Document Directory

11 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Deadliest pollutants banned by UN accord
09 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Parents are urged to cut children's use of mobiles
09 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Hands-free mobiles lose safety approval
09 Dec 00 - Food Safety - New tip for safer smoking
08 Dec 00 - Food Safety - £7m for mobile health research
07 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Food poisoning alert over pork
06 Dec 00 - Food Safety - 'Washing-up is bad for your health'
06 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Dirty secret of the tea towel
05 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Healthier meals come at a price in company canteens
04 Dec 00 - Food Safety - McDonalds fried chicken head 'a mystery'
03 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Revealed - highest radiation phones
01 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Bayer Contests Proposed U.S. Ban on Poultry Drug
01 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Pesticides found in 'organic' baby food
30 Nov 00 - Food Safety - Chicken head served up at McDonald's restaurant
19 Nov 00 - Food Safety - Mercury thermometers condemned as dangerous
16 Nov 00 - Food Safety - TB beef may be banned from food
15 Nov 00 - Food Safety - Women 'are at greater risk from smoking'
06 Nov 00 - Food Safety - Garden pesticide link to Parkinson's
06 Nov 00 - Food Safety - Junk food blamed for huge rise in diabetes
06 Nov 00 - Food Safety - Possible link between pesticide and Parkinson's disease
04 Nov 00 - Food Safety - Organic farmers 'can't meet soaring demand'
02 Nov 00 - Food Safety - Poultry drug could put humans at risk
02 Nov 00 - Food Safety - Telling the truth on food
18 Oct 00 - Food Safety - Fatty diet helps cause breast cancer by killing nutrient, study shows
13 Oct 00 - Food Safety - High-fibre supplement linked to cancer risk
13 Oct 00 - Food Safety - Tobacco giant admits cigarettes are addictive
13 Oct 00 - Food Safety - Fibre 'can raise risk of bowel cancer'



11 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Deadliest pollutants banned by UN accord

By Nick Nuttall, Environment Correspondent

Times ... Monday 11 December 2000


An agreement to eliminate the world's most harmful pollutants, known as the "Dirty Dozen", was reached yesterday by more than 120 countries including Britain.

The United Nations Environment Programme accord will prohibit or heavily restrict the manufacture and use of eight pesticides, two chemicals plus dioxins and furans, which are two by-products of combustion.

The dozen, known as Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPS), have been linked to cancer, birth defects and lower sperm counts.

Peter Hinchcliffe, head of the chemicals and biotechnology division at the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, said after the talks in Johannesburg: "We've got a convention that binds parties to prohibit the production and use of the Dirty Dozen." Industrialised nations have already banned many of the pollutants, but they are still used in the developing world. "It does not matter where you are in the world, you are still exposed," Dr Hinchcliffe said. The deal requires rich nations, such as Britain, to pay developing countries to phase out the pollutants, use alternatives and destroy stockpiles. They have been given a five-year deadline to halt the use of the ten pesticides and chemicals covered by the UN accord. If they fail, the countries will be required to justify their continued use of them.

Dr Hinchcliffe said that Britain and the other European Union states were particularily pleased at the restrictions on dioxins and furans, some of which are emitted by British chemical plants . "One of the successes for the European Union team was to ensure that we got in the goal of the ultimate elimination of these by-product POPs," he said. Next year British industry will have to declare the estimated tonnages of dioxins and furans being produced and make proposals to eliminate them.

The agreement, which will be signed in Stockholm in May, had been in doubt. It was feared that differences between the United States, Canada and Japan with Europe could have caused the talks to collapse in a similar way to the global warming convention in The Hague last month. A Greenpeace spokeswoman said of the deal: "It sends a clear message to industry that they must reform and stop using the world as a dumping ground for their dangerous pollutants".


09 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Parents are urged to cut children's use of mobiles

By David Derbyshire, Science Correspondent

Telegraph ... Saturday 9 December 2000


Parents should limit their children's use of mobile phones in case a health problem emerges in years to come, the Government urged yesterday.

The possible health risks of mobiles are to be highlighted in a £7 million scheme in which more than a million leaflets will be sent to post offices, shops and libraries. An inquiry, led by Sir William Stewart, the former chief scientific adviser, concluded that there was no evidence of a health threat but said use by children should be limited as a precaution.

The leaflet drop was disclosed as part of the Health Department's research programme into the potential health effects of phones and transmitters. Details of an audit of base stations to assess radiation emission, starting with those near school buildings, were also announced. Prof Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer, said: "It is essential that we provide people with the evidence on the issue to allow them to make an informed choice about using their mobile phones."

The new leaflet states: "The balance of current research evidence suggests that exposures to radio waves below levels set out in international guidelines do not cause health problems for the general population. However, there is some evidence that changes in brain activity can occur below these guidelines, but it isn't clear why. There are significant gaps in our scientific knowledge."

Anyone concerned about the potential, if unproven, risk should keep their calls short and consider buying a less powerful phone. Young people are encouraged to use mobiles for essential purposes only, and to keep calls short. Experts regard children as being at special risk because they have thin skulls and a developing immune system.

The leaflets signal a U-turn over hands-free kits. The Department of Trade and Industry had said the kits could reduce radiation exposure but, after a series of conflicting studies, including two by the Consumers Association that found that kits increased emission to parts of the brain, their effectiveness was seen as uncertain. From next year, mobile phones will carry a label showing how much energy they emit. Half of the £7 million research fund will come from the mobile phone industry.

Penny Young, a Consumers' Association director, said: "The Government's adoption of the precautionary principle represents a sea change in the communication of risk and is to be applauded." The Federation of the Electronics Industry (FEI), which represents mobile phone manufacturers, said customer health and safety was a "priority".

A spokesman said: "The precautionary approach recommended by the Stewart Report and endorsed by the Government is based on a 'risk of a risk', and parents will need to weigh up a number of considerations when making choices about their children's mobile phone use. These include the security benefits provided by parents being able to stay in touch with their children." The FEI said mobiles used with or without a hands-free kit "meet relevant radio frequency exposure guidelines".


09 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Hands-free mobiles lose safety approval

By Mark Henderson, Science Correspondent

Times ... Saturday 9 December 2000


The Government changed its advice yesterday on the use of hands-free kits with mobile phones, after suggestions that the devices could increase the exposure to microwave radiation.

New safety leaflets will point out that the usefulness of the kits is uncertain, in stark contrast to previous advice that strongly recommended their use. Studies of hands-free kits will be included in a £7 million research programme investigating health fears about mobile phones.

Patricia Hewitt, the e-commerce Minister, offered "unambiguous advice" in August that hands-free kits lowered exposure to microwaves, after a study by the Department of Trade and Industry. The Consumers' Association published research last month indicating that the kits could increase levels of radiation reaching the brain by up to 3.5 times.

Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer, said yesterday that the Government had revised its position in light of the study. "Common sense might suggest that not using a handset would reduce exposure, but tests so far have been conflicting," he said.

"We don't have good enough science so far to say definitely one way or another. Further research is being conducted urgently to provide an answer to this question."

In the Consumers' Assocation study, tests on ten phones suggested that kits can work as aerials in some positions, magnifying the amount of radiation entering the body. Some scientists questioned the results, pointing out that they were not published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, the standard procedure for such research.

Professor Donaldson said that the new £7 million research programme, funded jointly by the Government and the mobile phone industry, will also examine whether or not the radiation emitted by handsets and communication masts can affect brain cells or cause cancer. The research will be overseen by a task force chaired by Sir William Stewart, a former chief scientific adviser who led an independent expert group to consider mobile phone safety.

