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Oct. 25, 2012 by Thomas McGarity

It's Time to Regulate Energy Drinks

In the week before Christmas last year, 14-year-old Anais Fournier went to Valley Mall in Hagerstown, Maryland with some friends.  While there she purchased and consumed a 24-ounce can of an energy drink manufactured by the Monster Beverage Corporation.  She returned to the mall the next day and consumed another Monster energy drink.  Later that evening, while she was watching a movie at home with her boyfriend, she went into cardiac arrest. She died four days later on the day before Christmas Eve.  An autopsy concluded that she had died of “cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity.”

Thanks to the efforts of her mother to get to the bottom of the matter, Anais’s untimely death may stimulate new efforts to regulate sports drinks and other potentially dangerous dietary supplements and to hold companies accountable in courts of law for their irresponsible marketing strategies.

Anais’s mother was convinced that the Monster energy drinks caused her daughter’s death.  Last week, she and Anais’s father filed a lawsuit against the company, and on Monday the New York Times published documents she received in response to her Freedom of Information request for FDA’s adverse event reports on Monster drinks …

Sept. 20, 2012 by Ben Somberg
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A host of concerned groups and individuals wrote to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack today urging him to withdraw proposed changes to poultry inspection rules until food safety and worker safety concerns are addressed. The letter was signed by a range of food safety and worker safety groups and individual signers, including CPR Member Scholars Martha McCluskey, Thomas McGarity, Sidney Shapiro, and Rena Steinzor.

The letter explains the food safety and worker safety issues at stake, and takes USDA to task for its rushed approach:

The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) developed the proposal with limited public input. The agency did not adequately consult with its inspection advisory committee, nor did the agency hold public meetings to solicit the views of the public. Previous agency proposals that sought to substantially change parts of the federal inspection program have been debated and discussed in public forums so …

July 18, 2012 by Aimee Simpson
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Yesterday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it would amend an existing food additive regulation to prohibit the use of Bisphenol A (BPA) in “infant feeding bottles (baby bottles) and spill-proof cups, including their closures and lids, designed to help train babies and toddlers to drink from cups (sippy cups).”  BPA, a chemical commonly added to polycarbonate resins (a fancy word for plastics), continues to raise concerns over its low-dose, endocrine-disrupting health effects.  Despite these health and safety concerns, the FDA’s decision to ban BPA in these limited items responds to a petition from the American Chemistry Council (ACC), which cites abandonment as the reason for the regulation amendment—not safety.

The good news about FDA’s BPA ban: FDA finally took an affirmative step toward protecting some of the public from BPA.  The bad news: the step is a meager one …

June 8, 2012 by Lisa Heinzerling
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Cross-posted from Georgetown Law Faculty Blog.

When an agency defends over three decades of inaction on an important problem by saying that acting would take too long, one hopes a judge reviewing the agency's inaction will see through the pretense.  This is exactly what happened this week, when a federal magistrate judge in New York ruled that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had acted arbitrarily in citing time and resource constraints in declining to limit the use of antibiotics in animal feed. 

Some 80 percent of the antibiotics used in the United States are given to animals destined to become part of our food supply.  Most of these drugs are given not to sick but to healthy animals; they are used not to treat disease but to promote animal growth or to prevent bacterial infections from occurring.  Both of these purposes are tied to …

April 18, 2012 by Aimee Simpson
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CPR Member Scholar Noah Sachs and I submitted comments yesterday to FDA regarding the American Chemistry Council’s (ACC) petition to the agency on BPA. In September, the ACC petitioned FDA to remove approval for the use of BPA in “infant feeding bottles and certain spill-proof cups” (Rena Steinzor and I explained at the time the story behind the seemingly counter-intuitive move).

In our comments this week, we advocate for FDA to utilize its full rulemaking authority and take broader regulatory action to protect the public against BPA.  Specifically, we propose:

  • Issuing new regulations encompassing the ACC’s Petition and Rep. Edward Markey’s March 16, 2012 Petitions concerning abandoned uses;
  • Banning a much broader range of BPA uses without reference to age limits or target consumers; and
  • Mandating labeling of BPA in all food contact materials.

