 fell short of the 288 needed to pass.

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Obama administration takes action on food safety

Food & Nutrition • • Public HealthJul 08 09

The Obama administration on Tuesday ordered tougher steps to curb Salmonella and Escherichia coli contamination in U.S. food processing plants and created a new deputy food commissioner post to coordinate safety in the wake of a Salmonella outbreak.

The administration, concerned by delays in identifying the source of the salmonella contamination that sickened more than 700 people in 46 states earlier this year, also moved to create a better tracing system for identifying the origin of foodborne illnesses.

The actions, to be unveiled by the administration at an event on Tuesday, were based on recommendations from a Food Safety Working Group created by President Barack Obama in March after a Salmonella outbreak in peanut products forced the largest food recall in U.S. history.

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Sports drinks start working when they hit the mouth

Dieting • • Food & NutritionApr 21 09

High-carbohydrate sports drinks can boost athletic performance, and their effects may begin as soon as they hit the mouth, a new study suggests.

The researchers had endurance athletes rinse their mouths with either of two carb-containing drinks, the athletes’ exercise performance improved. The same was not true when the athletes were given water flavored with an artificial sweetener.

What’s more, brain scans showed that simply swishing the carbohydrate drinks around the mouth activated particular areas of the brain associated with pleasure and reward. Again, the artificially sweetened water did not have the same effects.

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Chewing gum reduces snack cravings and decreases consumption of sweet snacks

Dieting • • Food & NutritionApr 20 09

Men and women who chewed Extra® sugar-free gum three times hourly in the afternoon chose and consumed less snacks and specifically, less sweet snacks than they did when they did not chew gum. They still reached for a variety of snacks provided but the decrease in overall snack intake was significant at 40 calories and sweet snack intake specifically was significantly lowered by 60 calories.

Researchers from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center and Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, La., presented study findings on April 19, 2009 at the Experimental Biology 2009 meeting in New Orleans.

The presentation by Dr. Paula J Geiselman, chief of women¹s health and eating behavior and smoking cessation at Pennington, was part of the scientific program of the American Society for Nutrition. Earlier studies had found that gum chewing was associated with lower snack intake, but the study conducted by Dr. Geiselman is the first to examine the macronutrient composition of afternoon snack food choices made by men and women after chewing Extra® sugar-free gum.

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China illegal additives still blight food: official

Dieting • • Food & Nutrition • • Public HealthFeb 25 09

Chinese dairy products, flour, meat and other foods remain dangerously tainted with illegal additives despite a crackdown, the country’s health ministry said Tuesday.

Vice Minister of Health, Chen Xiaohong, told a video conference for officials some food and liquor makers continued to use banned additives, and high-tech lawbreakers were “challenging the oversight and administration capacities of law enforcement agencies,” the Xinhua news agency reported.

“Some food businesses still lack a grasp of the harmfulness and severity of illegal additives,” Chen said. “Their commitment to correcting this is not high.”

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Following peanut product recall, six in ten Americans taking steps to reduce risk of sickness

Dieting • • Food & NutritionFeb 14 09

A new national survey conducted by the Harvard Opinion Research Program at the Harvard School of Public Health finds that the vast majority (93%) of Americans have heard or read about the recent ongoing recall of peanut products. Among those who are aware of the recall, about six in ten (61%) say they have taken one or more precautions to reduce their risk of getting sick from contaminated peanut products. Specifically, about one in four say they have checked ingredient lists on foods in the grocery store to make sure they know which products contain peanuts (27%), thrown away foods in their home that they think might be on the recall list (25%), stopped ordering foods containing peanuts in restaurants (22%), and stopped eating those foods they heard were in the recall (28%), while 15% say they have stopped eating all foods containing peanuts.

The poll also finds that among those who are aware of the recall, one in four (25%) mistakenly believe that major national brands of peanut butter are involved in the recall. Seventy percent correctly identify peanut butter crackers as being involved. However, less than half are aware that several other products containing peanuts have been recalled, including some in each of the following food categories: snack bars (49%), cakes, brownies, and cookies (45%), pet treats (43%), candy (39%), pre-packaged meals (36%), ice cream (27%), and jars or cans of dry-roasted peanuts (23%).

The survey was conducted between February 4-8, 2009, during the peanut product recall that began on January 12, 2009.

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Peanut recall has U.S. consumers “spooked”: experts

Allergies • • Food & NutritionFeb 10 09

“We have temporarily discontinued the use of peanuts,” reads a handwritten sign behind the register at Penny’s Noodle Shop in Oak Park, Illinois.

Although the Asian noodle shop did not get its peanuts from the U.S. peanut plant at the center of a widespread salmonella scare, it has stopped using them anyway. “You just don’t want to take a chance,” said manager Louie Paine.

Penny’s is not alone.

The recall of tainted peanut butter and peanut products made by Peanut Corporation of America is reaching far beyond the businesses forced to recall 1,790 potentially tainted foods ranging from ice cream to pet treats.

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FDA lacks access to food safety records: Congress

Drug Abuse • • Food & NutritionFeb 06 09

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration lacks access to food safety tests that could have helped identify problems at a peanut plant at the center of one of the biggest food recalls in U.S. history, members of Congress said on Thursday.

The salmonella outbreak traced to a Peanut Corp. of America plant in Blakely, Georgia, has sickened more than 550 people, more than half of them children, and may be linked to eight deaths.

