Category Archives: Health

McDonald’s and KFC hit by China food safety scandal

Lucy Hornby reports for the Financial Times:

Two Chinese men walk past a billboard advertising US fast-food giant McDonald's, in Yichang, central China's Hubei province on July 8, 2010. McDonald's said it was working with Chinese authorities to test its Chicken McNuggets amid reports they contained risky chemical additives, but stressed the food was safe. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)‘A supplier to McDonald’s and KFC in China has been accused of supplying rotting meat to the fast-food chains and falsifying product expiration dates, in the latest food safety scandal to hit the country. It is also the latest blow to foreign fast food companies operating in the country, where promises of rapid growth – there are more than 4,400 KFC restaurants alone – are being undermined by food safety issues.

The Shanghai food safety watchdog said on Monday it had closed a meat and poultry processor on the outskirts of the city after an undercover investigation by a local television station found the company to be putting new labels on expired meat, among other food safety violations. KFC and McDonald’s, both of which used the US-owned meat processor to supply their Shanghai outlets, apologised to their Chinese customers.’

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Billionaire Carlos Slim calls for three-day working week to improve quality of life

Helen Davidson reports for the Guardian:

Carlos Slim‘Mexican billionaire tycoon, Carlos Slim, has called for the introduction of a three-day working week, offset by longer hours and a later retirement, as a way to improve people’s quality of life and create a more productive labour force.

Slim made the comments when speaking to a business conference in Paraguay, suggesting that the workforce could be spread over a full week, with employees working up to 10 or 11 hours a day. “With three work days a week, we would have more time to relax; for quality of life,” the Financial Times reports Slim saying.’

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Chain smoker’s widow awarded $23bn in punitive damages

From Reuters:

cigarettes‘A jury in Florida has awarded the widow of a chain smoker who died of lung cancer 18 years ago record punitive damages of more than $23bn against America’s second-biggest cigarette maker, RJ Reynolds. The judgment, returned on Friday night, was the largest in Florida history in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by a single plaintiff, said Ryan Julison, a spokesman for the woman’s lawyer, Chris Chestnut.

Cynthia Robinson, of Pensacola, sued the cigarette maker in 2008 over the death of her husband, Michael Johnson, claiming the company conspired to conceal the health dangers and addictive nature of its products. Johnson, a hotel shuttle-bus driver who died of lung cancer in 1996 aged 36, smoked between one and three packets a day for more 20 years, starting at age 13, Chestnut said. “He couldn’t quit. He was smoking the day he died,” the lawyer told Reuters on Saturday.’

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Are bioethicists tools of policy technocrats?

Michael Cook writes for BioEdge:

‘Although bioethicists are believed to provide fearless independent advice, challenging policy-makers to make the “right” decisions, a Swiss expert in bureaucracies contends that  this is often not the case. Writing in the journal Governance, Annabelle Littoz-Monnet, of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, in Geneva, contends that bureaucrats use ethical experts to get their own way when they have to deal with controversies like GM foods or embryonic stem cell research.’

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5 Ways Skin Can Signal Health Problems

Bahar Gholipour writes for Live Science:

‘The largest organ in the body, the skin, is sometimes said to be a window into a person’s general well-being, because it can carry clues about the health of other organs. Changes in the skin, ranging from discoloration to new growth, may sometimes be early signs of more serious underlying health problems, dermatologists say.

“I think of us as medical detectives,” said Dr. Doris Day, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “I’m always looking for that clue — when did this change happen, why it’s here, what are the other symptoms … Those clues will help me find what’s going on inside, both in the mind and the body.” A handful of skin changes have been commonly associated with internal diseases. When people spot these signs, they might need to see their doctor, Day said. “A few weeks is not uncommon to have something come and go, but if it persists beyond that, I would say see your doctor — especially if it gets worse during that time,” Day said.’

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Coca-Cola Forced To Shut Bottling Plant in India

Fatima Hansia reports for CorpWatch:

Coca-Cola, the world’s largest beverage producer, has been ordered to shut down its bottling plant in Varanasi, India following local complaints that the company was drawing excessive amounts of groundwater. After an investigation, government authorities ruled that the company had violated its operating license.

