Do you believe cosmetics can reverse the signs of aging? It would be wonderful, if true.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just again issued warnings to cosmetic companies, including Avon; Lancôme (a subsidiary of L’Oreal); Andes Natural Skin Care based in Nevada and Jason Beckett, located in New Jersey. All of the FDA letters alleged the firms marketed their products using improper claims. Simply, if a cosmetic could really cure wrinkles, they would be a drug and not cosmetic, which is not to change your body’s structures or functioning. The testing of drug costs millions while, in fact, anyone can mix things in his or her kitchen and put it on the market as a cosmetic.

Will the FDA’s latest efforts bring about any changes? Maybe in the names of the anti-aging products but the FDA is poor and the big cosmetic manufactures have millions to fight any court case against them

I believed I was early in the fight against false claims by cosmetic companies with my book: A Consumer’s Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients first published by Crown in 1972 and today in its Seventh Edition. I received information about forthcoming legislations regarding cosmetics and other consumer products from senators such as the late Ted Kennedy. Nothing came of their efforts in Congress.

I have to admit that I and all the other consumer groups were late in game. In researching this subject. I found journal papers from as far back as 1960 citing the problem about false advertising by cosmetic firms. One I liked most was from: 16 Business Law.81 (1960-1961) Federal Trade Commission Regulation of Food, Drug And Cosmetic Advertising by Earl W. Kintner, Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission. He wrote” The most cursory backward glance instantly reveal that the false and misleading description of foods, drugs and cosmetics has plagued mankind since the days of the first witch doctor.”

In 1960, when Kintner was Chairman of the FTC, 560 complaints were filed 410 orders involving monopolies and 359 complaints against deceptive practices. His prior job as a member of the UN’s War Crimes Commission in London was apparently a lot easier. The Commission just had to prove guilt and rule on  punishment for felons. The Commission would have the very difficult  job  of convincing  today’s age-panicked consumers of  cosmetic fraud.  People are willing to pay sometimes very big money for  products promoted to hold back the wrinkles of time.

The only way to combat false advertising of cosmetics is by you and other consumers knowing the facts. Cosmetic companies are very sensitive to bad publicity. It can waste almost all the money spent on promotion. And sometimes, cosmetics can contain potentially harmful ingredients.

Johnson and Johnson, for example, makers of Aveno, Neutrogena and Johnson Baby Shampoo recently announced it would be removing carcinogens and other toxic chemicals from baby and adult products.

I believe that being able to look up ingredients in my Consumer’s Dictionary of 
Cosmetic Ingredients 
helped but the major credit which made J&J take action is very much due to The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a national coalition of more than 175 nonprofit organizations working to eliminate dangerous chemicals from cosmetics and led by The Breast Cancer Fund; Clean Water Action; Commonweal; Environmental Working Group (EWG) ;Friends of the Earth, and Women’s Voices for the Earth. The research they accumulated and the pressure they put on politicians and companies has been very powerful. The coalition did emphasize harmful ingredients but I believe that when they made their findings public it was a major factor in bringing about the beginning of change in the freewheeling cosmetic industry.

As far as false advertising, I like the observation one of my friends sent me via e-mail: “Relax: At least wrinkles don’t hurt!”


What’s the pill you are taking?

I spent many years writing seven editions of A Consumers’ Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients and A Consumers’ Dictionary of Food Additives so that you could understand the long chemical names on the label. At the beginning, many of you didn’t know anything listed with dextrose has sugar or that sodium was the name used for salt. You are more knowledgeable. There are hundreds of ingredients that, if you don’t know what they are, you can look them up in my dictionaries.

Now I discovered an even more confounding problem. The labels on medicines. In the past, when I was young are sharp-sighted and took no regular medications, I didn’t  pay sufficient attention to what was written. If I did have a question, I would just grab a Physician’s Desk Reference and compare the pill to a colored picture of it and find out what it was.

Now, I am older, wear glasses and can’t read the tiny print on the labels. There are millions of us past 40 years who can’t see the fine print and if we can, we may not know what it means.

To make matters worse, our pharmaceutical manufacturers have moved from the United States to far off places such as India and China. Aside from the lack of FDA supervision (that’s another story), the pills are usually orange or pink and round. You used to be able to tell that a small, white triangular pill was to Norvasc®, for example is amlodipine besylate produced by Pfizer and is a triangular white pill.  Daikichi Sankoyuo produces a generic amlodipine beyslate/olmesartan medoxomil,) under the name,Azor®) .It is a round yellow pill that looks like hundreds of other generic medications. And according to druggist with whom I spoke, distributors may hand out different colored generic amlodipine beyslate from more than 50 manufacturers. The colors vary from the original Norvasc® The appearance of a brand-name drug is trademarked. Supposedly, the active ingredients should be identical. Is it?

