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  • Food Allergies
    s parents Mike and Brenda Buster began reading food labels as carefully as they would a legal contract They joined a food allergy advocacy group replaced the carpet in Sarah s bedroom and throughout the house with hardwood floors placed dust mite covers over her bedding gave away the family s dogs and kept Sarah indoors as much as possible A small wooden chair with a wicker seat has taken the place of upholstered furniture for Sarah and devices that filter dust pollen and other particles hum both upstairs and downstairs For a time soaking baths and ointment head to toe helped keep her skin moist and a prescription antihistamine eased the itching enough so she could sleep However Sarah s eczema soon worsened again Sarah s itching would be so severe that we could stand right by her and call her name and she would not respond because she was so focused on scratching says Brenda Buster She would scratch until she bled because the pain felt better than the itch Finally allergists at Johns Hopkins eliminated all conventional food and put her on a special formula made of amino acids Sarah also started a four month regime of prednisone a drug that mimics the effects of the body s natural corticosteroid hormones and suppresses the activity of the immune system Eventually her diet was expanded to six foods that doctors believed she was not allergic to turkey pork rice apples grapes and tomatoes supplemented by the special formula Sarah s skin cleared and after several months she began a series of dietary challenges tests to determine whether specific foods cause an allergic reaction Several years later Sarah eats a more varied diet and the Busters maintain a list of safe foods and those that cause an allergic reaction The most difficult thing I have faced with my allergies is that when I see my friends eating something that I know I can t have it just makes me feel left out says Sarah We never order food for Sarah at a restaurant because even if the ingredients in the food itself are safe there is a considerable chance for cross contamination with something that s unsafe for her to eat says Mike Buster For example a baked potato might be safe but if the person preparing the potato even touched a dairy nut or egg product and then touched the potato Sarah could have a serious reaction We go out to eat but we bring all her food with us he says It s just not worth taking the chance Wood who cares for Sarah at Johns Hopkins says She s got it a lot tougher than someone who just has a peanut allergy She s dealing with this stuff on an every single meal basis Her parents have really helped provide her with a wonderful life That life includes her favorite activities ice skating she likes the cool air of the rink and swimming the moisture and chlorine are beneficial to her skin according to her doctors Sarah continues to outgrow some of her allergies and has added about a dozen foods into her diet over the past year Wood says The taste in my mouth when I m trying something new is very different says Sarah Strawberries felt hard because of the seeds They tasted great but I didn t like the texture so my dad tried to take the seeds out I still didn t like the strawberries that much but I kept reminding myself over and over again that if I passed the test I would be able to have a lot of things with strawberries in it Like now I can have strawberry Skittles The food at Sarah s Montessori school is nut free and on special school occasions Brenda Buster tries to prepare something that Sarah and her classmates can enjoy such as some types of candy homemade cupcakes made without eggs or dairy products a nondairy frozen dessert or popcorn prepared at home We make our own bread and most other foods says Brenda Although we do have several more products we can buy including one brand of potato chips and one brand of pretzels saltines and several types of canned vegetables Still the Busters must be vigilant and can be found constantly checking labels For example a type of food may be safe from one manufacturer but not from another One brand of candy corn may be OK while another contains eggs says Brenda Even foods that have proved to be safe previously can subsequently cause a problem Manufacturers can change the ingredients without changing the packaging adds Mike Buster We appreciate manufacturers who clearly label their products Food Labeling A Critical Component Currently the only way to treat food allergies is to avoid the foods that trigger reactions Even the most diligent label readers and ingredient checkers likely will be inadvertently exposed to proteins that elicit an allergic response at some point That s why Wood Sarah and others with food allergies severe enough to cause anaphylactic reactions should wear medical alert bracelets or necklaces and carry a syringe of adrenaline epinephrine obtained by prescription from their physicians Anaphylactic allergic reactions can be fatal even when they begin with mild symptoms such as a tingling in the mouth and throat or gastrointestinal discomfort Antihistamines and bronchodilators can be used to treat less severe symptoms FDA s Role Since 2000 the FDA has presented information on allergen risk and labeling requirements at more than a dozen locations nationwide says Kenneth J Falci Ph D who leads the FDA s initiatives on food allergies The meetings provide the FDA with firsthand accounts from people with food allergies and data that can be used to improve consumer labeling The FDA s food allergy efforts include focusing on the eight most common food allergens milk eggs fish wheat tree nuts peanuts soybeans and crustaceans such as shrimp and crabs Proteins in these eight

    Original URL path: http://lifealert.org/articles/foodallergies.htm (2016-04-26)
