health matters

Tobacco Companies Take Another Hit From Obama

Posted by Mark J. Miller on April 4, 2012 12:01 PM

America's Food and Drug Administration and city governments are not making life easy for tobacco makers these days. As cities across the U.S. have kicked smokers out into the streets outside of bars and restaurants, the FDA has attempted to make the sale of tobacco products increasingly more expensive and more difficult.

The most recent effort by the FDA is to require tobacco companies to report “the amount of unsafe chemicals in their products and prove their so-called lower-risk alternatives to smoking such as snuff are actually safer,” according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

Back in 2009, the FDA was given the ability to regulate all tobacco products so it is finally moving forward, offering “preliminary guidelines for the industry that it says can educate consumers on exactly what is in cigarettes, such as ammonia and formaldehyde, and police claims that certain tobacco products may be safer than others,” the magazine reports.

“We are forging new territory to ensure that tobacco companies provide accurate information and do not mislead American consumers,” FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said in a statement on the FDA blog. “We are committed to stopping such practices that may cause people to start or continue using tobacco products that could lead to preventable disease and death.”Continue reading...

health matters

Pink Slime Boycott Heats Up Everywhere But Frying Pan

Posted by Mark J. Miller on March 26, 2012 05:12 PM

Frank Zappa once told his fans not to eat the yellow snow. Now a whole lot of folks are deciding not to eat another colorful item: pink slime.

It's a substance that many Americans (well, the few who watched) Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution last April would have seen in the series' premiere episode on ABC. That's when the British chef, accompanied by a bovine companion, demonstrated what goes into the 70% of America's ground beef that contains leftover cow parts (a.k.a. "pink slime"), meaning meat that has been treated with ammonia to banish bacteria such as e.coli and salmonella. It's also used to convert the fatty beef offcuts into a beef filler for burgers.

Ammonia-treated meat can be found in virtually all U.S. grocery stores, fast food restaurants, many national restaurant chains, and school cafeterias, but a backlash has been forming over fears that it is unsafe — and now the company that produces 'pink slime beef' has suspended operations at three of its four plants.Continue reading...

health matters

Brown Out: FDA Lobbied to Ban Colas' Caramel Coloring Over Cancer Concerns

Posted by Mark J. Miller on March 8, 2012 11:58 AM

When the news came out of the state of California a year ago that the stuff that makes your cola beverage brown has been linked to cancer, there were a number of consumers that likely didn’t put their change into the vending machine that day.

The amount of that compound (4-methylimidazole, or 4-MEI) in soda would cause the state to need to put warning labels on all of its cans, NPR reports. This, in turn, led to the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) to lobby the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to “ban ammonia-sulfite caramel color,” according to NPR. Coke Clear, anyone?

While the cola companies and caramel manufacturers are obviously stating that there is no validity to these claims, the FDA is also chiming in that this could be much ado about not much. In any event, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, which account for almost 90% of the U.S. soda market, have tweaked their formulas in compliance with the Californian law — averting the need to add a cancer warning label.Continue reading...

health matters

McDonald's Promotes Healthier Happy Meal with Apple Slices

Posted by Shirley Brady on February 28, 2012 02:25 PM

As McDonald's promotes its produce suppliers and expands the availability of its lower-calorie Happy Meal kids' combo meals across America, lopping off 20% of the calories if kids eat the packaged apple slices instead of French fries, the fast-food giant is rolling out its first national TV commercial (there's also a Spanish-language version) to promote the healthier option.

As noted here last year, "The new Happy Meal includes both apple slices and a new, smaller serving of French fries, and the beverage choice will include a new fat-free chocolate milk as well as 1% low-fat white milk. The company noted in its announcement that it has offered apple slices as an option in Happy Meals since 2004 — and that 88% of customers know about the option, but only 11% choose the slices."

health matters

Walgreen Forms National Network with Indie Pharmacies

Posted by Mark J. Miller on February 23, 2012 03:02 PM

Walgreen, the nation’s largest pharmacy, and a slew of independent pharmacies are investing in RxAlly, a “private company that is launching a network involving 20,000 pharmacies focused on better care coordination,” according to the Associated Press.

The idea is for pharmacists to have “a chance to work more with patients to improve care and cut costs.”Continue reading...

health matters

Walmart's "Great for You" Icon Promotes Healthier Food Choices

Posted by Mark J. Miller on February 9, 2012 10:02 AM

The Food and Drug Administration said in 2009 that it was going to develop standards for what food products can claim to be healthy and what can’t. But there hasn’t been any kind of report as of yet, and Walmart has decided to stop waiting and make one of its own.

A year after pledging to develop a front-of-pack label that would give its customers an easier way to identify healthier food, and a month after a public commitment with First Lady Michelle Obama to putting nutrition front and center in its stores, the nation’s largest food retailer this week unveiled a “Great For You” icon to create a visual system to educate customers.

The Arkansas-based grocery behemoth announced this week that the seal will appear on a variety of house brand food items, with a website supporting the effort.

The green and white seal, "which shows the stylized outline of a human figure with its arms spread toward the sky, is part of a multiyear campaign the world’s largest retailer is undertaking to promote healthier products and fight childhood obesity," the Associated Press reports.

Walmart says it will adapt to whatever the FDA’s regulations are whenever that list actually is produced, but will for now add the icon to products with lower levels of fat, sugar, and artificial additives. Plus, the seal will appear on signage in the fruits and vegetable section of its grocery area.

“It helps customers see very, very quickly what healthier choices are for them,” stated Andrea Thomas, SVP of sustainability for Wal-Mart Stores. More details are in its press release below.Continue reading...

health matters

Don't Supersize NYC: The War on Soda and Fries Continues

Posted by Mark J. Miller on January 10, 2012 04:54 PM

New York City’s health department does not want fries with that. Or with anything else. In fact, the agency would prefer that its residents don’t bother with fast food and soda altogether — and certainly not in bigger sizes.

A new set of subway posters, printed in both English and Spanish, illustrate “the steady increase in sizes of soda cups and sleeves of French fries against backdrops of unhealthy people, including a diabetic man who is missing most of one leg," as the New York Times notes. The image, as seen at right, draws attention to the amputated leg.

The objective of the city's latest public health campaign is to show how obesity and diabetes have grown as issues at the same time that serving sizes have increased, and their devastating consequences. 

“The portion sizes that are marketed are often much more than humans need,” stated Dr. Thomas Farley, the city’s health commissioner, taking a cue from his boss — New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose administration is a veteran of shockvertising to grab the public's attention.Continue reading...

health matters

Label Food, Not Kids: U.S. States Grapple with Obesity

Posted by Mark J. Miller on January 3, 2012 11:49 AM

With the new year comes new resolve to tighten belts, literally, by shedding unwanted pounds accumulated over the holiday (if not earlier). But what about childhood obesity?

A TV and print campaign introduced in August by Children's Healthcare of Atlanta is now being criticized for calling out overweight children to appeal to their adult caregivers, with the goal of shocking them into action and reversing Georgia's title as the American state with the second-hightest rate of childhood obesity. In one commercial, for example, a mother sighs when asked by her son why he's overweight.

Georgia isn't the only state grappling with the obesity epidemic. As America’s waistlines keep growing larger, many states now have laws in place that require restaurants to provide calorie information on its menus. That way, the thinking goes, consumers might stop themselves from chowing down on a 500-calorie double-chocolate brownie. Of course, a calorie count lising on a menu isn't going to deter diners from high-cal choices, but public health advocates argue that consumers have the right to know.Continue reading...

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