Pharmacists are required to fill your prescriptions with generics unless your physician writes you must have the name brand. The “no-name” pills may come from one company or another. One brand may have a lot of the active ingredient and the other may have almost none. I swallowed a generic medication made by a large company in India and immediately became ill. When I was switched to another generic of the same medication made by another company, I was fine. Of course, it may have just been a coincidence and it would be hard to prove the first generic was the cause of the upset unless many people who had the same reaction took the time to report it.

Generics are cheaper and that is why the government and the insurance companies are insisting we take them.  But how do we know where the pills were produced? Who was supervising to determine the amount of the medication and the inactive ingredient were in balance? Is anybody from the FDA inspecting the foreign sources of generics? There are reportedly three US agents assigned to Chinese pharmaceutical manufactures who now produce a large percentage of our medications. 

 Pharmacists are required to fill your prescriptions with generics unless your physician writes you must have the name brand. The “no-name” pills may come from one company or another. One brand may have a lot of the active ingredient and the other may have almost none. I swallowed a generic medication made by a large company in India and immediately became ill. 

Generics are cheaper and that is why the government and the insurance companies are insisting we take them.  But how do we know where the pills were produced? Who was supervising to determine the amount of the medication and the inactive ingredient were in balance? Is anybody from the FDA inspecting the foreign sources of generics? There are reportedly three US agents assigned to Chinese pharmaceutical manufactures who now produce a large percentage of our medications.

The Internet has made it possible to allow us to find the trade name of the generic medications we have been given. However, as pointed out, some generic drugs are manufactured by several manufacturers, and pill identification databases may not have images of all the generic versions. One of the best medication identifying sources is : WebMD’S The FDA also provides information many generics but you have to list the trade name of the drug first: .


The Internet and TV media are having fun about the “dangers” of the “New Car Smell” which subliminally lures the buyer even of a used car to be more prone to opt for the vehicle. The new car smell, which becomes especially pungent after the car has been sitting in the sun for a few hours, is partly the pungent odor of phthalates along with many other chemicals volatilizing in the closed environment of the vehicle.

It is not so humorous when you consider the chemicals are inhaled and added to the many toxic volatile chemicals in your environment including your home, your office and your yard. In fact, I wrote a book about it, A Consumer’s Dictionary of Household, Yard and Office Chemicals first published by Crown in 1992 and now available as an updated E-book.

Phthalates, derived from the organic chemical phthalic acid, include a large group of chemicals. World production of phthalates is estimated to be several million tons a year. . Phthalate compounds are used in just about every major product category including cosmetics, construction, automotive, household, apparel, toys packaging and medicinal material. You undoubtedly have phthalates in your body. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has detected phthalates in the urine of every Americans tested. Minute levels of phthalates used in toys, building materials, drug capsules, cosmetics and perfumes, have been statistically linked to sperm damage in men and genital changes, asthma and allergies in children. .Recent observations indicate some phthalates may be mutagenic, and cancer-causing

In 2004, the European Union banned phthalates in nailpolish. The FDA said in 2004 that phthalates are safe for humans in the amounts to which we are exposed. In 2008, The National Research Council (NRC) launched a project funded by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to investigate the potential health effects of phthlates including accumulative risks

Cynics say there are so many reports of minute amount of toxins and there is really nothing to worry about. It’s the dose that counts. But I always say tell me how much of a carcinogen causes cancer and what is the effect of the chemicals around us, in us and on us?, Here’s a pertinent quote, I believe, from my A Consumer’s Dictionary of Household, Yard and Office Chemicals by Devra Davis, PhD, MPH, Director, Center for Environmental Oncology, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, Pittsburgh, PA, At the Annual Conference of the American Medical Writers Association in 2005. She said among the reasons scientists believe in environmental causes of cancer:

  • Fewer than 1 in 10 cases of breast cancer occur in women born with genetic defects. The others are believed to be environmental.
  • The cancer risk for adopted children reflects their adoptive parents, not their biologic parents.
  • Fewer than half of identical twins get the same cancer.
  • Rates of cancer are higher for people employed outside the home.
  • The cancer risk for immigrants changes to that of their new country.
  • The majority of cancer cases have no known risk factors.
  • Disease is more aggressive in women with higher residues of toxins in their blood.

