Archive for May 15th, 2009
In a House appropriations subcommittee hearing yesterday with Secretary Vilsack on the stand, Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) called out industrial livestock operations as “threats to human health” because of their pollution and contribution to antibiotic resistance. (See this post for more background on resistant bugs.) Vilsack sided with Big Meat, claiming the companies are “first and foremost… concerned for the safety of their consumers.” Asked if USDA had plans to reform livestock production to avoid some of the negative impacts, Vilsack offered little more than some rhetorical pabulum for reps to chew on. (Des Moines Register)
Congresswoman De Lauro (D-CT) also apparently questioned Vilsack on the CAFO issue, raising a Tulsa, OK news article that fingered local CAFOs for environmental pollution and noted that they were bringing in big subsidy money from the USDA. Why should USDA should continue to reward such behavior? Vilsack’s reported response: “You really don’t want to go down that road.”
For those of us who don’t want a side of drug-resistant bacteria with our chicken, more worrisome is the strong rumor that Vilsack will name University of Georgia researcher Mike Doyle as the head of the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. Doyle is a longtime friend to Big Meat and has argued that feeding healthy livestock low doses of antibiotics helps keep the food system “safe.” Can’t say that makes us feel better. (Grist via Obama Foodorama)
I’m throwing out my BPA-containing Nalgene glasses because of this post from the Ethicurean:
The proof is in the pee? Bisphenol A (BPA) is suspected to be an endocrine disruptor and a potential cause of numerous chronic diseases, leading to various efforts to ban its use. A newly released study by researchers at Harvard and the Centers for Disease Control finds bottles made from BPA lead to BPA uptake by humans, with some of it being excreted in urine. The researchers had 77 Harvard College students drink cold beverages from stainless steel bottles for one week, then from BPA-containing polycarbonate bottles during the following week, with periodic urine sample collection for analysis. Use of the polycarbonate bottles led to a 69% increase in the subjects’ urinary concentration of BPA. (Environmental Health Perspectives)
Interesting post at Food Politics:
Who is responsible for food safety? You are!
Or so says ConAgra, apparently. The New York Times reports that ConAgra, unable to locate the source of Salmonella in its frozen dinners (oops), deals with the problem by telling you to heat the dinner to 165 degrees and use a thermometer to make sure you do. The Times tried this. Not so easy. Oops again.
Mind you, it makes sense for everyone to follow standard food safety procedures at home. These, you may recall, involve doing four things in your kitchen: CLEAN – wash hands and preparation surfaces frequently and thoroughly, SEPARATE cooked from uncooked foods so they don’t get cross-contaminated, COOK food to appropriate temperature to kill harmful microbes, and promptly CHILL foods in the refrigerator to retard bacterial growth.
Shouldn’t we expect ConAgra and everyone else to produce safe food in the first place? And don’t we need some regulation to make sure companies do? I think so. Now.
Since House Democrats this afternoon released their finalized version of legislation aiming to mitigate America’s role in global climate change, the response from environmentalists has been, well, not very encouraging. Here’s the statement just issued by Greenpeace:
Despite the best efforts of [Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif)], this bill has been seriously undermined by the lobbying of industries more concerned with profits than the plight of our planet. While science clearly tells us that only dramatic action can prevent global warming and its catastrophic impacts, this bill has fallen prey to political infighting and industry pressure. We cannot support this bill in its current state.
We mentioned earlier a few of the reasons that environmentalists are up in arms over the bill, which was diluted to attract support from a number of fossil-fuel-friendly Democrats on the E&C panel. Heightening their concerns, the advocates don’t see this proposal as a first step in some incremental process toward cutting emissions (or else they’d probably support it). Rather, the feeling is that if lawmakers this year pass reforms calling for 17 percent carbon reductions by 2020 (as mandated by the bill), they aren’t going to return next year to bump that figure to 20 or 25 percent — where many observers think the threshold should be. That’s the reason environmentalists are calling for Democrats to scrap this proposal and start the process anew — this time focusing their climate change bill on alleviating climate change, not catering to the polluters causing climate change.
Bill opponents might yet be in luck. That’s because even in its watered down state, the Waxman bill is still too radical for most Republicans to swallow. That won’t matter so much in the House, but this thing might easily die in the Senate.
Chewable aspirin is absorbed faster and is more effective than regular aspirin that is either swallowed whole or chewed and then swallowed, a new study shows.
This "seemingly quite simple finding" could lead to improvements in the care of heart attack patients, researchers say.
Sean Nordt, MD, of the University of California, San Diego, and colleagues, gave three different types of aspirin to 14 people between ages of 20 and 61. One group was given regular solid aspirin tablets and told to swallow the pills whole. Another was given regular aspirin tablets and told to chew the pills before swallowing. A third group was given chewable aspirin tablets, and swallowing occurred during chewing.
The researchers then measured levels of aspirin in the blood; researchers say the chewable aspirin consistently showed the greatest and fastest absorption rates…
As the teaching of penmanship dies away, young writers lose the benefit of good instruction and, like all self-taught practitioners, fall prey to common errors. One common error for writers (discussed in this Lifehacker.com post) is to hold the pen or pencil in a death grip, fatiguing the hand muscles and leading to cramping. In penmanship classes, the teacher normally stresses how lightly the writing instrument is held—like a live bird: closely enough that it doesn’t escape, but not so tightly as to distress (or kill) the bird. The teacher should be able to lean over the writing student and pluck the pen or pencil from his (or her) grasp without effort. If there is great resistance—if, for example, pulling up the pencil lifts the writing hand as well—then the grip is too tight.