Sir William's report, published in May, found no clear health risks attributable to mobile phones but nevertheless recommended funding new research into safety, and taking a precautionary approach to their use, particularly among children.

The new leaflet, which will be given to phone buyers, advises strongly that children should be encouraged to use them only for essential calls, in line with the recommendations of Sir William's report.

Sir William found there was preliminary evidence that radiation from handsets might cause subtle biological changes in the brain and that any effects were likely to be more pronounced in children, because of their thinner skulls and developing brains.

About a quarter of the 30 million mobile phones in Britain are thought to belong to children under 16. The leaflet also suggests that all users, including adults, should keep calls as brief as possible, and advises customers to check the specific absorption rate (SAR) for a handset before buying. This measures the rate at which radiation from a mobile phone is absorbed by the body.

SAR values for phones with the lowest radiation emissions are up to six times lower than those for the worst-performing handsets.

Professor Donaldson said: "It is essential that we provide people with the evidence on this issue to allow them to make an informed choice."

The leaflets, which will also be available at post offices, supermarkets and doctors' surgeries, underline that the main health effect of mobile phones noticed by researchers is the fact that drivers are at greater risk of crashing while talking into the handsets.


09 Dec 00 - Food Safety - New tip for safer smoking

By Mark Henderson, Science Correspondent

Times ... Saturday 9 December 2000


Cigarette filters made from a new material can dramatically reduce harmful chemicals reaching the lungs, Dutch scientists announced yesterday.

The use of the substance known as a network-shaped polymer in filters cuts levels of tar by up to seven times and levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) by as much as 15 times, researchers from Wageningen and Maastricht Universities have discovered.

They called on the tobacco industry and European Governments to fund further research. John Carlisle of the Tobacco Manufacturers Association said: "Without a full appraisal by our scientists, it is difficult to say what the implications could be. The industry will certainly want to investigate these claims."


08 Dec 00 - Food Safety - £7m for mobile health research

Staff Reporter

BBC ... Friday 8 December 2000


Ministers and industry are to fund a £7m research programme into the health effects of mobile phone use, it was announced on Friday.

In addition, leaflets informing the public about the known risks of using mobiles will be given out with each new one sold.

This will advise users to keep calls short, and discourage children from using mobiles except for emergency calls.

The government is responding to the Stewart Inquiry, which recommended a precautionary approach after examining all the current scientific evidence on phone safety.

The leaflets will also contain advice about the risks of living or working next to mobile phone base stations and radio masts.

An audit of base stations is to be carried out by the Radio Communications Agency, focusing particularly on those sited close to schools.

England's Chief Medical Officer, Professor Liam Donaldson, said: "It is essential that we provide people with the evidence on this issue to allow them to make an informed choice about using their mobile phone.

"On the basis of the precautionary approach outlined in the Stewart report, the leaflets provide advice that, if you use a mobile phone, you can choose to minimise your exposure to radio waves by keeping your calls short.

"In the case of children and young people under the age of 16, the UK Chief Medical Officers strongly advise that they should be encouraged to use mobile phones for essential purposes only and to keep all calls short.

The government advice is that consumers check the "specific absorption rate" (SAR) value which is given for each mobile.

This measures the rate at which radiation from the handset is absorbed by the body, and there are wide variations between different makes of phone.

A European standard in SAR is due to be introduced next year.

A task force to oversee the research programme is to be chaired by Sir William Stewart, who led the original inquiry team.

'Subtle biological changes'

His report said while there was no strong evidence that health could be damaged by the phones, there was "preliminary" evidence that subtle biological changes could take place.

The extra precautions for younger mobile users were recommended because any emerging health effects might well be more pronounced in the developing brains of young people.

Their thinner skulls might also afford less protection against the radiowave radiation emitted by the phones, should that prove to be a hazard.

Statistics suggest that there are 25m mobile phones in use in the UK - a quarter of these belong to the under-18s.

Car crashes

The main health effect noticed by researchers is the fact that drivers are at more risk of crashes while talking into the handsets.

Sir Liam Donaldson said: "What is clear is that using a mobile phone whilst driving significantly increases the risk of an accident. Even using a hands-free kit whilst driving increases the risk, because it distracts the driver's attention from the road."

Mobile phone safety remains highly controversial among scientists.

Some claim that symptoms such as headache , memory loss and sleeping disorders could be caused by excessive mobile phone use.

Other scientists believe that the phones may even cause brain tumours in a tiny number of cases.

Even hands-free kits, which claim to reduce exposure to the radiowave radiation by moving the handset further from the ear, have been criticised.

Australian scientists claimed that the wire leading to the earpiece could actually intensify the radiation received by the brain rather than reduce it.

However, these findings have been heavily criticised by other researchers.

The electronics industry maintains that the government is issuing simple advice, rather than a health warning, as there is still no evidence to suggest a health risk.


07 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Food poisoning alert over pork

By David Brown, Agriculture Editor

Telegraph ... Thursday 7 December 2000


People will be urged today to cook pork thoroughly after Government scientists found that hundreds of thousands of pigs slaughtered in Britain each year are contaminated with food poisoning bacteria .

Salmonella of various types have been discovered in 5.3 per cent of carcasses in abattoirs during checks by the Ministry of Agriculture. Many of the strains are resistant to antibiotics. This compares with findings of salmonella in only 0.2 per cent of cattle and 0.1 per cent of sheep at abattoirs.

About 13 million pigs have been slaughtered for pork and bacon over the past 12 months. Information to be published today suggests that up to 700,000 of them could have had some form of the bacteria by the time they reached the butcher's hook.

The ministry has been able to quantify the extent of the problem for the first time by making a special study of animals after slaughter. It calculates that nearly 23 per cent of Britain's pigs, more than four million animals, are affected by salmonella .

The Food Standards Agency and the Meat and Livestock Commission will urge people to cook pork thoroughly and pay attention to basic kitchen hygiene to cut the risk of stomach upsets or gastro-enteritis. A code of practice to help farmers and the trade to reduce salmonella will also be launched by the ministry and the commission. It is to be incorporated immediately in farm assurance schemes.

Information will be provided at a conference in London today on the risks to people from infections in cattle, sheep and pigs . It is sponsored by the ministry, Department of Health, Food Standards Agency, Scottish Executive and National Assembly of Wales. A senior Ministry official said: "We always knew that salmonella was around in pigs. We have just found a way of establishing a base-line for it."

The Food Standards Agency, which has a target of cutting food-borne illnesses by 20 per cent over five years, said: "As long as meat is handled, stored and cooked thoroughly, that should kill any bacteria."

The Meat and Livestock Commission said: "Pork should be cooked to a temperature of 70C in the centre. For those without thermometers, they should cook the meat until juices run clear." A spokesman added that 60 per cent of salmonella in pigs did not affect humans.

Government experts will also report that 94.5 per cent of live pigs are contaminated with campylobacter , the most common cause of gastric illness in humans. Only 3.8 per cent of pigs with campylobacter had the jejuni strain - the one most common in people, but many had coli strains, which also cause illnesses in people.

According to other reports to be submitted today, more than 26 per cent of pigs carry yersinia , a food poisoning bacteria known to affect about 100 people a year. Government experts admit that it is impossible to wipe out food poisoning bacteria on farms. The salmonella, campylobacter and yersinia bacteria are widespread in the environment and huge numbers of British pigs are kept outdoors for animal welfare reasons.

As the experts admit that they do not have the knowledge to control campylobacter and yersinia infections on farms, precautions against food poisoning have to be taken in the kitchen.


