Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Sometimes we're right

Apparently, epidemiologists have been saying for a while that the UN's estimation of AIDS cases in low-income countries is flawed. Turns out, they were right.

I hadn't heard anything about the criticisms before this article, but I don't blame them for criticizing: estimates were based on anonymous women coming to free clinics for pregnancy or STD tests. Free clinics are primarily in the cities, and women needing pregnancy or STD tests are, by definition, sexually active. Rural, sexually inactive women would be ignored by this method. And they overestimated?

Lesson: think about biases before you extrapolate results to a general population.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Can you pay extra for a sterilized cooking staff?

My first thought seeing this article: what will this mean for the CDC's 'cruise ship of the week'? After all, those things are great infection vats! Mostly because all the people are shoved together, though . . . maybe this will help.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Slow food revival? Nah.

A friend was just asking me if slow food was as popular out East as it was back (for him) West. This seems to say that no, slow food isn't overly popular in the US in general.

I'm very worried by the statistic that 25% of family dinners are at restaurants. 1) You don't teach your kids to cook by going to a restaurant. 2) That probably includes (and is overwhelmed by) fast-food restaurants. Eek.

Americans like hamburgers, locally grown and convenience foods: poll
By Janie Gabbett on 11/8/2007 for Meatingplace.com
According to PARADE magazine's biennial "What America Eats" survey, 21 percent of Americans would choose a hamburger as their only food on a deserted island.

Respondents to the survey of 2001 Americans over 18 years of age were given a choice of seven foods. Pizza was the top choice at 37 percent, followed by hamburger (21 percent), fruit (17 percent), veggies (12 percent), chocolate (8 percent), apple pie (3 percent) and French fries (2 percent).

The survey also found that 82 percent of Americans use convenience foods (pre-made fresh, frozen, refrigerated, canned or packaged) and 22 percent are using more of such foods than a year ago. While 46 percent believe these foods are more expensive, 71 percent said the cost is worth it for the time saved.

Local, natural and green

The movement towards eating foods grown locally is "one of the hottest culinary trends to come along in years," according to the survey, which cited recent E. coli scares and tainted food from China as factors driving Americans to think about where their food comes from and how it is grown.

When shopping for groceries, 38 percent of respondents said that all-natural claims are important, while 34 percent said recyclable packaging is a big factor and 32 percent said "environmentally friendly" labels are an important purchasing consideration. And 70 percent said they are at least somewhat likely to buy products that won't harm the environment, even if they cost more.

Where we eat

  • 87 percent said they eat home-cooked food for dinner, 5 percent chose restaurant take-out and only 1 percent eat supermarket-prepared meals
  • 81 percent said they eat breakfast at home, but 59 percent admit they skip it and 4 percent eat it in a restaurant
  • 60 percent eat lunch at home, with 36 percent skipping it and 10 percent in a restaurant
  • 25 percent of family dinners are at a restaurant and only 5 percent don't eat dinner

More men in the kitchen

Men are doing more grocery shopping and cooking more meals than 20 years ago. The survey said 71 percent of women now do the grocery shopping versus 93 percent 20 years ago, and 68 percent of women said they prep and cook food for their household versus 94 percent two decades ago.

Fantasy meals

If a TV family could join them for dinner, 29 percent of respondents picked the cast of "Friends", while 24 percent preferred "The Brady Bunch" and 15 percent want to eat with "The Simpsons." Only 7 percent want to eat with The Costanzas from "Seinfeld".

Rachael Ray was the pick (38 percent) for the chef Americans want to cook their dinner, followed by (30 percent) Emeril Lagasse.

And if calories and nutrition were no object, 26 percent of Americans would most often eat pizza, 20 percent Chinese food, 14 percent fried chicken, 10 percent fast-food hamburgers and 9 percent deli sandwiches or wraps. A hot dog with the works was the choice of 3 percent of those polled.

The survey was sponsored in part by Sara Lee Food and Beverage and conducted by Mark Clements Research Inc.

Translation: foreigners are dirty!

Okay, this doesn't really surprise me. What does surprise me is that this hasn't come up before. The real lesson: cook your meat fully (and don't drink raw milk -- the population of poultry workers and that of milkers isn't all that different).

More than 200 test positive for TB at poultry plant
By Alicia Karapetian on 11/5/2007 for Meatingplace.com
Some 28 percent of the 765 employees screened for tuberculosis at one of Wayne Farms LLC's poultry processing facilities in Decatur, Ala., tested positive, the Decatur Daily reported.

Final testing was completed at the Alabama State Department of Public Health's Tubrerculosis Control Division Wednesday, with a total of 212 positive skin tests.

The testing was done in two batches. On Oct. 11, 167 employees were tested, resulting in 47 positive skin tests, one of which was an active, and contagious, case.