Manufacturers say there is no reliable evidence that phthalates cause any health problems. Newly identified markers are providing a better indication of our exposure to phthalates. So next time you sniff at the potential of adverse effects of the “New Car Scent” don’t laugh. That new car smell, which becomes especially noticeable after the car has been sitting in the sun for a few hours, is partly the pungent odor of phthalates volatilizing and many other chemicals floating around the enclosed environment of your car, especially if the temperature is high.


I am recovering from a mysterious case of food poisoning. It is mysterious because not one of the 19 guests at Thanksgiving table became ill except me. And yes, I carefully washed my hands and counters while preparing the turkey.

The only thing I ate that no one else did was a sour tomato. I suspect it but can’t prove it since my son threw out the container while I was suffering the symptoms of the illness.

The Senate just passed a much needed overhaul of he nation’s food safety system, November 30, 2010, after thousands of people became ill from tainted dairy, vegetables, poultry, meat and other common edibles in recent years. Some of the victims died. In fact, I was wishing that I might pass away during the worst of the symptoms.

Recent legislation passed by the Senate 73-25 revamps the inspection and oversight laws established in the 1930s. The new legislation is aimed at strengthening the Food and Drug Administration that has long been understaffed, underfunded, and a political football The US House must still accept the Senate amendments before the measure can be forwarded to the President, who urged the House to “act quickly” on this critical bill.

The FDA has paid most attention to medical safety in recent times. That’s fine but most of us take a pill or two but all of us eat every day. The FDA is also responsible for overseeing cosmetics which have had pretty much free reign to reach the market. To make things more difficult, a large percentage of our foods, cosmetics, and their ingredients are made overseas in China, India and other countries, sometimes without any oversight at all.

In my first book, Poisons In Your Food (published 1969 and updated in 1991 by Crown) I quoted Howard Bauman, PhD, then vice president of the Pillsbury Company, who, at the American Health Association-sponsored National Conference on Food Protection warned of a “mass catastrophe” in the U.S. food supply: “Can you imagine the runways and control towers of the thirties trying to keep track of and land jets at our airports today? It seems ridiculous, but that’s exactly what we’re doing in the food business,” Dr. Bauman said.

In the Seventh Edition of my Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives published last year, I pointed out some of the problems the FDA and other food safety agencies in other countries face. For example:
• The problem of underfunding , understaffing, and shortage of qualified experts
• The problem that almost no regulatory testing is actually done in science laboratories.
• The problem of how the additives in our food may interact with the drugs, cosmetics, and environmental chemicals in our lives.

I am delighted, just as most other consumer advocates are, Congress is trying to pass a law that will help to keep our food supply safer. As you can determine, however, that it is a tremendous undertaking that will cost millions of dollars that we don’t have in our treasury budget. Should our food safety, however, take priority over our wars overseas?

In 1985, the United States had the largest documented outbreak of foodborne illness in the nation’s history. The cause was bacterial contamination in a single Illinois milk plant— contamination that affected approximately 200,000 people.

An epidemiologist with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention whose job it is to track the incidence of illnesses, admits that the reports of foodborne diseases that do filter in to the Centers are only the tip of the iceberg and that the number of true outbreaks is actually fifty to one hundred times greater than the number reported.

I hope a weakened Congress does pass the new food safety bill but I don’t think I will ever find out if it was the green tomato that made me sick unless others report they also had a problem with green tomatos. Usually, people with ordinary food poisoning never report it. You can play an important part in strengthening the new law (if it is enacted), by reporting any adverse event with FDA-regulated problems such as food poisoning: The FDA emergency, 24 hour number, is 301-443-1240



Do you have a mysterious condition? Has your health care professional, unable to diagnose it, told you your symptoms may be psychological?