…This is not the first time that the company has been in trouble in India for unsustainable water extraction practices. In 2004 a bottling plant in Plachimada, Kerala, was closed for excessive water consumption. Later Kerala passed legislation that allows Coca-Cola to be sued for as much as $47 million in damages as result of the operations. And last year, community organizers in Charba, Uttarakhand, defeated Coca-Cola’s plans to build a new factory as soon as the proposal went public.’

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Study: Organic Food Has More Antioxidants, Less Pesticide Residue

Dominique Mosbergen reports for The Huffington Post:

Organic food really is better for your health than its conventional counterparts. At least, that’s the conclusion of a new study conducted by researchers at Newcastle University and published this week. But not everyone is convinced. Specifically, the researchers said that organic fruits, vegetables and cereals contain significantly higher concentrations of antioxidants than conventionally grown crops. They added that organic produce and cereals were found to have lower levels of toxic metals and pesticides.

For the study — said to be the largest of its kind – the researchers analyzed more than 340 international, peer-reviewed studies that looked at compositional differences between organic and conventional crops. According to the paper, researchers found that organically grown produce and cereals have between 19 and 69 percent higher concentrations of certain antioxidant compounds than conventionally grown crops.’

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Lapses at high-security CDC labs reveal culture of negligence

Noelle Swan writes for Christian Science Monitor:

‘Revelations of safety breaches at federal biosecurity laboratories reveal gaping holes in safety protocols, a lack of independent oversight, and an apparent culture of hubris among researchers who work with dangerous biological agents, biosecurity experts say.

In the past week, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced three separate incidents:

  • In June, scientists at the CDC’s Bioterrorism Rapid Response and Advanced Technology lab exposed 80 unprotected workers to pathogenic anthrax.
  • Weeks earlier, the CDC’s influenza lab shipped samples of a benign avian flu virus that had been cross-contaminated with more pernicious strain to a US Department of Agriculture facility.
  • Researchers at a Federal Drug Administration lab operated by National Institutes and Health uncovered long forgotten vials containing the smallpox virus circa 1954 that were supposed to be consigned to international repositories.

The incidents have shone a light on a broader issue of lapses in safety and security at bio labs operated and funded by the federal government.’

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Nanotech: Big Dairy Is Putting Microscopic Pieces of Metal in Your Food

Tom Philpott writes for Mother Jones:

‘The rapid emergence of nanotechnology suggests that size does, indeed, matter. It turns out that if you break common substances like silver and nickel into really, really tiny particles—measured in nanometers, which are billionths of a meter—they behave in radically different ways. For example, regular silver, the stuff of fancy tableware, doesn’t have any obvious place in sock production. But nano-size silver particles apparently do. According to boosters, when embedded in the fabric of socks, microscopic silver particles are “strongly antibacterial to a wide range of pathogens, absorb sweat, and by killing bacteria help eliminate unpleasant foot odor.” (By most definitions, a particle qualifies as “nano” when it’s 100 nanometers wide or less. By contrast, a human hair clocks in at about 80,000 nanometers in diameter.)

According to the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN)—a joint venture of Virginia Tech and the Wilson Center—there are more than 1,600 nanotechnology-based consumer products on the market today. If SmartSilver Anti-Odor Nanotechnology Underwear sounds like a rather intimate application for this novel technology, consider that the PEN database lists 96 food items currently on US grocery shelves that contain unlabeled nano ingredients. Examples include Silk Original Soy MilkRice Dream Rice Drink, Hershey’s Bliss Dark Chocolate, and Kraft’s iconic American Cheese Singles, all of which now contain nano-size titanium dioxide*. As recently as 2008, only eight US food products were known to contain nanoparticles, according to a recent analysis from Friends of the Earth—a more than tenfold increase in just six years.’

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The Deep Harm of Antibiotics

Dr. Cesar Chelala writes for CounterPunch:

‘Resistance to antibiotics is a growing phenomenon and has become one of the world’s most serious public health concerns. Antibiotic resistance is a form of drug resistance where some bacteria are able to survive the administration of one or more antibiotics. This phenomenon is a consequence of misuse and overuse of antibiotics in medicine and in livestock feed. As a result of this, there is a growing presence of superbugs, as are called microorganisms -mostly bacteria- that carry several antibiotic-resistance genes.