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  • Food Label Close-Up
    inch pound units for example 20 fluid ounces 1 1 4 pint but they are not required to do so Ingredients The ingredient list helps consumers identify foods that have substances they are allergic to or want to avoid for other reasons It also helps them select foods with ingredients they want An ingredient list is required on all packaged foods composed of two or more ingredients even standardized foods Foods with two or more discrete components such as cherry pie which has filling and pie crust may have a separate ingredient list for each of the components Ingredients must be listed in descending order of predominance by weight This gives consumers an idea of the proportion of an ingredient in a food Company Name A food label must identify the firm responsible for the product either the manufacturer packer or distributor and the firm s city state and zip code or another mailing code if the product is imported A street address is not required if the name is listed in a current telephone book A telephone number is not mandatory The required information is there mainly so that consumers have a point of contact if they find something wrong with the product Product Dates Consumers can use the dates that are given on food packaging if the manufacturer is using open dating On the other hand consumers cannot use code dating In open dating dates are stated alphanumerically such as Oct 15 or numerically such as 10 15 or 1015 In code dating the information is coded in letters numbers and symbols so that usually only the manufacturer can translate it Some dates for which open dating is used are Pull date This is the last day that the manufacturer recommends that the product remain for sale This date takes into consideration additional time for storage and use at home so if the food is bought on the pull date it still can be eaten at a later date How long the product should be offered for sale and how much home storage is allowed are determined by the manufacturer based on knowledge of the product and the product s shelf life Quality assurance or freshness date This date shows how long the manufacturer thinks a food will be of optimal quality On the label it may appear like this Best if used by October 1996 This doesn t mean however that the product shouldn t be used after the suggested date Pack date This is the date the food was packaged or processed It may enable consumers to determine how old a product is Expiration date This is the last day on which a product should be eaten State governments regulate these dates for perishable items such as milk and eggs FDA regulates only the expiration dates of infant formula A common type of code dating is the product code This code enables the manufacturer to convey a relatively large amount of information with a few small

    Original URL path: http://lifealert.org/articles/foodlabels.htm (2016-04-26)
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  • Preventing Foodborne Illness
    unappetizing Most moldy foods should be thrown out But you might be able to save molding hard cheeses salami and firm fruits and vegetables if you cut out not only the mold but a large area around it Cutting the larger area around the mold is important because much of the mold growth is below the surface of the food Always check the labels on cans or jars to determine how the contents should be stored Many items besides fresh meats vegetables and dairy products need to be kept cold For instance mayonnaise and ketchup should go in the refrigerator after opening If you ve neglected to refrigerate items it s usually best to throw them out Some precautions will help make sure that foods that can be stored at room temperature remain safe Potatoes and onions should not be stored under the sink because leakage from the pipes can damage the food Potatoes don t belong in the refrigerator either Store them in a cool dry place Don t store foods near household cleaning products and chemicals Check canned goods to see whether any are sticky on the outside This may indicate a leak Newly purchased cans that appear to be leaking should be returned to the store which should notify the FDA Keep It Clean The first cardinal rule of safe food preparation in the home is Keep everything clean The cleanliness rule applies to the areas where food is prepared and most importantly to the cook Wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before starting to prepare a meal and after handling raw meat or poultry Cover long hair with a net or scarf and be sure that any open sores or cuts on the hands are completely covered If the sore or cut is infected stay out of the kitchen Keep the work area clean and uncluttered Wash countertops with a solution of 1 teaspoon of chlorine bleach to 1 quart of water or with a commercial kitchen cleaning agent diluted according to product directions They re the most effective at getting rid of bacteria Also be sure to keep dishcloths clean because when wet they can harbor bacteria and may promote their growth Wash dishcloths weekly in hot water in the washing machine Sanitize the kitchen sink drain periodically by pouring down the sink a solution of 1 teaspoon of bleach to 1 quart of water or a commercial kitchen cleaning agent Food particles get trapped in the drain and disposal and along with the moistness create an ideal environment for bacterial growth Use smooth cutting boards made of hard maple or a non porous material such as plastic and free of cracks and crevices Avoid boards made of soft porous materials Wash cutting boards with hot water and soap using a scrub brush Then sanitize them by washing in an automatic dishwasher or by rinsing with a solution of 1 teaspoon of chlorine bleach to 1 quart of water