06 Dec 00 - Food Safety - 'Washing-up is bad for your health'

By John von Radowitz

Independent ... Wednesday 6 December 2000


Washing-up bowls and reusable dish cloths should be banned from the kitchen, food bug experts said yesterday.

They also agreed that anti-bacterial washing-up liquids and chopping boards may do more harm than good.

Professor Hugh Pennington, of the University of Aberdeen, one of Britain's leading infection experts, said: "I would like to get rid of washing-up bowls altogether. They are an absolute menace."

Placing chopping boards and knives teeming with germs with plates and glasses in a plastic bowl encouraged cross-contamination, he said.

Professor Sally Bloomfield, from King's College, London, said there was a high risk of salmonella being transmitted from chopping boards to plates in the washing-up bowl.

The specialists also said that disposable paper cloths should be used instead of tea towels and recommended using "good old fashioned bleach" in the kitchen rather than newer anti-bacterial products, to control the spread of germs.

There were more than 17,000 reported cases of salmonella poisoning in England and Wales last year and 55,000 cases of infection by campylobacter, a bug that causes stomach upsets. Estimates for unreported cases pushed up the number of salmonella infections to more than 50,000 and campylobacter infections to more than 400,000.

Professor Pennington recommended getting rid of the washing-up bowl and instead use the whole sink. "It's basically common sense," he said. Hisadvice for washing-up was to first run the items under the tap "to get rid of the basic grot". Then they should be washed in a large volume of water containing an effective detergent such as bleach. This should be followed by a final rinse with running hot water. The aim was to mimic what happened in a washing-up machine, the professor said.

Plates should be allowed to dry naturally rather than being mopped with a cloth which might be contaminated.


06 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Dirty secret of the tea towel

By Nigel Hawkes, Health Editor

Times ... Wednesday 6 December 2000


There is good news for everyone who hates drying the dishes. Leaving dishes to drain, a habit abominated by houseproud oldies, is claimed to be much more hygienic than a tea towel.

The advice comes from Professor Hugh Pennington of Aberdeen University, who adds that washing-up bowls should be banned from the kitchen along with dish cloths.

Lest this be dismissed as a typically male view, he was backed by a woman, Professor Sally Bloomfield of King's College, London. The two were talking on the eve of a home hygiene conference in London, hosted by the International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene and the Public Health Laboratory Service with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Professor Pennington said: "I would like to get rid of washing-up bowls altogether. They are an absolute menace."

Placing chopping boards and knives teeming with germs together with plates and glasses in a plastic bowl was just asking for cross-contamination, he said. There was a high risk of salmonella being transmitted from chopping boards to plates.

His washing-up advice was to first run the items under the tap "to get rid of the basic grot". Then they should be washed in a large volume of water containing an effective detergent. This should be followed by a rinse. Plates should be stacked up to dry.

Both experts recommended that disposable paper cloths should be used instead of tea towels and dish cloths. They also recommended using "good old fashioned bleach" in the kitchen rather than newer anti-bacterial products that were only vaguely effective.


05 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Healthier meals come at a price in company canteens

Kevin Maguire

Guardian ... Tuesday 5 December 2000


Pies, chips and beans are giving way to stuffed peppers, nut cutlets and fresh salads as company canteens catch up with healthy living.

Nine in every 10 now offer a daily vegetarian option compared with only six out of 10 five years ago, according to a survey published today by the union funded Labour Research Department.

Two-thirds also use genetically modified-free ingredients wherever possible and a quarter cater for religious or cultural requirements such as beef or pork-free dishes. A significant minority have even started using organic products as a rule.

The downside is that staff are paying 29% more than five years ago as employers have pushed up prices by double inflation, reducing or withdrawing subsidies and in some cases even shutting canteens.

The average price of tea in the 273 workplaces surveyed was 27p a cup with coffee 31p, a can of soft drink 43p, a snack £1.15, main meal £1.94 and dessert 60p. Smoking is banned in four out of five canteens but in more than a dozen cases employers broke the law by not protecting non-smokers from tobacco smoke.

Segregation whereby managers and the shopfloor were served in separate rooms has virtually disappeared as Japanese-style "one for all" restaurants take over. Public sector workers are being charged more - 17p for a cup of tea - than employees in the private sector who enjoy bigger subsidies. A majority of canteens are contracted out with the Granada Group, including its Compass and Sutcliffe subsidiaries, and Sodexho Alliance, which owns Gardner Merchant, dominating the market.

The Labour Research Department found most staff happy with the quality of food and hygienic standards, if not prices, at work, with a few notable exceptions.

A union official at the driver and vehicle licensing authority in Swansea said a complaint was made to management after it had been "feeding vegetarians meat products in error".


04 Dec 00 - Food Safety - McDonalds fried chicken head 'a mystery'

Ananova

PA News ... Monday 4 December 2000


A food inspector in the US says he can't explain how a fully-fried chicken head ended up in a woman's McDonalds meal .

Dr Mohamed Ibraheim, of the Department of Agriculture, said chickens are usually beheaded before they're boiled and, even if the head made it through this process, two inspections should have found it.

Katherine Ortega said she ordered a box of fried chicken wings at McDonalds in Newport News, Virginia, only to find the head with beak and feathers still visible .

Dr Ibraheim said: "I have no idea how it happened. I have never heard anything like it."

Owner of the restaurant, John E Smith, says he is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery but that he needs to see the head to start his investigation.

He said: "Although I have made several requests to see this object, the customer refuses to give me that opportunity."


03 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Revealed - highest radiation phones



Sunday Times ... Sunday 3 December 2000


Some of Britain's most popular mobile phones emit the highest levels of radiation , according to the largest survey yet conducted on the issue in Europe.

The analysis of 28 handsets shows the model with the highest rating, the Ericsson T28 s, leads to almost six times more radiation being absorbed into the user's head than the lowest, the Nokia 8850 .

The findings emerge as hundreds of thousands of mobile phones are sold in the run-up to Christmas. Last year 4m were bought over the holiday period alone. More than half the British population now own a mobile, and a quarter of them are used by those under 17.

Although none of the phones tested in the survey ( published in Switzerland) broke international safety regulations, some experts believe the approved limits, to guard against heating of the brain by microwaves, may have been set too high because possible health risks are still being investigated.

The new tests were conducted using a method developed by Professor Niels Kuster, of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. EMC, an Australian company, tested 28 of the most popular and newest models available in Europe with Kuster's technique.

Factors such as the position of the aerial and the power of the headset account for much of the difference in levels. Some of the newest models are also the most powerful and have higher emission levels.

Emissions are measured using specific energy absorption rates (SAR), measured in watts per kilogram, which determine the amount of energy absorbed in the user's body.

Despite a lack of firm scientific evidence that radiation poses a danger, the public is becoming increasingly wary about using mobiles. Steve Rudkin, 30, an electrical contractor from Stamford, Lincolnshire, said: "I am on the phone an hour and a half every day with my job. I found I was getting severe headaches."

Rudkin switched to using a hands-free kit, where an earpiece is used instead of holding the telephone directly to the ear. Since then the headaches have gone.

Some experts, though, believe hands-free kits may act as extra aerials and increase exposure to radiation.

The Metropolitan police, in common with several other organisations, has advised employees to limit mobile phone use on a "precautionary" principle, and a planned government leaflet will advise children not to use the phones for unnecessary calls.

The most recent review of international research, published last month in The Lancet, concluded that mobile phones have been shown to cause brain disturbances such as memory loss.

