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Posts Tagged ‘food policy

Science Policy Around the Web – July 7, 2017

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By: Leopold Kong, PhD

Food Policy

Food and Microbiota in the FDA Regulatory Framework

More and more probiotic food products, or microbiota-directed foods, claiming to “improve” the body’s microbiota have been hitting the shelves, with sales valuing over US$700 million in the US alone and US$36.6 billion globally this past year. However, there is little framework regulating their ingredients or guaranteeing the scientific accuracy of their health claims that has resulted in costly legal action. For example, in September 2009, Dannon settled a US$35 million consumer class action suit challenging the claimed health benefits in their ads. A similar class action suit against Procter & Gamble’s Align probiotic has been certified and set for Oct. 16, 2017. A paper recently published in the journal Science calls for greater clarity in policy regulating probiotic products. Importantly, the authors urge that probiotics should be clearly classified as a dietary supplement, a medical food, or a drug. If classified as a dietary supplement, probiotics can make claims on nutrient content and effect on health, but not on treatment, prevention or diagnosis of disease. If classified as a medical food, probiotics must contain ingredients that aid in the management of a disease or condition, with “distinctive nutritional requirements”, that is scientifically recognized. Finally, if classified as a drug, probiotics will require clinical trials to prove its medical claims. An alternative, and perhaps cheaper, way forward is to regulate probiotics as a kind of over-the counter medical food, requiring testing only for their active ingredients that can be used in a variety of products. (Green et al., Science)

Antibiotic Resistance

Untreatable Gonorrhoea on the Rise Worldwide

Over 78 million people are infected with gonorrhea each year, a sexually transmitted disease that has traditionally been treated effectively with anti-microbials. However, recently published data from 77 countries show that antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea is getting more pervasive and harder to cure. “The bacteria that cause gonorrhea are particularly smart. Every time we use a new class of antibiotics to treat the infection, the bacteria evolve to resist them,” said Dr. Teodora Wi, Medical Officer, Human Reproduction, at the WHO. The data found widespread resistance to ciprofaxacin, azithromycin, and even to the last-resort treatments, oral cefixime and injectable ceftriaxone. New drugs are under development, including a phase III trial of a new antibiotic, zoliflodacin, launched by the non-governmental organization Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative and Entasis Therapeutics, a biotech company in Waltham, Massachusetts. Better prevention through education on safer sexual behavior and more affordable diagnostics will also be needed moving forward. (Amy Maxmen, Nature News)

Maternal Health

U.S. has the Worst Rate of Maternal Deaths in the Developed World

A recent six-month long investigation by NPR and ProPublica has found that more women in the US are dying of pregnancy related complications than any other developed country. Surprisingly, this rate is increasing only in the US, which stood at ~ 26.4 deaths per 100,000 births in 2015, translating to nearly 65,000 deaths annually.  This is three times worse than for women in Canada, and six times worse than for women in Scandinavian countries. Reasons include older new mothers with more complex medical histories, unplanned pregnancies, which are the case half the time in the US, greater prevalence of C-sections, and the fragmented health system. This is in contrast with progress in preventing infant mortality, which has reached historic levels in the US. Better medical training for maternal emergency and more federal funding for research in this area may improve the situation for American mothers. (Nina Martin and Renee Montagne, NPR)

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Science Policy Around the Web – April 11, 2017

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By: Liz Spehalski, PhD

Source: pixabay

Antibiotic Resistance

KFC to Stop Using Antibiotics in Chicken

Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) has announced that by 2018, all of its “finger-lickin’ good” chicken will be raised without antibiotics, a decision that is being applauded by health experts. KFC, which has the second largest sales of a U.S. chicken chain after Chick-fil-A is giving its poultry suppliers the deadline to stop using antibiotics in their protein. It will join other large chicken serving fast food chains in fighting the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria, following in the footsteps of McDonald’s, Chick-fil-A, and Subway. Corporate factory farms in the U.S. often treat their livestock and poultry with antibiotics to prevent disease and promote growth. Currently, livestock ventures utilize about 70% of the nation’s supply of the antibiotics that are given to patients when infections strike.