    Original URL path: http://lifealert.org/articles/foodborneillness.htm (2016-04-26)
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  • Generic Drugs
    issues about whether a generic drug company is infringing a drug patent During the stay the FDA cannot approve the generic drug A limit of one 30 month stay is in line with recommendations from the Federal Trade Commission FTC According to an FTC study released July 30 2002 there were cases involving several brand name drugs between 1994 and 2000 in which repeated 30 month stays delayed access to generic drugs Access to generic drugs has sometimes been delayed from four to 44 months when drug companies have used various methods to get repeated 30 month stays Examples of delaying tactics include submitting patent information on the color of the pill bottle ingredient combinations and other minor matters that don t affect the drug s effectiveness or safety Such strategies have been seen only in a minority of drug firms And according to PhRMA stays are rare But the FTC concluded that multiple stays can have substantial financial impact and are harmful to consumers President Bush has said Our message to brand name manufacturers is clear You deserve the fair rewards of your research and development you do not have the right to keep generic drugs off the market for frivolous reasons A new regulation that went into effect Aug 18 2003 implements another FTC recommendation to tighten the patent submission and listing process so that only appropriate patents are submitted to the FDA To help prevent unfair competition the regulation clarifies the types of patents that must be submitted to the FDA Companies must submit patent information on active ingredients drug formulations and compositions and approved uses of a drug Certain patents such as those for packaging claims are among those that cannot be submitted More detailed information will now be required on patent submissions and false statements could lead to criminal charges Kathleen Jaeger GPhA president and chief executive officer praised the announcement of the generic drug regulation and said it complements generic drug access provisions of the Medicare Modernization Act GPhA strongly believes that the administration s initiatives coupled with substantial legislative measures in the compromise legislation will ensure that American health care becomes more affordable Jaeger said in a statement The legislation overlaps with the FDA s regulation in one area in that it would also prevent multiple 30 month stays in the approval of generic drugs In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 17 2003 Bruce N Kuhlik PhRMA s senior vice president and general counsel cautioned against changes that could undermine incentives for continued pharmaceutical innovation He said The Hatch Waxman Act of 1984 is achieving its purpose of speeding market entry of generic drugs Kuhlik pointed out that since the law was enacted the generic share of the drug market has soared and so has the expense of developing new drugs Our patent laws and regulations provide a key incentive for continued innovation in medicines Kuhlik said Better treatments and new cures can come only from pharmaceutical research companies and

    Original URL path: http://lifealert.org/articles/genericdrugs.htm (2016-04-26)
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  • Genetic Engineering
    is completed companies send safety and nutritional information to the FDA for the agency s scientific evaluation Although consultation is voluntary on the part of developers the legal requirements that the foods have to meet are not Some consumer advocates and scientists have urged the FDA to make the consultation process mandatory but the agency believes that companies are cooperating within the voluntary system This current process is working very well and fully protects public health says McClellan To the best of our knowledge all bioengineered foods on the market have been evaluated by FDA through the current consultation process This includes genetically engineered foods produced by companies outside the United States and marketed here In July 2003 the Codex Alimentarius Commission adopted international guidelines for biotech food safety that are consistent with the FDA s approach Codex an entity established by the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is the highest international body on food standards Several private and government organizations have studied the safety of genetically engineered foods In a study released in 2000 a committee of the National Academy of Sciences NAS concluded The committee is not aware of any evidence that foods on the market are unsafe to eat as a result of genetic modification This conclusion was echoed in a report published by the Government Accounting Office in 2002 On the animal side the international Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development published a consensus document in 2003 It noted that there is no evidence to date from animal feeding studies with bioengineered plants that the performance of animals differed in any respect from those fed the non bioengineered counterpart Labeling The FDA has received many inquiries about the labeling of genetically engineered foods Some consumer advocates and organizations such as the Union of Concerned Scientists urge the FDA to require labeling to identify which foods are genetically engineered Under the FD C Act Congress has provided the FDA a limited basis on which to require labeling Generally there must be something tangibly different about the food product not the process by which it s made for the FDA to require labeling The FDA has no information that the use of biotechnology