The Cancer Council Australia (CCA) Alcohol Working Group has published a position statement in the May 2011 Medical Journal of Australia, claiming that alcohol use causes cancer and that any level of consumption “increases the risk of developing an alcohol-related cancer.” According to the statement, an analysis verified by “external experts” found that “the level of risk increases in line with the level of consumption” and that an estimated 5,070 cases of cancer “are attributable to long-term chronic use of alcohol each year in Australia.” It also noted that “alcohol use may contribute to weight (fat) gain, and greater body fatness is a convincing cause of cancers of the oesophagus, pancreas, bowel, endometrium, kidney and breast (in postmenopausal women).” CCA recommends that consumers (i) reduce “the risk of alcohol-related harm over a lifetime” by drinking “no more than two standard drinks on any day,” and (ii) reduce the risk of…

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has sent a letter to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, drawing attention to a plan that would allegedly prohibit FDA from considering drug residues in bob veal calf tissues “as an indicator of possible drug misuse on dairy farms.” According to CSPI, bob veal cattle are young beef animals “harvested directly from dairy farms, and therefore, these cattle are key indicators of drug use on the specific farms and are also important indicators of potential use in dairy cattle residing on those farms.” The consumer group thus feels that a policy barring test results from these animals “would make it harder for FDA to detect misuse of animal drugs in dairy cattle and, as a result, consumers may be more likely to be exposed to hazardous drugs in milk and milk products and/or resistant strains of human pathogens…

The Department of Justice recently took action against seafood producers in Wisconsin and Alabama for products that were either processed in plants lacking Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plans or misbranded. In Wisconsin, a U.S. attorney filed a complaint to seize a variety of breaded seafood products in the possession of Soderholm Wholesale Foods, Inc. and Fellerson, Inc. and sold under the “Seaside” label. United States v. “Seaside” Breaded Cod Fillets, No. 11-277 (W.D. Wis., filed April 18, 2011). According to the complaint, these products are adulterated “in that they have been prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions whereby they may have been rendered injurious to health.” Investigations in 2010 allegedly revealed that the companies did not have a written HACCP plan and failed to adopt one after warning. Meanwhile, seafood wholesalers Karen Blyth and David Phelps have reportedly been sentenced in an Alabama federal court to 33…

A divided Delaware Supreme Court has determined that ConAgra’s insurance 0contract is ambiguous and therefore might provide broader coverage, with a lower “retained limit” or deductible, for claims arising out of an alleged Salmonella outbreak involving the company’s peanut butter. ConAgra Foods, Inc. v. Lexington Ins. Co., No. 227, 2010 (Del., decided April 28, 2011). The court reversed a lower court ruling that granted, in part, the insurer’s motion for summary judgment and remanded for consideration of extrinsic evidence about what the parties intended when they agreed to a “lot or batch” endorsement; if that intent cannot be ascertained, the lower court was instructed to interpret the contract in ConAgra’s favor. The court also determined that because ConAgra exceeded the retained limit, the insurer’s duty to defend was triggered on the date the food maker’s liabilities exceeded that limit. The policy at issue included two definitions for “occurrence,” one of which was in…

A federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) court in Georgia has denied ConAgra Foods’ motion for summary judgment in a case involving claims that tainted peanut butter caused a man’s salmonellosis. In re: ConAgra Peanut Butter Prods. Liab. Litig. (Kidd) v. ConAgra Foods, Inc., MDL No. 1845, No. 07-1415 (N.D. Ga., decided May 4, 2011). Bobby Joe Kidd claimed that after he ate Peter Pan® peanut butter he was hospitalized with abdominal pain and nausea. Blood and urine samples taken during his stay apparently tested negative for Salmonella and other infectious agents. ConAgra relied on the negative tests to argue that Kidd would be unable to show that it was more likely than not that contaminated peanut butter caused his illness. The court disagreed, finding sufficient evidence “to allow a reasonable jury to infer that contaminated peanut butter caused his symptoms.” Kidd’s records “indicate that he ate recalled peanut butter and experienced Salmonella-like…

A federal court in Iowa has determined that 31 disabled men who worked at a turkey-processing plant were owed $1.7 million in back wages and liquidated damages by employers who compensated them at a rate of about $.41 per hour for years. Solis v. Hill Country Farms, Inc., No. 09-00162 (S.D. Iowa, Davenport Div., decided April 21, 2011). The recovery will compensate the workers for a three-year period. The two-year statute of limitations was extended for the defendants’ knowing and reckless disregard of federal minimum wage and overtime requirements because the Wage and Hour Division had previously investigated them for the same violations. The employees lived in a bunkhouse provided by the defendants, and their room and board expenses were deducted from their Social Security (SS) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Those expenses, which were increased over time, were also deducted from their pay; their take home of $65…

According to a news source, animal rights activists have recently been pressing members of the Massachusetts House of Representatives to pass a bill (H00458) that would “prohibit the confinement of farm animals in a manner that does not allow them to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs.” The Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act would apply to veal calves, breeding pigs, and egg-laying hens. Those found in violation of the law would be guilty of a misdemeanor and could face up to a $1,000 fine and/or up to 180 days in jail. See The Associated Press, May 2, 2011.

The Alabama House of Representatives has passed a bill (HB193) that would prohibit people from filing lawsuits against establishments such as restaurants or grocery stores for selling them food that allegedly made them fat. The Commonsense Consumption Act, approved May 3, 2011, by a 75-20 vote, bars “civil actions against manufacturers, packers, distributors, carriers, holders, sellers, marketers, or advertisers of food products that comply with applicable statutory and regulatory requirements based on claims arising out of weight gain, obesity, a health condition associated with weight gain or obesity, or other generally known condition caused by or allegedly likely to result from long-term consumption of food.” Spearheaded by Representative Mike Jones (R-Andalusia), the bill is headed for debate in the Alabama Senate.

Attorneys general (AGs) from 23 states and Guam have submitted comments to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in response to its proposed collection of information from alcohol advertisers. The information relates to “compliance with voluntary advertising placement provisions, sales and marketing expenditures, the status of third-party review of complaints regarding compliance with voluntary advertising codes, and alcohol industry data collection practices.” Agreeing that the information collection is in the public interest, the AGs recommend that FTC “seek advertising and promotional expenditure data on an ongoing and regular basis, not just intermittently.” They also urge FTC “to encourage the alcohol industry to move to a standard limiting advertising to media where no more than 15% of the audience is between the ages of 12 and 20.” The April 26, 2011, comment further calls for FTC to “include a brand analysis in its coming report,” noting that these beverages are marketed by…

FDA has issued the first two new regulations under the Food Safety Modernization Act. Effective July 3, 2011, the interim final rules are designed to strengthen FDA’s ability to help prevent potentially unsafe food from reaching U.S. consumers. The first rule amends FDA regulations concerning the detention of food for human or animal consumption. It allows the agency to detain food it believes has been produced under unsanitary or unsafe conditions or is adulterated or misbranded. Previously, the agency was able to detain food products only when it had “credible evidence that a food product presented was contaminated or mislabeled in a way that presented a threat of serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals,” FDA said in a May 4 press release. Now the agency can detain questionable food from the marketplace for up to 30 days while it determines if enforcement action such as seizure…

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