Thursday, May 22, 2008

Bisphenol A Report

The Congressional Research Service released Bisphenol A (BPA) in Plastics and Possible Human Health Effects, available at

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Who's Minding the Store: The Current State of Food Safety and How It Can be Improved

A number of people have asked for more information on the conference, Who's Minding the Store: The Current State of Food Safety and How It Can be Improved. Marler Clark has put the PowerPoint presentations from the conference on their website here.

I have attended a great many conferences, and this one was a stand out. Hats off to William Marler, Marler Clark LLP PS, Kenneth M. Odza, Stoel Rives LLP, and the Seattle University School of Law!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Is the Green Fairy a Myth?

David Bradley posted an interesting piece, Arty with a Capital F and the Myth of Absinthe, concerning absinthe’s legendary psychotropic effects. Sometimes called the “Green Fairy” or the “Green Muse,” in part because of its typical green color, absinthe has become associated with artists, writers, and Bohemian culture of late 19th- and early 20th-century Paris.

A recent article in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry compares modern day absinthe with pre-ban (before 1915) absinthe. “The authors conclude that the thujone concentration of preban absinthe was generally overestimated in the past. The analysis of postban (1915–1988) and modern commercial absinthes (2003–2006) showed that the encompassed thujone ranges of all absinthes are quite similar, disproving the supposition that a fundamental difference exists between preban and modern absinthes manufactured according to historical recipes. Analyses of pinocamphone, fenchone, base spirits, copper, and antimony were inconspicuous. All things considered, nothing besides ethanol was found in the absinthes that was able to explain the syndrome ‘absinthism’.”

I have to take issue with the wording of the final conclusion, however, as it seems overbroad. The legend of absinthe’s psychotropic properties may exceed reality. However, the authors of this recent study only tested for a limited number of chemicals. Absinthe contains essences from a number of herbs that have long been recognized for medicinal properties, such as common wormwood (Artemisia absinthium L.), anise (Pimpinella anisum L.), hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis L.), and Florence fennel (Foeniculum Vulgare Mill.). The pharmacological properties of the mix remains a scientific mystery.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

GlaxoSmithKline Petitions FDA to Prohibit Weight Loss Structure/Function Claims

GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare (GSK) and others submitted a citizen petition to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asking the agency to prohibit weight-loss structure/function claims for dietary supplements. In addition to prohibiting weight loss claims, the petition asks FDA to prohibit claims for energy expenditure, modulation of carbohydrate metabolism, increased satiety or suppression of appetite, increased fat oxidation or reduced fat synthesis, and blockage of fat absorption.

FDA’s longstanding position has been that weight loss claims are permissible structure/function claims. However, the petition urges FDA to change its position on the ground that: (1) recent evidence establishes that overweight is a risk factor for disease; (2) consumers believe that there is a relationship between weight loss and a reduction of risk of disease; (3) claims that a product will reduce a risk factor for disease are disease claims; (4) the use of ineffective therapies can divert consumers from safe and effective therapies such as GSK’s weight loss drug Alli; and (5) manufacturers of weight loss supplements should be forced to substantiate their claims through health claim petitions before going to market.

Hat tip to Ricardo Carvajal for this information.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Fixing Food Safety: Protecting America's Food Supply from Farm-to-Fork

The Trust for America's Health (TFAH) released a new report that identifies major gaps in the nation's food safety system, including obsolete laws, misallocation of resources, and inconsistencies among major food safety agencies.

"Our goal should be reducing the number of Americans who get sick from foodborne illness. But we can't adequately protect people from contaminated foods if we continue to use 100 year-old practices," said Jeff Levi, PhD, Executive Director of TFAH. "We need to bring food safety into the 21st century. We have the technology. We're way past due for a smart and strategic upgrade."

The complete report, Fixing Food Safety: Protecting America's Food Supply from Farm-to-Fork is available at:

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Tyson Foods Enjoined from Claiming "Raised Without Antibiotics"

Sanderson Farms and Perdue Farms v. Tyson Foods
U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland
Civil Case No. RDB-08-210 (April 22, 2008)
Opinion by U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett

The U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland issued a preliminary injunction against Tyson Foods from continuing advertising claiming that the company’s chicken is “Raised Without Antibiotics.” The Court found that Tyson uses ionophores (types of antibiotics that are not used in human medicines and therefore present “only a miniscule threat to antibiotic resistance in humans”) in its chicken feed. The Court also found that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) erroneously approved Tyson’s “Raised Without Antibiotics” label application in May, 2007. The company was informed of the error in September 2007 and told USDA would revoke the prior approval for the label. In December, USDA approved Tyson’s application for a new label with qualifying language: “Raised Without Antibiotics that impact antibiotic resistance in humans.” But Tyson continued its advertising campaign with the unqualified “Raised Without Antibiotics” claim and un-approved variations of the qualified claim, leading Sanderson and Perdue to file suit. The Court concluded that Tyson’s advertising labels were misleading to consumers, including the qualifying language regarding antibiotic resistance in humans. The Court noted that the phrase, ‘that impact antibiotic resistance in humans,’ is not understood by a substantial portion of the consumer public…[and] may even reinforce consumer misconception. … The public interest compels that this advertising stop and that a preliminary injunction be issued in this case.”