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No, Not a Raccoon Burger.

     Join in with me and sing, “Frosted Lucky Charms, They’re Magically Delicious!”. Just kinda cheers you up.  Sure, maybe they have a bit of too much sugar in them,, but it was always fun to see if the marshmallows could outlast the boring cereal.
     Now we know the importance of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They have come out with an advisory (NY Times) about possible links between artificial food colorings, and behavioral problems, like hyperactivity in children. That means that products such as Jell-O, Lucky Charms and Minute Maid Lemonade, could be bad for kids.

     Because of the FDA, soon, products containing food coloring, will be required to carry warnings that such consumption can cause or aggravate behavior conditions in kids. Previously, the FDA had maintained that synthetic coloring that was added to these products, had no affect on children. Of course, manufacturers like General Mills are downplaying these recent studies.

     Because of the FDA, you might soon  see all Pop Tarts looking the same color and all Fruit Loops looking like “one Loop”. Or, they will have that scary warning on the side. Of course, maybe these food manufacturers are going to have some convincing product that “colors the food” safely. What, you thought the green marshmallows in the Lucky Charms were really from local leprechauns!!!!

     It’s a reminder of the importance of some regulation, and the importance of the FDA being properly staffed, to be able to render opinions on products that are on the market.

     If you looked at the title, you’re probably still wondering if this is a bait and switch title. What do Pop Tarts have to do with Raccoons? I promise, I’m not trying to drive you to eat a big bag of orange Cheetos.   

     I did open the eyes a bit, when I read a recent article in a SC newspaper. (GoUpstate.com) You just can’t sell whatever you want to, as an owner of a grocery store.

     South Carolina health officials have told a Richland County grocery store to stop selling raccoon meat. The Department of Health found bags of chilled racoon meat in a cooler at a Lucky Seven No. 2.  I guess that’s why you can’t buy greased beaver knees,  eye of newt or the lucky toe of frog, as recited by Shakespeare. They just aren’t approved. (well maybe the frog?)

     The racoon is an interesting animal to study. For the blog, I learned that a President owned one as a pet (named Rebecca) and that raccons have hands so nimble that they can unlace a shoe, unlatch a cage or retrieve coins from a shirt pocket. All those seem like talents that aren’t that helpful in the wild. Although, maybe that’s why I’ve never seen them in shoes. 

     Knowing that information about raccoons, makes me smile. Maybe an insurance company will soon have a raccoon as a mascot. On second thought, they do look more like the Hamburgler at McDonalds, with their little mask. They just shouldn’t be sold for meat in the grocery store cooler.

     You have to say “Amen to that!”. Ok, I know I’ve taken you on a long ride. Maybe you have to be nimble to find  a little bit of legal in here somewhere.

How You Look At It

My cousin sent this picture that was taken from his window. That’s no pet looking in. I suspect that there’s a bigger one nearby. It reminds me of the old saying “it’s how you look at things”. Here, there’s no safe way to look at a bear through a window. That’s false security.
In my previous blog, I mentioned that I was going to a meeting this past weekend. Well, one of the speakers focused on the studies of statistics and how they relate to injury and diagnosed medical problems.
One of the statistics that really had impact on me, related to lung cancer. He described that a person that smokes has a 22.1% chance of getting lung cancer. Because there are some people that get lung cancer without smoking, I was curious as to the statistic of lung cancer, without smoking… about 1% chance.
That’s one of those statistics that is a reminder that there is really no good way of looking at it. A little greater than 1 to 5 odds of getting cancer doesn’t seem to have much impact on many, when they choose to smoke.
As I walked through the airport on Sunday, I walked by the infamous “smoking room” where everyone can go to smoke. Looking in the glass, in that smokey haze, I could count about 15 people sitting in there. Those statistics tell us that 3 people in there, will end up with lung cancer.
In jury trials, there are several psychological juror bias factors that impact verdicts. Psychologists tell us that one is called the attrition bias. That means that “it won’t happen to me”. So, when that type of juror hears evidence, they tend to put some fault on the plaintiff, because they believe such injuries could not have happened to them; They would have done something differently; even in a rear-end crash.
Unfortunately, it is that same attitude regarding smoking. Tobacco companies continue to turn a profit, despite the alarming statistics. Cigarrettes continue to be sold, no matter what warning is put on the package. Like that juror attitude, “it won’t happen to me” is a terrible stumbling block in the area of good health.
When Tobacco companies pushed for FDA regulation of their product as a drug, they did so with the hope that it would give them some liability cover. They already knew that warnings and statistics had not hurt sales very much. So, why not pretend to be a regulated drug. Now, how does that really make sense?