The seriousness of the problem is underscored by the World Health Organization (WHO), which in a recent report has called this phenomenon a ‘global threat.’ The WHO report follows a 2013 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report which showed that two million people in the U.S. are infected annually with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and 23,000 people die each year from them. Last year, Dr. Sally Davies had called the problem a “ticking time bomb” and said that it probably will become as important in the magnitude of its effects as climate change.

As a result of antibiotic resistance and the increasing number of superbugs, common infections that could be treated without major problems have become untreatable. In 2012, the WHO reported 450,000 cases of tuberculosis in 92 countries where multiple drugs used to treat them were found ineffective.’

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Report: Over-fortified cereals may pose risks to kids

Michelle Healy reports for USA Today:

‘Young children who dig into a bowl of fortified breakfast cereal may be getting too much of a good thing. A new report says that “millions of children are ingesting potentially unhealthy amounts” of vitamin A, zinc and niacin, with fortified breakfast cereals the leading source of the excessive intake because all three nutrients are added in amounts calculated for adults.

Outdated nutritional labeling rules and misleading marketing by food manufacturers who use high fortification levels to make their products appear more nutritious fuel this potential risk, according to the report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a Washington, D.C.-based health research and advocacy organization.’

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Kill switch: Breeding kamikaze mosquitoes

Kieron Monks reports for CNN:

Female Aedes mosquito feeding‘The Aedes Aegypti mosquito is just two to three millimeters long but its impact is devastating. Of the thousands of mosquito species, this one bears primary responsibility for one of the world’s deadliest and fastest growing diseases. In the past 50 years, incidence of Dengue Fever has multiplied by 30 according to the WHO, spreading from nine countries in 1970 to over 100 today. There is no vaccine or cure for the painful virus known as Breakbone Fever, and of the 50-100 million people infected each year, over 20,000 die.

Aedes Aegypti has spread with this epidemic, and has become the target of efforts to control the disease. But while solutions such as mass spraying of toxic chemicals have proved expensive, ineffective and environmentally damaging, scientists hope to use the insect as the agent of its own destruction. British biotech firm Oxitec is tackling the problem through pioneering genetic modification (GM) of the Aedes Aegypti. Scientists breed large numbers of the insects in laboratories and inject the sperm cells of males with a lethal gene. When the mosquito is released into the wild and mates with a female — always of the same species – the deadly transgene is passed on and the offspring dies.’

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Meals of the Future: Will Soylent and Ambronite Make Food Obsolete?

Amir Khan writes for U.S. News & World Report:

soylent‘[...] Old TV shows and movies depicted 21st century food as nutrient-dense capsules, giving you a day’s worth of calories and nutrients in a single pill – and two new companies are close to bringing that prediction to reality.

These California-based companies – Soylent, named after the 1973 science fiction film “Soylent Green,” and Ambronite – have both developed meal replacement mixes that are intended to free you from the burden of cooking. Simply mix the powder with water or any liquid and, in the case of Soylent, a little oil, and you have a ready-to-drink nutritious breakfast, lunch or dinner.’

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Growing health concerns as UK sets record for smallest properties in Europe

Jonathan Brown writes for The Independent:

‘Britain is in the grip of an invisible housing squeeze with millions of people living in homes that are too small for them, according to new research which reveals that more than half of all dwellings are failing to meet minimum modern standards on size.

The poorest households are being hit hardest, with estimates suggesting that four-fifths of those affected by the Coalition’s “bedroom tax” are already forced to contend with a shortage of space, the Cambridge University study found.

The findings will put pressure on the Government, which announced it was to develop a national space standard – although this will only be enforced where it does not impinge on development. Critics argue that the UK already has the smallest properties in Europe following the end of national guidelines in 1980. But soaring land and property prices and a shortage of new homes are fuelling overcrowding, which causes health problems including depression, insomnia and asthma.’

