DON’T LET COSMETIC COMPANIES CON YOU

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!”

A PILL BY ANY OTHER NAME

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 http://www.rxlist.com/script/main/hp.asp. The FDA also provides information many generics but you have to list the trade name of the drug first: .http://www.fda.gov/AboutFDA/Transparency/Basics/ucm194952.htm

THE NEW CAR SMELL MAY BE STINKY

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.

Seafood Surprise

I write about food additives and other problems related to edibles almost every day but I had a surprise experience yesterday. I was having lunch with some of my writer friends at a fine Greek restaurant. Since I’ve known for years that I can’t eat shrimp because I am allergic to it, I never eat it.  I also avoid salt at all costs for a variety of medical reasons.

The waiter was very nice and I asked him for a dish that had no salt. He said the only one in the restaurant was Kalamari (also spelled Calamari). That’s the name of squid.

After lunch, my belly began to swell. I thought was just indigestion but when I began to look pregnant—and I am way past the possibility—my son said I think you are having an allergic attack. I found it hard to believe but when I began to wheeze and cough, I took the appropriate allergy medicine my doctor had previously prescribed. I was very uncomfortable but I survived.

Food allergies are now the leading cause of sensitivity reactions treated in emergency departments in the US, according to the American Academy of Asthma and Allergy. The organization estimates there are 29,000 anaphylactic reactions–a severe and sometimes fatal allergic reaction to a foreign substance, especially a protein, in foods. Nearly 200 deaths due to food allergies are reported each year.

Seafood allergies are one of the most common causes of food allergy. Seafood can be a powerful allergen for those sensitive to certain sea life. Seafood allergies are life-long.– including scaly fish and  a type of shellfish:,“Mollusks, Abalone, oysters, mussels, and squid (Calamari). There are many types of squid, and they occupy a huge range of size from one inch to 80 feet long. In English-speaking countries, squid is called calamari because it is believed that the word “squid” sounds unappetizing. Another type of shellfish, “Crustaceans,” encompasses lobsters, crayfish, prawns, crabs and shrimp. I didn’t think that squid had a shell like lobsters or crabs.

The squid I ate did not have salt nor sauce. It was just on a bed of greens. Though looking innocent, it did cause quite a reaction in my body. By researching it, I learned Calamari is one of the most common causes of seafood allergic reactions so I thought I would tell you what I didn’t know, just in case you may be the allergic type. The dish was delicious, I admit,  and the service great at the restaurant. I had fun with my writer companions discussing the chaos in the publishing industry. The price I paid for eating the dish, however, was more than the cost on the bill. For further information about seafood allergies, check with: The Asthma and Allergy Foundation:1-800-7-ASTHMA . Email is: info@aafa.org .

Mascara, Murder and a Multibillion Dollar Company

I wrote A Consumer’s Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients (now in its 7th edition) and found most ingredients are of botanical or synthetic laboratory origin. I came across a history of an ingredient, however, which has a really unique history. Not only did it begin in a kitchen by accident, it eventually became a multibillion dollar industry involving love triangles, bisexuality, company failures, thefts, and murder. Sharrie Lynn Williams, the great grandniece of the founder of Maybelline, Tom Lyle Williams, co-authored with Bettie Youngs The Maybelline Story published by Bettie Youngs Books.

In 1915, a kitchen stove fire singed Lyle Williams’ sister, Mable’s, eye lashes and brows. He watched as she performed a “secret of the harem.” She mixed petroleum jelly with coal dust and ash from a burnt cork and applied the mixture to her lashes and brows.

Williams, a Kentucky, a 19 year old farm boy, who loved movies, observed that his sister’s eyes became glamorous and made her look like Gloria Swanson or Lillian Gish. He then went to cosmetic counters to find out if there were competitive eye lash and brow products. He found the field was wide open. Victorian women were not using “eye enhancers.”

Williams borrowed his friend’s chemistry set and mixed a concoction of Vaseline, cottonseed oil and carbon black from the chemistry set. He believed he had the formula. Mable tried it. It looked good until it began to melt run into her eyes with painful results.