Jumping Ship

    I am hitting the exits; Take this job and shove it; Elvis has left the building; I’m Papa John and I am delivering my resignation; See ya, wouldn’t want to be ya; I am jumping ship.

     You can tell by my previous paragraph that I am getting a bit carried away. The above is a  collection of sayings that could be said by someone who is “proudly” leaving their place of employment. Yes, I did throw a few of my own creations. 

     “Jumping Ship” has come  to be known as a term of someone taking control of their destiny. It has even been used to indicate the actions of Democratic candidates, when being associated with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  The real basis is connected to such work as the 19th Century English coal trade.

     During the 19th century, hundreds of seaman lost their lives, while sailing on ships that were dangerously overloaded. At that time, there was no regulation as to how much coal  that could be put on a ship. As a result, the more coal, the more profits. Thus, ships would be loaded up to the deck line and make sailing a life or death propostion.

    It is reported that in 1873, 411 ships sailing from England sank, and took countless men to a watery grave. Despite the sight of an overloaded ship, once a seaman signed on for work, he could not back out or he was charged with “jumping ship”, which was considered a criminal offense. For the profit seeking owners, they won either way. If the coal made it, they made money; If the ship sank, insurance paid them for their losses. The sheer numbers showed that “corporate England” did not care about these sailors or these “coffin ships”.

     Samuel Plimsoll   was a British politician who campaigned and is best remembered for developing the Plimsoll Line.  He introduce legislation to get restrictions on how much coal could be shipped. Not surprisingly, he faced great pressures from ship owners and even the British Prime Minister of that day, Benjamin Disraeli. The ultimate adoption of his measurement “Plimsoll Line”, as well as the overall Merchant Shipping Act, is credited with saving many lives.

     I have given you a brief history and example of when government regulation made a difference. Today, politicians are jumping on the theme of “less government”, as an excuse to eliminate government regulations.

     I received a copy of this months Costco “My Business”. It has 3 pages of small business political ads. The premise,  in reaching out to people like me,  is to encourage voting for pro-business candidates. On its face, that sounds like real free enterprise. However, if you look closer at each of these ads, you will notice the words, “Do you stand for an end to burdensome, intrusive government regulations?”

     I just saw a news story about the FDA announcing a significant restriction in the the allowance of prescriptions for the diabetes drug,  Avandia. The FDA is “regulating” this drug, to only be prescribed in limited indications, when no other treatment options exist. To date, 47,000 heart attacks have been attributed to Avandia.  Already, the drug has been banned in Europe. The manufacturer has been fighting restriction and recall.

     A fine line exists between what is right for business, and what is government intrustion. Unfortunately, when profits are at stake, business has been shown to put profit over safety. ” No government” sounds good from a bully pulpit. Unfortunately, there are still those that have that 19th Coal shipping mentality. Next man up for the profit of the company.   Sometimes we better be careful, because we just might get what we ask for.

Lead in the Lunch Box

     The Environmental Law Foundation has issued a warning that there are “alarming” concentrations of lead that have been found in a variety of children’s and baby foods. The food categories include apple juice, packaged pears and peaches, and fruit cocktail. 

     My wife regularly buys these type of items, so when I heard about  the leadwarning, I went home, pulled the products and matched them against the checklist. I will provide the list below for your quick access. 

     Many scientists agree that there is no safe level of exposure to lead. Here is a transcription of the NPR news story and interview, which provides more information. I am also attaching an article on why the FDA is hampered in preventing this kind of problem. The report basically says what you would expect: Limited resources and  piece meal approaches in gathering information (basically government inefficiency) are the culprits. 

    I did title this blog “Lead in the lunch box”. I was really addressing the food that sometimes kids take to school. Then, I also saw a report on lead problems in lunch boxes ( Here), so I am attaching that story for your review, as well.