As we explain in the comments, convincing scientific evidence supports …

April 9, 2012 by Matthew Freeman
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One of the many ways that the slow and agonizing contraction of the newspaper industry is felt is in the depth of coverage that papers provide their readers. It’s a matter of simple math, really. As newsrooms shrink, reporters are stretched ever thinner. So a newspaper that 15 years ago had separate reporters covering elementary and secondary education is now likely to have just one covering both. Similarly, newspapers have fewer reporters dedicated to the environmental beat, let alone beats covering regulatory issues — topics at the heart of the Center for Progressive Reform’s work. The result is that many reporters don’t have time to take on stories they might once have covered, and if they do, they sometimes have a steeper learning curve and too little time to really dig in. That’s a recipe for simplistic coverage, which is just a nice way …

April 4, 2012 by Aimee Simpson
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Last Friday, the FDA denied the Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) citizen petition requesting that the agency ban Bisphenol A (BPA) as an approved food additive and food contact substance.  The agency took nearly three years to issue this decision, and did so only under a court’s order. The FDA’s denial of the petition was disappointing, because the existing science on BPA is strong enough to warrant restrictions on its use. The announcement was an unsurprising continuation of the federal government’s “wait and see” approach to BPA regulation. 

FDA spokesman Douglas Karas said that “this announcement is not a final safety determination and the FDA continues to support research examining the safety of BPA.”  There is no question that continued risk assessment and scientific study of BPA should be part of the FDA’s action plan for addressing the health and safety concerns …

March 8, 2012 by Sidney Shapiro
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In 1975, Indiana lawmakers joined a small but growing group of state legislatures passing aggressive medical malpractice “reforms.”  Indiana’s law capped damages that victims of medical malpractice can recover at $500,000 and eliminated damages for pain-and-suffering altogether, Frank Cornelius, a lobbyist for the Insurance Institute of Indiana, played a role in helping pass this legislation.  Twenty years later, Cornelius suffered a tragic series of negligent medical errors that left him wheelchair-bound, dependent on a respirator to breathe, and requiring a morphine drip for continuous physical pain.  Facing medical expenses and lost wages of $5 million if he lived to retirement age, Cornelius experienced first-hand the effects of his lobbying for the insurance industry:  he was forced to settle his claims for the $500,000 limit.  In an op-ed in The New York Times several years later, Mr. Cornelius told his story, expressing regret and noting …

Jan. 26, 2012 by Aimee Simpson
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Today CPR releases Protecting the Public from BPA: An Action Plan for Federal Agencies (press release), outlining steps the FDA, EPA, and OSHA can take to use existing authorities to warn the public about the dangers of the chemical, and prepare longer-term regulatory controls. The paper was written by CPR Member Scholars Tom McGarity, Noah Sachs, and Rena Steinzor, and Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Shudtz and myself.

Bisphenol A (BPA) makes me want to cry.  Not in the sad or mournful way, but in the “I want to kick and scream on the floor and throw a tantrum like my toddler” kind of way.   I didn’t always feel this way.  These feelings concerning BPA (an endocrine-disrupting chemical added to plastics to increase clarity and durability, and used in myriad other sources such as can linings, kitchen appliances, and water bottles) began to arise when I started …

Oct. 14, 2011 by Rena Steinzor
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This post was co-authored by CPR President Rena Steinzor and CPR Policy Analyst Aimee Simpson.

In what at first glance seemed to be a startlingly uncharacteristic move, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) has petitioned the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to update and strengthen its food additive regulation that sets out the approved uses for polycarbonate resins.   For those who don’t speak plastic, “polycarbonate resin” refers to plastic that contains bisphenol-A or “BPA”—an endocrine-disrupting chemical with significant health risks, especially for babies. Polycarbonate resin is found in everything from reusable food and beverage containers, to tin can linings and thermal receipt paper. 

While usually a staunch defender of unbridled BPA use in all things plastic, the ACC actually asked the FDA to remove approval for the use of BPA in “infant feeding bottles and certain spill-proof cups.” If this request has you scratching you head …

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