Scientists and US government once said the following diseases were imaginary:

  • Agent Orange Syndrome. Between 1965 and 1970, the U.S. Air Force sprayed more than 40 million pounds of Agent Orange over 5 million acres of forest in Vietnam and Cambodia. The herbicide– 50/50 mixture of two herbicides, 2, 4-D and 2, 4, 5-T which formed the highly toxic compound dioxin—was later found to cause birth defects and such serious illnesses as cancer, adult-onset diabetes, liver failure, and chlor-acne.
  • Gulf War Syndrome.  A wide spectrum of illnesses and symptoms ranging from asthma to sexual dysfunction were reported by U.S. and U.S. allied soldiers who served in the Persian Gulf War in 1990–1991. There is still much debate over the origin and nature of Gulf War syndrome. The US Department of Defense has failed to establish a definite cause for the disorder. Veterans who have the illness experience a wide range of debilitating symptoms that elude a single diagnosis. Common symptoms include fatigue, trouble breathing, headaches, disturbed sleep, memory loss, and lack of concentration. Similar experiences among Gulf War veterans have been reported in the United Kingdom and Canada.
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. A debilitating and complex disorder characterized by profound fatigue that is not improved by bed rest and that may be worsened by physical or mental activity. A variety of studies by CDC and others have shown that between 1 and 4 million Americans suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). They are seriously impaired, at least a quarter are unemployed or on disability because of CFS. The CDC says on it website: “The cause or causes of CFS have not been identified and no specific diagnostic tests are available.”

  • Fibromyalgia an increasingly recognized chronic pain illness which is characterized by widespread musculoskeletal aches, pain and stiffness, soft tissue tenderness, general fatigue and sleep disturbances. There are no blood tests or X-ray tests that help the doctor determine whether someone has fibromyalgia. These tests are done to exclude other possible diagnoses. Therefore, the diagnosis of fibromyalgia is made purely on clinical grounds based on the doctor’s history and physical examination.
  • 9/11 First Responders’ Illness. Doctors treating sickened ground zero workers offered Congress a detailed diagnosis six years after the destruction of the Trade Centers of the ailments affecting thousands but warned that there’s no way to determine how many more workers may become afflicted with life-threatening illnesses.  The First Responders’ ailments range from runny noses to laryngitis to lung disease. Scores have died, many from of a type of lung cancer.

I found the US Food and Drug Administration disbelieving parents who noticed sugar and artificial coloring agitated their children when I researched my books, A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives and A Consumer’s Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients (Three Rivers Press). In 1982, a Consensus Development Panel of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) concluded there was no scientific evidence to support the claim that additives or colorings cause hyperactivity. The British Food Standards Agency, however, disagrees and in 2007 revised its advice about certain artificial yellow and red colorings because the additives apparently cause hyperactivity in children.

When I wrote in A Consumer’s Dictionary of Household, Yard and Office Chemicals (ASJA Press), the idea that pesticides could cause farmers to be susceptible to the “shaking disease”, Parkinson’s, again government agencies were being skeptical. In April 2009, University of California researchers reported they found that residents who lived within 500 meters of fields sprayed with pesticides between 1974 and 1999 had a 75-percent increased risk for Parkinson’s.

In addition, people who were diagnosed with Parkinson’s at age 60 or younger were found to have been at much higher risk because they had been exposed to the pesticides maneb or paraquat between 1974 and 1989—years when they would have been children, teens or young adults.

The patients who complained about the symptoms of these “non-diseases” were finally vindicated when researchers eventually discovered evidence of an organic basis for their complaints. Now another condition is being attributed to imagination or suggestibility—Morgellon’s Disease.

Mary Leitao, a Pennsylvania doctor’s wife, observed in 2001 her two-year-old son had developed sores under his lip. He began to complain of “bugs” bothering his skin. Leitao, who graduated with a BS in Biology, and worked for five years at Boston hospitals as a lab technician, visited eight different doctors who were unable to find any disease, allergy, or rare disorder about her son’s described symptoms. She was finally told she, herself, had a psychological problem.

Determined to find the answer, she established The Morgellons Research Foundation (MRF) in 2004 to raise awareness and funding for scientific research concerning the poorly understood condition which she claimed can be disfiguring and disabling. Leitao chose the name Morgellons from a description of an illness in the monograph A Letter to a Friend by Sir Thomas Browne in 1690. The doctor’s wife had hoped to receive information from researchers or physicians who might understand Morgellons. Instead thousands of others contacted her describing their mysterious skin ailments accompanied by neurological symptoms—fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and other manifestations.

The Morgellons Research Foundation and self-diagnosed Morgellons patients successfully lobbied members of Congress and the U.S. government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to investigate the proposed condition.

