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One percent of dairy farms surveyed tested positive for unapproved drugs
A small number of dairy producers were found to be using illegal antibiotics. (Photo Modified: Flickr/forayinto35mm)
In a survey of nearly 2,000 dairy farms in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has found that less than one percent of the total samples contained illegal drug residue, reports the Associated Press.
The investigation began after a number of public health groups expressed concerns about the possibility of milk being contaminated by animal antibiotics, particularly from dairy farms “that had repeatedly tried to sell older cows for slaughter with illegal levels of antibiotic residue in their tissue.”
Farms that had previously tested positive made up approximately half the samples in the recent study, with the other half coming from a control group.
Out of 2,000 farms tested, 11 farms with previous violations tested positive for illegal residue, and four farms from the control group also tested positive.
"Overall this is very encouraging and reinforces the idea that the milk supply is safe," said the FDA's William Flynn.
The agency will continue its efforts to further reduce the level of antibiotic contamination.
FDA Tests Find Toxic Chemicals in Food
Editors' note: In October 2019, the FDA revised its test results for PFAS chemicals in food. The agency now says that the high level of a PFAS chemical found in chocolate cake and chocolate milk was a false positive. The test FDA scientists initially used couldn't tell the difference between chocolate and the PFAS chemical PFPeA. Levels of PFAS chemicals in meat and fish are also lower than first reported. The FDA says it has since retooled its test method for PFAS in food to produce more accurate results. Experts say they have questions about some of these changes.
June 5, 2019 -- The FDA for the first time has tested food on grocery store shelves for a class of risky grease- and stain-repelling chemicals that are known to stick around in the body and the environment for a long time.
The chemicals, called polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFASs, were found in samples of sweet potatoes, pineapples, chocolate milk, baked goods, and meats. The highest levels of PFAS compounds were found in a sample of chocolate cake with chocolate icing.
The results of the tests were presented on a poster displayed at a recent environmental toxicology conference in Helsinki, Finland. Someone attending the conference took photos of the poster and emailed them to environmental activists in the United States, who then alerted reporters.
The poster concludes that in most cases, the levels of contaminants found in food would not be a concern for health. That conclusion is based on an FDA safety assessment that did not provide details on how it was reached. Independent experts disagree.
“We think it is a big deal,” says Tom Neltner, chemicals policy director at the Environmental Defense Fund in Washington, D.C. “It’s FDA sampling showing not just contamination of food around hot spots, but contamination of food you’re going to buy in stores that nobody would suspect were contaminated,” he says.
“These concentrations in contaminated food are really highly elevated,” says Philippe Grandjean, PhD, an adjunct professor of environmental health at Harvard who co-directs the STEEP Center, a federally funded project to study the chemicals. STEEP stands for Sources, Transport, Exposure and Effects of PFASs.
“I think FDA needs to take action right now, first of all to monitor this better to figure out how big is this problem across the country,” Grandjean says. “This clearly shows it’s not just a drinking water issue. It’s also a food issue.”
Linda Birnbaum, PhD, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program, says she was surprised to learn of the food testing results from news reports instead of through her government partners. She, too, says the FDA’s conclusions were troubling.
“The poster kind of concluded that they didn’t think the levels were of concern. I think what we have to remember is that the agricultural products are only one source of exposure. We’re all exposed from multiple sources,” she says.
“Treating them as one-offs probably isn’t a health protective way to go,” Birnbaum says.
The FDA declined to comment on its findings. The agency posted a new web page about PFAS chemicals with some of its study results this week.
What Are PFAS, the &ldquoForever Chemicals&rdquo the FDA Found in Our Food Supply?
PFAS are resistant to breakdown&mdashand have been linked to a slew of health problems.
- The Food and Drug Administration has confirmed that &ldquoforever chemicals,&rdquo officially known as PFAS, have infiltrated our food supply.
- PFAS are very resistant to breakdown in people and in the environment, and have been linked to a slew of health problems.
- A toxicology expert explains what PFAS chemicals are, why they may be dangerous, and how to potentially avoid them.
The idea of any kind of chemical making its way into your meal is freaky, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has just confirmed that a particularly persistent class of chemicals has infiltrated our food supply. They&rsquore called PFAS (short for perfluoroalky and polyfluoroalkyl substances), and they&rsquore known as &ldquoforever chemicals&rdquo because they&rsquore tough to break down in both the environment and your body.
The FDA recently investigated PFAS and presented the findings at the 29th annual European meeting of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry in Helsinki in late May. The Environmental Working Group shared photos of the FDA&rsquos presentation online, and the agency later confirmed that they were correct.
For its research, the FDA tested a dairy farm near a US Air Force Base where firefighting foams containing PFAS have been used. The agency found that local water samples tested for PFAS levels at 35 times greater than the current Environmental Protection Agency health advisory of 70 parts per trillion.
The researchers tested 13 samples from the farm, including animal feed and milk samples, and found that all had detectable levels of PFAS. While the milk was discarded, the FDA pointed out that the cows would still have PFAS in their bodies for 1.5 years after eating and drinking contaminated food and water for 30 days. The FDA also tested produce samples from farms close to a PFAS manufacturing plant and found that, of 20 samples tested, 15 had detectable levels of PFAS.
What&rsquos more, common items like grocery store meat and seafood&mdashand even off-the-shelf chocolate cake&mdashalso contained worrisome levels of PSAS, the Associated Press reports.
The FDA is actually planning to present the findings on their website later this week, but they gave CNN advance copy of the text. &ldquoDue to potential health concerns related to these chemicals, the FDA is working to better understand the potential dietary exposure to PFAS&rdquo it will read, per CNN.
PFAS sound pretty bad, but it&rsquos understandable that you might not be 100 percent well versed in them and what they do. Here&rsquos what you need to know about these &ldquoforever chemicals&rdquo and how they affect your body.
What are PFAS, exactly?
PFAS are largely used for their ability to repel oil and water. They&rsquore often found in non-stick products, stains, paints, cleaning products, food packages, and firefighting foams.
PFAS &ldquocontain very strong chemical bonds, and are very resistant to breakdown in people and in the environment,&rdquo says Jamie Alan, PhD, an assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Michigan State University. Unfortunately, PFAS &ldquocan easily get into the air, food, soil, and water,&rdquo Alan says.