Antibiotics and other antimicrobial agents have been used successfully since the 1940s to treat people with infectious diseases, greatly reducing illness and death caused by microorganisms. However, the incidence of antibiotic- resistant bacteria is rising swiftly. According to the CDC, 2 million people become infected with antibiotic resistant bacteria each year, and at least 23,000 die because of these infections. Although resistance is caused simply by the wide usage of antibiotics across the globe, the fact remains that antibiotics are often incorrectly or over-prescribed.

This is a victory for consumer health groups who lobbied KFC to change its policies. “This announcement is a win for anybody who might someday depend on antibiotics to get well or even save their lives — i.e. everybody,” said Matthew Wellington, Program Director for one group’s antibiotics program. “It’s also a welcome step by KFC. The company’s newfound commitment on antibiotics should have lasting effects on the way these life-saving medicines are used in the chicken industry.” These advocates are currently lobbying state legislatures to pass laws that ban the routine use of antibiotics in livestock. (Lisa Baertlein, Business Insider)

Evolutionary Biology

Discovery of Giant Virus Fuels Debate over Fourth Domain of Life

Since their identification in the late 1800s as filterable infectious agents, viruses have long been characterized by their incredibly small size and their reliance on host cells for translation. These features have disqualified viruses as being classified as living organisms. However, with the discovery of the giant Mimivirus in 2003, evolutionary biologists are divided. Mimiviruses are larger than many microorganisms and can contain more than 2500 genes, including genes that implied their ancestors could live outside of a host cell. This discovery prompted some scientists to propose that viruses are descendants of a fourth domain of life alongside bacteria, eukaryotes, and archaea, while other researchers see no need for the fourth domain, asserting that viruses simply steal their genome from hosts.

A study published in Science on April 6 fuels this debate with the discovery of a virus in an Austrian sewage treatment plant that contains a genome with the most cell-like phenotype yet discovered. Klosneuvirus genomes contain genes for 20 amino acids as well as enzymes and other machinery used for protein synthesis. Analysis of these genomes suggests that the translation machinery seemed to have been picked up by one virus from a eukaryotic host cell, supporting the theory that viruses stole their genetic material and are thus not qualified as “life.” However, scientists have not been able to identify the host from which the stolen genes were taken, leaving the debate open since much of the Klosneuviruses’ translation genes do not match that of any other known organism. Further evolutionary work will need to be done to determine if viruses are indeed a fourth domain of life. (Sara Reardon, Nature News)

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April 11, 2017 at 9:24 am

Science Policy Around the Web – January 17, 2017

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By: Kseniya Golovnina, PhD

Source: Wikimedia Commons, by Copyright (c) 2004 Richard Ling, under Creative Commons

Biodiversity

The Mysterious World of Antarctica is More than Penguins

On December 21, 2016 the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) released a video, which was made under the sea ice in O’Brien Bay, south of Casey research station in East Antarctica. This was the last part of the Australian Antarctic program, led by Dr. Johnny Stark, with the aim to observe the effect of climate change and ocean acidification due to increased carbon dioxide emissions on the Southern Ocean seafloor communities.

AAD biologist Dr. Glenn Johnstone and his team launched a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) through the small hole drilled in the ice and captured a rare glimpse of wonderful colorful Antarctic underwater world. They discovered a flourishing community of sea life below the massive ice sheet, at 30 meters below the surface, where the water temperature is −1.5°C year round, and the sea is covered by ice that is 1.5 meters thick for more than 10 months of the year. The video surprisingly revealed “a habitat that is productive, colorful, dynamic and full of a wide variety of biodiversity, including sponges, sea spiders, urchins, sea cucumbers and sea stars.”

About 30% of the carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean and increases its acidity. According to NASA Earth Observatory, increased acidity will increase the ocean’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide, making the carbonate shells of marine organisms such as corals thinner and more fragile. Higher water temperatures would also decrease the abundance of phytoplanktons, which play an important role in the carbon cycle absorbing excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The increased carbon dioxide in the ocean might facilitate the growth of a few species of phyplanktons that take carbon dioxide directly from the water, but overall excess carbon would be detrimental to most ocean species.