The CDC just recently set up a research program at Kaiser Permanente in California, US, to try to find an answer to whether “Morgellons” is a true disease. Persons who suffer from this condition, the CDC says, report a range of skin complaints including crawling, biting and stinging sensations; granules, threads, fibers, or black speck-like materials on or beneath the skin; and/or skin rashes or sores. In addition to skin symptoms, some sufferers also report fatigue, mental confusion, short term memory loss, joint pain, and changes in vision. The CDC admits “At this time, scientists and doctors do not know what causes this condition.”

The CDC is a public health institution that is a part of the US federal government but does not provide healthcare or maintain a referral list of providers. CDC maintains a telephone number with a pre-recorded voicemail and an email account to which you can send inquiries. The agency is not able to provide individual responses to each inquiry. To learn more about the investigation, please refer to the following link: Email: or Phone: 404-718-1199 (Pre-recorded message with voicemail).

Right now, the US government is somewhat skeptical about Morgellons. As occurred with the conditions mentioned at the beginning of this article, the symptoms Leitao describes were first ascribed to psychological problems. Will the controversial Morgellon’s Disease also turn out to be a real syndrome when the cause or causes may be discovered or will it turn out, after all, just a figment of thousands of people’s imaginations?

Stay tuned!


If you follow my blogs and books, you may know that I am fascinated by nanotechnology and at the same time astounded the general public almost completely ignores the promise and peril of these nearly invisible molecules. The lack of attention from consumers may be because they think it is science fiction or it is a technology that even the scientists and regulators don’t fully understand.

In the Seventh Edition of my Consumers’ Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients which will be published in October 2009 by Crown/Three Rivers Press, I write:

“What is nanotechnology and why is it important to cosmetic manufacturers despite the caution of scientists, government agencies and consumers? Nanotechnology is the ability to measure, see, manipulate and manufacture things usually between 1 and 100 nanometers. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter; a human hair is roughly 100,000 nanometers wide. Some of the applications of the tiny substances are from practical to fantastic to potentially dangerous. Although the nanotechnology industry is just starting out, it is already booming. It is projected to capture 14% of the US $2.6 trillion global manufacturing market… In contrast, it made up less than 0.1% just three years ago. The nanoparticle size positively affects dispersibility, skin feel and transparency on the skin.
     Some critics of nanotechnology say that nanoparticles could easily be inhaled absorbed through the skin or build up in the environment. Others have likened the materials to asbestos, which is now known to cause lung cancer and other diseases. When nanoparticles in cosmetics penetrate the skin and move around the body what happens to them? No one knows because at this writing, they are untraceable.
     A recent report based on research from US scientists, for example, shows that nanoparticles used in certain sun cream formulations can affect mice brain cells by upsetting the chemical balance and potentially causing neurological damage. The Study, carried out by Bellina Veronesi of the US Environmental Protection Agency and published on the website, looked at the affects of nano-sized Titania, now commonly used in sun cream formulations and often labeled titanium oxide…Although Veronesi stressed that the research does not necessarily imply that the Titania grains are harmful to the human body and other experts have aired caution over the interpretation of the findings, it does add to a growing body of research that suggests potential risks might exists when certain compounds are reduced to nano size.”
        “Dr. Andrew Maynard, science advisor to the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, is an internationally recognized expert on airborne particles. According to Maynard, aerosol sprays can produce breathable particles a few micrometers in size that can remain airborne for long periods of time and can reach the sensitive deep lung if inhaled. Once deposited, there is the possibility of chemicals or nanoparticles (if present) in the droplets causing damage.
    “David Rejeski, Director, Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center says “We are about to be inundated with hundreds, if not thousands, of new products but governments are not ready. Industry and trade groups are not prepared. A research strategy for addressing possible human health or environmental risks is not in place, and the public is not informed.”
    The Consumers Union wrote to the FDA asking that they require a full safety assessment on the use of nanoparticles in cosmetics, sunscreens and sunblocks, before a product is allowed to market. In addition, the group has called for the labeling of nanoparticles in products so that consumers can make an informed choice. “

In the Seventh Edition of my Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives which was published by Crown/Three Rivers in April 2009, I wrote, in part, of nanotechnology and food:

