Want to know how many calories are in that burger? Sit tight. The FDA has delayed menu calorie count rules. – The Washington Post

Want to know how many calories are in that slice of delivery pizza or movie theater popcorn? Sit tight. America will elect a new president before menus across the country are required to feature detailed calorie counts.

The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday it will push back the deadline for chain restaurants, grocery stories and other establishments to post calorie counts on their menus. The businesses now will have until Dec. 1, 2016, a year longer than the FDA initially proposed.

The move comes amid persistent pressure on the agency from various corners of the food industry to delay enforcement of the rules. The FDA said that since February, it has received numerous requests from for a postponement, including from groups such as the Food Marketing Institute, the National Association of Theater Owners, the American Beverage Association and Publix Super Markets.

via Want to know how many calories are in that burger? Sit tight. The FDA has delayed menu calorie count rules. – The Washington Post.

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Adios, Trans Fats: FDA Poised To Phase Out Artery-Clogging Fat : The Salt : NPR

“The time is long overdue to get trans fats out of the food supply,” says Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. He nudged for a mandatory labeling of trans fats on food packages, which has been in place since 2006.

So, where do we still find trans fats in the food supply? The labels of ready-to-bake pie crusts, baked goods and microwave popcorn are a good place to look.

Also, there are low-levels of trans fats in lots of foods — levels that fall below the threshold for labeling. As my colleague Eliza Barclay has reported, zero trans fats doesn’t necessarily mean zero.

via Adios, Trans Fats: FDA Poised To Phase Out Artery-Clogging Fat : The Salt : NPR.

John Oliver Doctor Oz – Weight Loss Products Claims: Refinery29

Last week, everybody’s favorite TV snake-oil salesman, Dr. Oz, was ripped a new one by a Congressional committee over claims he’s made on his TV show about “miracle in a bottle” weight-loss products. Oz’s very public scolding continued in the days afterward, with many a media outlet taking shots at the cardiothoracic surgeon for his coverage of “magic” solutions fot his viewers’ weight struggles. 

But, none even came close to the epic takedown executed flawlessly by John Oliver on last night’s episode of Last Week Tonight. In the clip, which is a full 16 minutes and 25 seconds and 100% worth watching all the way through, Oliver nails Oz for his irresponsible, completely unsubstantiated claims — in typical, hilarious, Oliver fashion. 

More than simply destroying Oz, though, Oliver’s rant draws attention to the real issue at hand, of which he says Oz is “just a symptom.” Oliver outlines the many problems with the FDA’s (lack of) regulation of dietary supplements — and the endless efforts by lobbying groups to keep it that way. Of course, as Oliver points out, this results in a number of demonstrably dangerous supplements remaining on store shelves, causing serious side effects, and even killing consumers. 

Not only can supplement manufacturers make unproven claims about the effectiveness of their products, they don’t even have to prove a supplement’s safety before it goes to market. Add that to recent reports that up to one in three supplements in America don’t contain even trace amounts of what they claim to provide, and it gets pretty tough to side with Oz on this one.

Watch the clip above to see the good doctor get the full treatment. You might want to grab some popcorn. 

via John Oliver Doctor Oz – Weight Loss Products Claims.

F.D.A. Restricts Antibiotics Use for Livestock – NYTimes.com

F.D.A. Restricts Antibiotics Use for Livestock

WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday put in place a major new policy to phase out the indiscriminate use of antibiotics in cows, pigs and chickens raised for meat, a practice that experts say has endangered human health by fueling the growing epidemic of antibiotic resistance.

This is the agency’s first serious attempt in decades to curb what experts have long regarded as the systematic overuse of antibiotics in healthy farm animals, with the drugs typically added directly into their feed and water. The waning effectiveness of antibiotics — wonder drugs of the 20th century — has become a looming threat to public health. At least two million Americans fall sick every year and about 23,000 die from antibiotic-resistant infections.

