Santa Fe, New Mexico - Consumer advocate and Legislative Activist, Stephen Fox does not take NO for an answer, when it comes to protecting children in school from junk foods and especially from artificially sweetened soda pop and coke sold widely in vending machines.

Legislation introduced in the New Mexico State Legislature in January 2005 was "killed" by heavy lobbying from the big food industry. It is being re-introduced in 2006, and the battle promises to become a memorable David-and-Goliath act. The FDA is refusing to issue national regulations or promote national legislation despite widespread obesity and problems of kids in school, that many say are due to bad nutrition. The food giants are pressuring legislators. Lobbyists and campaign contributions have swayed many, not only in New Mexico but all over the U.S.

Albuquerque, New Mexico, had signed an exclusive contract for the district's 125 schools with PepsiCo. In 2004, when schools tried to stock other vending machines with milk, PepsiCo sent a letter warning that they were in violation of the contract. Apparently the contract does indeed bind the school district to PepsiCo and only in 2007, it comes up for renewal, at which time it may be cancelled. It is far from easy to get healthier foods and drinks into schools over the resistance of the food and drinks industry.

Following below is a report by Stephen Fox, with an introduction by Leland Lehrman of Mother Media. Anyone seriously interested in bettering the nutritional situation for kids in school may find the report very interesting.

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The Symposium held in Chicago from 14 to 16 July 2005 was to celebrate 60 years of fluoridation of drinking water. VOICE of Irish Concern for the Environment, a European environmental and anti-fluoride activist organization, characterizes the insistence of US health authorities to add a toxic chemical waste product to the water supply in the name of "saving teeth of children" as a remnant of the "flat earth" view of medicine and health.

The water supply is fluoridated in Ireland, and together with the UK, where the authorities defend fluoridation , the Irish are the only Europeans that still continue to fluoridate their water. Other countries have abandoned the practice.

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June 30, 2005 - Representatives Susan Davis, John Dingell and Henry Waxman have introduced H. R. 3156, also called the "Dietary Supplement Access and Awareness Act". The bill requires notification of new supplements put on the market and close monitoring of any untoward effects.

The stricter rules are directed at supplements that contain herbs and herbal extracts as well as any other substances that are not strictly vitamins and minerals. In an apparent attempt to pre-empt a recent court ruling that held ephedra may be sold as long as the dose is lower than 10 mg, the bill authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services to require reports of adverse events and to determine the fate of any supplement by assessing the risks against the benefits.

Even a small risk may lead to removal of a supplement from the market, as it would be up to the Secretary to assess whether there is sufficient benefit. In a sane world, this would be acceptable, but the trouble is that the FDA usually acts to remove a whole class of supplements, regardless of dose, source of the ingredient or combination with other ingredients. This happened with ephedra, leading to a de-facto complete ban of any supplement containing the herb. Except, of course, prescription and over-the-counter medicines that contain the extract, and that, in my book, is an unjustifiable double standard. The Secretary is also directed by the bill and given funding to promote the reporting of side effects.

Now if supplements are to be evaluated, controlled and taken off the market at the first hint of trouble, I would like to see the same treatment be reserved to food additives, such as aspartame, the toxic sweetener and to pharmaceutical drugs that have been shown to kill people by the thousands routinely and to any other things we routinely ingest, be they foods, drinks or meds.

While it is quite reasonable to demand supplements be safe, why not demand that food additives and medicines be just as safe? Perhaps the Davis-Dingell-Waxmann bill should be extended to cover not only supplements but all the substances we routinely ingest!

According to the statistics compiled by Ron Law, risk analysis expert and policy analyst from New Zealand, supplements are the absolutely safest category of products in existence. I would certainly welcome all other ingestable products be brought to the same level of safety.

Here is a call for action issued by the Weston A. Price Foundation, forwarded by Chris Gupta of "Share the Wealth":

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NIH Inquiry Shows Widespread Ethical Lapses, Lawmaker Says

(original in LA Times)

By David Willman
Times Staff Writer

July 14, 2005

WASHINGTON - Results from an ongoing internal review of drug company consulting payments to scientists at the National Institutes of Health show the agency's ethical problems are serious and widespread, a House committee chairman said Wednesday.