Why are PFAS potentially dangerous?
Once you&rsquore exposed to PFAS, they can accumulate in your body. &ldquoThey aren&rsquot easily broken down,&rdquo Alan says. &ldquoOnce in the body, they settle in the liver, kidney, and blood.&rdquo
PFAS have been linked to a slew of diseases like obesity, hormone suppression and infertility, liver and thyroid disease, and cancer, as well as increased cholesterol, Alan says.
However, research that has linked PFAS with these health issues is only correlative, meaning experts can&rsquot prove that PFAS actually caused these diseases&mdashjust that people with these diseases are also more likely to have had PFAS exposure. &ldquoWe are just beginning to understand the ramifications of these compounds,&rdquo Alan says.
How can you avoid PFAS?
It&rsquos actually pretty hard. One study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that PFAS chemicals are detected in the blood of 98 percent of the American population. &ldquoThese chemicals are everywhere,&rdquo Alan says.
However, there are some steps you can take to at least lower your exposure. Contaminated drinking water is a big source of PFAS exposure, so Alan recommends using a water filter when you can.
F.D.A. Finds Cloned Animals Safe for Food
Milk and meat from cloned animals are safe to consume, the Food and Drug Administration has tentatively concluded, a finding that could eventually clear the way for such products to reach supermarket shelves and for cloning to be widely used to breed livestock.
The agency's conclusions, which could face some opposition, are being released today in advance of a public meeting on the issue on Tuesday in Rockville, Md. Agency officials said that after receiving public comments, they hope by late next spring to outline their views on how, if at all, cloning would be regulated, including whether food from cloned animals should be labeled.
But if the preliminary conclusion stands, labeling would not be needed and there would be little regulation, Dr. Stephen Sundlof, director of the agency's Center for Veterinary Medicine, said in an interview.
''If we consider them materially the same as traditional foods, the role for the F.D.A. would be minimal,'' Dr. Sundlof said.
There are now only several hundred cloned cattle, for instance, out of the nation's total of about 100 million, so experts do not expect an immediate influx of food from cloned animals if they were allowed. Cloning an animal can cost about $20,000, much too expensive to make an animal just for its milk or meat.
''That would make about a $100 hamburger,'' said John C. Matheson, a senior regulatory scientist who led the agency's assessment.
Instead, the main use would be to make copies of prized animals for breeding. The clone would not be sent to the slaughterhouse, but instead would be used to make many more animals by conventional breeding, and those animals, the offspring of clones, could enter the food supply.
The major safety concern is that cloning results in many failed pregnancies and abnormal babies, raising the risk that milk or meat from such animals could be tainted. But the agency said that clones that survive past early childhood appear to be as healthy as other animals and food from them should be safe.
Still, any move to allow food from cloned animals or their offspring is expected to face some opposition. Some critics say the evidence of safety is not sufficient. Even the agency concedes its conclusions are based on somewhat scanty data, particularly for animals other than cows. Other critics raise questions about the ethical implications of cloning, and its effects on animal welfare and farming.
''I think it warrants a discussion that goes beyond the narrowest scientific issues,'' said Carol Tucker Foreman, the director of food policy at the Consumer Federation of America.
Ms. Foreman said polls had shown that American consumers were ill at ease with animal cloning. ''When you say ɺnimal cloning,' many people react as if you are at least opening the door to human cloning,'' she said.
Some food companies are also cautious, worried that such food, even if safe, might be shunned by consumers. That has happened to some extent with genetically modified crops.
''It's fine to get the stamp of approval from the F.D.A. but we also need to get the stamp of approval from consumers,'' said Kathleen Nelson, senior director for legislative affairs at the International Dairy Foods Association.
Ms. Nelson said that while biotechnology offered benefits for the food industry, the Food and Drug Administration needed to build 'ɺ strong and impressive body of science on the safety of the products.''
Cloning involves using a cell from an animal to make a nearly genetically identical copy of that animal. Dolly the sheep, the first clone of an adult mammal, was born in 1996. Since then, cows, pigs and horses, among others, have been cloned.
But the regulatory status of food from cloned animals has been in limbo. In June 2001, the agency asked cloning companies and farmers to keep off the market voluntarily the milk and meat from clones, and from the more conventionally bred offspring of clones, so it could assess the potential risks.
That has contributed to financial struggles for the handful of small companies hoping to make a business out of cloning. And it has frustrated a few farmers and breeders who own clones. They have to dispose of milk from cloned cows and cannot sell semen from cloned bulls.
''You milk it, you dump it,'' said Karyn Schauf, owner of Indianhead Holsteins, a breeder and dairy farm in Barron, Wis., that has two clones of a now-dead prized dairy cow but cannot sell the clones' milk. ''Not being able to treat them as regular animals really puts a cap on their value.''
Donald P. Coover of Galesburg, Kan., who sells semen for breeding, has been freezing semen from some clones of an Oklahoma bull named Full Flush, waiting for the voluntary moratorium to end. He said that this year alone he sold $100,000 worth of semen from Full Flush, enough to inseminate 2,000 cows. With that kind of profit, Mr. Coover said, it made sense to make clones of Full Flush to provide even more semen, and to carry on providing the semen after the original animal dies.
Smithfield Foods, a leading pork processor in Virginia, has an agreement with ViaGen, an animal cloning company in Austin, Tex., to explore the use of cloning for breeding.
Some experts say a major use of cloning will be to help make genetically engineered animals, like those that can produce pharmaceuticals in their milk, or those with genes to make them disease-resistant or their food more nutritious.
The F.D.A. safety analysis did not look at genetically engineered animals, whether produced using cloning or not, only at clones that are copies of conventional animals. Genetic engineering introduces additional risks and the agency wanted to tackle the simpler issue of cloning first, officials said.
The agency is releasing an 11-page summary today of a larger risk assessment it hopes to publish in the coming months. In its analysis, it assumed that obviously malformed animals produced through cloning would be rejected as sources of milk or meat. That left the question of whether there could be more subtle abnormalities that might, for instance, change the nutritional quality or safety of the meat or milk.
The agency said that did not appear to be the case. It reached its conclusion based on studies in journals and on tests of the composition of the blood and milk of clones.