Scientists are only now beginning to understand the complex underwater Antarctic ecosystem. Antarctica may be one of the first places where the detrimental effects of ocean acidification are seen, says Dr. Stark. These studies could be a good future indicator of the effects of climate change and ocean acidification on ocean ecosystems. (Australian Antarctic Division)

Food Policy

One or Two Tablespoons of Nutella?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has closed collecting public comments about a regulatory change that would cut Nutella’s labeled serving size by half. More than 650 comments were collected. “One tablespoon or two tablespoons?” – The Washington Post explains the difference. The issue was about the appropriate reference amount customarily consumed (RACC) and product category. Nutella is classified as a dessert topping, with a RACC of two tablespoons. The serving size typically indicates how much Americans consume at a time and not how much they should, to make it easy for people to compare different products.

Its manufacturer, Ferrero, has asked that Nutella be reclassified as a jam or put in a different product category. This would cut the serving size that Nutella displays on its labels to one tablespoon, which would also decrease the sugar and calorie counts. It is already the second request from Nutella’s company since 2014. As they said to the Washington Post “it was simply seeking clarity as it and other companies prepare their new Nutrition Facts labels, slated for release in 2018”. However, critics of Nutella’s FDA petition including Lindsay Moyer, a senior nutritionist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, warn people about the marketing ploy to trick people into thinking that it has less calories. If Nutella’s serving size is changed to one tablespoon, it could advertise a mere 100 calories per serving — versus roughly 188 calories for two tablespoons of peanut butter, or 196 calories for almond.

At the same time the question of one or two tablespoons seems not so relevant if one takes a look at the company’s website, where they say “you could circle the world with the amount of Nutella produced every year”. U.S. sales of Nutella are up 39% — from $161.4 million to $224.3 million — in the past five years in comparison with 5% for other nut butters. (Caitlin Dewey, The Washington Post)

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

January 17, 2017 at 12:09 pm

Science Policy Around the Web – November 20, 2015

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By: Eric Cheng, Ph.D.

Photo credit : chimpanzee via photopin

Animal Research

NIH to end all support for chimpanzee research

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) plans to retire the last colony of government-owned chimpanzees being held for biomedical research. In a memo leaked this week, NIH Director Francis Collins wrote to NIH administrators: “there is no further justification for the 50 chimpanzees to continue to be kept available for invasive biomedical research.” This would effectively end the federal agency’s chimpanzee research program.

In an interview with Nature, Collins said that, “this is the natural next step of what has been a very thoughtful five-year process of trying to come to terms with the benefits and risks of trying to perform research with these very special animals. We reached a point where in that five years the need for research has essentially shrunk to zero.”

Collins initially placed a temporary moratorium on new studies using chimpanzees in 2011 after an internal research panel questioned their use in medical research.  This decision led NIH to only use chimpanzees for studies of hepatitis and psychological behaviors. In 2013, NIH retired 310 chimpanzees based on recommendations from the US Institute of Medicine (now the US Academy of Medicine) while still maintaining a colony of 50 animals that could only be used in cases where the research meets a necessary criterion such as public-health emergencies.

The remaining chimpanzees owned by NIH will be relocated to a federally-funded chimpanzee sanctuary called Chimp Haven located in Keithville, Louisiana. Chimp Haven is a facility that contains over 200-acres of forest which offers an environment that stimulates behaviors similar to those in the wild. (Jocelyn Kaiser, ScienceInsider)

Food Policy

FDA Rolls Out New Food Safety Regulation

In order to combat foodborne-related illnesses that sicken millions of Americans each year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released new regulations for both produced and imported foods. These new regulations will allow the FDA to enforce food safety by making food producers and importers accountable for making certain that their products meet US safety standards.

“This is the first time the food importers have fallen directly under FDA regulation,” agency’s deputy commissioner for food and veterinary medicine Michael R. Taylor said.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne illnesses each year. These new FDA rules should help produce farmers and food importers take steps to prevent problems before they occur such as the outbreak of Salmonella Poona linked to Mexican cucumbers in October of this year which sickened 767 people with 4 reported deaths.