Dr Gerard Hyland, a physicist from the University of Warwick, wrote: "Although safety guidelines do protect against excessive microwave heating, there is evidence that the low-

intensity, pulsed radiation used can exert subtle, non-thermal influences. If these influences entail adverse health consequences, current guidelines would be inadequate."

Hyland said children could be at greatest risk because their skulls were thinner and their immune system was still developing.

A government-funded inquiry earlier this year, chaired by Sir William Stewart, found there was insufficient evidence to say whether the radiation was harmful. Stewart said there was no proof the phones caused cancer, but concluded: "There is scientific evidence which suggests that there may be biological effects below the [safety] guidelines."

An Ericsson spokesman said: "All our phones are carefully designed and rigorously tested to comply with all relevant safety standards and government regulations, which include a substantial safety margin." He said the company would publish SAR information when the European standard had been established.

A spokeswoman for the Federation of the Electronics Industry, which represents manufacturers, said: "All mobile phones used in Britain operate within international exposure guidelines."

She said that when a new European standard for measuring SAR ratings was agreed, probably next year, the industry would publish the values.

However, Roger Woods, corporate public relations manager for Philips, acknowledged there were health concerns: "We try to keep the emissions of our UK phones as low as possible."

MAKE & MODEL - SAR-worth¹ - RATING CLASS (BAG recommendation) - LOAD EVALUATION

NOKIA 8850 - 0.22 - smaller than 12.5% - very small

TRIUM Aria - 0.48 - 12.5-25% - small

NOKIA 8890 - 9.53 - 25-50% - Medium

MOTOROLA T2288 - 0.54 - 25-50% - Medium

ERICSSON T18s - 0.61 - 25-50% - Medium

NOKIA 6150 - 0.71 - 25-50% - Medium

NOKIA 8210 - 0.72 - 25-50% - Medium

NOKIA 3310 - 0.75 25-50% - Medium

NOKIA 7110 - 0.76 - 25-50% - Medium

ERICSSON A2618s - 0.79 - 25-50% - Medium

BOSCH GSM 909 - 0.81 25-50% - Medium

NOKIA 3210 - 0.81 - 25-50% - Medium

MOTOROLA P7389 - 0.83 - 25-50% - Medium

ERICSSON R310s - 0.94 - 25-50% - medium - - ERICSSON R320s - 0.94 - 25-50% - medium - - SIEMENS S35I - 0.99 - 25-50% - medium - - BENEFON Twin Dual - 1.01 - 50-100% - strong - - SWISSCOM Trend G366 - 1.05 - 50-100% - strong - - SONY CMD-Z5 - 1.06 - 50-100% - strong - - PANASONIC EB GD92 - 1.07 - 50-100% - strong - - MOTOROLA V3690 - 1.13 - 50-100% - strong - - SIEMENS M35i - 1.14 - 50-100% - strong - - SAMSUNG SGH 2400 - 1.17 - 50-100% - strong - - SIEMENS C35i - 1.19 - 50-100% - strong - - NOKIA 6210 - 1.19 - 50-100% - strong - - NEC DB4000 - 1.23 - 50-100% - strong - - ERICSSON T28s - 1.27 - 50-100% - strong - Source: K-Tip magazine. Tests carried out by EMC

¹ Emissions have been measured using specific energy absorption rates (SAR), measured in watts per kilogram of bodyweight


01 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Bayer Contests Proposed U.S. Ban on Poultry Drug

By Lisa Richwine

Altavista ... Friday 1 December 2000


Washington (Reuters) - Bayer Corp. on Thursday challenged a U.S. proposal to ban use of an antibiotic in poultry that regulators hold partly responsible for resistance to infection-fighting drugs needed for people .

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it received a request from Bayer to hold a hearing on the drug, Baytril, setting off a process that could take months to resolve.

Baytril belongs to a family of potent antibiotics known as fluoroquinolones that doctors consider a valuable weapon against food poisoning and other serious infections in humans.

The FDA believes widespread use by livestock farmers is one reason the drugs are growing resistant to some germs.

Since the mid-1990s, when farmers started using fluoroquinolones to fight infections in poultry, researchers have seen the drugs become less powerful against campylobacter , the leading bacterial cause of food-borne illness in humans.

Officials at Bayer Corp., a unit of German chemical group Bayer AG , could not be reached for comment about their request for a hearing.

In October, when the FDA proposed banning Baytril and another drug, Bayer said campylobacter resistance was not increasing among chickens.

The company and the National Chicken Council, an industry group, also said that fluoroquinolones were the most effective drugs for fighting infections that can wipe out half or more of an entire flock.

Public health groups criticized Bayer's decision, saying any delay in removing the drug would make more humans vulnerable to stubborn infections.

Bayer is "playing chicken with public health. They are going to delay the withdrawal of the drug for months, if not years," said Environmental Defense senior attorney Karen Florini.

The FDA has proposed barring poultry farmers from using two antibiotics, Bayer's Baytril and Abbott Laboratories' Sara Flox . Abbott decided to immediately withdraw its drug.

What concerns the FDA and others is broad use of antibiotics on chicken and turkey farms. Typically, farmers add antibiotics to drinking water for an entire flock when a bird becomes infected.

When bacteria gain repeated exposure to an antibiotic, they learn to outsmart the bugs. Humans then pick up the resistant bacteria when they eat or handle contaminated meat.

Campylobacter infects about 2 million Americans per year. The infections can be life-threatening to the elderly and people with weakened immune systems.

Testing by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found about 18 percent of campylobacter samples were resistant to fluoroquinolones in 1999, up from 13 percent in 1998.

If that trend continues, "we can't even imagine what it would do in another five years. It would definitely make the drug useless for these food-borne infections," said Tamar Barlam, an infectious disease expert with the consumer group Center for Science in the Public Interest.

An FDA spokesman said the agency would review carefully Bayer's request before deciding how to respond.


01 Dec 00 - Food Safety - Pesticides found in 'organic' baby food

By Marie Woolf, Chief Political Correspondent

Independent ... Friday 1 December 2000


Residues of potentially harmful pesticides have been found in several brands of baby food - including an organic variety certified chemical-free .

Tests by the Government's official watchdog on pesticides found that popular babyfood brands, including Baby Organix and Milupa , contained traces of chemicals used on fruit.

The study, published yesterday by the Pesticide Residues Committee, was carried out between January and June this year. It found that baby foods sold at Boots , Sainsbury's , Waitrose and Tesco had traces of pesticides , including carbendazim , which is feared to disrupt hormones.

The discovery of traces of chlormequat , a pesticide used to improve the growth of fruit, in a sample of food made by Baby Organix , the oldest organic baby food company in the UK, has prompted an urgent inquiry at the company's Dorset headquarters.

The founder and managing director of the organic food firm, Elizabeth Vann, said she was "absolutely appalled" by the findings and was reviewing suppliers and safety checks to ensure that all her products were chemical-free. She said she believed that chemicals drifting from neighbouring non-organic crops may be to blame for the breach in standards. The UK Register of Organic Food Standards has been alerted about the discovery of the chemical

Over one-third of all baby foods now sold in Britain are organic because of parent's fears about the effects of pesticide residues on their children.

New regulations introduced in the UK this summer, which come into legal force in two years, have imposed tight new limits on pesticide traces in baby food of 0.01 per cent.

Manufacturers claim they are trying to eliminate traces of chemicals before the deadline. However, yesterday's report found that a sample of Milupa's peach and raspberry babyfood, sold at Waitrose in Milton Keynes, contained residues of carbendazim . Tests on male animals found that the pesticide effected their sperm production .

