October 14th, 2009 09:54 EST
H1N1 Vaccines and E-Cigs, plus Irradiation, Zoning, Calories, and COOL
By Curtis Porter
Seats at the Table
We have a crowded honorary breakfast table this morning, as the topic of vaccines weighs on everyone`s minds. First, Paul Offit earned an invite with his New York Times op-ed on Sunday dispelling unfounded fears about the safety of flu vaccines and encouraging everyone to get both the seasonal vaccine and the forthcoming H1N1 flu vaccine: "One can only hope that the American public will understand that subsequence isn`t necessarily consequence, and not be scared away from a vaccine that can save lives."
Next, we offer a seat to Laura Landro for her article in the Wall Street Journal reminding everyone that adults and children alike can benefit from vaccines against a host of dangerous but preventable diseases, including the flu.
Finally, an honorable mention goes out to California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for refusing to sign a bill that would ban e-cigarettes in the golden state. "It was a wise move on his part," says ACSH`s Dr. Gilbert Ross. "He deserves credit for that. If he defended snus, that would earn him a seat at the table. For now we know that e-cigarettes are obviously less harmful than cigarettes, so banning them would take away a less harmful option from smokers trying to quit cigarette smoking."
A Job for Irradiation
ACSH`s Jeff Stier used the power of Twitter yesterday to follow an interview on Larry King Live while simultaneously watching football. King`s guest was Pat Boyle, the head of the American Meat Institute, and they were talking about food safety in light of concerns about poisoning from toxic strains of E. coli bacteria.
"They were discussing what is perceived as a food safety crisis in this country, when in fact our food supply is generally safe," recounts Stier. "Of course, there are ways to make improvements. The problem is that it is the fear promoted by activist groups - especially about irradiation - that is impeding that progress. Like Pat Boyle said, you can never eliminate the threat of E. coli completely, but the best way to make progress against those threats is to cook the meat properly and use available technology like irradiation to kill harmful bacteria."
Zoning Laws and Loopholes
The L.A. Times tells the story of a proposal to be considered by the Los Angeles City Council that would restrict the number of convenience stores allowed in certain parts of the city. Similar restrictions on fast-food restaurants are already in place.
"There is an easy way around that ban," says Stier. "All a restaurant would have to do to be exempted is sell fresh fruits and vegetables in addition to their other products. This illustrates the lack of understanding of the issue by the proponents of this approach and the simplicity of their proposed improvements. Apparently, they think the problem is that people choose fast food because they have no access to fruits and vegetables, and the solution is to open a McDonald`s with an additional shelf for fresh produce. Will that solve the obesity problem? I don`t think so."
In other ironic news, the New York Post reports that the New York City Health Department has apparently been handing out fast food vouchers to tuberculosis patients to encourage them to return to clinics for six-month treatment programs.
"It`s ironic that a city which has been such a nanny state under Bloomberg continues to give away fast food coupons," says Stier. "We didn`t love it when the city was giving away vouchers for farmers markets specializing in organic produce, but this just shows why the Health Department ought to stick to the basics."
Canada: COOL Not Cool
According to the New York Times, "Canada is asking the World Trade Organization to rule against an American [country-of-origin] food-labeling law that it claims is helping to destroy much of its hog-farming industry."
"Canada is suing over the country of origin labeling (COOL) law that recently went into effect on meats, since it is hurting their exports," says Stier. "There is no safety issue here. We`ve been saying for some time that COOL is a piece of protectionist legislation. If someone wants to know where their meat came from in a free market, they`re welcome to buy only meat with labels on it. The government`s role should be limited to ensuring safety, and there is no benefit here in terms of safety or public health."
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