“We would like to have more information. There is no question,” Stephen Sundlof, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, told a hearing of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

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Moderate Alcohol Consumption May Help Seniors Keep Disabilities at Bay

Dieting • • Food & NutritionJan 16 09

It is well known that moderate drinking can have positive health benefits — for instance, a couple of glasses of red wine a day can be good for the heart. But if you’re a senior in good health, light to moderate consumption of alcohol may also help prevent the development of physical disability.

That’s the conclusion of a new UCLA study, available in the online edition of the American Journal of Epidemiology, which found that light to moderate drinking among these seniors reduced their odds of developing physical problems that would prevent them from performing common tasks such as walking, dressing and grooming.

“If you start out in good health, alcohol consumption at light to moderate levels can be beneficial,” said lead study author Dr. Arun Karlamangla, an associate professor of medicine in the division of geriatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “But if you don’t start out healthy, alcohol will not give you a benefit.”

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Experts draw link between tainted milk, kidney stones

Dieting • • Food & Nutrition • • Urine ProblemsJan 14 09

Scientists in China and Hong Kong have established for the first time in a study that consuming the plastic-making chemical melamine can cause kidney stones in people.

At least six children died and 290,000 fell ill in China last year after consuming milk formula tainted with melamine, which was added to cheat protein tests. But the causal link between melamine and kidney problems the children suffered was never scientifically established until now.

The experts studied urine samples of 15 mainland Chinese toddlers with kidney stones and compared those taken from 20 children in Hong Kong who also consumed tainted milk but who did not develop stones.

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Honey bees on cocaine dance more, changing ideas about the insect brain

Dieting • • Food & NutritionDec 23 08

In a study that challenges current ideas about the insect brain, researchers have found that honey bees on cocaine tend to exaggerate.

Normally, foraging honey bees alert their comrades to potential food sources only when they’ve found high quality nectar or pollen, and only when the hive is in need. They do this by performing a dance, called a “round” or “waggle” dance, on a specialized “dance floor” in the hive. The dance gives specific instructions that help the other bees find the food.

Foraging honey bees on cocaine are more likely to dance, regardless of the quality of the food they’ve found or the status of the hive, the authors of the study report.

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Sugar can be addictive, at least in rats

Food & NutritionDec 11 08

A study of rats offers scientific proof for what many dieters already know: Sugar can be addictive.

“Bingeing on sugar can act on the brain in ways very similar to a drug abuse,” said Bart Hoebel of Princeton University in New Jersey, who presented his findings on Wednesday at a meeting of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology in Scottsdale, Arizona.

He said bingeing on sugar water produced behavioral and even neurochemical changes in rats that resembled the changes produced when animals or people take substances of abuse.

“These animals show signs of withdrawal and even long-lasting aftereffects that might resemble craving,” Hoebel told reporters in a telephone briefing.

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People wasting billions of dollars on ‘quack’ health food products

Dieting • • Food & NutritionNov 26 08

Globally every year, obese people waste billions of pounds on food products that ‘imply’ that they aid weight loss, but are totally ineffective, says a nutritional expert on bmj.com today.

Professor Lean from the University of Glasgow, is hopeful that a new European Union (EU) Directive on Unfair Commercial Practices, adopted this year in UK, will finally protect vulnerable consumers who are tricked into to buying useless food products or supplements in attempts to combat their disease.

Unlike medicines, food products that are marketed for health reasons are not subject to the same stringent research trials and control, and consumers are often misled.

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Making snack food choices

Dieting • • Food & NutritionSep 11 08

People who are asked whether they would choose between a “good” snack and a “bad” snack might not follow their intentions when the snacks arrive. In an article in the September/October 2008 issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, Dutch researchers found that there is a substantial inconsistency between healthful snack choice intentions and actual behavior.

Participants were asked about their intentions in choosing among four snacks: an apple, a banana, a candy bar and a molasses waffle. About half of the participants indicated they would choose the apple or banana—a “healthy” snack. But when presented, one week later, with the actual snacks, 27% switched to the candy bar or waffle. Over 90% of the unhealthy-choice participants stuck with their intentions and chose the unhealthy snack. The study included 585 participants who were office employees recruited in their worksite cafeterias.

Although intentions are often tightly linked to what people really do, it doesn’t always work that way. One explanation is that intentions are usually under cognitive control while actual choices are often made impulsively, even unconsciously.

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Fruits and Vegetables, Making it Easier to Eat More

Dieting • • Food & NutritionAug 21 08

With back-to-school time just around the corner, the Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH) is calling upon Moms to promote health and combat the national childhood obesity epidemic by focusing on including more fruits and vegetables in meals and snacks. To help Moms instill good eating habits and fight unhealthy food messages on television and in popular culture, PBH is unveiling new sets of strategies and tools for Moms and their families both online and in the retail setting.

In a survey conducted earlier this year, Moms expressed deep concern about how obesity might affect their kids now and when they are adults—and for good reason. Data shows one in three children in this country are overweight and news reports point to scores of American children taking drugs to treat high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes and other conditions related to obesity. According to the same survey, many Moms also feel society is too full of messages encouraging unhealthy eating; a sentiment underscored by recent government reports of increases in product placements in television story lines, and a spend of $1.6 billion by the food and beverage industry to market soda, sugary cereal, and other less nutritious foods to kids.

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