Food campaigners said the findings had troubling health implications and showed that baby food manufacturers were failing to meet their targets.

"This is extremely worrying because pesticides are particularly dangerous for babies," said Sandra Bell, food specialist at Friends of the Earth. "Babies should not be coming into contact with substances which are hormone-disrupters at a time when their endocrine systems are developing. This shows there has been little progress in eliminating residues in baby food."

The study also found that two brands of peanut butter - including one sold at Sainsbury's - contained DDT , the banned toxic pesticide.

Tests of 35 samples of lettuce found that 69 per cent had pesticide residues. A cocktail of different pesticides were found in 40 per cent of the lettuces.

The Ministry of Agriculturesaid it was taking its watchdog's findings seriously and would prosecute if it found that standards were being deliberately flouted.


30 Nov 00 - Food Safety - Chicken head served up at McDonald's restaurant

Ananova

PA News ... Thursday 30 November 2000


A customer at a McDonald's restaurant in the US is demanding to know how a fried chicken's head found its way into her box of chicken wings .

Katherine Ortega, of Newport News, Virginia, says if she had not been looking closely she could have easily bitten into the head. The beak , cone and some feathers were still visible.

The mother wants to know how the head could have made it past inspectors and into the hands of a customer.

"I usually look at my food but I shouldn't have to look that closely to see that. My five-year-old probably wouldn't have looked. He probably would have thought it was a chicken leg and eaten it," she said.

Ms Ortega says she refused an offer from the manager at the restaurant for more chicken and the return of the chicken's head to the distribution company.

Officials from the health department who inspected the rest of the bag of chicken wings did not find anything unusual, reports 13 News. The incident was reported to the Department of Agriculture.

McDonald's says it will look into the alleged incident, stating that food safety is its top priority .


19 Nov 00 - Food Safety - Mercury thermometers condemned as dangerous

By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor

Independent ... Sunday 19 November 2000


Traditional mercury thermometers , for decades the parents' standby, are being banned in the US as dangerous to children and the environment . Several states and cities are prohibiting their sale and the country's hospitals are beginning to phase them out. Though British authorities have yet to investigate the issue, the American Hospital Association has signed an agreement with the US Environment Protection Agency "virtually to eliminate mercury containing waste " and, as a result, scores of hospitals around the country are abandoning their old thermometers.

Meanwhile, Boston City Council voted unanimously last week to ban the sale of the thermometers, long seen to be as wholesome and comforting as chicken soup and warm blankets. That city joins San Francisco, Duluth, Minnesota, and Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the state of New Hampshire, among those which have already banned them, while Massachusetts is considering doing so.

The moves follow growing alarm at the hazards of mercury, a highly toxic metal which affects the brain and nervous system . Thermometers are safe while intact, but if they break and the mercury spills out it will slowly evaporate causing, experts say, potentially dangerous levels in indoor air.

Health Care Without Harm, an international coalition of 200 organisations that is spearheading the campaigning against the thermometers, say they can be just as dangerous after they are thrown away. They then end up in rubbish tips, where the mercury can contaminate groundwater , or are incinerated with other waste, causing air pollution .

Partly as a result, lakes all over the US have been poisoned by the toxic metal . The mercury in a single thermometer, says the organisation, is enough to contaminate a 20-acre lake containing five million gallons of water, and all the fish in it.

Thirty-nine American states are now urging people, especially pregnant women, not to eat fish from at least some of their waters. All the lakes in Massachusetts, and 700 lakes and rivers in Minnesota, for example, are covered by such warnings.

The prestigious National Academy of Scientists has estimated that 60,000 American children may develop neurological problems or learning disabilities each year because their mothers ate mercury contaminated fish during pregnancy.

Manufacturers and retailers across the country have pledged to stop making or selling the thermometers and cities from Minneapolis to Washington DC have organised exchanges where people can bring their old thermometers and be given mercury-free ones instead.

Launching the "Mercury-free DC" campaign - which combined thermometer exchanges at the city fire stations with the pledge by the majority of its hospitals to stop using mercury ones - Robert Malson, the chief executive officer of its Hospital Association said: "As we have learned about the environmental and human health risks of mercury, and about the availability of alternatives, we have come to understand the need to phase out the use of this potentially harmful substance."

The British Medical Association said it had never discussed the issue of mercury thermometers, while the Department of Health was unable to comment.


16 Nov 00 - Food Safety - TB beef may be banned from food

By Valerie Elliott, Countryside Editor

Times ... Thursday 16 November 2000


Beef from cattle infected with tuberculosis could be banned from the food chain. Even though 6,890 cattle with TB were slaughtered last year, meat from the diseased animals can still reach the dinner plate - mainly in pies and burgers .

Ministers are uneasy about such meat being for human consumption and have asked the Food Standards Agency to review the risk assessment. The Government is also facing enormous pressure to speed up its programme of culling badgers , thought to be the main transmitter of the disease to cattle.

Baroness Hayman, junior Agriculture Minister, said yesterday that the cull had so far claimed 2,000 badger lives and had cost £6.9 million a year - the equivalent of £7,000 a badger. She believed that 12,500 badgers - out of Britain's 300,000 - would have to be killed before scientists could prove definitively whether badgers had caused the increase in bovine TB.

The Commons Agriculture Select Committee is holding an inquiry into the badger cull and other possible ways to address the problem of bovine TB.


15 Nov 00 - Food Safety - Women 'are at greater risk from smoking'

By Celia Hall, Medical Editor

Telegraph ... Wednesday 15 November 2000


Smoking may have a worse effect on women than on men because of their smaller lung and narrower airways.

Researchers found that one in 10 women who smoked 20 or more cigarettes a day said that she was asthmatic , a trend not seen in male smokers. Dr Arnulf Langhammer, of the Norwegian National Insitute of Public Health, surveyed 65,000 adults betwen 1995 and 1997 and asked them about their respiratory health.

There was no real difference overall between men and women in the amount of wheeziness or breathlessness, but more women than men reported asthma . About a third of men and women were smokers, but in the 20 to 59 age group more women smoked than men.

Dr Langhammer says in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health that when the group of heavy smokers was analysed significantly more women than men had breathing problems . He says the higher rates in women show that women are more susceptible than men to the effects of smoking.


06 Nov 00 - Food Safety - Garden pesticide link to Parkinson's

James Meek, science correspondent

Guardian ... Monday 6 November 2000


It was only ever a matter of time before scientists pointed to one of the toxic agrochemicals pervading the world and linked it to a major disease of unknown cause .

Today, Professor Tim Greenamyre, of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, will do just that - suggesting at a conference in the US that exposure to rotenone could cause Parkinson's disease , the crippling brain illness which brings suffering to 120,000 Britons.

But, ironically, it is a connection that will shake some of the most ardent opponents of the use of synthetic pesticides in farming. For rotenone is no post-war insect killer cooked up in a corporate lab, but a natural product , extracted from the derris plant, and a mainstay of organic farms and gardens .

The findings of Prof Greenamyre and his team, to be published next month in the journal Nature Neuroscience, show that rats repeatedly given rotenone not only develop the symptoms of Parkinson's - trembling and loss of muscle control - but acquire the distinctive microscopic lumps in the brain, known as Lewy bodies , that are a sure sign of the disease.

"These results," the scientists write, "indicate that chronic exposure to a common pesticide can reproduce the anatomical, neurochemical, behavioural and neuropathological features of Parkinson's disease."

