New Kind of Alzheimer’s Drug May Prevent or Treat The Disease

Daniel Chain,Ph.D, the son of a Nobel Prize Winner and a distinguished neurobiologist  himself, woke up one Sunday night 1996 and had a sudden inspiration– “Why not monocolonal antibodies?”

Chairman and chief executive officer of Manhattan-based Intellect Neurosciences, Dr. Chainwas interested in finding an innovative medication that can slow down, arrest and ultimately prevent Alzheimer’s disease – a devastating condition afflicting 30 million people worldwide. Contrary to current drugs on the market, which only treat symptoms, Dr. Chain’s aim was to create a new class of disease-modifying Alzheimer’s drugs that attack the underlying pathologies.

 Monclonal Antibodies

 Moncolonal antibodies are a type of protein made in the laboratory designed  to find and bind to a specific substance. Could a monoclonal antibody be developed that would latch on to amyloid, a dense deposit of protein found as plaques on the cells and nerves of Alzheimer’s patients at autopsy? There is no unanimous agreement that amyloid plaques are the cause of the condition but may be just a symptom or an extraneous factor.

Amyloid plaques were first noted by Dr. Louis Alzheimer’s in 1906 . The main constituent of the plaques is the Beta Amyloid protein which is comprised of fragments of a much larger protein called the Amyloid Precursor Protein (APP) implicated in regulating numerous physiological functions in the body.  Beta Amyloid can accumulate for different reasons in the brain.  The naturally sticky fragments form clumps that increase in number and density until eventually, the clumps deposit as insoluble plaques onto the surface of nerve cells. Are these plaques toxic? Are they beneficial?  Do their roles change at different stages of the disease? As the plaques mature in the brain do they trigger inflammation which damages the cells causing them to die?

Toxic Substance Floating In Brain Fluid

 Dr. Chain now believes that there is a toxic substance floating around in brain fluid that is a precursor to amyloid clumps and plaques.

 “Perhaps,” he reasons, “the plaques of hardened amyloid found on the brain cells of Alzheimer’s patients may be the way the brain actually protects itself from the toxic amyloid precursor.”

Drug Companies At Work On The New Type of Drug

He says  he decided to develop a method of harnessing certain monoclonal antibodies that he believes can be used to render the precursor harmless and thus prevent or improve Alzheimer’s destruction of the brain cells.

Dr. Chain was successful and he patented the technique he developed for amyloid precursor seeking monoclonal antibodies. He calls it Antisenilin for anti-senility. His invention is currently being used by several of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies which have taken licenses to Dr. Chain’s patents from which Intellect Neurosciences stands to obtain royalties from sales if and when the drugs are approved by the FDA . The most advanced product, Bapineuzumab, is in Phase 3 clincal trials involving several thousand Alzheimer’s patients world-wide. Bapineuzumab is being co-developed by Wyeth/Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.  Dr. Chain’s patents have already been granted in Europe, Japan, China and elsewhere

Dr. Chain points out there are two basic types of Alzheimer’s. One that occurs in 5 to 10 percent relatively early at 40-50 years and invariably has a genetic pre-disposition carried in families. The other starts later– about 65 years and up –and has known and unknown causes.

He said the tests first conducted with bapineuzumab, involved a small group about 250 patients: “The researchers did not separate out those with the gene for the disease and those who developed Alzheimer’s later in life. Results did seem to indicate that those who developed it later in life were benefited by the drug but not those who carried the gene.”

Studies involving several thousand people –separating the two types of Alzheimer’s—are now underway.

Bapineuzumab May Be On The Market Within Three Years

Dr. Chain said he hopes that within three years, bapineuzumab will be on the market.

What about side-effects?

So far, he said, he, there is some edema—(swelling) –but it goes away and in lower doses it does not occur at all.

THE MYSTERIOUS SKIN DISEASE THAT IS OR ISN’T REAL


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: www.cdc.gov/unexplaineddermopathy/investigation.html. Email: morgellonssyndrome@cdc.gov or Phone: 404-718-1199 (Pre-recorded message with voicemail).http://www.cdc.gov/unexplaineddermopathy/

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!

BURPING COWS, SNAIL SKIN SMOOTHERS AND CHICKEN CHICKENS

Summer time and the living is not easy today so I thought I would give you some amusing information that I didn’t put in my Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives or my Consumer’s Dictionary Cosmetic Ingredients both published by Three Rivers/Crown.

You think you have intestinal gas, consider poor Bessie. When cows burp, the experts say, it is the equivalent to emissions from more than half a million cars on the road.

Stonyfield Farm—a US-based supplier of organic products like yogurt—began piloting a ‘Greener Cow’ effort last year. One of a number of groups researching the problem of burping, farting cows, Stonyfield is trying to reduce the output of greenhouse gasses such as methane from livestock.