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Nafeez Ahmed: World Bank and UN carbon offset scheme ‘complicit’ in genocidal land grabs, say NGOs

Nafeez Ahmed writes for the Guardian:

A Kenyan farmer tends newly planted trees‘Between 2000 and 2010, a total of 500 million acres of land in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean was acquired or negotiated under deals brokered on behalf of foreign governments or transnational corporations. Many such deals are geared toward growing crops or biofuels for export to richer, developed countries – with the consequence that small-holder farmers are displaced from their land and lose their livelihood while local communities go hungry.

The concentration of ownership of the world’s farmland in the hands of powerful investors and corporations is rapidly accelerating, driven by resource scarcity and, thus, rising prices. According to a new report by the US land rights organisation Grain: “The powerful demands of food and energy industries are shifting farmland and water away from direct local food production to the production of commodities for industrial processing.” Less known factors, however, include ‘conservation‘ and ‘carbon offsetting.”

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FDA considering ban on electric shock therapy

My Fox Boston reported last month:

‘A doctor who was part of an FDA advisory panel on electric shock therapy says the Judge Rotenberg Center is not reporting device malfunctions that randomly shock students to the government as required.

“We have no data on how often this device is malfunctioning,” said Dr. Steven Miles, a physician who served on a panel advising the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on the devices used to deliver the shocks. “Any time that you have a medical device failure, in this case administering random shocks, you cause trauma to people. And in this case you traumatize people with learning disabilities.”

The Canton-based Rotenberg Center, the only place in the country using the devices, disagrees, saying the misfires don’t meet the FDA reporting standard of causing death or serious injury. The FDA, however, is not so sure.’

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We Will End Disability by Becoming Cyborgs

Eliza Strickland writes for IEEE Spectrum:

Aimee Mullins Hugh Herr‘[...] The MIT scientists are part of a movement aimed at ushering medicine into a cyborg age. All over the world, engineers are building electronics-based systems that communicate directly with the human nervous system, promising radically new treatments for a variety of ailments and conditions, both physical and mental. While Herr’s team focuses on giving people better control of their prosthetic limbs, other researchers are trying to give patients better control of their emotions. One promising experiment targets depression with deep brain stimulation (DBS), in which electrodes implanted in the brain send steady pulses of electricity to certain problematic neural areas. Others are developing gear to compensate for intellectual deficits, such as a California project to build a memory-augmenting prosthetic.

In all of these projects, researchers started with the notion that a surprising range of afflictions can be most effectively treated by learning the electrical language that the brain uses to govern our movements, moods, and memories. By 2064, it’s entirely possible that neural engineers may be fluent enough to mimic those instructions, allowing them to repair a human being’s faulty systems by rewiring them.’

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Tory party donors handed NHS contracts worth £1.5 billion under health reforms

SOURCE: THE MIRROR

Chinese Parents Are Sending Internet Addicts To Boot Camps

Kyung-Hoon Kim reports for Reuters:

Reuters / Kim Kyung-Hoon‘Baby-faced teenagers in army uniforms practice drills in locked dormitories in China, closely supervised by former soldiers, in a bid to inject discipline into lives disrupted by the Internet. Welcome to the world of military-style boot camps designed to wean young people off their addiction to the Internet. There are as many as 250 camps in China alone.

Their methods are more aggressive than clinics elsewhere, such as some in the United States that offer website blocking and monitoring software, and enforce bans on Internet use for addicts among the 75 percent of U.S. adults who are online. As growing numbers of young Chinese turn to the cyber world, spending hours playing games online to escape the competitive pressures generated in a society of 1.3 billion people, worried parents increasingly turn to the boot camps to crush addiction.’

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UK needs four-day week to combat stress, says top doctor

Editor’s Note: Abby Martin recently discussed America’s obsession with working and how it is destroying their health and family life. Below the video you can also find links to other related information including a great article on “bullshit jobs“.

Denis Campbell writes for the Guardian:

Professor John Ashton said a four-day week could help ease mental and physical health problems‘One of Britain’s leading doctors has called for the country to switch to a four-day week to help combat high levels of work-related stress, let people spend more time with their families or exercising, and reduce unemployment. Bringing the standard working week down from five to four days would also help address medical conditions, such as high blood pressure and the mental ill-health associated with overwork or lack of work, Prof John Ashton said.