These new policies will cover requirements for growing, harvesting, and packing. They will even consist of standards for water quality, manure use, and employee health and hygiene. Taylor said he is confident that the new rules will improve food safety, but said success is contingent on full funding of President Barack Obama’s 2016 budget request. (Charissa Echavez, The Science Times)

Science and Society

Space mining bill passes in Congress

Introduced by Rep. Kevin McCarthy [R-CA], the bill entitled “An Act to facilitate a pro-growth environment for the developing commercial space industry by encouraging private sector investment and creating more stable and predictable regulatory conditions, and for other purposes.” This bill will allow companies to legally own and sell the resources they extract from objects from space such as asteroids. The selling of these mined resources by private companies is not explicitly denied by the Outer Space Treaty which declared that “outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.“  Since these companies are regulated under US law, the law could potentially be interpreted as saying the mined celestial bodies are indeed US property.

Of course, additional language is in the bill stating that these claims are not declarations of sovereignty.

‘It is the sense of Congress that by the enactment of this Act, the United States does not thereby assert sovereignty or sovereign or exclusive rights or jurisdiction over, or the ownership of, any celestial body.’

However, not all countries will see this viewpoint in the same way. The bill also does not address how these shared resources will be allocated with other countries that may also mine the same celestial body. Although the bill is already spurring international debate, real scrutiny of this bill will not come until the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space‘s annual meeting in April 2016 in Vienna.

This bill already has been passed by the Senate and will be sent to the Oval Office where President Obama is expected to sign it into law. (Sarah Fecht, Popular Science)

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November 20, 2015 at 9:00 am

Science Policy Around the Web – November 8, 2013

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By: Tara Burke

Photo credit: Ryan Thompson via photopin cc

Photo credit: Ryan Thompson via photopin cc

Our weekly linkpost, bringing you interesting and informative links on science policy issues buzzing about the internet.

F.D.A. Ruling Would All But Eliminate Trans Fats – Yesterday, the Food and Drug Administration outlined measures to rid the nation’s food supply of trans fats, a major contributing factor to heart disease. The announcement ends a thirty-year fight by public health advocates against trans fats, which are created when liquid oil is treated with hydrogen gas to make a solid. The Institute of Medicine has found that there is no allowable amount of consumption of artificial trans fats and therefore, the FDA recommends that trans fats be removed from the legal category “generally recognized as safe”. The complete removable of trans fats from the American diet is expected to significantly cut down on health care costs and heart attacks. (Sabrina Tavernise)

U.K. Researchers Launch Open-Access Genomes Project – The United Kingdom announced this week the establishment of a British Personal Genome Project (PGP-UK). This program will recruit volunteers to provide DNA as well as health data; both DNA and health data will be available with no restrictions on their use. Britain’s PGP, headed by Stephan Beck from University College London, stems from a 2005 Harvard study. While the Harvard PGP currently has less than 200 genomes available, the study has many volunteers waiting. Other countries continue to see the value in personal genome databases as a way of furthering our understanding of DNA’s contribution to disease as Britain’s PGP joins other programs currently underway in Canada and Korea and one launching soon in Germany. (Elizabeth Pennisi)

More Asteroid Strikes Are Likely, Scientists Say – Traditionally, asteroid strikes have been thought of as an extremely rare event. However, in a paper published Wednesday in the journal Nature, scientists estimate that asteroid strikes may occur as often as every decade or two. These findings, along with the recent asteroid explosion over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk are elevating the topic of planetary defense. The United Nations is expected to recommend the establishment of an International Asteroid Warning Network, a way for countries to share information. They are also likely to recommend an advisory group to explore technologies that can deflect asteroids. (Kenneth Chang)

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November 8, 2013 at 5:40 pm

Science Policy Around the Web – January 3, 2013

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photo credit: USFWS Pacific via photopin cc

photo credit: USFWS Pacific via photopin cc

By: Jennifer Plank

Our weekly linkpost, bringing you interesting and informative links on science policy issues buzzing about the internet.