New developments, however, are never without warning. Many scientists and consumers are wary of nanotech food. For example, certain nanoparticles possess the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and can serve as carriers for other molecules. Information on the bioaccumulation and potential toxic effects of inhalation and/or ingestion of free engineered nanoparticles and their long-term implications for public health is needed. Nanoscale materials may also present new challenges in relation to exposure assessment, including measurement of nanoparticles in the body and in complex food composition.
    “Approval systems for food additives have not, in the past, taken much heed of the particle size of the additive. For nanoparticles, this is obviously an important aspect since nanoparticles may be handled differently in the body than their previously approved, macro counterparts. It is likely that the approach will vary from country to country. Most scientific committees that have reviewed the initial applications of nanotechnology conclude that while consumers are likely to benefit from this technology, new data and new measurement approaches may be needed to ensure that the safety of products using nanotechnology are properly assessed. Food industry experts predict that nanotechnology will have a significant impact on food products in a variety of ways both directly and indirectly. Most foodstuffs contain natural nanoscale particles. Nanotechnology-based products are increasingly being used to produce antimicrobial food contact materials commercially available as packaging or as coatings. Current research on such ‘smart’ surfaces is aimed at the development of surfaces that can detect bacterial contamination and react against bacterial growth.
Nanoscale materials may also present new challenges in relation to exposure assessment, including measurement of nanoparticles in the body and in complex food composition.”
     Cosmetics and food aren’t the only promise and perils linked to nanotechnology. Demand for nanotechnology medical products will grow by more than 17 percent annually to reach $53 billion in 2011, according to a recent report from The Freedonia Group. By 2016, new products such as nanodiagnostics, nanotech-based medical supplies and nanomedicines will drive demand to more than $110 billion, the report added.
    The advocates of nanohealthcare say the technology will enhance the quality and performance of diagnostic products. For example, nanosized antibodies labels and DNA probes will improve the speed, accuracy, capabilities and cost effectiveness of in laboratory diagnostic testing. Freedonia anticipated these performance advantages and the broadening range of nanodiagnostics will increase demand for these products
    The group predicted that the long-term impact of nanotechnology will include new medical supply and device coatings, as well as new medical implants. Fredonia Group predicted the greatest short-term healthcare advances due to nanotechnology will be in therapies and diagnostics for cancer and central nervous system disorders, The organization also predicted that many other major diseases, as well as injuries, will eventually be treated and detected with nanotechnology products.
     I will be writing more about how advances in nanotechnology will affect electronics and computing, medicine, cosmetics, foods, the military, energy. By 2020, $1 trillion worth of products could be nano-engineered in some way. They may be invaluable but who knows? There is no way, as yet, to find out what happens to these tiny particles in our bodies.



When you select a pre-made sandwich or buy a bottle of sauce or a package of nuts do you know what you are really buying?


I have been accused of making consumer’s paranoid with my Seventh Edition of A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives (Three Rivers/ Crown). I have listed chemicals made from known cancer-causing and brain toxic substances. Most of the thousands of other chemicals are added safely as preservatives and flavorings but who is watching the ones that are not? The FDA now allows the manufacturers themselves to self-affirm their additives as GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe).


The legitimate food producers do everything they can to protect their consumers’ faithfulness and safety. Kraft Foods was recently praised by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for showing how the country’s food safety systems should work, after it discovered a salmonella outbreak in pistachios processed by one of its suppliers. The discovery, which was uncovered during what the company called routine third party testing that it was not legally required to undertake, led central-California-based processor Setton Farms to voluntarily recall its 2008 pistachio crop due to an unrelated salmonella contamination.


“This recall was not triggered because of an outbreak, in contrast to the peanut butter,” FDA associate commissioner for foods David Acheson told reporters.


The Grocery Manufacturing Association has suggested requiring all food manufacturers to adopt and update food safety plans so that they can be made available to the FDA.


To step up traceability, the GMA also suggested mandatory documentation by importers on the steps being used to police foreign suppliers, while also granting the FDA mandatory recall authority. Can you believe such protection does not exist in the US?


To back this increased scrutiny, the GMA said it also believed US Congress should increase the spending budget of the FDA to at least $900 million as part of attempts to ‘rebuild’ its scientific capacity.


While our guardian agencies, such as the FDA, are underfunded and overwhelmed, the British guardians are doing a better job.  A recently established food fraud division will support local authorities to take swift action to stop illegal activity as well as helping them uncover cases where the consumer has been misled, under the aegis of the UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA).The FSA defines food fraud as being committed when “food is deliberately placed on the market, for financial gain, with the intention of deceiving the consumer”.


This may take the form of selling products unfit for human consumption, such as those of unknown origin or which are past their sell-by-date; or misrepresenting food in some way, for example by substituting cheaper alternatives or making misleading statements about its source.