The agency saw no problems with the safety of the conventionally bred offspring of clones. The genetic problems thought to cause the abnormalities in some cloned animals do not carry over into the next generation, it said.
The agency also looked at the effects of cloning on animal welfare and found there were some health problems. Still, the agency said, the problems were not that much different from those caused by other techniques used in farm breeding, like in vitro fertilization.
Herbal Supplements Are Often Not What They Seem
Americans spend an estimated $5 billion a year on unproven herbal supplements that promise everything from fighting off colds to curbing hot flashes and boosting memory. But now there is a new reason for supplement buyers to beware: DNA tests show that many pills labeled as healing herbs are little more than powdered rice and weeds.
Using a test called DNA barcoding, a kind of genetic fingerprinting that has also been used to help uncover labeling fraud in the commercial seafood industry, Canadian researchers tested 44 bottles of popular supplements sold by 12 companies. They found that many were not what they claimed to be, and that pills labeled as popular herbs were often diluted — or replaced entirely — by cheap fillers like soybean, wheat and rice.
Consumer advocates and scientists say the research provides more evidence that the herbal supplement industry is riddled with questionable practices. Industry representatives argue that any problems are not widespread.
For the study, the researchers selected popular medicinal herbs, and then randomly bought different brands of those products from stores and outlets in Canada and the United States. To avoid singling out any company, they did not disclose any product names.
Among their findings were bottles of echinacea supplements, used by millions of Americans to prevent and treat colds, that contained ground up bitter weed, Parthenium hysterophorus, an invasive plant found in India and Australia that has been linked to rashes, nausea and flatulence.
Two bottles labeled as St. John’s wort, which studies have shown may treat mild depression, contained none of the medicinal herb. Instead, the pills in one bottle were made of nothing but rice, and another bottle contained only Alexandrian senna, an Egyptian yellow shrub that is a powerful laxative. Gingko biloba supplements, promoted as memory enhancers, were mixed with fillers and black walnut, a potentially deadly hazard for people with nut allergies.
Of 44 herbal supplements tested, one-third showed outright substitution, meaning there was no trace of the plant advertised on the bottle — only another plant in its place.
Many were adulterated with ingredients not listed on the label, like rice, soybean and wheat, which are used as fillers.
In some cases, these fillers were the only plant detected in the bottle — a health concern for people with allergies or those seeking gluten-free products, said the study’s lead author, Steven G. Newmaster, a biology professor and botanical director of the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario at the University of Guelph.
The findings, published in the journal BMC Medicine, follow a number of smaller studies conducted in recent years that have suggested a sizable percentage of herbal products are not what they purport to be. But because the latest findings are backed by DNA testing, they offer perhaps the most credible evidence to date of adulteration, contamination and mislabeling in the medicinal supplement industry, a rapidly growing area of alternative medicine that includes an estimated 29,000 herbal products and substances sold throughout North America.
“This suggests that the problems are widespread and that quality control for many companies, whether through ignorance, incompetence or dishonesty, is unacceptable,” said David Schardt, a senior nutritionist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group. “Given these results, it’s hard to recommend any herbal supplements to consumers.”
Representatives of the supplement industry said that while mislabeling of supplements was a legitimate concern, they did not believe it reached the extent suggested by the new research.
Stefan Gafner, the chief science officer at the American Botanical Council, a nonprofit group that promotes the use of herbal supplements, said the study was flawed, in part because the bar-coding technology it used could not always identify herbs that have been purified and highly processed.
“Over all, I would agree that quality control is an issue in the herbal industry,” Dr. Gafner said. “But I think that what’s represented here is overblown. I don’t think it’s as bad as it looks according to this study.”
The Food and Drug Administration has used bar-coding technology to warn and in some cases prosecute sellers of seafood found to be “misbranded.” The DNA technique has also been used in studies of herbal teas, which showed that a significant percentage contain herbs and ingredients that are not listed on their labels.
But policing the supplement industry is a special challenge. The F.D.A. requires that companies test the products they sell to make sure that they are safe. But the system essentially operates on the honor code. Unlike prescription drugs, supplements are generally considered safe until proved otherwise.
Under a 1994 law, they can be sold and marketed with little regulatory oversight, and they are pulled from shelves generally only after complaints of serious injury. The F.D.A. audits a small number of companies, but even industry representatives say more oversight is needed.
“The regulations are very appropriate and rigorous,” said Duffy MacKay of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a supplement industry trade group. “But we need a strong regulator enforcing the full force of the law. F.D.A. resources are limited, and therefore enforcement has not historically been as rigorous as it could be.”
Shelly Burgess, a spokeswoman for the F.D.A., said that companies were required to adhere to a set of good manufacturing practices designed to prevent adulteration, but that many were ignoring the rules.
“Unfortunately, we are seeing a very high percentage — approximately 70 percent — of firms’ noncompliance,” she said, “and we are very active in taking enforcement actions against such violations.”
DNA bar coding was developed about a decade ago at the University of Guelph. Instead of sequencing entire genomes, scientists realized that they could examine genes from a standardized region of every genome to identify species of plants and animals. These short sequences can be quickly analyzed — much like the bar codes on the items at a supermarket — and compared with others in an electronic database. An electronic reference library at Guelph, called the International Barcode of Life Project, contains over 2.6 million bar code records for almost 200,000 species of plants and animals.
The testing technique is not foolproof. It can identify the substances in a supplement, but it cannot determine their potency. And because the technology relies on the detection of DNA, it may not be able to identify concentrated chemical extracts that do not contain genetic material, or products in which the material has been destroyed by heat and processing.
But Dr. Newmaster emphasized that only powders and pills were used in the new research, not extracts. In addition, the DNA testing nearly always detected some plant material in the samples — just not always the plant or herb named on the label.
Some of the adulteration problems may be inadvertent. Cross-contamination can occur in fields where different plants are grown side by side and picked at the same time, or in factories where the herbs are packaged. Dr. Gafner of the American Botanical Council said that rice, starch and other compounds were sometimes added during processing to keep powdered herbs from clumping, just as kernels of rice are added to salt shakers.