Frankenfish on the menu? FDA gives final approval – AquaAdvantage salmon, a genetically modified Atlantic salmon also dubbed “Frankenfish”, has been approved by the FDA.  The AquaAdvantage salmon contain genes from Chinook salmon and an eel-like species called an ocean pout. The addition of these specific genes allows the fish to grow more rapidly. Atlantic salmon normally take 3 years to be large enough for consumption while the AquaAdvantage salmon will be large enough within 18 months. The approval from the FDA will be followed by a 60 day period of public commentary regarding AquaAdvantage salmon. After that time, the AquaAdvantage salmon can be approved for human consumption. (Marc Lallanilla)

BGI clears hurdle in buyout of Complete Genomics – BGI (formerly called the Beijing Genomics Institute) has been an active player in genome wide sequencing including playing an instrumental role in the Human Genome Project. However, BGI has been dependent on sequencing instruments from companies such as Illumina. Recently, BGI has gained approval from the United States to buy the California-based company, Complete Genomics, who has developed their own complete sequencing platform. With the acquisition of Complete Genomics, BGI will be able to sequence individual genomes without being dependent on other companies. (Ryan McBride)

Child support claim rankles sperm donor to lesbian couple – In 2009, William Marotta donated sperm to a lesbian couple wishing to have a child. At the time, the couple and Marotta signed a document stating that he would not be the father of the child nor would he be financially responsible for the child. Since then, the couple has broken up and fallen on hard financial times. One mother of the child applied for Medicare to cover the child’s medical expenses and the state of Kansas deemed the father financially responsible for the expenses. The state of Kansas is suing Marotta for child support and approximately $6000 for the medical care of the child. A hearing about the case will be held on January 8, and at that time, Marotta will ask for the case to be dismissed. (Kevin Murphy)

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January 3, 2013 at 5:05 pm

Science Policy Around the Web – December 16, 2012

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photo credit: Walwyn via photopin cc

photo credit: Walwyn via photopin cc

By: Jennifer Plank

Our weekly linkpost, bringing you interesting and informative links on science policy issues buzzing about the internet.

Tests Say Mislabeled Fish a Widespread ProblemA recent study published by Kimberly Warner and colleagues indicates that approximately 39 percent of fish sold by establishments in New York City were mislabeled. In some cases, the incorrect labels were relatively harmless- some cheaper species of fish were inappropriately labeled as more expensive species of fish. However, in some cases, the inappropriate labels present health concerns. For example, several types of fish that contain high levels of mercury were labeled as red snapper which poses a risk for pregnant consumers. Additionally, in many cases, the fish that was sold as white tuna was actually escolar, a fish that contains a toxin that can cause diarrhea when too much is ingested. Currently, the FDA is working on several programs to eliminate the problem of improperly labeled seafood.  (Elisabeth Rosenthal)

Why the Best Stay on Top in Latest Math and Science TestsResults released by the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) indicated that fourth and eighth grade students from Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea have again received the highest test scores on the TIMSS exam. A total of 63 countries participated in the study. There are several reasons why these 4 nations maintain high test scores. For example, educators from Singapore constantly revisit and modify their math and science curriculum in a timely manner. Based on the 2011 results, the United States ranked 11th in 4th grade math, 7th in 4th grade science, 9th in 8th grade math, and 10th in 8th grade science. (Jeffrey Mervis)

Psychiatry’s New Rules Threaten to Turn Grieving Into a Sickness –  A new change to the official psychiatric guidelines for depression will now result in a clinical depression diagnosis for patients suffering from grief over the death of a loved one. Under the current guidelines, the “bereavement exclusion” exempts patients from a depression diagnosis for 2 months following the death of a loved one unless the symptoms self-destructively extreme. The new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders was published on December 1 and no longer contains the “bereavement exclusion.” Critics argue that the symptoms of depression are identical to the feelings experienced when one loses a loved one. However, American Psychiatric Association claims that grief-related depression is not fundamentally different than clinical depression, and the “bereavement exclusion” made it more difficult for clinicians to effectively do their jobs. (Brandon Keim)

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December 16, 2012 at 12:23 pm