A link between pesticides and Parkinson's, which affects the Pope , Michael J Fox and Muhammad Ali , has been suspected for some time.

A review of 19 different studies over the past decade, carried out at the Ohio Medical College last year, reported that most found exposure to pesticides increased the risk of contracting Parkinson's .

Critics of the pesticide theory point out that the mass use of man-made chemicals to control pests only began in the latter half of the last century, whereas James Parkinson first identified the symptoms of what he called "the shaking palsy" back in 1817, and there is evidence that the disease goes back much further.

But rotenone , in the form of the powdered root of the derris plant , was used on a large scale in the industrial world from the mid-19th century onwards . In some countries, it has an even longer history.

Derris-based pesticides are on sale in garden centres across Britain . Rotenone is sometimes used to control populations of fish, for which it is highly toxic.

One bottle of rotenone pesticide on the shelf of a garden shop yesterday was labelled as "a traditional insecticide" and "a natural plant extract."

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Agriculture said yesterday: "It's too early to say what the safety implications of this study might be. It will be put forward to our pesticide safety directorate toxicologists who will decide whether a review of this particular pesticide needs to take place."

Although the Atlanta scientists have pinpointed rotenone, they make it clear that they believe other pesticides which work in the same way could be equally dangerous .

Benoit Gaisson and Virginia Lee, Parkinson's researchers at Pennsylvania University, said the work did raise questions about rotenone's safety.

"Rotenone is a naturally occurring substance that is eventually degraded in the environment, and as such it is considered to be benign compared to many other pesticides," they wrote in Nature Neuroscience. "Whether rotenone exposure contributes to the incidence of Parkinson's disease remains to be determined . Nevertheless, the effects of chronic rotenone administration observed here may be representative of the possible effects of exposure to low amounts of other environmental toxins, yet to be identified."

One theory is that exposure to one or several pesticides combines with an individual's genetic makeup to cause Parkinson's. The Pennsylvania researchers said the fact that the risk of getting Parkinson's rose sharply with age fitted in with the notion of the drip-drip effect of environmental toxins over time .

In Parkinson's, cells in the brain that produce dopamine, which carries signals between nerve cells, begin to die. The reasons are not understood, but a major clue came in the 1980s, when an attempt to create an illegal designer drug went spectacularly wrong . The guinea pigs who took the drug, MPTP, were struck down with a rapid-onset version of Parkinson's.

MPTP interfered with a key component of the dopamine-producing brain cells, the mitochondria , the "power stations" of cells. Rotenone and other pesticides have a similar effect, although rotenone appears to produce symptoms much closer to typical Parkinson's disease than MPTP.

The Atlanta team believes that at the heart of the problem lies a kind of toxic waste produced by the mitrochondria as they generate energy. This waste comes in the form of rogue molecules called free radicals, which barge around the body, damaging vital functions. One theory holds free radicals responsible for normal ageing .

Even in healthy people, the mitochondria in dopamine-producing cells are thought to produce a high level of these free radicals. The Parkinson's-causing effect of pesticides may be to increase the amount of "waste" the mitochondria produce, causing the death of the cells.

'You tell your body to move - and it doesn't'

It seemed trivial yet it was troubling. The instructor at the toddlers' gym where Maureen McHugh had taken her son asked the parents, as part of an exercise, to wiggle their fingers. Her brain responded, but her fingers didn't.

"I couldn't wiggle the fingers in my left hand," said Dr McHugh, 44, a soil scientist from Aberdeenshire. "I started to lose mobility on my left side. Everyday tasks became difficult."

That was in 1996. Despite signs that something was badly wrong, she did not consult a doctor until 1998, when she was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.

"Your brain tells your body to move and it does not," she said. "It's going to get steadily worse. It's not supposed to shorten your life - it just makes life a complete misery."

Since being diagnosed, Dr McHugh has been taking the drug L-dopa, which relieves Parkinson's symptoms. It does nothing to treat the cause, and can itself lead to serious disability after long use. But for the time being it enables her to carry out everyday tasks such as driving and helping her partner David Mills with their children.

"I'm fairly incapable at times," she said. "Before I went on the medicine, I was virtually unable to do anything. Now I can do most normal things in a limited way, although I have to plan in advance."

Dr McHugh has spent hours studying research into Parkinson's. She believes the evidence of a link between the illness and chemicals in the environment is strong . Over the years she has been exposed to different toxic chemicals in her work, but doubts that a single chemical such as rotenone is to blame.

With hopes high that a treatment to end Parkinson's may be on the horizon, Dr McHugh is campaigning with other members of the Special Parkinson's Research Interest Group (Spring) to persuade the government to relax restrictions on scientists who believe the best hope of a cure lies in the using human stem cells to create new nerve cells to replace damaged ones.

The only source of human stem cells is surplus human embryos donated by couples undergoing IVF treatment and at present scientists are barred from using these for research into anything other than fertility problems.

"It's vital that the government make these changes," said Dr McHugh. "The embryos in question are very early. An individual being hasn't been established at that point."


06 Nov 00 - Food Safety - Junk food blamed for huge rise in diabetes

By Helen Studd

Times ... Monday 6 November 2000


Scientists have blamed unhealthy Western lifestyles for an 11 per cent rise in diabetes sufferers over the past five years.

The number of adults afflicted with the disease worldwide has risen to 151 million - five per cent of the total population. Experts are predicting that the figure could double by 2025 as Western eating habits and unhealthy living styles become fashionable around the globe. Trends have revealed that younger people are increasingly likely to fall victim to diabetes , which is controlled either by diet, tablets or insulin injections. More than half of sufferers are aged 20 to 59 , according to research carried out by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF).

Those living in urban areas and on low incomes were three times more likely to suffer as those in rural areas . Diabetes is the fourth leading cause of death in developed countries. About 1.4 million people in Britain have already been diagnosed and a further million have the disease but are unaware of it.

It occurs when the body fails to produce enough insulin or use it effectively and if untreated victims can suffer heart disease , stroke , kidney failure , blindness and amputation .

Doctors have long feared that the rising tide of obesity could trigger an increase . A well-balanced diet and physical exercise lowers blood sugar and helps the body to use it efficiently while being overweight increases the risk.

A total of 20 per cent of women and 17 per cent of men in Britain are classified as obese and half of all adults are considered medically overweight. The National Health Service is believed to spend more money treating diseases resulting from people being overweight than on diseases that result from smoking.

Professor George Alberti, the IDF president, said: "Diabetes can cause an enormous burden to people and economies worldwide and this research should convince governments to put it at the top of the healthcare agenda."

Experts claim that health is deteriorating not because we are consuming more calories, but because we are eating poorer quality food with fewer vegetables and processed meals. The introduction of fatty Western foods, such as fast food, red meat and bread, are said to have led to health problems in Japan and China.

A Diabetes UK spokesman said: "The Government needs to ensure adequate health care resources for all to help avoid the costly long-term effects, such as blindness and heart disease , associated with the condition. The public should be aware of the risk factors of diabetes, such as being overweight , over 40 , having a family history of the disease and being Asian or Afro-Caribbean ."


06 Nov 00 - Food Safety - Possible link between pesticide and Parkinson's disease

Staff Reporter

PA News ... Monday 6 November 2000


New research suggests a commonly used natural pesticide may be putting gardeners at risk of contracting Parkinson's disease.

Experiments on rats conducted by a team of US scientists have demonstrated a strong biochemical link between the pest killer rotenone and major features of Parkinsonism .