creates a class of food that is different in quality safety or any other attribute from food developed using conventional breeding techniques says Maryanski He adds that disclosure of genetic engineering techniques is not required on the label just as identification of conventional breeding techniques is not required for example hybrid corn can just be called corn Any significant differences between the bioengineered food and its conventional counterpart do have to be disclosed in labeling These would include differences in nutritional properties the presence of an allergen that consumers would not expect in the food or any property that would require different handling storage cooking or preservation For example when a manufacturer produced a line of soybeans whose oil had higher levels of oleic acid than found in conventional soybean oil the FDA agreed to naming the product high oleic soybean oil to distinguish it from traditional soybean oil The high oleic oil can be used in frying without the need for the chemical process of hydrogenation which produces trans fat Food processors may voluntarily label either the presence or absence of a genetically engineered food in their products as long as the information is truthful and not misleading to consumers The FDA has produced guidance to the industry for this type of labeling Future Foods and Regulatory Challenges The first generation of genetically engineered crops was developed primarily to benefit the growers Plants were created to resist pests and diseases and to tolerate herbicides used to kill weeds Scientists see the next generation of genetically engineered products benefiting consumers directly They are adding nutrients to foods to help prevent diseases reducing allergens and toxins and making foods tastier Using the tools of biotechnology researchers are working to reduce the bitterness in citrus fruits reduce saturated fats in cooking oils produce more flavorful tomatoes and even lessen the gassiness caused by beans Grains fruits and vegetables that contain more nutrients and potatoes that absorb less oil when made into chips and french fries are also in the development pipeline As the tools and techniques used in biotechnology become more complex and a broader range of plants are researched for a wider variety of uses the FDA must prepare for the safety and regulatory challenges that novel genetically engineered foods may present One of these challenges is evaluating food for its potential to cause allergic reactions People who have food allergies are usually allergic to specific proteins in foods FDA biochemical engineer Tong Jen Fu Ph D is analyzing methods currently used by scientists to determine the allergenic potential of new proteins that may be introduced in food The only way people can avoid allergic reactions to food is to avoid eating those offending foods says Fu But we know that there is some possibility that a new protein in food may be an allergen for some individuals So it is important to have sound scientific methods for assessing whether a new protein will be an allergen Fu is analyzing a current test that assumes a correlation between digestive stability and allergenic potential Using simulated gastric and intestinal fluids she has found that this correlation isn t always present Fu s work is improving the FDA s knowledge about proteins and their likelihood of being allergens which ultimately will help agency regulators determine if a food is safe To further assure that the FDA has the best scientific knowledge available to assess the safety of genetically engineered foods the agency has increased the number of staff experts in plant genetics molecular biology immunology and agricultural biotechnology In addition to its own scientists who evaluate safety data the FDA looks to outside experts such as the NAS for advice on food safety assessments In response to public concerns about

    Original URL path: http://lifealert.org/articles/geneticfoods.htm (2016-04-26)
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  • Safer Health Care
    how to use it Ask the pharmacist about your medicine if it looks different than you expected 3 Get the results of any test of procedure Ask when and how you will get the results of tests or procedures Don t assume the results are fine if you do not get them when expected be it in person by phone or by mail Call your doctor and ask for your results Ask what the results mean for your care 4 Talk to your doctor about which hospital is best for your health needs Ask your doctor about which hospital has the best care and results for your condition if you have more than one hospital to choose from Be sure you understand the instructions you get about follow up care when you leave the hospital 5 Make sure you understand what will happen if you need surgery Make sure you your doctor and your surgeon all agree on exactly what will be done during the operation Ask your doctor Who will manage my care when I am in the hospital Ask your surgeon Exactly what will you be doing About how long will it take What will happen after the

    Original URL path: http://lifealert.org/articles/healthcare.htm (2016-04-26)
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  • 'Miracle' Health Claims