But that does not explain many of the DNA results. For instance, the study found that one product advertised as black cohosh — a North American plant and popular remedy for hot flashes and other menopause symptoms — actually contained a related Asian plant, Actaea asiatica, that can be toxic to humans.
Those findings mirror a similar study of black cohosh supplements conducted at Stony Brook University medical center last year. Dr. David A. Baker, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive medicine, bought 36 black cohosh supplements from online and chain stores. Bar coding tests showed that a quarter of them were not black cohosh, but instead contained an ornamental plant from China.
Floored by a superbugBy Brian Grow OUTBREAK: Kenneth Koehler of Maine was one of 19 people in in seven states who fell ill from a salmonella strain resistant to nine kinds of antibiotics. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
“To put it bluntly, this salmonella really kicked my butt.”Kenneth Koehler, business consultant
A week after grilling hamburgers in his backyard in November 2011, business consultant Kenneth Koehler became violently ill. He suffered stomach pains, diarrhea and nausea – and rushed to the hospital emergency room in Biddeford, Maine.
Days later, his doctors told him that his burger was contaminated with Salmonella Typhimurium, a strain commonly found in ground beef.
But Koehler’s salmonella was more dangerous than he realized. Records provided to Reuters by Koehler showed that the salmonella strain in the ground beef was resistant to nine types of antibiotics. Three of the antibiotics that didn’t work were cephalosporins, including ceftriaxone, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention records.
Neither Koehler, 56, nor his doctors know for certain whether ceftiofur had been administered to any of the cows whose meat was contaminated. But they knew the drugs that his salmonella strain were resisting. That’s because he was among the last of 19 people from seven states sickened in the outbreak, according to Koehler and the CDC records.
Based on the CDC’s testing of the salmonella strain, Koehler said, his doctors already determined ceftriaxone wouldn’t work. Instead, they prescribed ciprofloxacin, a powerful antibiotic in a different drug category. In humans, about 3 percent of all salmonella samples tested in 2012 by the CDC were resistant to ceftriaxone.
“They went directly to cipro,” Koehler said of his doctors. “To put it bluntly, this salmonella really kicked my butt.”
Investigators for the Maine branch of the CDC tested the leftover beef in Koehler’s freezer. The tests showed the source of his salmonella was ground beef bought at a Hannaford Bros. supermarket in Saco, Maine. Hannaford declined to comment.
Koehler was fortunate. He was treated and released the same day. Eight other people with ceftriaxone-resistant salmonella were hospitalized in the same outbreak, according to the CDC records.
Although people from all walks of life enjoy indulging in a hot dog, hot dogs are admittedly unhealthy. In the mid-1990s, low-fat and fat-free foodstuffs hit the market and sales in retail stores were strong. As a result, the hot dog industry responded to this new dietary trend and these companies began to introduce new "better for you" alternatives to the traditional hot dog. These options include turkey, chicken or vegetarian hot dogs. According to Information Resources, Inc., these new healthy alternatives accounted for approximately 12.4 percent of the total market for hot dogs. Dollar sales for the category were substantial as well, with the top ten markets selling a total of $37,332,066 in 2004.
While a popular choice across the country, hot dog consumption does vary by region. Residents of the Southeast, for example, eat more processed meats in general. Residents of New York spent the most money on hot dogs in retail stores in 2004. Los Angeles residents, however, purchased the most pounds of hot dogs. For the second year in a row in 2004, the Baltimore/Washington area came in third for dollar sales, ahead of Chicago. The top ten hot dog eating cities in America in 2004 were as follows:
Furthermore, hot dog producers look forward to warm weather holidays in order to spike hot dog sales. Producers believe that an average of 38 percent of hot dogs are sold annually at retail between Memorial Day and Labor Day. For example, in 2004, there were approximately $614 million in retail sales from June through August. Specifically, ten percent of annual retail hot dog sales occur during July, which is designated as National Hot Dog Month. On Fourth of July weekend alone, Americans will consume approximately 150 million hot dogs.
D. Hot Dogs and Sports
Although the all-famous &ldquoSeventh Inning Stretch&rdquo at America&rsquos baseball stadiums ask fans to go out to the ball game. for some peanuts and crackerjack, many fans would exit the turnstiles of stadiums disappointed if they did not enjoy one of baseball&rsquos greatest ballpark traditions, the hot dog. As mentioned supra , one of the more famous hot dogs is the Dodger Dog, sold at every home game of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Other baseball parks may not receive as much recognition for their version of this American treat, but baseball fans around the country, nonetheless, consume hot dogs at an amazing rate each baseball season. In 2005, for example, the top ten hot dog eating stadiums were as follows:
These are remarkable numbers when one considers the attendance totals of some of these stadiums for the same year. For example, the Los Angeles Dodgers had a regular season attendance of approximately 3.6 million people in 2005. This would suggest that on average one out of every two baseball fans purchased a hot dog among all the different choices available at the baseball stadium. Also, at Coors Field, the home of the Colorado Rockies, and the number two hot dog selling stadium in 2005, the total attendance was 1.9 million people, which suggests that the ratio is closer to one hot dog for every baseball fan. In fact, the data is somewhat distorted because total attendance figures are calculated by total tickets sold rather than by the number of people who enter the stadium each game. No matter the calculation, however, there is no doubt that the hot dog is a hot commodity at baseball stadiums.
VII. Regulation of Hot Dogs
Hot dogs are principally regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture under the Federal Meat Inspection Act. However, the Food and Drug Administration also closely regulates hot dogs and the agency exchanges information with USDA in order to ensure that hot dogs meet federal standards of health and nutrition. USDA, for instance, has ceded to FDA jurisdiction over any food containing less than two percent meat or poultry. Also, FDA has exclusive regulatory jurisdiction over live animals intended to be used for food. USDA has exclusive jurisdiction over the slaughter of food animals and over the subsequent processing of meat and poultry, except that USDA and FDA have joint jurisdiction over the use of food additives in meat and poultry. After processing, USDA and FDA have joint jurisdiction over the distribution of meat and poultry up to the retail establishment where it is sold. FDA has exclusive jurisdiction over retail food establishments.