The review examined whether a sample of 81 NIH scientists had moonlighted for industry without getting required permission from the agency, whether they disclosed company payments on annual forms and whether they performed company services on government time.

More than half, 44, were found by NIH officials to have violated the agency's then-existing policies or recommendations.

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Fluoride Linked to Bone Cancer, Again - Evidence Suppressed
By Paul Beeber
Jul 5, 2005, 13:36

(original at foodconsumer.org
 
New York, July 1, 2005 -- Newly available research, out of Harvard University, links fluoride in tap water, at levels most Americans drink, to osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer (1).

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a highly-regarded Washington DC-based organization, urges that fluoride in tap water be declared a known or probable cancer cause (2), based on this and previous animal and human studies.

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Italian Study Links Aspartame To Cancer

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Sweetener 'linked' to leukaemias

(original on BBC News)

Fresh doubts about the safety of an artificial sweetener have been raised by Italian scientists who have linked its use to leukaemias in rodents.

Aspartame is 200 times sweeter than sugar and is used throughout the world in low-calorie drinks and foods.

Regulators say existing studies show it is safe, but will look at the European Journal of Clinical Oncology study.

But they said it was unlikely that the sweetener was harmful to humans to the same extent as in rats.

Concerns have been raised about the aspartame in the past, but an analysis of 500 papers by UK regulators in 2002 concluded there was no threat to consumers.

The Food Standards Agency said: "The European Food Safety Authority intends to undertake an urgent assessment of this study to establish whether there are any implications for human health.

"We will study EFSA's opinion carefully and consider what, if any, action may be required."

Dr Elaine Vickers, cancer information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: "If a risk to humans does exist, it will almost certainly be very small.

"However, we welcome the news that the EFSA will undertake an urgent assessment of this work."

The study

Dr Morando Soffritti and colleagues at the Cancer Research Centre in Bologna fed eight-week-old rats varying concentrations of aspartame.

Compared with control rats given no sweetener, many of the female rats in the experiment developed lymphomas or leukaemias - the risk increasing with the dose of aspartame.

The researchers say their study raises concerns about the levels of aspartame to which humans can be exposed and, therefore, "urgent re-examination" of aspartame's safety is needed, "especially to protect children".

The existing European Food Safety Authority safety assessment for aspartame led to the setting of an Acceptable Daily Intake, or ADI.

This is an estimate of the amount of an additive that could be routinely consumed every day over a lifetime with no appreciable health risk.

'Safe' intake

Aspartame's ADI is set at 40 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. This is equivalent to 2,800 milligrams for an average British adult.

For an average three-year-old child the amount is of the order of 600 milligrams.

An adult would have to consume 14 cans of a sugar-free drink every day before reaching the ADI, assuming the sweetener was used in the drink at the maximum permitted level.

In practice, most drinks use aspartame in combination with other sweeteners so that the level is considerably lower, says the FSA.

Previous work by the former Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Department of Health showed that aspartame intakes were considerably below the recommended maximum level, even among children and diabetics who consume large quantities of sugar-free drinks.

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Aspartame, the chemical sweetener we are told to consume instead of sugar, and which can be found in thousands of products, seems to be less than innocuous. There are some cases - not a clinical study to be sure but nevertheless something worth looking into - where the consumption of diet pops has been connected to clinically diagnosed Multiple Sclerosis. This is from an article kindly forwarded by our Italian medical doctor and La Leva member Claudio Capozza.

Now Multiple Sclerosis is a serious matter, and health authorities would do well to heed the voices - even if they are "only" present in sites on the internet and not in the mainstream press so far.

Ask your health minister or your parliamentary representative what (s)he's going to do about aspartame. Who knows, one day they might wake up!

But first, read the article here:

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July 2, 2005
New law: Schools can't force meds on kids

(source)

Rob Hotakainen and Melissa Lee Star Tribune Washington Bureau Correspondents

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As a first-grader, Garrett Nash blurted out answers before his teacher called on him. He tickled a student sitting next to him and sometimes bolted out of lines. One cold day, he left school without his winter coat.

