Archive for the ‘FDA’ Category

Attack of the Killer Receipts!

Photo by rosiepet. Some rights reserved.

As an environmental blogger, I’d likely advise only taking receipts if and when it’s necessary anyways, but now there may be another, less paper-friendly/more human-friendly reason to pass on hard copy receipts. The New York Times featured a story yesterday by Rachel Nuwer on the dangers of bisphenol-A (BPA), a chemical compound used in polycarbonate plastic products, and specifically how BPA is being used as a color developer for the dye printed on thermal receipts.

BPA made serious headlines in the mid-2000’s, specifically in 2007, when a National Institute of Health panel concluded that there was some reason for concern regarding human over-exposure to BPA, specifically in fetal and infant development. In 2008, a Journal of the American Medical Association found that higher levels of BPA in adults correlated with heart disease, diabetes, and other un-pleasant things. Then, in 2010, the FDA released their own study, which reached essentially the same conclusion, that BPA was, in general, thought to have negative effects on the brain, heart, and prostate glands in infants and young children. Doesn’t sound good!

So, while the FDA has yet to take decisive action in banning BPA (though it has been declared a toxic substance in Canada!), the EPA has since declared it a chemical of concern, while states including Connecticut and Maine have taken action on a state level to ban the use of BPA in food and beverage containers. Yet, as the first sentence of Nuwer’s NY Times article is quick to point out, eight billion pounds of BPA are still being manufactured and put into use worldwide. And while BPA tends to spring up in high percentages in paper products, in the study discussed in the article in which the New York State Department of Health looked at different types of paper products, it was the receipt paper which had the highest frequency and concentration of BPA. The study found significant traces of BPA in 94% of the sample receipts, and concluded that receipt paper is responsible for a whopping 98% of paper-based exposure to BPA. The EPA is currently looking into alternatives to the thermal receipts that contain BPA, but results aren’t expected until next May at the earliest.

GAO Slams FDA for Poor Oversight of Imported Seafood

Photo by adactio. Some rights reserved.

I hope you haven’t eaten yet. Or if you have, that it wasn’t sushi.

Approximately 50% of seafood imported into the US (and remember, 80% of the seafood we eat here is imported) is factory farmed. These “farms” pack fish in fin-to-fin, causing conditions that foster bacterial infections, which are subsequently treated with antibiotics. Eating these antibiotic-residue-laced fish has been found to cause antibiotic resistance and even cancer in humans.

Still hungry?

Maybe you’d regain your appetite if you knew that the FDA, whose very job it is to ensure the safety of the nation’s food supply, had visited the farms of foreign supplies, tested fish for drugs approved for use in say, the EU, but not in the US, or even effectively implemented their sampling program. Well, according to a recent GAO report, the FDA has done none of these things.

In 2009, the FDA signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Department of Commerce’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) pledging to enhance seafood oversight and to cooperate to ensure that fish and fishery products are safe and meet FDA requirements. But this, too, says the GAO, has been a bust: “FDA and NMFS have made limited progress in implementing their 2009 MOU, resulting in a lack of systematic collaboration between the agencies.”

This isn’t the first time that the spirit of a FDA-NMFS MOU has been violated. In 1974, the two agencies signed a similar agreement, vowing to “improve the efficient use of FDA’s inspection resources by minimizing the number of FDA inspections at establishments already inspected by NMFS.” Again, the GAO found that the FDA had “not fully met its responsibilities under the MOU.”

For the gruesome and disappointing details of the FDA’s inspection program, check out the full GAO report.

Clones: Safe to Eat?

Although this document was released more than 3 years ago, it was recently modified so that it popped up in my Google reader. It is the USDA’s Statement in response to the FDA’s Risk Assessment on Animal Clones.

Photo of Dolly by Toni Barros. Some rights reserved.

And should you be wondering, the USDA’s response was positive:

“USDA fully supports and agrees with FDA’s final assessment that meat and milk from cattle, swine and goat clones pose no safety concerns, and these products are no different than food from traditionally bred animals.”

In fact, they compare cloning to artificial insemination:

“Many farmers and ranchers routinely use other assisted reproductive technologies such as artificial insemination, embryo transfer and in vitro fertilization to produce superior animals for milk, meat or breeding purposes. Cloning is another breeding technique that has evolved and has now been demonstrated to be safe. It is helpful in creating genetic twins of the very best animals who can transmit superior characteristics to their offspring and quickly improve a herd.”

However, despite the supposed safety, the USDA has not lifted the voluntary moratorium established in 2001 that urges producers to refrain from introducing meat or milk from clones or their progeny into the food supply. The USDA is supposedly in the process of determining “next steps.”

But when the moratorium lifts, ladies and gents, will you even know?

Maybe not. Sorry.

“FDA is not requiring any additional [labeling] measures relating to food derived from adult clones of cattle, swine, and goats, and the offspring of clones of any species traditionally consumed as food, including labeling. Under our current laws, FDA may require specific food labeling if there are any safety concerns, or if there is a material difference in the composition of food. We have not identified any food safety concerns, and we have found no material difference in food from clones as compared to food from conventionally bred animals […] Therefore, there is no science-based reason to use labels to distinguish between milk derived from clones and that from conventional animals.”
– FDA’s Consumer FAQs

Piqued your interest? The FDA has a whole section on their website devoted to animal cloning and answering the questions of the curious customer – find those answers here, along with the original FDA risk assessment.

GM Salmon Leaves Icky Taste in Senators’ Mouths

Shortly after our initial coverage of Aqua Bounty Technologies’ genetically modified salmon, nearly forty members of the House and Senate contacted the FDA with their concerns over what could be the first GM animal approved for human consumption.

Photo by Marcel030NL. Some rights reserved.

In late September 2010, in two separate letters, 10 Senators and 29 Representatives expressed distaste for not only FDA’s failure “to disclose to the public any data relating to environmental, food safety, or efficacy concerns” until 10 days before the public meetings, but also the “egregious flaws with the data” that was released.

More than four months later and the FDA has yet to make a decision regarding the quick-to-mature AquAdvantage salmon. So some Senators are upping the ante: Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) have introduced two congressional bills relating to GM salmon. The first (S.230) aims to prevent the approval of genetically modified fish altogether, while the second (S.229) would require special labeling for GM fish – should they actually make it to market.

Read the full news report here.

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