The president of the UK Faculty of Public Health said the five-day week should be phased out to end what he called “a maldistribution of work” that is damaging many people’s health. “When you look at the way we lead our lives, the stress that people are under, the pressure on time and sickness absence, [work-related] mental health is clearly a major issue. We should be moving towards a four-day week because the problem we have in the world of work is you’ve got a proportion of the population who are working too hard and a proportion that haven’t got jobs”, Ashton said. “We’ve got a maldistribution of work. The lunch-hour has gone; people just have a sandwich at their desk and carry on working,” added the leader of the UK’s 3,300 public-health experts working in the NHS, local government and academia.’

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David Cameron warned NHS could collapse in five years

From The Week:

NHS‘Senior Tories are calling on David Cameron to significantly increase NHS spending after a former coalition health minister warned the service could collapse within five years.

Lib Dem Paul Burstow, who was minister of state for health, says he believes the NHS needs an extra £15bn from the Treasury over the next five years “if you don’t want the system to collapse during the course of the next parliament”.

Tory MP Sarah Wollaston, who was a GP for 20 years before becoming an MP in 2010, said: “If there is not an increase, it is hard to see how we could maintain current levels of service given the rising demand.”’

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How America’s Work Obsession is Killing Our Quality of Life

Abby Martin discusses President Obama’s criticism of US maternity leave policy and goes over how the US stacks up against other countries when it comes to this issue.’ (Breaking the Set)

How much sugar do we eat?

Christine Jeavans writes for BBC News:

Soft drinks in a supermarket‘There is fierce debate about the role of added sugar in contributing to the obesity crisis. UK government scientists today halved the recommended level of added sugar people should eat each day. And the World Health Organization has also said people should aim to get just 5% of their daily calories from the sweet stuff. But calculating how much sugar we eat is not as simple as it sounds.

Sugar is sugar – right? Not quite. Health professionals take a dim view of sugars added to processed food but say that naturally occurring sweetness in milk and fruit is largely fine, with the exception of juice. Current advice says no more than 11% of a person’s daily food calories should come from added sugars, or 10% once alcohol is taken into account. That works out at about 50g of sugars for a woman and 70g for a man, depending on how active they are. And it’s this level which has just been halved in a draft report by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition. But look at the back of a food packet and you’ll see a guideline amount for total sugars – including those naturally occurring in fruit and other ingredients.’

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Scientists and nutritionists condemn Sugarpova Candy Lounge at Wimbledon

Chris Green and Gregory McGann write for the Independent:

‘Scientists and nutritionists have condemned the creation of a pop-up store for Maria Sharapova’s Sugarpova sweet brand near the All England club as “reprehensible”, saying it bears comparison with Martina Navratilova’s decision to wear clothes emblazoned with cigarette advertising in 1982… Sharapova, 27, the world’s wealthiest female athlete, founded the sweet firm in 2012… the tennis star’s sugary sales pitch coincides with the publication of a report which recommended that people should more than halve their intake of added sugar. A draft report by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition said sugar should account for no more than five cent of a person’s energy intake, despite many failing to meet the previous 10 per cent target. A single can of fizzy drink would swallow most adults’ daily allowance.

Professor Tom Sanders, the head of diabetes and nutritional sciences at King’s College London, said: “I find sporting celebrity endorsements of unhealthy foods such as sweets and soft drinks reprehensible. The use of player’s clothing to promote cigarettes was outlawed almost 30 years ago – now it is time to crackdown on player endorsement of unhealthy foods. I would like to see an outright ban on sports personalities being involved in the advertising or marketing of sugar sweetened drinks, confectionary and crisps. Celebrity endorsement has a huge impact on sales to young people who are those most at risk of become obese.”’