“This is the first significant step in dealing with this important public health concern in 20 years,” said David Kessler, a former F.D.A. commissioner who has been critical of the agency’s track record on antibiotics. “No one should underestimate how big a lift this has been in changing widespread and long entrenched industry practices.”

The change, which is to take effect over the next three years, will effectively make it illegal for farmers and ranchers to use antibiotics to make animals grow bigger. The producers had found that feeding low doses of antibiotics to animals throughout their lives led them to grow plumper and larger. Scientists still debate why. Food producers will also have to get a prescription from a veterinarian to use the drugs to prevent disease in their animals.

Federal officials said the new policy would improve health in the United States by tightening the use of classes of antibiotics that save human lives, including penicillin, azithromycin and tetracycline. Food producers said they would abide by the new rules, but some public health advocates voiced concerns that loopholes could render the new policy toothless.

Health officials have warned since the 1970s that overuse of antibiotics in animals was leading to the development of infections resistant to treatment in humans. For years, modest efforts by federal officials to reduce the use of antibiotics in animals were thwarted by the powerful food industry and its substantial lobbying power in Congress. Pressure for federal action has mounted as the effectiveness of drugs important for human health has declined, and deaths from bugs resistant to antibiotics have soared.

Under the new policy, the agency is asking drug makers to change the labels that detail how a drug can be used so they would bar farmers from using the medicines to promote growth.

The changes, originally proposed in 2012, are voluntary for drug companies. But F.D.A. officials said they believed that the companies would comply, based on discussions during the public comment period. The two drug makers that represent a majority of such antibiotic products — Zoetis and Elanco — have already stated their intent to participate, F.D.A. officials said. Companies will have three months to tell the agency whether they will change the labels, and three years to carry out the new rules.

Additionally, the agency is requiring that licensed veterinarians supervise the use of antibiotics, effectively requiring farmers and ranchers to obtain prescriptions to use the drugs for their animals.

via F.D.A. Restricts Antibiotics Use for Livestock – NYTimes.com.

F.D.A. Moves to Ban Trans Fats, Citing Health Concerns – NYTimes.com

F.D.A. Moves to Ban Trans Fats, Citing Health Concerns

By SABRINA TAVERNISE

The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday proposed measures that would all but eliminate artificial trans fats, the artery clogging substance that is a major contributor to heart disease in the United States, from the food supply.

Under the proposal, which is open for public comment for 60 days, the agency would declare that partially hydrogenated oils, the source of trans fats, were no longer “generally recognized as safe,” a legal category that permits the use of salt and caffeine, for example.

That means companies would have to prove scientifically that partially hydrogenated oils are safe to eat, a very high hurdle given that scientific literature overwhelmingly shows the contrary. The Institute of Medicine has concluded that there is no safe level for consumption of artificial trans fats.

“That will make it a challenge, to be honest,” said Michael R. Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods at the F.D.A.

Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, the agency’s commissioner, said the rules could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year.

The move concluded three decades of battles by public health advocates against artificial trans fats, which occur when liquid oil is treated with hydrogen gas and made solid. The long-lasting fats became popular in frying and baking and in household items like margarine, and were cheaper than animal fat, like butter.

But over the years, scientific evidence has shown they are worse than any other fat for health because they raise the levels of so-called bad cholesterol and can lower the levels of good cholesterol. In 2006, an F.D.A. rule went into effect requiring that artificial trans fats be listed on food labels, a shift that prompted many large producers to eliminate them. A year earlier, New York City told restaurants to stop using artificial trans fats in cooking. Many major chains like McDonalds, found substitutes, and eliminated trans fats.

Those actions led to major advances in public health: Trans fat intake declined among Americans to about one gram a day in 2012, down from 4.6 grams in 2006. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that blood levels of trans fatty acids among white adults in the United States declined by 58 percent from 2000 to 2009.

But the fats were not banned, and still lurk in many popular processed foods, such as microwave popcorn, certain desserts, frozen pizzas, margarines and coffee creamers.