Surprisingly, hot dogs and other meat products are in some respect responsible for the passage of the first food and drug laws in the United States. For example, some credit Upton Sinclair and his novel The Jungle for publicizing the outrageous conditions of the nation&rsquos food producing facilities. Published in 1906, readers were outraged at the filth in food and as a result, this public outcry led President Theodore Roosevelt to conduct a federal investigation. The result: the passage of the 1906 Pure Food and Drug laws, the predecessor to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938. Hence, although USDA has primary jurisdiction over the meat industry, FDA jointly influences and administers federal standards for meat products such as hot dogs.
According to federal standards of identity, hot dogs are cooked and/or smoked sausages prepared from one or more kinds of raw skeletal muscle meat or raw skeletal muscle meat and raw or cooked poultry meat. Federal standards of identity describe the requirements for processors to follow in formulating and marketing meat, poultry, and egg products produced in the United States for sale in this country and in foreign commerce. The standard also requires that they be comminuted (reduced to minute particles), semisolid products made from one or more kinds of raw skeletal muscle from livestock (like beef or pork) and may contain poultry meat. Smoking and curing ingredients are allowed in order to contribute to flavor, color and preservation of the product, but these too are regulated according to federal standards.
Water or ice, or both, may be used to facilitate chopping or mixing or to dissolve curing ingredients. The finished products may not contain more than 30% fat or no more than 10% water, or a combination of 40% fat and added water. Up to 3.5% non-meat binders and extenders (such as non-fat dry milk, cereal or dried whole milk) or 2% isolated soy protein may be used, but must be shown in the ingredients statement on the product's label by its common name.
B. Byproducts, Variety Meats
Hot dogs &ldquowith byproducts" or "with variety meats" are made according to the specifications for cooked and/or smoked sausages supra , except they consist of not less than 15% of one or more kinds of raw skeletal muscle meat with raw meat byproducts. The byproducts (heart, kidney, or liver, for example) must be named with the derived species and be individually named in the ingredients statement.
Beef hot dogs or pork hot dogs are cooked and/or smoked sausage products made according to the specifications supra , but with meat from a single species and do not include byproducts. In addition, turkey hot dogs or chicken hot dogs can contain turkey or chicken and turkey or chicken skin, but the fat content must be in proportion to what is contained in a whole turkey or chicken carcass.
D. Labeling and Ingredients Statement
All ingredients in the product must be listed in the ingredients statement in order of predominance, from highest to lowest amounts. A cooked sausage should be labeled by its generic name. The terms hot dog, frankfurter, frank, and wiener are examples of generic names. When such sausage products are prepared with meat from a single species of cattle, sheep, swine, or goats they should be labeled with the term designating the particular species in conjunction with the generic name, e.g., "beef hot dog," and when such sausage products are prepared in part with Mechanically Separated (Species), they should be labeled accordingly as well.
E. "Meat" Derived By Advanced Meat Bone Separation & Meat Recovery Systems
The definition of "meat" was amended in December 1994 to include any "meat" product that is produced by advanced meat/bone separation machinery. This meat is comparable in appearance, texture and composition to meat trimmings and similar meat products derived by hand. This new machinery separates meat from bone by scraping, shaving, or pressing the meat from the bone without breaking or grinding the bone.
The AMR machinery cannot grind, crush, or pulverize bones to remove edible meat tissue, and bones must remain intact. The meat produced in this manner can contain no more than 150 milligrams (mg) of calcium per 100 grams product (within a tolerance of 30 mg. of calcium). Products that exceed the calcium content limit must be labeled "mechanically separated beef or pork" in the ingredients statement.
F. Mechanically Separated Meat (MSM)
Mechanically Separated Meat or MSM is a paste-like and batter-like meat product produced by forcing beef or pork bones, with attached edible meat, under high pressure through a sieve or similar device to separate the bone from the edible meat tissue. MSM has been used in certain meat and meat products since the late 1970&rsquos.
In 1982, a final rule published by the Food, Safety and Inspection Service declared MSM safe, and the FSIS established a standard of identity for the food product. Some restrictions were made on how much can be used and the type of products in which it can be used. These restrictions were based on concerns for limited intake of certain components in MSM like calcium. Mechanically separated meat must be labeled as "mechanically separated beef or pork" in the ingredients statement. Hot dogs can contain no more than 20% mechanically separated beef or pork.
G. Mechanically Separated Poultry (MSP)
Like Mechanically Separated Meat, Mechanically Separated Poultry (MSP) is a paste-like and batter-like poultry product produced by forcing bones, with attached edible tissue, through a sieve or similar device under high pressure to separate bone from the edible tissue. MSP has been used in poultry products since the late 1960's. In 1995, a final rule on MSP declared it safe and could be used without restrictions. However, it must be labeled as "mechanically separated chicken or turkey" in the product's ingredients statement. Hot dogs can contain any amount of mechanically separated chicken or turkey.
H. Food Product Dating Terms
The labeling on a package of hot dogs may contain one of several different types of dates. If a date is used, it must also state what the date means. A "sell by" date informs the store how long to display the product for sale. As one can guess, the product should be bought before the date expires. A "use by" date, on the other hand, is the last date recommended for use of the product while at peak quality. This date is determined by the manufacturer of the product.
Other dates include the "best if used by (or before)" and the &ldquoexpiration&rdquo date. The former date helps consumers by stating a precise date for best flavor or quality. The latter helps stores and consumers by stating the shelf-life or the last day the product is adequate for consumption.
I. Food Safety Guidelines
According to USDA and FDA, there is a simple phrase which will help maintain the safety of food - "keep them hot, keep them cold, keep them clean." According to USDA, even though hot dogs are pre-cooked before packaging, consumers should re-heat hot dogs before consumption. In addition, once hot dogs are purchased, consumers should refrigerate or freeze hot dogs immediately. Specifically, FSIS advises consumers to store unopened packages of hot dogs for no more than two weeks in the refrigerator, and once opened, only one week. A failure to observe these food safety guidelines can lead to food-borne illness and other health concerns.
VIII. Consumer Health Concerns and Governmental Response
Although hot dogs are beloved by many, there are health advocates who claim that hot dogs pose certain health risks and lack nutritional value. Of primary concern is that hot dogs host a harmful bacterium called Listeria monocytogenes, which can cause food-borne illness. Ironically, food additives and preservatives, such as sodium nitrite, are also of much concern because some believe such additives can cause cancer. Despite the reality of these health concerns, government agencies, such as FDA and USDA, strictly regulate hot dogs and have established programs in order to respond to these issues.