It is estimated the fraudulent food market in the UK is worth seven billion pounds a year—accounting for around 10 percent of the entire market. The FSA, for example, found sandwiches that did not contain cheese, but a non-dairy substitute “cheese analogue” which costs about half the wholesale price of real cheese. They also found “organic food” that was not really organic and Basmati Rice mixed with unrevealed less expensive rice.


Market researchers have found that that Americans have less and less confidence in supermarket safety, primarily in foods that need a lot of handling such as packaged sandwiches and rotisserie chicken.


I bought a package of store brand flour last year that was loaded with chlorine. The store apologized and gave me a coupon for another package of flour but I haven’t bought the store brand since. Have you experienced supermarket problems? Do you support paying more taxes to make a stronger FDA?









Why put salt in baby food? I asked that with my first Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives (Crown) way back in 1978 and so did a lot of consumer advocates. The manufacturers responded by taking the sodium chloride out food jars and the babies didn’t even notice.


Some manufacturers told me they really added salt to baby food because mothers tasted their little children’s food before they spooned it in the youngster’s mouth. If the mother thought it tasted bland, they didn’t buy the food again.


Food manufacturers have now found themselves being pressured to reduce the salt in adult food. My theory has always been that salt is used to cover up the lack of natural taste in processed food. Several food companies have introduced low sodium products to the market and most have been discontinued due to disappointing sales figures. The problem is, these foods are either flavorless or they leave a bitter aftertaste.


Why are we addicted to salt? Since childhood snacks, cereals, and other offerings to children are loaded with salt. There is also hidden salt in chickens and hams injected with salt water to preserve and to add weight to them and fish can be found lying on salted ice in the ship and on the shore.


 The Institute of Medicine states 25 percent of the American population is salt sensitive. A high salt intake often leads to high blood pressure and kidney problems as well as strokes and heart attacks.


In all fairness, I have to admit I am highly sensitive to salt because of condition I inherited from my father. I have found it is very difficult to avoid salted food when eating out. Servers, who think they will probably never see me again, do not hesitate to say the restaurant doesn’t use salt in cooking. . I landed in the hospital emergency room once believing a waiter in a restaurant that there was no salt in my entrée. A host who invites us to dinner assures me that very little salt is used in her dishes


Shopping is also a problem for those of us who are salt sensitive. Sometimes, you have to learn to read between the lines. There are terms on packages that may be misleading. For example “unsalted”,” processed without salt” or “no salt added” may signify that the producer didn’t put any additional salt in during processing but the food may still be naturally high in sodium. For example, a low sodium soy sauce has 390 mg of sodium per teaspoon (and who can use only a teaspoon of soy sauce on a dish).  A popular tomato-vegetable drink with “no salt added” has 90 milligrams per 4.5 fluid ounces. Salt can also be listed under dozens of “sodium” designations such as monosodium glutamate and sodium caseinate adding additional salt to your diet. The FDA labeling requirements for sodium are:


  •  Low sodium ,,,,                        140 mg or less preserving


  •  Very low sodium….                   less than 35 mg per serving


  •  Sodium free—               .           less than 5 mg per serving



So if you are not as extremely salt sensitive as I am and you still, for you overall health, wish to lower your salt intake, here are some hints:


The basic sources of cereals are salt free–wheat, corn, rice and oats.  Yet instant oatmeal may contain about 360 mg per serving, instant corn grits 590 mg and instant cream of wheat 180 mg. If you’re willing to cook the non-instant cereals, you can avoid the high salt. It’s providing the “instant” that dishes out the sodium. Some 70 sodium compounds are used in foods, as you will see in this book. The National Academy of Sciences, whose experts establish dietary guidelines, recommends that we ingest no more than 2400 milligrams of sodium for the entire day. The average American ingests 3500 to 7000 milligrams. (A teaspoon of salt has about 2,000 milligrams of sodium.). If the numbers for sodium look very low on a label, look again and be aware of the difference between milligrams (mg) and grams (gr). Some companies make you think there is less by saying on 2 grams of sodium, for example, which is really 2000 milligrams.


There is hope because consumers and organizations such as CPS have kept the pressure on manufacturers to lower the salt content in processed and restaurant food. The news from Campbell’s, the top-selling soup maker, has announced lower sea salt levels in its classic tomato soup, a further 15 per cent reduction in 25 Healthy Request soups to 410mg sodium (1.03g salt), and six V8 soups with reduced sodium. For food firms, the challenge lies in delivering products that still meet our taste expectations and are safe since salt is also used as a preservative.