Michelle Nash of Blaine thought her son's behavior was typical for a child adjusting to a full day of classes, but school officials suspected he had a hyperactivity disorder. They recommended giving him Ritalin, a stimulant used to treat children with that problem. She refused.

"I just said I'm not going to do it," said Nash, 40. "And their response was, 'You know, it's against the law for you to deny a child medication.' "

That's no longer the case.

As of Friday, schools no longer have the upper hand in deciding whether children should be given Ritalin or other controlled substances. A new federal law tilts that power to parents, barring states and schools from keeping students out of class in cases when parents disagree with a recommendation to medicate a child.

The law is provoking an emotional debate over the proper role of teachers and other school employees in trying to help children they believe are troubled. And it is taking effect amid growing concern over the exploding use of Ritalin, the brand name for methylphenidate. Production of that drug has nearly doubled in the United States since 2000, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Medical professionals come down on both sides of the issue.

Lance Clawson, a child psychiatrist from Cabin John, Md., said the new law could make teachers fearful of communicating legitimate concerns to parents. Because teachers see so many children every day, they are best-equipped to identify abnormal behavior, he said.

"If you tie the hands of the schools, they lose the right to advocate for the child," Clawson said.

But Karen Effrem, a former pediatrician who lives in Plymouth and who testified before Congress on the issue two years ago, said that children are often incorrectly diagnosed. Sometimes, she said, the problem is simply that they are watching too much television, eating a poor diet or are bored. She said the legislation does nothing to keep teachers from speaking out.

"What it does is prevent teachers from becoming physicians," she said, adding that "there's a lot of overuse and forced use of medications going on."

Incentive to comply

Schools will have plenty of incentive to comply with the new law: Congress is threatening to block federal aid to schools that try to force medication on students against the wishes of their parents. Congress also is already considering expanding the law. A bill sponsored by Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., a member of the House Education Committee, would extend the Child Medication Safety Act to include psychotropic drugs such as Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft.

"Except for a contagious disease sort of situation, you shouldn't be required to provide any medication to your kid as a condition of going to school," said Kline, who has lined up 20 cosponsors for his bill, including Minnesota Republican Reps. Gil Gutknecht and Mark Kennedy and Ohio Rep. John Boehner, the chairman of the House education committee.

Minnesota's picture

Reaction in Minnesota is divided.

In 2001, the Legislature passed its own Ritalin Relief Act, sponsored by state Rep. Barb Sykora, R-Excelsior. The little-noticed law states that schools cannot require parents to submit their children to special education testing and that Ritalin can be prescribed to children only after doctors, parents and school professionals explore other strategies. Sykora said she introduced the bill because parents were feeling pressured to put their children on Ritalin.

"Drugs can be devastating to kids," she said. But state Rep. Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville, called the state and federal laws "unnecessary and redundant" and said they are part of a national anti-psychiatry movement that could prove dangerous to children with real problems.

Greiling, the leading DFLer on the House's Education Finance Committee, said parents "aren't leaping to get their kids on medication," adding: "There's already plenty of roadblocks to kids getting help without having the government make it out to be a really bad thing. It's chilling, this legislation."

According to the most recent federal statistics, Minnesota ranks 22nd among states in Ritalin consumption in 2004, and per-capita consumption has actually declined in the past seven years. But critics say the use of the drug is still far too prevalent.

"The schools still can find roundabout ways of getting kids on Ritalin," Nash said. She doesn't believe her son has a hyperactivity disorder and said schools are too quick to recommend Ritalin for any child who fidgets or might have trouble finishing a task: "There's so many stages in a child's development. How do you determine what's [a disorder] and what isn't?"

One boy's case

Garrett, now 11, attended first grade at Kenneth Hall Elementary School in Spring Lake Park. His mother said school officials told her that Garrett was "being impatient" in the first few weeks of school, being silly in class and acting as though he wanted to be the center of attention. Sometimes he forgot his papers or gloves. She said she agreed to allow tests of her son because she felt pressured.