“The artery is still half clogged,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the director of the disease centers. “This is about preventing people from being exposed to a harmful chemical that most of the time they didn’t even know was there.”

He noted that artificial trans fats are required to be on the label only if there is more than half a gram per serving, a trace amount that can add up fast and lead to increased risk of heart attack. Even as little as two or three grams of trans fat a day can increase the health risk, scientists say.

“It’s quite important,” said Dr. Frieden, who led the charge against the fats in New York when he was health commissioner there. “It’s going to save a huge amount in health care costs and will mean fewer heart attacks.”

Some trans fats occur naturally. The F.D.A. proposal only applies to those that are added to foods.

Public health advocates applauded the measure.

“Most of it is gone, but what remains is still a serious problem,” said Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which petitioned the F.D.A. to require artificial trans fats to be listed on nutrition labels as early as 1994.

“I suspect there are thousands of smaller restaurants that continue to use it out of ignorance,” he said, adding that they ask: “\’Trans what?’ They just use whatever the supplier sends.”

But public awareness can be powerful. This summer Mr. Jacobson’s nonprofit group drew attention to the fact that the so-called Big Catch fried fish meal at Long John Silvers, which comes with fried hush puppies and fried potatoes, contained 33 grams of trans fat. The restaurant chain has since promised to eliminate trans fats by the end of the year.

via F.D.A. Moves to Ban Trans Fats, Citing Health Concerns – NYTimes.com.

Constituent Updates > FDA Releases Draft Risk Profile on Pathogens and Filth in Spices, Takes Steps to Strengthen Spice Safety

FDA Releases Draft Risk Profile on Pathogens and Filth in Spices, Takes Steps to Strengthen Spice Safety

October 30, 2013

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has completed a draft risk profile on pathogens and filth in spices. A risk profile is a science-based document that describes the current state of knowledge related to a specific food safety issue, describes mitigation and control mechanisms currently available and identifies critical knowledge gaps. The risk profile was initiated in response to recent outbreaks of human illness caused by the consumption of Salmonella-contaminated spices in the United States.

The risk profile identifies the most commonly occurring microbial hazards and filth in spices and quantifies, where possible, the prevalence and levels of these adulterants at different points along the supply chain. It also identifies potential sources of contamination throughout the farm-to-table food safety continuum and evaluates the efficacy of current mitigation and control options designed to reduce the public health risk posed by consumption of contaminated spices in the United States. Potential new mitigation and control options are described, based on the scientific data, information and analyses in the report. The report concludes with a list of knowledge gaps and the research needed to fill them. The FDA seeks comments on this draft document, which can be submitted via the Federal Register.

The study’s findings suggest that the presence of pathogens, such as Salmonella, and filth in spices is a systemic challenge. Failures identified in the farm-to-table food safety system potentially leading to adulteration of consumed spice generally arose from poor/inconsistent application of appropriate preventive controls. The study identified 14 spice/seasoning-associated outbreaks worldwide that occurred from 1973 to 2010, resulting in less than 2,000 reported human illnesses and 128 hospitalizations worldwide.

The relatively small number of outbreaks identified may be attributable in part to the application of preventive controls by the spice and food manufacturing industries, including pathogen reduction treatments, and cooking during food preparation. People’s tendency to eat small amounts of spices with meals generally lowers the probability of illness from contaminated spices relative to similarly contaminated foods consumed in larger amounts. It is also possible that illnesses caused by contaminated spices are underreported, particularly because of challenges related to attribution for minor ingredients in multi-ingredient foods.

The FDA has a number of regulatory standards and programs in place that help prevent contaminated spice from reaching consumers and these are described in the risk profile. In addition, the agency is taking steps to further strengthen spice safety. The FDA has increased inspections of spice manufacturing facilities in recent years and has begun to implement some of the options presented in the risk profile.