    prevent severe memory loss These kinds of claims deal with the treatment of diseases and companies that want to make such claims must follow the FDA s pre market testing and review process required for new drugs FDA Regulation of Health Claims Federal law allows for certain claims to be made in the labeling of food and supplements These include claims approved by the Food and Drug Administration that show a strong link based on scientific evidence between a food substance and a disease or health condition These approved claims can state only that a food substance reduces the risk of certain health problems not that it can treat or cure a disease Two examples of approved claims are The vitamin folic acid may reduce the risk of neural tube defect affected pregnancies and Calcium may reduce the risk of the bone disease osteoporosis Dietary supplements also may carry claims in their labeling that describe the effect of a substance in maintaining the body s normal structure or function as long as the claims don t imply the product treats or cures a disease The FDA does not review or authorize these claims An example of such a claim is Product B promotes healthy joints and bones When a dietary supplement is promoted with a claim like this the claim must be accompanied with the disclaimer This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration This product is not intended to diagnose treat cure or prevent disease Safety Concerns Prescription drugs must undergo clinical testing and receive the FDA s full review for safety and effectiveness before they are sold Over the counter medicines are subject to the OTC drug review process which determines safety and effectiveness of the products Dietary supplements are not required to undergo government testing or review before they are marketed Yet supplements may have drug like effects that could present risks for people on certain medicines or with certain medical conditions This is true even if the product is marketed as natural For example St John s Wort can have potentially dangerous interactions with a number of prescription drugs including anticoagulants oral contraceptives antidepressants antiseizure medicines drugs for HIV and drugs to prevent transplant rejection If you take a prescription medicine always consult your healthcare professional before starting a dietary supplement Some dietary supplement substances require further scrutiny and study before they can be considered safe for all people Though many supplements have a history of use that history does not necessarily guarantee safety in every circumstance Some substances for which safety concerns have been raised are comfrey chaparral lobelia germander aristolochia ephedra ma huang L tryptophan germanium magnolia stephania and stimulant laxative ingredients such as those found in dieter s teas The herb comfrey for example contains certain alkaloids that can cause serious liver damage Consumers should not take any product containing comfrey either orally or as a suppository and should not apply comfrey products to broken skin Even some vitamins

    Original URL path: http://lifealert.org/articles/healthclaims.htm (2016-04-26)
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  • How to Spot Health Fraud
    cancer in days Be wary of talk that suggests a product can bring quick relief or provide a quick cure especially if the disease or condition is serious Even with proven treatments few diseases can be treated quickly Note also that the words in days can really refer to any length of time Fraud promoters like to use ambiguous language like this to make it easier to finagle their way out of any legal action that may result Product No 2 Over the counter transdermal weight loss patch FDA issued a warning letter to the marketer of the weight loss product described here because it did not have an approved new drug application Because of the newness of the dosage form skin delivery systems FDA requires evidence of effectiveness in the form of a new drug application before the product can be marketed legally Natural Healthy simple and natural way to help you lose and control your weight Don t be fooled by the term natural It s often used in health fraud as an attention grabber it suggests a product is safer than conventional treatments But the term doesn t necessarily equate to safety because some plants for example poisonous mushrooms can kill when ingested And among legitimate drug products says Shelly Maifarth a compliance officer and health fraud coordinator for FDA s Denver district office 60 percent of over the counter drugs and 25 percent of prescription drugs are based on natural ingredients And any product synthetic or natural potent enough to work like a drug is going to be potent enough to cause side effects Time Tested or New Found Treatment This revolutionary innovation is formulated by using proven principles of natural health based upon 200 years of medical science Usually it s one or the other but this claim manages to suggest it s both a breakthrough and a decades old remedy Claims of an innovation miracle cure exclusive product or new discovery or magical are highly suspect If a product was a cure for a serious disease it would be widely reported in the media and regularly prescribed by health professionals not hidden in an obscure magazine or newspaper ad late night television show or Website promotion where the marketers are of unknown questionable or nonscientific backgrounds The same applies to products purported to be ancient remedies or based on folklore or tradition These claims suggest that these products longevity proves they are safe and effective But some herbs reportedly used in ancient times for medicinal purposes carry risks identified only recently Satisfaction Guaranteed Guarantee If after 30 days you have not lost at least 4 pounds each week your uncashed check will be returned to you Here s another red flag money back guarantees no questions asked Good luck getting your money back Marketers of fraudulent products rarely stay in the same place for long Because customers won t be able to find them the marketers can afford to be generous with their guarantees

    Original URL path: http://lifealert.org/articles/healthfraud.htm (2016-04-26)
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