      Below is the list of the food and juices that reportedly contain dangerous levels of lead. I am taking up this blog space with this long list, to make sure you can compare to any products you may consider at the grocery store or are already in your pantry or closet:    

  • Beech Nut 100% Apple Juice
  • Del Monte 100% Juice Fruit Cocktail
  • Del Monte Freestone Peach Slices in 100 % Juice
  • Del Monte Sliced Yellow Cling Peaches in 100 % Juice
  • Dole Mixed Fruit in Light Syrup
  • Earth’s Best Organics Apple Juice
  • Gerber 100% Juice – White Grape Juice
  • Gerber 100% Juice Apple Juice
  • Gerber 3rd Foods Peaches
  • Gerber 3rd Foods Pears
  • Hansen’s Natural Apple Juice
  • Langers Apple Juice 100% Juice
  • Minute Maid Juice Apple – 100% Apple Juice
  • Motts 100% Apple Juice
  • O Organics Organic Unfiltered Apple Juice Not From Concentrate
  • Old Orchard 100% Apple Juice
  • R.W. Knudsen Just Concord Grape Juice
  • S&W Natural Style Fruit Cocktail in Lightly Sweetened Juice
  • Safeway 100% Juice Apple Cider
  • Safeway Organic Grape Juice
  • Santa Cruz Organic Concord Grape Juice
  • Trader Joe’s Certified Organic Apple Juice, pasteurized
  • Trader Joe’s Pear Halves in white grape juice
  • Tree Top 100% Juice Apple Cider
  • Tree Top 100% Juice, Grape
  • Walgreens Apple Juice from concentrate 100% juice
  • Welch’s 100% Grape Juice (from Welch’s Concord Grapes)
  • Welch’s 100% Red Grape Juice from Concentrate
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    Nexium, Prilosec and Fractures

         The commercial almost makes you long for vacation. Two people traveling on a purple RV, going around the country with a message about fighting heartburn. Unfortunately, there may be a bad trade-off for heartburn relief, if these products are overused.

         They are medically known as Proton pump inhibitors (PPI’s). Prescription PPI’s include Nexium, Dexilant, Prilosec, Prevacid, Protonix and Acihpex. Now, studies are showing that those taking one of these for long periods ( a year), or have been taking high doses in certain prescription formations, may face a higher risk of fractures.

         The FDA has warned that PPI’s may increase the risk of fractures of the hip, wrist and spine. As a result, the FDA is requiring these products to display warnings  reporting an elevated fracture risk. Previously, most were relying on a Canadian study that indicated that there was some risk for increased fractures, but that such risk was in users who already had susceptibility to osteoporosis and were using these products for a period of about 7 years. That study had little effect on whether most were going to seek a prescription that would help them combat their heartburn.

         Most of the reports of increased fractures from these studies are found in adults over the age of 50. The FDA is requiring these new package warnings after reviewing the results of six studies.  One other study also suggested  that these drugs could also raise the risk of exposure to bacterium that is capable of causing severe diarrhea. I’m guessing that the next “happy couple in the RV”  TV advertisement will be followed with some baritone announcer reciting a long list of warnings, followed by the ever comforting “talk to your doctor to see if it’s right for you”.

     

    When Opinion Ignores Reality

    While sitting in the doctor's office today, I was reading the USA Today opinion page. It's amazing what sometimes becomes interesting when you are just waiting.

    The opinion page is like a letter to the editor. The one that caught my attention was dealing with the recent health care bill. The author reminded that former Senator, John Edwards, had been named one of the biggest political losers of 2009. He recommended that Edwards should consider going back into the lucrative practice of law, since the health care bill had not adopted any tort reform measures regarding medical malpractice. I am sugarcoating some of the author's venom.

     This takes us back to the supposed purpose of malpractice reforms to be included in the health care bill. the reasoning was that by reducing doctor liability, it would reduce testing and "defensive medicine", which in turn would reduce medical costs.

    For a blog, it would be both boring and impossible to argue logic for that position. Instead, I'll simply remind you of the argument for restricting liability for drug companies. At that time, bureaucrats and politicians were saying that drug companies needed protection from trial lawyers. Otherwise, if you did not enact caps, limits and immunity, drug companies would no longer have incentives to produce helpful medication. And, good drugs would not make it to market. As such, without these limits, would all suffer.

     Fortunately, for the safety of patients, no such immunity and limits was passed. In fact, some were even lifted. Yesterday, an interesting statistic was provided by the FDA. The number of new drugs that were cleared for market by the FDA, kept pace with 2008. This is statistical proof that the push for safety in early warnings and citations to drug companies has not affected the pipeline of medications to market.

    The FDA also approved drugs known as a "first-of-kind", which shows no hesitation of drug companies in pushing their drugs forward. Again, without government intervention and the silly reasoning of politicians, the free enterprise is at work rewarding companies that produce medications safely, with appropriate warnings. Of course, drug companies don't like the extra hoops that they have to go through. So, I expect that they will continue with their illogical tort reform and their large political donations to the receptive politicians.  

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