Consumer Health Digest #11-28

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
September 1, 2011

Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., with help from William M. London, Ed.D., M.P.H. It summarizes scientific reports; legislative developments; enforcement actions; news reports; Web site evaluations; recommended and nonrecommended books; and other information relevant to consumer protection and consumer decision-making.

USDA food guidance system changing. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, is changing the form of its food guidance system, which is intended to provide practical advice for implementing the U.S. Dietary Guidelines. From 1992 through early this year, USDA used a pyramid to depict its overall dietary advice. In June 2011, it began using a plate to simplify its graphic and make the recommended food-group proportions more obvious. The MyPlate logo was released with several tips:

  • Balance calories.
  • Enjoy your food, but eat less.
  • Avoid oversized portions.
  • Eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fat-free or 1% milk and dairy products.
  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Make half your grains whole grains.
  • Cut back on foods high in solid fats, added sugars, and salt.
  • Compare sodium in foods.
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

The Web site (formerly called offers a dietary assessment and links to nutrient information. (Click on "Interactive Tools.") After providing a day's worth of dietary information, the user receives an overall evaluation that compares the amounts of food consumed to current nutritional guidelines. To better understand their diet over time, registered users can track what they eat for up to one year. There is also a physical activity assessment that is accompanied by detailed advice.

IOM issues reassuring vaccine report. The Institute of Medicine has reviewed more than 1,000 published research articles and concluded that whereas no vaccine is 100% safe, very few adverse events are shown to be caused by vaccines. In addition, the report concluded that vaccines do not cause several conditions of recent concern:

In 1900, for every 1000 babies born in the United States, 100 would die before their first birthday, often due to infectious diseases. Today, effective vaccines exist for many bacterial and viral illnesses. Full copies of the 665-page report, The Adverse Effects of Vaccines, are downloadable free of charge from the National Academies Press Web site.

FDA urged to get tougher on homeopathy. The Center for Inquiry and Committee for Skeptical Inquiry have filed three petitions asking the FDA to address various aspects of the homeopathic marketing.

Many homeopathic products—including Oscillococcinum—contain no molecules of the original substance(s).

FDA regulations require the FDA to respond to citizen petitions with 180 days. However, a similar petition, filed in 1994 by Dr. Stephen Barrett and 41 other concerned persons, received no response. Homeowatch has additional information about Oscillococcinum.

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This page was posted on September 2, 2011.