A science policy paper published by the Grocery Manufacturers Association recently noted that there are more reduced-sodium products on the market, as manufacturers are on-board with the healthier eating drive. However the paper, called “Sodium and Salt: A Guide for Consumers, Policymakers and the Media”, highlighted steps being taken in the industry to change salt-taste preferences and said: “Some food processors are actively following step-down plans to gradually reduce the sodium contents of their products.” Such reductions are over various lengths of time and “help reshape and reduce loyal consumers’ salt-taste preferences towards these foods”.

Although research into alternative ingredients and technologies has expanded in recent years and continues to grow in areas such as salt substitutes and taste enhancers, the GMA added that manufacturers are wary of alienating customers by altering flavor and texture profiles too quickly, as consumers are loyal and sensitive to changes in their favorite brands.


In the meantime, consumer organizations such as The Center for Science in the Public Interest, Washington, D.C., recently hit out at food firms for the salt levels in their foods, as a survey showed that the average sodium content of 528 packaged and restaurant foods stayed essentially the same between 2005 and 2008. CSPI said the big brand-to-brand differences in numerous categories of foods indicated that some companies “could easily lower sodium levels and still have perfectly marketable products.


The CSPI petitioned the FDA in 2005 to change the GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status of salt. FDA held a hearing in September 2007. The Institutes of Medicine convened an ad hoc consensus committee to review and make recommendations about ways to reduce Americans’ dietary sodium intake levels. It is expected to publish a report in February 2010, but a series of open meetings are planned throughout this year. If you are in the neighborhood of the meetings or you are adept at email, make your voice heard.




Could it be that we have gotten bored carrying around those plastic water bottles to down the recommended eight glasses per day?  Even if that fad is fading, merchandisers have a new gimmick to get us to pay a lot for what is free from the tap.


First we had sports drinks– green or yellow– with sugar, potassium and whatever else might be added to make us believe we could outplay our competitors.


Then we were offered vitamin waters to improve and protect our health.


Water is almost always the largest ingredient in cosmetics and some company have now just gone with water as a beauty treatment. The functional water brand Borba is one of the leaders in the sector with its range of Skin Balance Waters.


“The selection of enhanced waters contain antioxidants, vitamins and botanicals, with each drink being formulated to help provide clearer, firmer skin, and to counteract dry, dehydrated skin,” the company claims.


Launched in 2005, the Skin Balance Waters were originally marketed in beauty stores Sephora and Nordstrom, before being introduced into grocery stores.


Borba’s Skin Balance Waters were picked up by Anheuser-Busch in late summer last year and at the time of the distribution deal the company’s vice president of business operations, Dave Peacock, noted that adding the range allowed the company to participate in the emerging nutraceutical beverage category. Nutraceuticals are ingredients that do more than just nourish you. They have a minor pharmaceutical benefit.


In addition, PepsiCo has targeted the notion of beauty through water with the launch of a skin care range that carries the Aquafina logo. Aquafina is one of the biggest selling water brands in the US and the company’s Aquafina Enhanced Hydration skin care range benefits from consumer associations between water and health and the extensive advertising budget behind the brand


Now there is anti-aging water that is claimed to make our skin beautiful and unwrinkled from within. Flavors and fine ingredients company, Frutarom, is targeting the fast growing “inner” beauty water market with a new anti-aging offering.


Frutarom, a flavor and fine ingredients company, has signed an agreement with France-based company Copalis, which specializes in marine-based ingredients for health, cosmetic and pharmaceutical applications.



Frutarom’s Laurent Leduc is quoted as saying: “Beauty from within is something very new in the US but it is growing fast. Although it is a few years behind Europe and Asia we are seeing a lot of demand from both dietary supplement manufacturers and cosmetic companies”.


Frutarom’s ingredient is colorless, soluble and virtually tasteless. It is the companies first  product to target the anti-aging market directly with a beauty water. The company, along with other functional food and cosmetic manufacturers, reportedly see a big potential for such water products in the States. Throughout this year, expect to see “beauty water” offered at your local stores.


If you can have vitamin water that keeps you strong and healthy and sports water that keeps you in the game and beauty water that keeps your skin looking younger, why not dive in? The psychological lift may keep you in the swim—that is if you are not sunk by  the price tags.