About 120,000 mostly elderly people in the UK suffer from Parkinson's, a severely disabling disease which causes muscle rigidity and tremors. Although some cases can be explained by genetic factors, the cause of the majority is unknown.

The US scientists say rats injected with rotenone over a period of several weeks suffered a gradual degeneration of specific brain cells associated with Parkinson's disease .

At the same time, the rats displayed classic symptoms of the disease , and developed neural structures that resembled Lewy bodies - microscopic protein deposits seen in the brains of Parkinson's patients.

Rotenone , in common with many other pesticides, inhibits a mitochondrial enzyme called Complex I. Mitochondria which are rod-like "power stations" within cells which generate energy. The same effect was caused by a contaminant of heroin that left a number of drug addicts with irreversible symptoms of Parkinsonism in the 1980s.

The researchers speculated that it was possible that exposure to rotenone caused the mitochondria to produce destructive free radical molecules . These in turn may damage the brain cells that produce the essential chemical messenger dopamine , a depletion of which is a major cause of Parkinson's disease.

A team led by Professor Tim Greenmayre, from Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, reported the findings in the journal Nature Neuroscience . They raise the possibility that a wide range of pesticides and pollutants may play a role in Parkinsonism and, perhaps, other neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's.

Robert Meadowcroft, director of research, policy and information with the Parkinson's Disease Society, said: "The study highlighting the association between pesticides and Parkinson's disease is the latest in a line of research investigating the suspected, but as yet unproven, link between pesticides and Parkinson's disease.

"The Parkinson's Disease Society would welcome further research into this subject."


04 Nov 00 - Food Safety - Organic farmers 'can't meet soaring demand'

By Amanda Brown

Independent ... Saturday 4 November 2000


Farmers in Britain cannot keep up with demand for organic food , MPs were told yesterday. In many cases, they can produce only small quantities, which in turn cost more to transport to the fewplants certified to process chemical-free food.

Representatives of the supermarket chains Sainsbury and Iceland told the Commons Select Committee on Agriculture that they have to import organic food to overcome the shortage of home-grown produce.

Scares about bovine spongiform encephalopathy, genetically modified crops and E. coli bacteria in food have sparked a huge demand for organic produce in recent years.

Bill Wadsworth, technical director of Iceland Frozen Foods, told the committee: "The British farming community has reacted very slowly to this market, whereas other countries are modernising their farms to produce organic food ."

Only 3 per cent of British farmland is organic - yet the market is forecast to grow by 40 per cent a year for the next five years , and is expected to be worth in excess of £500m by the end of this year. According to figures supplied by Iceland, 70 per cent of all organic food sold in British supermarkets already comes from overseas .

Mr Wadsworth said the company believed money could be targeted at farmers to allow them to convert from conventional farming to pesticide- and chemical-free farming .

Sainsbury said it would like to offer customers more British organic products but, like Iceland, was unable to do so because of limited supplies .


02 Nov 00 - Food Safety - Poultry drug could put humans at risk

James Meikle, health correspondent

Guardian ... Thursday 2 November 2000


Food safety officials are urgently to consider banning an antibiotic used on poultry because of a possible risk that it generates resistance in humans to medicines designed to combat food poisoning.

The independent food standards agency is planning an urgent review of US evidence which has already prompted the American food and drug agency (FDA) to announce plans to ban the use of enrofloxacin in treating growing turkeys and broiler chickens.

The FDA says the drug "has not been shown to be safe" , a finding that has surprised officials in Britain and Europe where it has been used under the brand name Baytril since 1993. It is fed to chickens in drinking water .

The food agency here is to consult advisers on veterinary products and public health officials, although any decision would also have to go to the European Commission. The American evidence suggests that Baytril hampers attempts to treat serious cases of campylobacter , of which there were 55,000 recorded instances in Britain last year.

The bug, often found in birds, causes profuse diarrhoea in humans. Some cases need further treatment and in the US this involves a human antibiotic. Experts here question however whether people are regularly treated in the same way.

About 700kg of Baytril was used under prescription in poultry in Britain last year to treat bacterial infection. It is not meant to be used less than eight days before a bird is killed for the table.

Richard Young, policy adviser to the Soil Association, said: "We have known for years that intensive livestock production is unacceptable for animal welfare. This provides more evidence it is also unacceptable for human health ."


02 Nov 00 - Food Safety - Telling the truth on food

Leader

Guardian ... Thursday 2 November 2000


Alarm over lamb is best met with candour

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the kitchen, along comes another food scare . This time the warning is about lamb , after a food standards agency working party found that BSE might have made the leap to sheep, masked by the lookalike disease, scrapie. According to the FSA, what vets had taken to be symptoms of the one disease may in fact have been signs of the other.

If sheep were infected with BSE, the effect on them would be absolute. Tests have shown that when they get the disease, they get it everywhere - not just in the brain and spinal cord, but throughout the entire body. If these fears are proved sound, the agriculture ministry may have no alternative but to kill the entire national herd: 44m sheep .

Clearly that is a nightmare scenario for the lamb industry - but that should not be the government's prime concern. The mistake of the last Conservative administration was to put farmers first. Labour should think instead of Britain's consumers and what is best for them. Judged like that, what is the right course of action? What should consumers do?

Panic would be an obvious and understandable response. No amount of reassurances and qualifications - that this is only a preliminary report or that there is merely a chance of infection - will calm those millions of Britons who lost their faith in authority during the beef crisis . These sceptics will say that they were offered soothing words before and they were wrong then and they are bound to be wrong now. Such is the fallout from BSE that scientists and politicians will never be so easily trusted again . Instead, many consumers will simply respond to the first headlines they read by deciding that it is better to be safe than sorry, and best to give up lamb as well as beef . In fact, many will surely abandon meat-eating altogether and become vegetarians .

They would be perfectly entitled to make that move, which has good arguments of its own. But an instant response may not be the best one. The course implicitly advocated by the food standards agency is sounder. It has decided to release the information it has, displaying some of it on its website, and let consumers make up their own minds. The equivalent step was never taken by the Ministry of Agriculture during BSE. The choices we had then were to be told either that there was no risk, and beef was perfectly safe, or that there was a risk, and herds would be destroyed. The new approach seems much more mature. Consumers can weigh the same information available to politicians - that lamb is neither 100% risk-free nor 100% infected - and decide for themselves .

But that does not mean that Labour should leave the issue alone. Its response to the Phillips report was oddly unpolitical: the government did not attack the Conservatives for their handling of the crisis. Nor did it make the fair point that the trouble may well have been exacerbated by the Tory rush to deregulation and the lesson Conservative ministers chose to draw from the salmonella scare of 1988: that evasion and even false assurances were to be preferred over openness. That is a powerful weapon to use against the Tories, yet Labour has been strangely unwilling to deploy it. In the light of the latest news, it might want to rethink that tactic. For voters certainly did hold the Tories responsible when the crisis first emerged. If Labour fudges that question now, it will find consumers' natural resentment and anger directed not at some nebulous Whitehall system but at the government of the day - and that means Labour .


18 Oct 00 - Food Safety - Fatty diet helps cause breast cancer by killing nutrient, study shows

By Jeremy Laurance, Health Editor

Independent ... Wednesday 18 October 2000


People who eat a lot of fat run a higher risk of breast cancer , a study shows. The best explanation for the disease, which claims 13,000 lives a year in Britain, is that a fatty Western diet depletes the breast tissue of an essential nutrient that protects against the disease.

The unidentified nutrient is likely to be a trace element present in the soil, in varying amounts in different areas, taken up by plants and entering the food chain. It is probably present at high levels in cereals and pulses , but at only low levels, or not at all, in fat, red meat and dairy products.