Stonyfield says that it has fed cows at 15 Vermont Organic Valley farms with diets high in natural omega-3 sources like flax and grasses, a process it claims can cut saturated fats in milk and ‘re-balances’ a cow’s main stomach.

As a result of this diet plan, citing research from the University of Vermont, Stonyfield claims it has been able to reduce gas emissions from the cows by as much as 18 per cent.

And what about those slow motion creatures that secret not gas but serum? Andes Natural Skin Care says it has come up with a topical treatment using secretion from snails to treat acne as well as the disfiguring scars the lesions may cause. The company says its research shows that the snail serum has molecules, structures and cells that are very similar to the human skin. The serum is also a powerful antioxidant while also being regenerative to act on acne scars. According to Andes Natural Skin Care, the complex nature of the serum cannot be replicated under laboratory conditions, which is why the natural secretion of the snail has to be harvested in an organic manner.

If the tale of the snail doesn’t amuse you, how about chickens who are “chicken”?
When chickens are afraid, they release higher levels of hormone noradrenalin, according to research by the University of Bristol, England. The noradrenalin helps Campylobacter and Salmonella grow and spread more quickly. The results of their research, the Bristol investigators said, provides vital information to enable the control of infection in the production environment, making chicken safer and decreasing cases of food poisoning.

In my Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives, I pointed out that pigs, which are very intelligent and aware become upset on their last ride to the slaughter house. The animals may be given Thorazine to calm then down. How do you make chicken less fearful when they are on their way to slaughter? Would Valium be of value? Will you be residually tranquilized when eating wings and drumsticks?

THE PROMISE AND PERIL OF NANOTECHNOLOGY

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 Nature.com, 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.

THE BITTER BATTLE OVER SWEETENERS

 

 

The lobbyists for the Wall Street and the Auto manufacturers are in the news but behind the scene are the lobbyists for sugar and various sweeteners.

 

Take Stevia, for example, a sweetener from the plant S. rebaudiana grown in South America. The leaves of the stevia plant have 30–45 times the sweetness of sucrose. Rebiana is the trade name for a zero-calorie sweetener containing mainly the steviol glycoside rebaudioside A (reb-A),extracted from stevia. Truvia is the consumer brand for a sweetener made of erythritol and Rebiana marketed by Cargill and developed jointly with The Coca-Cola Company.In December 2008, the United States Food and Drug Administration permitted Rebiana-based sweeteners as food additives. PureVia is the PepsiCo and Merisant brand of reb-A. It has been used in other countries for years but has been successfully kept off the American market until now by lobbyists for sugar and other popular sweeteners. Its selling point now is that it is “natural”. Its sales barrier is that it is slower to release the sweet taste and more expensive than the others on the market.

 

I don’t have the space in this blog to give you all the pros and cons of the various sweeteners that I have listed them in the Seventh Edition of A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives just published by Three Rivers/Crown but here is some information from the book that may help you make more knowledgeable decisions.

 

INTENSE SWEETENERS. They are nonnutritive sweeteners, also referred to as low-calories sweeteners are artificial sweeteners. Intense sweeteners in most foods give you a calorie savings of about 16 calories per teaspoon (the calories of a teaspoon of sugar) Examples in the category include:

 

  • Aspartame. Trade names include NutraSweet, Equal, NatraTaste and SugarTwin. A compound prepared from aspartic acid and phenylalanine. The FDA arranged for an independent panel in the early seventies which concluded that the evidence did not support the charge that aspartame might kill clusters of brain cells or cause other damage. However, persons with the phenylketonuria, or PKU, must avoid it.One prominent scientist caused a stir when he reported it might cause brain tumors in babies.  Despite continuing warning by some scientists, The FDA has declared it GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has also found it safe.

 

  • Saccharin. Trade name: Sweet n’ Low, SugarTwin. Used for more than 100 years in the United States, it is produced from a substance that occurs in grapes and is between three hundred and five hundred times sweeter than table sugar. Some government and hospital studies have linked it to bladder cancer but the lobbyists managed to keep it on the market.

 

 

  • Acesulfame K. Sweet On, Ace K. The “K” is the symbol for potassium. Two hundred times sweeter than sugar, it is not digested by the body but instead is eliminated through the urine. There were worries that the substance causes tumors in animals but the FDA said that any tumors that appeared were routinely expected and not due to the sweetener. Acesulfame K has been approved in 20 countries.