A. Listeria monocytogenes
Listeria monocytogenes is a harmful bacterium that can be found in a variety of foods, including hot dogs. Listeria monocytogenes is spread very easily by direct food contact with a contaminated surface, and it can survive and grow in a refrigerated, ready to eat (&ldquoRTE&rdquo) product. For several decades, FDA, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC), along with other federal, state and local agencies, have been working toward preventing Listeria monocytogenes caused illness. In pregnant women, for example, Listeria monocytogenes can result in miscarriage, fetal death, or severe illness in a newborn infant. In addition, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems are also at risk for severe illness or death from food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes .
A number of factors can cause or contribute to Listeria monocytogenes contamination of RTE meat and poultry products. First, if the pathogen is already present in product ingredients, a processing error, such as incorrect formulation or inadequate processing time or temperature, can result in the production of products containing live organisms. Second, a product that has undergone successful treatment can be contaminated by pathogens on food-contact surfaces of equipment used for processing, handling, or packaging of the product. Serious outbreaks of listeriosis have occurred because of the failure to take such precautions during facilities construction or remodeling. For example, during the 1980's, Listeria monocytogenes began to emerge as a problem in processed meat, such as hot dogs. FSIS and FDA worked with processing plants to improve their procedures and emphasized a "zero tolerance"--no detectable levels of viable pathogens--for the organism in RTE products. Between 1989 and 1993, the rate of illness from the bacterium declined 44 percent.
In the fall of 1998, State health departments and the CDC investigated an outbreak of food-borne illness in which hot dogs were again implicated. CDC and FSIS investigators isolated the outbreak strain, a strain of Listeria monocytogenes , from an opened and previously unopened package of hot dogs manufactured by a single plant. CDC eventually reported 101 illnesses, 15 adult deaths, and six stillbirths or miscarriages associated with the outbreak. This led to a national outcry and in May 2000, President Clinton issued a radio message to assure the public of the seriousness of the issue. As a result, FDA, USDA, and CDC established a set of programs and regulations to respond to the crisis.
For example, The Healthy People 2010 initiative has combined the resources of federal food safety agencies to promote national health and disease prevention in order to reduce pathogens such as Listeria monocytogenes . Specifically, the program sought to reduce food-borne listeriosis by 50% by the end of the year 2005.
The purpose of the assessment was to systematically examine available scientific data and information to estimate the relative risks of serious illness and death associated with consumption of different types of ready-to-eat (RTE) foods that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes . The risk assessment, which was published in draft form in 2001 and published in final form in 2003, provides analyses and models that (1) estimate the potential level of exposure of three age-based population groups and the total United States population to Listeria monocytogenes contaminated foods for 23 food categories and (2) relate this exposure to public health consequences. In particular, the food categories consist of foods with a documented history of Listeria monocytogenes contamination. This examination of the current science and the models developed from it are among the tools that food safety regulatory agencies may use to evaluate the effectiveness of current and future policies, programs and regulatory practices to minimize the public health impact of this pathogen.
In addition, FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have reviewed ongoing Listeria monocytogenes prevention and control activities and have developed an Action Plan, in order to complement the Risk Assessment.
According to the Action Plan, the FDA and the CDC have established six objectives in order to achieve the goals of the Healthy People 2010 initiative. These objectives are as follows:
1. Develop and Revise Guidance for Processors that Manufacture or Prepare Ready-To-Eat Foods and Develop or Revise Guidance for Retail and Food Service and Institutional Establishments
In short, FDA will develop and issue guidance on enhancing the safety of the production of fresh-cut produce. Specifically, FDA believes that there is a greater need to involve the retail segment of the food industry in training in order to ensure the safety of produce. Although this objective does not focus on hot dogs per se, it is evidence of FDA concern regarding the transfer of Listeria monocytogenes between foods contaminated with the pathogen and food contact surfaces, such as slicing machines, knives, and spoons.
In addition, the Action Plan proposes that FDA will review the Model Food Code to determine if provisions that address preventive controls, such as approved source, date marking and cold-holding times and temperatures, warrant revision.
Other measures by which FDA aims to accomplish this first objective is by requesting data and information from the retail and food service industry regarding Listeria monocytogenes . Some examples of these requests include 1) Listeria monocytogenes levels in products stored in retail and food service facilities 2) levels of environmental harborage of Listeria monocytogenes on food and non-food contact surfaces 3) effects of short and long-term refrigerated storage on levels of Listeria monocytogenes 4) impact of time and temperature on levels of Listeria monocytogenes in products 5) efficacy of cleaning procedures and sanitizing agents on environmental surfaces and utensils 6) frequency of use and efficacy of adding inhibitors to food products in retail and food service establishments to reduce or prevent Listeria monocytogenes growth and 7) effect of training regarding hygienic practices and sanitation on levels of Listeria monocytogenes in products in retail and food service establishments.
2. Develop and Deliver Training and Technical Assistance for Industry and Food Safety Regulatory Employees
Another objective of the FDA Action Plan is to provide adequate training and technical assistance for industry and food safety regulatory employees. It is the FDA&rsquos primary goal to train FDA and state/local regulators of retail food, milk and manufactured food operations.
3. Enhance Consumer and Health Care Provider Information and Education efforts
The FDA also believes it is necessary to support educational programs which provide information regarding the risks of listeriosis. The agency believes there are special at-risk groups, including minorities, pregnant women and seniors who are unaware of the risks associated with Listeria monocytogenes caused illness. As a result, over the last several years, FDA has participated in a variety of programs to educate these special at risk groups. Some of these programs include the provision of health messages on the risk of listeriosis delivered over the Spanish language radio and television programs and the distribution of information at health fairs at Wal-Mart locations in Hispanic areas. Also, a public health educational campaign by the public-private Partnership for Food Safety Education is underway to advise consumers to keep their refrigerators at 40 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent food-borne illness, including listeriosis.