More recently, the final group of tests was completed last week, which resulted in 167 positive skin tests from a pool of 598 samples. Those most recently tested and with positive skin tests will receive chest X-rays on Thursday to determine if any of those cases are active and contagious, according to the Decatur Daily.

Scott Jones, interim director at the state's TB division told the Decatur Daily that he is not surprised by the number of positive skin tests given that many of the workers at the facility were born outside of the United States.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Really?!?! Not a lobbyist?

This is surprising! No, I'm not bashing Republicans -- most secretaries of agriculture have industry ties. Schafer, though, seems to be clean (of the ag industry; he has worked in other industries). Nice change . . . although the new Farm Bill looks like more of the same . . . one step at a time!

Bush nominates new ag secretary
By Tom Johnston on 11/1/2007 for Meatingplace.com
President Bush has nominated Edward T. Schafer to serve as the nation's next Agriculture Secretary, saying Schafer's service over two terms as governor of North Dakota has well qualified him for the job, the White House announced.

Schafer, a Republican who elected not to make another run for North Dakota governor office in 2000, will succeed Mike Johanns, who resigned to campaign for Nebraska's Senate seat. (See Johanns announces U.S. Senate bid on Meatingplace.com, Oct. 11, 2007.)

Chuck Conner, who has been serving as acting agriculture secretary, applauded the president's pick.

"Having served two terms as governor of an agricultural state, he (Schafer) knows the issues," Conner said. "He has led trade missions, promoted renewable energy and advanced rural development in his home state. His reputation for being a strong leader with a straightforward approach and optimistic outlook will fit perfectly here at the department, and it will be appreciated by the farmers, ranchers and other stakeholders whom we serve."

Jay Truitt, vice president of government affairs for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, also spoke highly of Schafer.

"He will bring a fresh perspective to USDA at a time when American agriculture is facing many new challenges in policy development and opportunities in innovation and technology," Truitt said. "This is a critical time for U.S. agriculture, and we're looking forward to working with Mr. Schafer to help guide the cattle and beef industry into the future."

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The title says it all

Yep, no surprises here:

New cancer report says limit red and processed meat; industry disagrees
By Janie Gabbett on 10/31/2007 for Meatingplace.com

A new report by the World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research suggests limiting intake of red meat and avoiding processed meat as one of ten recommendations to reduce cancer risk.

The report, which updates the group's 1997 findings and reviewed over 7,000 studies, said it found that both red meat (defined as beef, pork, lamb and goat) and processed meat (defined as meat preserved by smoking, curing or salting or chemical preservatives) increased risk of colorectal cancer if eaten in large quantities.

It cautioned people who eat red meat to consume less than 500 grams (18 ounces) of cooked red meat a week and that they consume "very little, if any" processed meat, such as bacon, ham, sausage and lunchmeat.

"The panel emphasizes that this overall recommendation is not for diets containing no red meat or diets containing no foods of animal origin," the report said, noting that meat can be a valuable source of protein, iron, zinc and vitamin B12.

"An integrated approach to the evidence also shows that many foods of animal origin are nourishing and healthy if consumed in modest amounts," it said.

The report pointed to excess body fat as a major cancer risk and noted that, "diets with high levels of animal fats are often relatively high in energy, increasing the risk of weight gain." It linked excess body fat to cancers of the esophagus, pancreas, colon and rectum, endometrium and kidney, along with breast cancer in post-menopausal women.

To view the entire report, click here.

Industry response

The American Meat Institute (AMI) said the study's meat intake recommendations, "reflect WCRF's well-known anti-meat bias and should be met with skepticism because they oversimplify the complex issue of cancer, are not supported by the data and defy common sense."

"Given the complexities and conflicting research findings, it is inconceivable that WCRF could draw definitive conclusions and make such precise recommendations about specific food categories," said AMI Foundation Vice President of Scientific Affairs Randy Huffman, noting the causes of cancer involve factors like genetics, the environment, lifestyle and a host of other issues.

AMI also disputed the report's recommendations on processed meats. "Our own systematic review of the literature by independent epidemiologists has documented that 15 of 16 comparisons regarding processed meat and colorectal cancer were not statistically significant," said Huffman.

Harvard data

Huffman also questioned why WCRF didn't take into account a 2004 Harvard School of Public Health analysis that concluded that red meat and processed meat were not associated with colon cancer.

He said the Harvard study, involving 725,000 men and women, was presented at the 2004 American Association for Cancer Research Conference in abstract form but never has been published in its entirety.

Huffman called the Harvard paper, Meat and fat intake and colorectal cancer risk: A pooled analysis of 14 prospective studies, the largest study ever done on red meat and colon cancer. He said lawmakers are now asking Harvard why the study has not been published, given its completion three years ago and its federal funding.
The point is, again, how much can we trust epi studies? We can design a study to say almost anything; whether we can get it published is another issue. Should you refute a published study with an unpublished study? Or is it, as they imply, refuting a p.c. study with a politically blocked study?