ACSH staffers would like to offer a seat at the table to Marc Murphy, chef and owner of the Landmarc restaurants, and Ditch Plains, for speaking out against the New York City Department of Health s new grading system for the city s restaurants. In the New York Times on Wednesday, Murphy called the grades a snapshot in time and argued that they would tell the customer nothing of real value.
Then, he said in a written statement: My biggest concern about letter grading, in fact, is simply that I m not at all sure the grades are going to be based solely on food safety and, ultimately, the safety of the customer...Ultimately, doesn t it seem reasonable to say that a restaurant is either safe to eat in or not?
It s unbelievable that a well-known restaurateur actually spoke out against this system, says ACSH s Jeff Stier. You would think he would say, Well, we re clean, do what you want, but he recognizes that this isn t just about cleanliness. It s a cynical way for the DOH to work their opinions about such non-safety issues as trans fats and perhaps, eventually, salt into consumer perceptions about the safety and cleanliness of restaurants.
FDA Repeats History, Feels Good About Itself
The FDA is trying to restrict the marketing of cigarettes to children and teens by issuing national limits on merchandise sales, event sponsorships, and other promotions and by limiting advertising that may be seen by youth to black-and-white text.
This is so 1990s, says ACSH s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan. Almost every regulation that was passed or went into effect here was already in effect as result of the Master Settlement Agreement. Ultimately, the question is: will these measures reduce kids smoking? It is an unknown.
It s just so the government can make it seem is if they are doing something useful, says Stier.
A Reporter s Highest Calling: Frightening Parents
According to CNN s Paging Dr. Gupta blog, Lax regulations expose children in the United States to dangerous levels of pesticides and other chemicals, posing an increased risk of chronic, degenerative diseases later in life, a doctor told a Senate committee Wednesday...[Dr. Ted Schettler, science director for the non-profit Science and Environmental Health Network] advocated an overhaul of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to better protect the public from chemicals in consumer products, food, water, and air.
The blog only quotes environmental activists, so there s no balance in this story, says Stier. Dr. Gupta has started making environmental toxins a theme of his so that he can make a name for himself as a reporter protecting the Earth. He s not a reporter, he s an activist.
ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross agrees: It s very typical of activist reporting to begin the discussion by claiming that there are toxins harming children and asking what you can do to protect yourself. They skip the part where they show evidence to support their claim that these substances are actually dangerous and, if so, at what levels. This is pure activism and chemo-phobia disguised as scientific discourse. Basically, we re chasing phantom risks because our longevity is increasing, cancer rates are going down, and people are looking for something to worry about.
It s very sad because all this attention is given to these phantom risks in the environment, and this ends up distracting parents from the real risks that face their children, says Dr. Whelan. There s so much discussion these days about bias and full disclosure. Well where s the disclosure that these expert witnesses have an agenda, and their lifetime project has been to frighten people about environmental exposures? Dr. Schettler was among the anti-phthalate crusaders ACSH fought against successfully eleven years ago with our Koop Panel.
For more information see ACSH s publication Are Children More Vulnerable to Environmental Chemicals?
Sen. Kohl Fails Price Controls 101
Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) sent letters to top pharmaceutical companies to ask why drugs are cheaper in other countries than in the U.S..
It s a naÃ¯ve question because he should understand that so many countries have price controls, and their prices aren t reflective of the true cost of developing pharmaceutical products, says Dr. Whelan. If we go that route, we won t be able to fund research, and therefore there will be no more innovative drugs.
The Lancet s Expiation Attempt
An article in the latest issue of The Lancet delivers some unsettling news: Around the world, vaccination rates are dropping, and the unthinkable is happening: children are dying from childhood diseases like measles and pertussis. This fall in immunisation has coincided with an increasingly vocal anti-vaccination movement...scientists are starting to become increasingly concerned about the medical misinformation that some groups are spreading.
The article s authors consulted ACSH s new trustee, vaccine expert and fervent anti-hysteria campaigner Dr. Paul Offit.
The thrust of this article is that superstitious fears of vaccines are progressing around the world, says Dr. Ross. They certainly haven t disappeared from our own country, but it s even worse in developing countries. Vaccine paranoia is being fomented by zealots, and it s somewhat ironic that this is being pointed out in the pages of The Lancet, since the same journal is responsible for the publication of the 1998 Wakefield study linking autism to the MMR vaccine, which was only retracted last month.
A Half-Ton of Glory
ACSH staffers were speechless after reading a report about a 600-pound New Jersey woman who plans to gain enough weight to put her over the 1,000-pound threshold that will earn her the Guinness record for heaviest woman: Beth Lanzisera, a registered dietician from Cranford, said Simpson will reach her goal weight in under a year, if she continues to consume 12,000 calories a day... I just wonder what her underlying motivation is, said the dietician.
Curtis Porter is a research intern at the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH.org).