4. Review, Redirect and Revise Enforcement and Regulatory Strategies Including Microbial Product Sampling and Analytical Methods
The National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods (NACMCF) adopted two documents in 2004 in order to update regulatory strategies and procedures. In particular, these documents were in response to a December 2004 Citizens&rsquo Petition on behalf of a coalition of fifteen leading trade associations pursuant to sections 402(a)(1) and 701(a) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and also 21 C.F.R. § 109.4. The Petition requested that FDA amend 21 C.F.R. § 109 to establish a regulatory limit for Listeria monocytogenes of 100 colony forming units per gram (CFU/g) in foods that do not support growth of the microorganism.
5. Enhance Disease Surveillance and Outbreak Response
The Food and Drug Administration participates in PulseNet, a national molecular sub-typing network for food borne disease surveillance, which was established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 1996. Food and environmental bacterial pathogens, including Listeria monocytogenes , are sub-typed and characterized using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) by FDA Office of Regulatory Affairs (ORA) laboratories and the molecular patterns are submitted by FDA/CFSAN to PulseNet. These patterns are routinely compared to the PulseNet database that primarily consists of patterns from clinical isolates. Patterns from the food and clinical isolates that "match" suggest a potential link and are further investigated to determine if there is an epidemiological association in a food-borne outbreak. FDA/CFSAN routinely monitors PulseNet as a possible early alert to a food-borne outbreak.
6. Coordinate Research Activities to Refine the Risk Assessment, Enhance Preventative Controls, and Support Regulatory, Enforcement and Educational Activities
The last objective aims to bring the above objectives together by facilitating the communication between government agencies in order to maximize agency resources. In order to combat food borne illness such as listeriosis, it is essential to continuously communicate and update procedures and guidelines.
B. Nutrition, Sodium Nitrite and Food Additive Regulation
The nutritional and ingredient content of hot dogs varies depending on the variety one buys. Besides the &ldquomeat&rdquo that goes into the traditional hot dog, there is a long list of other ingredients that make hot dogs what they are today. Along with spices and flavorings, water and salt, there are some not-so-familiar ingredients which enhance color and texture and help to preserve &ldquofreshness.&rdquo These include binders, phosphates, erythorbate, citric acid and dextrose.
One of the more controversial ingredients found in hot dogs is monosodium glutamate (MSG), which is a flavor enhancer for a variety of foods prepared by food processors. Its use has become controversial in the past 30 years because of reports of adverse health reactions. Research on the role of glutamate (a group of chemicals that includes MSG) in the nervous system has raised questions about the chemical's safety, and it has also been studied in relation to migraine headaches, diabetes, asthma, atrial fibrillation and depression. Many scientists believe that MSG stimulates the tongue to enhance meat-like flavors. Under current FDA regulations, when MSG is added to a food, it must be identified as "monosodium glutamate" in the label's ingredient list.
However, the most controversial ingredients in hot dogs are nitrites and nitrates. Almost all varieties of hot dogs contain sodium nitrite, which is a chemical salt used as a preservative and taste enhancer. Since the late 19th Century, sodium nitrite and other nitrates have been used to preserve meats. As transportation expanded from coast to coast, preservatives such as nitrites were used more frequently. Today, additives are used in hot dogs not only to preserve the meat for longer periods of time, but also to create a more appealing product for the consumer. They are what make hot dogs red and help them maintain a plump consistency where there might otherwise be unattractive shrinking and wrinkling.
However, despite the advantages introduced through the use of nitrites, certain health concerns are also prevalent. As a result, government regulations regarding such preservatives and additives were established in 1926 to ensure the safety of food. This is because nitrites and nitrates are considered poisonous to humans. In the 1960&rsquos, for example, it was discovered that nitrites can combine with amines, substances naturally found in many food products, to produce nitrosamines, some which cause cancer in laboratory animals. Indeed, the nitrates that occur naturally throughout the human food supply are converted to nitrites and combine with naturally occurring amines to produce nitrosamines in the human gut.
Following this discovery, several congressional hearings were held to determine the health ramifications associated with the use of nitrites and nitrates in food. After these hearings, FDA proposed to prohibit non-essential uses of nitrite. However, the FDA Commissioner acknowledged that nitrites had not been banned because of their usefulness in preventing botulism and because of their importance in maintaining the characteristics of cured meat that are expected and demanded by consumers. USDA also denied petitions to ban or restrict nitrites in meat on the ground that more information was needed. Despite the decision to not ban or restrict the use of nitrites, USDA established an Expert Panel on Nitrites and Nitrosamines and the panel recommended that modifications be made in the use of nitrites in meat and poultry products. Following this finding, USDA updated the status of nitrite and subsequently advised FDA that there was no prior sanction for nitrite in poultry. FDA followed with a statement that nitrite use in poultry products qualifies as a food additive and thus FDA could examine its use. USDA then expanded its previous statement to include the use of nitrite in meat products. This debate bounced back and forth for almost a decade. Technological advances allowed both USDA and FDA to study the effects of nitrite use in poultry and meat products, but FDA ultimately decided in 1980 that there was insufficient evidence to support a conclusion that nitrite induced cancer in rats. However, the debate did not end there.
For example, in a 1981 National Academy of Sciences study on the toxic effects of sodium nitrate, a lethal dose was estimated to be one gram (less than ¼ of a teaspoon). Although the amount of nitrates found in conventional hot dogs is well below anything that could be immediately toxic, there is mounting evidence that over time, even smaller levels of sodium nitrite can cause damage to human health if consumed in abundance.
Coincidentally, according to a recent study performed by Dr. Ute Nothlings of the University of Hawaii (presented at the American Association for Cancer Research on April 20, 2005), consumption of foods such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs and other processed meats increased the risk of cancer. In a seven-year study of a multi-ethnic range of 190,545 men and women, those who regularly consumed processed meats had a 67% higher risk of developing colon and pancreatic cancer. Though the study did not explicitly point the finger at sodium nitrite as the culprit, cancer research from the Cancer Prevention Coalition does. According to their research, during the cooking process, nitrites combine with amines to form carcinogenic compounds.
In the end, some 20 years later, the debate still continues. Although USDA and FDA have authorized alternative procedures for controlling the levels of nitrites in meat products such as hot dogs, nitrite use is still a concern of health advocates around the world.