Frustrated, young Williams took a train to Detroit where there was whole-sale drug company, Parke-Davis. He described what he wanted and sometime later, a chemist sent him ten pounds of refined white petroleum with some fine oils and a touch of perfume.

In a boarding house, three members of the Williams family melted the concoction in a tea pot and then squeezed mixture into small aluminum containers and called their creation “Lash- Brow-Inc”.

Williams took ads in Photo Play, the Police Gazette, Saturday Evening Post and other magazines. The quarters, the price they had set on the product, poured in by mail and the Maybelline Company was born.

Now one of the largest cosmetic businesses in the world, Maybelline products are more complicated. And as for complication, one of the main characters in the mix was Evelyn Boecher with whom the teen-aged Williams had a son, Billy. Evelyn and Williams never married but years later she did marry his alcoholic brother, Preston.

Eventually, as wealthy older woman due to her shares in Maybelline , she became what today is called a “cougar”—an older woman who covets younger men. And like many famous female beauties, she made poor choices. Several took her money and eventually someone allegedly killed her by burning down her house with her in it.

Sharrie Williams, Evelyn’s granddaughter. has described a history of cosmetic company which seems to be more dramatic than most, except perhaps for the botanists that tramp through jungles looking for new ingredients. Sharrie Williams can be contacted at: http://www.MaybellineBook.com

SENATE TAKES A NIP OUT OF FOOD CONTAMINATION

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

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Meals Just Like Mother Didn’t Make

If the next generation becomes nostalgic for a meal “just like Mother made” they will have to go to the supermarket and pick up several packages of pre-cooked items. Moms are cooking less and less.

President of The NPD Group’s North American food and beverage unit, Mark East, told Food Monitor.com: “The fast and hectic pace of the lives we lead has had the single greatest impact on this country’s eating behaviors. It’s clear by the changes we’ve observed over the past 30 years that the Google generation wants things now.”

In particular, the organization found that 72 percent of main meals were prepared at home from scratch in 1980, compared to 59 percent today. And the number of food items used to make those meals has declined too – from 4.44 to 3.5.

 

European moms are also running out the door instead of staying in the kitchen. According to Datamonitor, a consumer products database, strong retail growth for convenience food products, with cereal bars and ready meals showing the greatest increase in demand.

The analysts said that across Europe, sales of sports and energy bars and breakfast replacement bars are predicted to grow at an annual rate of 12 per cent.

Fish-based ready meals, Datamonitor experts predict will experience the greatest increase in this sector, with an annual growth rate of 11 per cent.

There is increasing scope for launching innovative on-the-go products as people lead increasingly busy lives.

I admit that about once a week when deadlines and family demands impact my time. I will rush into a “health food” supermarket and pick up pre-washed salad, pre-washed spinach, pre-cooked chicken, and pre-cooked rice.  I should know better. The “fresh” produce comes hundreds of miles in trains after being doused with pesticides and handled by numerous other people.  A Chicken can be really dangerous injected with hormones and salt water and antibiotics and perhaps contaminated with salmonella— a sometimes fatal bacteria, although the store advertises that the chickens are happily free range and hormone free but who knows? Certainly not the United States Department of Agriculture, the US Food and Drug Administration and the local health officers.

The additives to enhance and/or preserve pre-prepared food are part of the estimated $23 billion food additives market.  Most additives are added to feed our illusions. We want enhanced food because all our lives we have been subjected to beautiful pictures of foods in our magazines, on television and on the Internet.

Are we fooling ourselves by believing the perfect, unblemished produce in the traditional supermarket is healthy for us? Could it because even the worms and bugs are afraid to eat it?

I will re-read the Seventh Edition of my Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives (Crown) and try to follow my own advice: “The less people who handle my food before I do the better. The fewer additives listed or unlisted the safer.”

So if you don’t hear from me for awhile, you’ll know I slowed down my pace and I am spending more time in kitchen cooking from the start and sitting at the dinning room table with family and friends —really enjoying home cooked meals like my mother made. She was a good cook just like her mother and her aunts.