For example, the agency’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition is working with several partners to develop a training center focused on supply chain management for spices and botanical ingredients. As part of this program, FDA experts have provided food safety training in India, a leading country of origin for U.S. spice importation.

Furthermore, through the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the FDA has proposed a new rule on preventive controls for human food facilities and another on foreign supplier verification programs for importers. The preventive controls rule proposes to require food facilities to put into place preventive controls for those hazards identified by the manufacturer as reasonably likely to occur. The foreign supplier verification rule proposes to require that importers verify that the foods they import are produced using processes and procedures that ensure the same level of safety as food produced in the United States. Both rules hold the potential to improve spice safety. (More information on the proposed rules can be obtained at http://www.fda.gov/fsma.)

The risk profile is available today and can be read in its entirety on the FDA web site. To submit comments for use in the risk profile or to obtain additional information on the study, please visit the agency’s project web page project web page, where a link to the Federal Register notice

via Constituent Updates > FDA Releases Draft Risk Profile on Pathogens and Filth in Spices, Takes Steps to Strengthen Spice Safety.

FDA sets guidelines on gluten-free foods – Health – MiamiHerald.com

FDA sets guidelines on gluten-free foods

 

SRARBACK@HOTMAIL.COM

Gluten-free diets are the new black.

They’re a bit mysterious and sexy, and pricey with hints of secret benefits. And as this trend continues to soar and confuse, the government has come in to assist with guidelines on what foods can proudly and profitably wear the gluten-free label.

The gluten-free market is a $4.2 billion industry that is estimated to grow to $6.6 billion by 2017, according to Packaged Facts.

The Food and Drug Administration started examining gluten-free foods in 2007. Six years later, it has finally come to a consensus: For a food to be labeled gluten free, the gluten limit has to be less than 20 parts per million. That translates to a food containing less than .002 percent gluten.

Expert opinion is that this minimal amount of gluten would not be harmful to someone with celiac disease. The FDA will allow manufacturers to label a food “gluten-free” if the food does not contain any of the following:

• An ingredient that is any type of wheat, rye, barley or crossbreeds of these grains

• An ingredient derived from these grains that has not been processed to remove gluten

• An ingredient derived from these grains that has been processed to remove gluten, it if results in the food containing 20 or more parts per million.

A federal standard on gluten-free labeling is of great benefit to people with celiac disease and those with gluten sensitivity. I suspect it will also be a marketing tool for products that have never contained gluten.

But this is what is important to remember: Being gluten-free does not make a product healthier. It is the nutrients that are in a product, not what is missing, that promotes health.

Gluten free does not mean calorie-free; some gluten-free products have more calories than their wheat-based counterparts.

Celiac disease is clearly diagnosed with a blood test and biopsy. The question of gluten sensitivity is confusing and controversial.

My next column will provide an evidence-based review of gluten sensitivity. Stay tuned.

Sheah Rarback is a registered dietitian on the faculty of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. Follow her on Twitter @sheahrarback.

via FDA sets guidelines on gluten-free foods – Health – MiamiHerald.com.

U.S. Approves a Label for Meat From Animals Fed a Diet Free of Gene-Modified Products – NYTimes.com

U.S. Approves a Label for Meat From Animals Fed a Diet Free of Gene-Modified Products

By STEPHANIE STROM

Published: June 20, 2013

The Agriculture Department has approved a label for meat and liquid egg products that includes a claim about the absence of genetically engineered products.

It is the first time that the department, which regulates meat and poultry processing, has approved a non-G.M.O. label claim, which attests that meat certified by the Non-GMO Project came from animals that never ate feed containing genetically engineered ingredients like corn, soy and alfalfa.

The U.S.D.A.’s Food Safety Inspection Service “allows companies to demonstrate on their labels that they meet a third-party certifying organization’s standards, provided that the third-party organization and the company can show that the claims are truthful, accurate and not misleading,” Cathy Cochran, a U.S.D.A. spokeswoman, said in a statement.

Ms. Cochran said the approval for labeling meats did not signal “any new policy regarding non-G.E. or non-G.M.O. products.”