After the tests, Nash said she was told her son was normal and that he was performing well academically. But she said school officials insisted that the boy meet with a specialist in hyperactivity in an attempt to get him to take Ritalin. She said that even her pediatrician disagreed with the school's recommendation.

Nash complained to school system officials, who investigated the case. Spring Lake Park Superintendent Don Helmstetter wrote a letter to Nash, saying that school officials had "taken steps to ensure that such a process will not happen to any other parents." At Nash's request, school officials agreed to destroy any paperwork and to delete any information on computer hard drives that Nash and her husband deemed "inappropriate and invalid."

In an interview, Helmstetter declined to comment on specifics of the case. But he said he would never approve of the practice of school officials recommending prescription drugs, adding that both Nash and school personnel felt "very misunderstood."

"Clearly there were breakdowns in communication, whether intentional or otherwise," Helmstetter said, adding that he supports the efforts by Congress.

So does Nash, who has decided to teach all three of her children at home.

"The school was very intimidating," she said. "From the beginning, the school made me feel they were more powerful and knowledgeable than me. ... This can happen to anyone."

The writers are at rhotakainen@mcclatchydc.com and mlee@mcclatchydc.com.

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Boycotting - new drug of choice

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Boycotting is my new drug of choice

(Globe and Mail)

(rabble.ca)

By HEATHER MALLICK

Saturday, July 2, 2005, Page F2

Like most of us, I spent my youth in thrall to “the toxic drive” — the human need to alter reality artificially. For others who stick with the thrall as they age, it's cigarettes, or beer. Wealthier people choose The Macallan. But in those days, when I was offered a pill I would just say yes.

The childhood roots of this were my doctor-father's entrancing, corruptive medical magazines with their ads for pharmaceuticals to cure ills I couldn't pronounce. Drugs could never harm, only heal, I thought, and though I wasn't as blasé as those people who take their pet's medications when they can't be bothered to see a doctor (“Hey, an antibiotic is an antibiotic, right?”), in adulthood it was pleasing to feel a drug smash the bacteria, sometimes within minutes.

In Grade 2, I remember illustrating a class project with a cover from Life magazine showing a stylized human body packed with hallucinogenically beautiful capsules, like little sorbets. I got an A. It is chilling to think I nursed this taste in the sixties when drugs like thalidomide and diethylstilbestrol were being casually prescribed to obedient women.

How times have changed, along with my enthusiasms. Having given up illegal drugs, I have begun trying to clear legal but possibly untrustworthy medications from my innards.

The great pharmaceutical firms began merging in the 1980s to keep their share prices high, which made them treat their researchers like slaves manning a Roman galley. Like the big record labels, Big Pharma is only as good as its hottest product, expensive to devise and promote.

This explains why Britney Spears defines today's music industry and anti-depressants and bio-sex drugs define Big Pharma. (Levitra, the latest, has a penis-on-fire logo that looks like an illustration in a teen sex pamphlet.) Now Viagra has been linked to blindness and an anti-depressant called Seroxtat has been said to make people kill themselves rather than cheering them up. Drugs are sent to market without long-term testing, with permission from a government that hungers for their campaign contributions. Yes, it has come to this sorry pass: Me, clean and sober. (I used to drink only French wine. I have now decided I should only drink wine in France.)

What shocked me into it was the latest news about autism. British parents had begun to suspect that the MMR shot, three vaccines in one, was responsible for the increase in autism. Corporations and governments said pish posh, what nonsense, and the issue faded.

Now Robert F. Kennedy Jr. says the villain was the 1991 introduction of thimerosal, a mercury-based additive that preserved vaccines and made them more profitable for Big Pharma to inject en masse. It now seems that the mercury (especially in a triple dose) did terrible things to developing infant brains. Why would anyone have thought it would not, one wonders.

He says this is why the odious U.S. Senator Bill Frist this year added to an anti-terrorism bill a rider that bans compensation for children brain-damaged by thimerosal in vaccines, and actually devised something called the “Eli Lilly Protection Act.” (In Canada, thimerosal does remain in some vaccines. Google “thimerosal” to obtain the Public Health Agency of Canada's June statement on this.)