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Lithium-water test in suicide study

From the Press Association:

‘Adding lithium to drinking water supplies could help to reduce suicide rates, according to a team of psychiatrists. Naturally-occurring levels of the chemical are to be measured in supplies in Scotland and compared with suicide rates in the population it serves. It follows similar studies in the US and Japan which found that suicide rates are higher in areas where there are low levels of lithium in the drinking water.

The chemical is a common treatment for bipolar disorder but is found in many water supplies. The project was announced at the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ International Congress in London. Lithium levels will be measured by postcode and compared with Scottish Health Survey and NHS statistics. The team will also test the impact of adding lithium to water supplies just as fluoride is added to prevent tooth decay.’

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High-tech spoon helps people with tremors tackle tasks

Robin Erb reports for Detroit Free Press:

‘Technology originally designed for the U.S. military now has a second use: helping those with tremors eat and live better.

A high-tech spoon — fitted with a tiny computer and sensors such as those in a camera or cellphone — softens the effect of essential tremors by sensing their direction and strength and moving the device in the opposite direction.

“In some ways, it seems too simple to be true,” said Dr. Kelvin Chou, a University of Michigan neurologist and essential tremors specialist whose patients helped test the device. For essential tremor patients, simple daily activities — eating, applying makeup — can be impossible.’

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How Jimmy Savile abused hospital patients and got away with it

NHS has been offered up to the private sector, says Britain’s chief doctor

Charlie Cooper reports for The Independent:

‘The NHS has been served up to “armies of lawyers and accountants” from the private healthcare industry, the leader of Britain’s doctors has said, accusing the Government of a double-pronged attack on the health service driven by privatisation and cuts to services. In a strongly worded attack, Dr Mark Porter, chair of council for the British Medical Association, accused the Coalition of ushering in a “a bumper year for multinationals” and of inflicting cuts to the health service driven by an “uninformed and arrogant assumption” that the NHS is inefficient. Speaking to doctors at the BMA’s annual conference, Dr Porter said that doctors would “fight every day” until the General Election to expose “the chronic lack of investment” in the NHS.

Fears over mounting pressures on the health service are dominating the final BMA conference before the 2015 election. In a sign of deep frustration with the Government, doctors voted to oppose their plans for a “seven-day NHS” in which non-urgent services would be available at the weekend – arguing that under current NHS budget constraints, hospitals would have to close in order to free up cash to pay doctors and nurses to work extra hours. Doctors are also furious over the increasing role of competition and private providers in the NHS. Although the Government maintains that its health reforms did not change NHS competition laws, Dr Porter said that “whatever the reassurances, a bizarre market culture has been created”.’

READ MORE @ THE INDEPENDENT…

Study: Healthy buzzwords trick consumers into buying unhealthy products

From AFP:

‘Buzzwords like “gluten-free,” “antioxidants” and “whole-grain” pepper the grocery store aisles, but do they really mean that such products are healthy? A recent study conducted at the University of Houston warns shoppers to proceed with caution. Researchers say these health-related euphemisms have a powerful impact on consumers and, in light of the actual ingredients in some of these products, could convey a false sense of health.

…Although the FDA requires Nutrition Information labels in the United States and similar labeling systems are seen in other countries, Northup’s research concludes they have little effect on consumers. “Words like organic, antioxidant, natural and gluten-free imply some sort of healthy benefit,” Northup said. “When people stop to think about it, there’s nothing healthy about Antioxidant Cherry 7-Up — it’s mostly filled with high fructose syrup or sugar. But its name is giving you this clue that there is some sort of health benefit to something that is not healthy at all.”‘

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Association found between maternal exposure to agricultural pesticides and autism

From Science Daily:

‘Pregnant women who lived in close proximity to fields and farms where chemical pesticides were applied experienced a two-thirds increased risk of having a child with autism spectrum disorder or other developmental delay, a study by researchers with the UC Davis MIND Institute has found. The associations were stronger when the exposures occurred during the second and third trimesters of the women’s pregnancies. The large, multisite California-based study examined associations between specific classes of pesticides, including organophosphates, pyrethroids and carbamates, applied during the study participants’ pregnancies and later diagnoses of autism and developmental delay in their offspring. It is published online in Environmental Health Perspectives.’

READ MORE @ SCIENCE DAILY…