Labeling foods to indicate the absence or presence of genetically engineered ingredients is one of the most contentious issues in the food business today, with about two dozen states mulling labeling requirements and the biotech industry fighting back with intense lobbying.

More and more companies, however, are voluntarily labeling their products, including most recently Chipotle, the thriving restaurant chain, which now points out items containing genetically engineered ingredients on its online menu.

Meat from animals that eat non-G.M.O. feed, like certified organic meats, is highly prized by some consumers, but claims made by meat labels must be approved by the U.S.D.A. When a new company called Mindful Meats submitted a label last fall that included the Non-GMO Project’s certification seal, the department rejected it.

“It turned out that the U.S.D.A.’s Food Safety Inspection Service had not yet created a rule for handling non-G.M.O. claims for meat and poultry products, so they just denied us,” said Claire Herminjard, founder and chief executive of Mindful Meats, which makes meat products from organic dairy cows.

Ms. Herminjard learned that two other companies, Hidden Villa Ranch, and Pitman Farms, which produces Mary’s Chicken, also wanted to put a non-G.M.O. label on their products, so they banded together to petition the U.S.D.A.

The U.S.D.A. vetted the Non-GMO Project’s standards, requirements and auditing processes before giving its approval. “It has to approve every single label that goes out into commerce, but this sets a precedent for other meat and poultry companies that want to label this way,” Ms. Herminjard said.

via U.S. Approves a Label for Meat From Animals Fed a Diet Free of Gene-Modified Products – NYTimes.com.

Health Officials Urge F.D.A. Action on Soft Drinks – NYTimes.com

Health Officials Urge F.D.A. Action on Soft Drinks

A group of health advocates and public health officials from major cities around the country are asking the Food and Drug Administration to regulate the amount of caloric sweeteners in sodas and other beverages, arguing that the scientific consensus is that the level of added sugars in those products is unsafe.

The group, led by the Center for Science in the Public Interest and including public health departments from Boston to Los Angeles, noted that the F.D.A. had pledged in 1982 and 1988 to reassess the safety of sweeteners if consumption increased or if new scientific research indicated that things like high fructose corn syrup and sucrose were a public health hazard.

“Both of those conditions have been met,” the center said in a news release on Wednesday, and that “obligates the F.D.A. to act.”

The big beverage makers are aware of the growing pressure on them to either reduce the amount of sweeteners in their products or find an alternative to such sugars. PepsiCo, for example, has used stevia in a product called Trop 50 to reduce caloric sweeteners in juice, while Coca-Cola recently went on the offensive with advertisements that sought to underscore its concern about obesity.

“There’s an important conversation going on about obesity, and we want to be part of the solution,” Muhtar Kent, Coca-Cola’s chief executive said on Tuesday during a call with analysts to discuss the company’s earnings. “Together with partners in civil society, our own industry and other businesses, I am personally committed to leveraging all our resources to lead and make a difference here.”

He said the company was investing in developing new sweeteners, products and packaging to promote better health.

Sodas and sugary drinks are the biggest source of calories in the American diet, adding 300 to 400 calories to the average consumer’s total daily caloric intake. At least one-quarter of the total calories consumed each day by roughly one-fifth of children aged 12 to 18 come from added sugars, according to the 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a survey done by the Centers for Disease Control.

The centers noted that a typical 20-ounce bottle of soda contains an amount of high fructose corn syrup equivalent to roughly 16 teaspoons of sugar. The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 6 teaspoons and men no more than 9 teaspoons of added sugar a day.

“If one were trying to ensure high rates of obesity, diabetes or heart disease in a population, one would feed the population large doses of sugary drinks,” Walter Willett, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, said in Wednesday’s news release. “The evidence is so strong that it is essential that the F.D.A. use its authority to make sugary drinks safer.”

via Health Officials Urge F.D.A. Action on Soft Drinks – NYTimes.com.