Category Archives Scientific/Technical Items

A study in Nature Human Behavior has reportedly found that Americans who oppose the cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) believe themselves to be highly informed on the subject but lack knowledge of it. Fernbach et al., "Extreme opponents of genetically modified foods know the least but think they know the most," Nature Human Behavior, January 14, 2019. A survey of 501 Americans asked true/false questions about GMO technology and asked participants about their willingness to eat GMO foods, likelihood of participation in protests against them and belief in the necessity of GMO regulation. The researchers reportedly found that "as extremity of opposition to and concern about genetically modified foods increases, objective knowledge about science and genetics decreases, but perceived understanding of genetically modified foods increases."

A review of 56 observational studies and controlled trials has reportedly found "no compelling evidence" that non-sugar sweeteners (NSSs) cause positive or negative health effects. Toews et al., "Association between intake of non-sugar sweeteners and health outcomes: systematic review and meta-analyses of randomised and non-randomised controlled trials and observational studies," BMJ, January 2, 2019. Some of the studies included in the review showed minor benefits to promoting weight loss, while others found minor increases in blood glucose levels for subjects who consumed artificial sweeteners; the researchers found the evidence on both contentions to be weak when compared to similar studies. "For most outcomes, there seemed to be no statistically or clinically relevant difference between NSS intake versus no intake, or between different doses of NSSs," the researchers concluded. "No evidence was seen for health benefits from NSSs and potential harms could not be excluded."

A Pew Research Center poll has reportedly found that Americans are "of two minds about food additives" because about half "say the average person faces a serious health risk from food additives over their lifetime (51%) while the other half believes the average person is exposed to potentially threatening additives in such small amounts that there is no serious risk (48%)." The poll also found that 49 percent of respondents believed genetically modified (GM) foods to be "worse for one's health than non-GM foods, while 44% say such foods are neither better nor worse and 5% say they are better for one's health." Pew reports that it found "an inverse relationship between how much people know about science generally, based on a nine-item index of factual knowledge, and their beliefs about the health risk of foods with additives as well as GM foods. People with low science knowledge tend to…

The North Carolina Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program has reportedly found that children can be exposed to elevated levels of lead through consumption of spices and herbal remedies. Angelon-Gaetz et al., "Lead in Spices, Herbal Remedies, and Ceremonial Powders Sampled from Home Investigations for Children with Elevated Blood Lead Levels - North Carolina, 2011-2018," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The researchers examined North Carolina counties that showed an increase of the number of children with blood lead levels "much higher than most children's levels," per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention standards. The researchers reportedly found that 28.8 percent of spice samples taken from 59 homes showed lead levels of more than one milligram per kilogram. "Increasing testing of spices, herbal remedies, and ceremonial powders for heavy metals by food safety regulators at the port of entry when these substances are imported into the…

U.K. and U.S. researchers have published a study on "a market-based approach of taxing red and processed meat according to its health impacts." Springmann et al., "Health-motivated taxes on red and processed meat: A modelling study on optimal tax levels and associated health impacts," PLOS One, November 6, 2018. The researchers predict that meat-related health care costs will amount to $285 billion in 2020, and they created a model to determine what level of tax or pricing change would account for the associated costs. They purportedly determined that doubling the price of processed meats and raising the price of red meat by about 20 percent would result in enough revenue to account for costs of the reduced consumption rates that would be associated with a rise in price. “I hope that governments will consider introducing a health levy on red and processed meat as part of a range of measures…

A survey of 1,000 participants conducted by the International Food Information Council Foundation has purportedly found that between 24 and 28 percent of respondents either believed or did not know whether plant-based milks contained cow's milk. The organization reported that between seven and nine percent of respondents identified rice, cashew, almond, soy and coconut milk as containing cow's milk, while between 16 and 20 percent of respondents answered that they did not know whether the products contains cow's milk. The survey also asked about the participants' understanding of almond butter and peanut butter; eight percent answered that they believed almond butter contains cow's milk, while 15 percent believed that peanut butter contains the ingredient.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has released a report on risks associated with consuming crickets. The report finds that crickets contain high microbial loads because the entire insect—"including their guts"—is eaten, but food-borne bacteria infections are rare, though they may occur during processing. Crickets can also be host to mycotoxin-producing fungi that cannot be controlled with heat processing, the researchers report. Heavy metal accumulation and allergenicity were determined to be medium hazards, while viral or parasitic infections were considered low-risk.

Nielsen has announced the results of a survey of U.K. consumers comparing opinions about sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) before and after the country's SSB tax took effect in April 2018, finding "minimal impact on consumer behaviour." The survey reportedly found that 62 percent of consumers "claim to have not changed their consumption behaviour in any way post-sugar tax, and only one fifth are checking sugar content on packages more frequently since the tax has come into effect." Further, 11 percent of consumers indicated that they would stop drinking SSBs before the tax took effect, but that number has dropped to one percent. "The number of people who said they would continue to buy sugary soft drinks also, surprisingly, grew post-tax, increasing from 31% in February to 44% in June," Nielsen's press release states.

Consumers Union has announced the results of a phone survey asking consumers how meat products created from cultured animal cells in a laboratory should be labeled. The survey purportedly found that 49 percent of respondents indicated that the products should be labeled as meat with an explanation of its production and 40 percent answered that the products should be labeled as "something other than meat," while five percent of respondents said that they should be labeled as meat without further explanation. The survey also reportedly found that "lab-grown meat" and "artificial or synthetic meat" were the most popular answers about what the products should be called, while "cultured meat," "clean meat" and "in vitro meat" were less popular.

Researchers at the University of Vermont have published the results of a study comparing consumer attitudes towards genetically modified organisms (GMOs) before and after implementation of the state's labeling mandate. Jane Kolodinsky et al., "Mandatory labels can improve attitudes toward genetically engineered food," Science Advances, June 27, 2018. Funded in part by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the study reported that opposition to GMO food in Vermont dropped by 19 percent after the label law took effect. "Our findings put to bed the idea that GMO labels will be seen as a warning label,” one researcher was quoted as saying in a press release. “What we’re seeing is that simple disclosures, like the ones implemented in Vermont, are not going to scare people away from these products.”