Whether one calls them hot dogs, red hots, wieners, franks or frankfurters, the hot dog is clearly an American tradition, with a rich history that spans across the world. Although born in Germany as the sausage, once introduced to the United States by German Americans, the hot dog transformed into the cultural icon it is today. But like all foods, Americans and tourists alike enjoy hot dogs because government agencies such as FDA and USDA strictly regulate hot dogs and continuously monitor its safety for consumption. Due to these efforts, when one asks the question - &ldquowhat is a hot dog?&rdquo &ndash do not worry and enjoy!
 David Ray & Janet Riley, Americans Will Eat 150 Million Hot Dogs on the Fourth of July, available at http://www.hot-dog.org/4thofJuly04.pdf (last visited Mar. 15, 2006).
 Kraft Foods, What is a Wienermobile?, available at http://www.kraftfoods.com/om/what.htm (last visited Feb. 6, 2006).
 Linda Stradley, History of Hot Dogs , available at http://whatscookingamerica.net/History/HotDog/HDIndex.htm (last visited March 15, 2006).
 Id. (according to legend, on one occasion, as Cook Gaius prepared a customary dish for the Emperor, Gaius ran a knife through a pig&rsquos stomach in order to see if the pig was fit to eat. When Gaius punctured the skin of the pig, out popped the intestines and they were all puffed up and hollow. Curious, Gaius reportedly took the intestines back into the kitchen and began to stuff the intestines with ground venison and ground beef mixed with wheat and spices. He then tied the intestines into sections, and in the eyes of some, the hot dog was born).
 Id. (Leontius is famous for documenting the popularity of the sausage and the use of mustard to complement it).
 National Hot Dog & Sausage Council, History of the Hot Dog, available at http://www.hot-dog.org/hd/hd_history.htm (last visited Mar. 15, 2006).
 Linda Stradley, History of Hot Dogs, available at http://whatscookingamerica.net/History/HotDog/HDIndex.htm (last visited Mar. 15, 2006) (it is said that the master sausage maker who made the first wiener received his training in Frankfurt, Germany, and it was this sausage maker that coined the phrase wiener-frankfurter).
 National Hot Dog & Sausage Council, History of the Hot Dog, available at http://www.hot-dog.org/hd/hd_history.htm (last visited Mar. 15, 2006).
 Jeffrey Stanton, Coney Island - Food & Dining (1997), available at http://naid.sppsr.ucla.edu/CONEYISLAND/articles/food.htm (last visited Mar. 3, 2006).
 National Hot Dog & Sausage Council, History of the Hot Dog, available at http://www.hot-dog.org/hd/hd_history.htm (last visited Mar. 15, 2006).
 Id . (Chris Von de Ahe, known for his walrus mustache, owned a St. Louis Bar as well as the St. Louis Browns major league baseball team, now known as the St. Louis Cardinals. Von de Ahe thought it a novel idea to serve sausages with his already popular beer)
 Linda Stradley, History of Hot Dogs, available at http://whatscookingamerica.net/History/HotDog/HDIndex.htm (last visited Mar. 15, 2006).
 Id. (sausage vendors would sell their product outside the student dorms at major eastern universities, and their carts became known as "dog wagons." The name was a sarcastic comment on the source and quality of the meat. The October 5, 1895 edition of the Yale Record included a poem about "The Kennel Club," a popular campus lunch wagon which sold sausages in buns)
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While formula is made to be easily digestible for infants, homemade formulas can include ingredients that are harmful for babies’ digestive systems.
Some online recipes use ingredients like cow’s milk, sugar and egg yolks.
Gaw said babies should be fed breast milk or FDA-approved formulas.
“When they are this young their bodies are still developing and the way they process things are a little different than say a one-year-old toddler,” Dr. Gaw explained. “Too little or too much of any nutrient, whether it’s vitamin or mineral, can be harmful to an infant in the age group. They’re still developing.”
Over the last few months, nonprofits said they have seen a spike in families needing baby products. One item that is requested is baby formula, but it is donated less often.
PATH is an East Texas nonprofit social services agency.
“Some of the donations may be one brand but the families that are coming to the pantry looking for a certain brand, we don’t have it,” said PATH Operations Manager Michael Vasquez.
Other Texas nonprofits like the Austin Diaper Bank said they also noticed a higher demand for formula.
“We’ve seen a 25% increase just especially in the last few weeks because of the winter storms,” Holly McDaniel, Executive Director, Austin Diaper Bank said. “Families were without water, there were a lot of issues of getting to the store, and also we’re just seeing poverty rates increase because of the pandemic and loss of income and jobs and formula can be really expensive.”
Both organizations said the only baby formula they accept is unopened packages that are not expired.
Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
The FDA’s Position
Perhaps the most important role of the FDA is to protect public health. One way it can do so is by ensuring compounds in consumer products are “generally recognized as safe and effective.” While there is little evidence to suggest triclosan and other antibacterial additives are directly unsafe for humans, the actual effectiveness of these additives in household soaps had still not been proven as of a few years ago. With that in mind, the FDA issued a ruling in 2013 that required manufacturers to provide direct evidence that household soaps marketed as antibacterial are better at reducing germs and chances of infection compared to plain soaps. Companies had one year to submit their studies.
To date, there has been no conclusive evidence to suggest household antibacterial soaps are an improvement over non-antibacterial soaps. In fact, one study found it didn’t matter whether a household used plain or antibacterial soap containing triclocarban, a compound that is closely related to triclosan and is a part of the FDA ban: both cut the incidence of childhood pneumonia and diarrhea in half.
This means that if you are washing your hands with antibacterial soap, you are exposing yourself and the environment to increased amounts of these chemicals without any measurable benefit. It is for this reason that the FDA has banned adding triclosan and 18 other common antibacterial agents to household soaps, and manufacturers will have until September 2017 to comply with the ruling.
Nonetheless, there are still consumer uses for triclosan that have been proven extremely beneficial, and these are not banned by the FDA. For instance, toothpaste with triclosan has been shown to significantly reduce plaque formation, cavity formation and gingivitis compared to toothpaste without triclosan. Additionally, there are some antibacterial additives in soaps that are not subject to the FDA’s recent ruling. Many companies have replaced the banned ingredients, like triclosan, with one of these three not banned ingredients, and the FDA has granted these companies another year to demonstrate these additives are safe and effective.