Fat has long been cited as a cause of breast cancer since scientists noted that countries with low fat diets, such as Japan, had a low incidence of the disease. But the varying incidence of the disease within populations eating broadly the same diet has never been explained.

A review of research on causes of breast cancer, by Dr Richard Wiseman, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, concludes that a diet high in fat is not likely to be a direct cause of the disease. But the indirect effect of such a diet depletes the breast of a protective factor .

The main cause of breast cancer remains unknown. The American Public Health Association lists obesity , age over 30 at birth of first child , childlessness and radiation as the chief predisposing factors, but together they account for only 26 per cent of the risk.

Dr Wiseman, in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, says there is likely to be "a single causal agent for the majority of cases and it is a deficiency of this agent that is responsible".

Genes are not the answer, because there is a low prevalence of family history and women with similar genetic profiles develop the disease at different rates when they move to other countries. Pollution or infection have also been ruled out as causes.


13 Oct 00 - Food Safety - High-fibre supplement linked to cancer risk

By David Derbyshire, Medical Correspondent

Telegraph ... Friday 13 October 2000


Some high-fibre food supplements may increase the risk of bowel disease , a new study suggests today.

Researchers have found that a daily dose of ispaghula husks , a supplement sold as a natural laxative, increases the number of polyps in the guts. Although the growths are benign, they can be a precursor to cancer. Yesterday doctors stressed that the findings should not deter people from fibre-rich vegetables, fruits and cereals shown to reduce the risks of bowel cancer.

The study, published today in The Lancet , looked at patients with a history of colorectal adenomas or polyps in the gut. Dr Claire Bonithon-Kopp and colleagues from the European Cancer Prevention Organisation Study Group assigned 665 patients to three treatment groups.

Each day one group was given a two-gram calcium supplement, another 3.5g of soluble ispaghula husk, and the third a placebo. After three years, 29 per cent of the ispaghula group had developed at least one polyp, compared to 16 per cent of the calcium group and 20 per cent of the placebo group.

While calcium appeared slightly, but not significantly, to reduce the risk of growths, the fibre supplement significantly increased the risk of recurrence. Dr Bonithon-Kopp said that a low-fat, high-fibre diet and supplementation with wheat bran fibre or ispaghula husk may not prevent growths from recurring.

But she added: "Our findings should not prevent recommendations for high consumption of vegetables, fruits and cereals, because this approach has potentially beneficial effects on other chronic diseases, especially coronary heart disease."

Dr Tim Key, a nutrition specialist with the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, said the soluble supplement used in the study was not "dietary fibre". He said: "Ispaghula husk is rich in one type of fibre, and since it was given as a supplement in granule form it is misleading to describe it as dietary fibre because it was not part of the diet." The findings should not be taken to mean that natural fibre in the diet was harmful , he added.

Professor Gordon McVie, director general of the Cancer Research Campaign, stressed that the study looked at fibre supplements in isolation. He said: "I'm sure experts will agree with me that people should continue to eat a high-fibre diet and shouldn't throw their cereal bowls out of the window.

"A high-fibre diet, as generally recommended for health, is rich in vegetables, fruits and cereals, and does not rely on supplements of isolated forms of dietary fibre which could, indeed, have different effects from those of fibre-rich foods."

Prof McVie said other studies showed that a high-fibre diet which included plenty of vegetables, fruit and wholegrains, could help protect against bowel cancer. Ispaghula husk, which is also known as psyllium, is sold in Britain as a laxative. The seeds come from a plant native to Iran and India. Cancer Research Campaign scientists are currently involved in Europe's largest study to pin down the links between diet and cancer.


13 Oct 00 - Food Safety - Tobacco giant admits cigarettes are addictive

Peter Capella in Geneva and Sarah Boseley

Guardian ... Friday 13 October 2000


The world's largest tobacco company, Philip Morris, admitted for the first time yesterday that cigarettes are addictive and harmful , during public hearings in Geneva in the run-up to a global treaty on tobacco control.

Until yesterday, despite scientific evidence and internal industry documents that have been revealed in litigation in the United States, tobacco companies have refused to acknowledge that vast numbers of people are hooked on nicotine. The companies always claimed that people smoke out of choice.

"We agree that smoking is addictive and causes disease in smokers," announced David Davies, Philip Morris Europe's vice president for corporate affairs, at a news conference. "Today I affirm we are in step with public health authorities."

His historic admission was dismissed by anti-tobacco compaigners as a clever piece of footwork by the industry, which is trying to win inclusion in the World Health Organisation's negotiations on a global tobacco treaty which begin on Monday. Campaigners believe the tobacco industry would attempt to water down the treaty and would drag out negotiations if its representatives are included in the discussions.

Mr Davies' position yesterday was that, however addictive and damaging cigarettes are, the public have a right to smoke if they want to. Public health campaigners will argue that this stance is illogical and that someone who is addicted is stripped of choice in the matter.

Philip Morris supported "sensible" regulation of tobacco products and their sales, marketing and advertising, said Mr Davies, but opposed "any proposal which would constitute a prohibition on the ability of companies like ours to make cigarettes and the ability of informed adults to choose to use cigarettes".

It opposed uniform global tax rates and called for countries to outlaw the sales and marketing of cigarettes to under 18s - a measure which health campaigners say is totally ineffective in preventing children from starting to smoke.

Mr Davies promised the company would share its own research with WHO scientists and take steps to combat smuggling. There was laughter from the audience when Mr Davies said Philip Morris regretted a decision last week by the European court to throw out legislation that would have banned almost all tobacco advertising and sponsorship in the EU by 2006.

Matthew Myers, president of the US-based non-governmental organisation Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, dismissed the remarks as "an insidious effort by Philip Morris to prevent strong government regulation".

Tobacco companies and public health groups have come face to face for two days of public hearings on tobacco control, which was the WHO's answer to the demands of the industry to be included in negotiations on the framework convention on tobacco control. Over 500 submissions came in from all over the world and have been posted on a dedicated website.

In spite of enthusiasm for the treaty from the public health community, it will not be easy to get agreement on specifics. Tobacco growing employs many people in the developing world and cigarettes are a big source of tax revenue for governments. The WHO wants its 191 member states to agree on international duties on cigarettes, a clampdown on smuggling, a total ban on advertising, the outlawing of public smoking worldwide and support for farmers who stop tobacco farming.

British American Tobacco, the other tobacco giant, backed national action to stop minors from smoking. But it did not support the proposed international convention and asked the health agency to concentrate on policy advice and research.


13 Oct 00 - Food Safety - Fibre 'can raise risk of bowel cancer'

By Jeremy Laurance

Independent ... Friday 13 October 2000


Doctors and scientists were urgently trying to shore up the place of fibre as a central pillar of a healthy diet yesterday after research findings threatened to send it tumbling .

A European study, published in The Lancet, found that fibre supplements given to patients at high risk of bowel cancer actually increased their chances of getting the disease.

The results follow a series of studies in America and Australia that have cast doubt on the protective effect of fibre against bowel cancer in high-risk patients.

In the new study, by the European Cancer Prevention Organisation, daily supplements of soluble fibre were given to patients who had had polyps - benign growths which can lead to cancer - removed from their colons. After two years, among the 552 patients in the study, those given the fibre supplements had a "significant increase in the recurrence rate", of 29.3 per cent, compared with 20.3 per cent for the group given a placebo.

But British specialists said people should not stop eating vegetables, fruits and cereals.