 

Then there are the:

  • Polyols. Sugar alcohols . Among them are: Erythritol, isomalt, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, polyglycitol (usually listed as HSH, for “hydrogenated starch hydrolysates”), sorbitol, and xylitol. They are sucrose and fructose than to the super-sweet artificial sweeteners, but they supply fewer calories than sucrose and the other sugars because they aren’t completely absorbed in the digestive tract. They don’t affect blood-sugar levels as much as sucrose, a real advantage for people with diabetes, and they don’t contribute to tooth decay, so they’re the main sweetener in most varieties of sugarless gum. They can give you diarrhea and bloating, and there is a controversy about whether they raise blood sugar which the manufacturers claim they don’t and some diabetes specialists claim they do.

 

HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP (HFCS)  has been blamed by consumer groups for causing obesity in children and adults. It is about one and a half times sweeter than sugar. It does have calories. Overweight and obese individuals consuming fructose-sweetened beverages also showed signs of increased levels of lipids in the blood (dyslipidemia), according to findings published in April in the Journal of Clinical Investigation using HFCS to a level of desired sweetness could affect their habits for a lifetime.

 

SUGAR.The Sugar Association (SA) lobbyists are now in full gears, out to stop the decline in the use of sugar, “the most natural sweetener” and apparently their efforts are paying off.  The SA data reveals an estimated increase in sugar deliveries for domestic use in 2005-2006, which follows an almost continuous decline since 1976.

“Needless to say, we feel consumers have sweetener overload. Unlike twenty years ago when you could count sweetening ingredients on one hand, now there are 26 sweeteners being used in foods in the U.S. today. And consumers are beginning to return to what they feel is proven, safe and all natural – sugar,” said Andy Briscoe, president of the Sugar Association.

“When consumers find out that sugar has just 15 calories in a teaspoon, they question the value of artificial and other man-made sweeteners in today’s marketplace,” he added.

Market analysts at Freedonia, who follow the food industry, report the sweetener market is set to grow at around 8.3 per cent year on year until 2008, with sales rising from a small base of $81million in 1998 to $189 million in 2008.

A recent report from Business Communications (BCC) predicts that although sugar alcohols and HIS (high intensity sweeteners) are still relatively new and unexplored sweeteners in the $10.92 billion global sweetener market, their presence in the market is growing rapidly. Total global sugar alcohol production was estimated at 836,905 tons, up 2.2 percent over last year. US consumption of sugar alcohols was estimated at 376,640 tons, nearly 79 percent of the total production of these sweeteners. In the next five years consumption of sugar alcohols and HIS is slated to rise as much as 15 percent as new

Whom do you believe? Those promoting Intense Sweeteners, semi-organic sweeteners? Sugar promoters?

We have all seen our dinning companions stuff themselves with fattening and carbohydrate ladened food and then at the end of the meal, open a little packet of sweetener for their coffee or tea and feel they haven’t overeaten. It is up to you which  you choose but remember— moderation is the  best weapon in the battle of sweeteners!

HOW SAFE IS YOUR SUPERMARKET FOOD?

  

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?

 

 

 

EASY GRAS

How does the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigate the safety of a food additive to allow it to have the very valuable and reassuring designation, Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS)?

The agency doesn’t investigate. It looks at documents presented by manufacturers who wish to self-affirm their products as GRAS. The harried FDA personnel then say “OK” if nothing seems obviously hazardous.

The FDA this month, for example, gave the “OK” to Proliant Health and Biologicals, a company founded in 1998 to develop bioactive proteins and peptides for the nutraceutical and pharmaceutical markets to declare its Immunolin GRAS.

What is Immunolin? It is a highly concentrated protein fraction derived from spray dried cow’s blood collected at slaughterhouses. It is filtered; the plasma is removed, and then dried to a powder. Immunolin contains immunoglobulins IgA, IgG and IgM. The basic functions of immunoglobulins are to shore up the immune system. I searched back several years and found the immunolin was first suggested for irritable bowel disease. Then it was promoted for lowering cholesterol. Now it is being touted as protecting us against viruses, bacteria and other immunity suppressing ills and is being offered as a dietary supplement. Because it is a health supplement, proof that it is effective and has no harmful properties, is less exacting than for a medication.

Now immunolin is probably perfectly harmless. Whether is worth $12 for a five-day supply of the drink or $16 for 60 tablets, is up the consumer. I checked and I found a few reports of its beneficial use in alternative and nutrition magazines. There was nothing I could find in the scientific literature. The only double blind study I did find in which soy was used as the control was conducted by the company, itself.

According to some traditional physicians, giving proteins by mouth is not very effective since antibody proteins quickly disintegrate by chemical action in the stomach.

You may be interested in determining for yourself the worth of immunolin. Check: http://www.proliantinc.com

In the meantime, I am interested and will continue checking  the increasing number of new self-affirmed GRAS food additives for my book, A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives (Three Rivers/Crown). Keep tuned.

WHY ARE WE ADDICTED TO SALT?

 

 

 

 

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.