Consumer Health Digest #14-07
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
March 2, 2014
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.
FDA launches anti-cigarette offensive. The FDA has begun a year-long national public education campaign to reduce the number of children ages 12 to 17 who become regular smokers. "The Real Cost" campaign is the first of several planned strategies using the authority granted under the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. Some messages dramatize the health consequences of smoking by graphically depicting tooth loss and skin damage. Others portray cigarette addiction as a loss of control to a "bully," an approach that the agency hopes will disrupt the beliefs of youth who think they will not get addicted and can quit at any time. Others highlight the fact that menthol cigarettes cause the same health consequences as regular cigarettes. [FDA launches its first national public education campaign to prevent, reduce youth tobacco use. FDA news release, Feb 4, 2014]
Pediatricians issue raw milk policy. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has published a policy statement warning against consumption of unpasteurized (raw) milk and milk products. [AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases and Committee on Nutrition. Consumption of raw or unpasteurized milk and milk products by pregnant women and children . Pediatrics 133:175-179, 2014] The document notes:
- Raw milk and milk products from cows, goats, and sheep continue to be a source of bacterial infections attributable to virulent pathogens, including Listeria monocytogenes, Campylobacter jejuni, Salmonella and Brucella species, and Escherichia coli O157.
- From 1998 through 2009, consumption of raw milk or milk products in the United States have resulted in at least 93 illness outbreaks, 1837 illnesses, 195 hospitalizations, and 2 deaths.
- These infections can occur in healthy and immunocompromised individuals, including older adults, infants, young children, and pregnant women and their unborn fetuses, in whom life-threatening infections and fetal miscarriage can occur.
- Efforts to limit the sale of raw milk products have met with opposition by proponents who claim that pasteurization destroys or neutralizes important nutrients in milk. However, scientific analyses have demonstrated that pasteurized milk confers equivalent nutritional benefits without the additional risk of infections.
- Raw milk and milk products can still be legally sold in at least 30 states in the United States. The AAP believes that such sale should be banned.
Nazis contributed to "alternative medicine." By creating the profession of heilpraktikers ("practical healers"), Hitler and his Nazi colleagues played a major role in initiating what is now called "alternative medicine" in Germany. Goebbels did this to keep the civilians happy because as soon as a war could be arranged, the real doctors were going to be sent off to tend the troops. The Nazis conducted tests and actually realized that practical healing didn't work. Goebbels' law, as well as legitimizing its practitioners, was intended to prohibit further training so that their numbers would dwindle after the war ended. However, in 1957 the heilpraktikers got a court judgment overturning this restriction—and some of their approaches are also offered by physicians. [Fraser M. Hitler's contribution to "alternative medicine." Quackwatch, Feb 17, 2014]
Activists call for "bile farming" ban. Using social media and other tools, animal rights activists around the world are urging China and Vietnam to prohibit farmers from keeping bears in captivity and harvesting their bile for alleged medical purposes. The nonprofit group Animals Asia has collected more than 96,000 signatures so far on a petition asking Chinese officials to end the "barbaric practice" of bear bile farming. The group says:
- More than 10,000 bears—mainly moon bears, but also sun bears and brown bears—are kept on bile farms in China, and around 2,400 in Vietnam. The bears are milked regularly for their bile, which is used in traditional medicine.
- Bile is extracted using various painful, invasive techniques, all of which cause massive infection in the bears. This cruel practice continues despite the availability of a large number of effective and affordable herbal and synthetic alternatives.
- Most farmed bears are kept in tiny cages. In China, the cages are sometimes so small that the bears are unable to turn around or stand on all fours. Some bears are put into cages as cubs and never released. Bears may be kept caged like this for up to 30 years. Most farmed bears are starved, dehydrated and suffer from multiple diseases and malignant tumors that ultimately kill them.
This page was revised on March 2, 2014.