The scandal gets worse and more complicated, but the reasoning behind concealing Big Pharma misdeeds apparently is that if millions of children in the West and in poor countries, where the leftover tainted vaccines have been sent, were poisoned, the industry would go under. It would be Thalidomide II: Bankruptcy.

Read Irvine Welsh's prescient 1996 short story Fortune's Always Hiding: A Corporate Drug Romance, in which a thalidomide executive retires to Bavaria with his wife and new baby. He has secrets, shall we say, but their life is content. One day, the baby is . . . gone. A parcel arrives. It contains two baby arms. No one can comprehend such a thing. But the father? He goes into the garage and blows his head off with a shotgun. He knows what he did to keep thalidomide selling.

Thalidomide is back. It is said to help treat leprosy, Mantle cell lymphoma and pancreatic cancer. A year ago, a baby was born in Kenya without arms and legs. Thalidomide is being used in Kenya. The parents say their son Freddie is the only victim to appear because babies like him are killed at birth. Freddie sits in a baby chair shaped like a flower pot.

It's the confluence of stories about the hideous effects of inadequately tested drugs that has turned me against pharmaceuticals. Big Pharma, in partnership with docile governments, is getting its way because both bow to the pressures of the market. If ever there were an unacceptable face of capitalism, this is it.

This month, I began withdrawing my bank savings, for inflation meant I was losing money daily. I will find a faintly profitable place to stash them, but I should mention that when I was shown glossy mutual funds with excellent rates of return, they were filled with Big Pharma, with the banks I had just deserted, and companies such as Nestlé that I have boycotted for years.

For this is my substitute, my new habit. I have become a boycotter. I don't buy American goods if I can avoid it, never buy from big Bush donors, only buy Fairtrade food and organic food so that farmers aren't forced to buy genetically modified seeds, and so on.

It's intellectually absorbing, this boycott habit of mine, though not nearly as much fun as filling my young body with drugs without thought for the morrow. 'Tis a thin gruel to feed the toxic drive. But it has its own satisfactions.

Heather Mallick's column is in The Globe and Mail each
Saturday. It appears on Sunday in rabble.ca. 

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4 July 2005 - The Codex Alimentarius Commission has adopted potentially restrictive guidelines for vitamin and mineral supplements as proposed by its Nutrition Committee last November in Bonn, Germany. In its 28th session here in sun dried, heat plagued Rome, the planet's supreme food regulator has given a nod to industry in approving guidelines for food supplements over the strenuous opposition of consumer representatives present under the banner of the National Health Federation.

Although the guidelines are not in themselves restricting supplement sales, they do prohibit information about diseases and nutrition and they call for future dosage restrictions to be set after scientific evaluation of the safety of nutrients contained in pills and capsules. Consumer representatives from different countries who attended the meeting are concerned that the guidelines, in conjunction with the European Union's directive on food supplements, may be a first step towards heavy controls on nutrition that would favor the pharmaceutical approach to disease over active, consumer-driven prevention.

Flaws and unclear points that should have sent the guideline back to the Nutrition Committee for reconsideration were pointed out by Scott Tips of the National Health Federation. Industry representative David Pineda of IADSA, the International Food/Dietary Supplements Alliance instead said that after more than 10 years of discussion in the Committee, the consensus that was reached is positive and should be adopted.

After short discussion of previously submitted comments by Australia, Brazil, China and Venezuela, the vitamin and mineral supplements guideline was passed - one item on a lengthy list of standards and guidelines to be adopted.

"What now?" was the largely unasked question of those concerned health freedom advocates who attended the meeting, one of whom answered: "We may have lost a battle, but the war is far from over". Indeed, much now depends on the discussions recently initiated by FAO and WHO, to work out a proper model to assess the risks inherent in supplements. "But rather than only assessing the risks, they must look at both benefits from these nutrients and risks, before they can reach a proper decision" said another one of the activists, and it appears that agreement is building that risk assessment procedures developed for toxic chemicals cannot be applied to nutrients without making a dog's breakfast.

So where do we go from here? We simply change gears to make sure that the benefits of supplements are not overlooked when deciding whether to limit quantities or composition.

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