The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

World, nation, state

November 10, 2013

Experts hope sugar, salt are next on FDA target list

Now that the Food and Drug Administration has moved to banish most trans fats from the nation’s diet, some public health advocates are hopeful that two other beloved ingredients - sugar and salt - will be subject to similar scrutiny.

“Sodium is next,” said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, a Harvard University epidemiologist and cardiologist at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

In acting to remove artificial trans fats from the food supply, Mozaffarian said, the FDA has acknowledged a scientific consensus that they are hazardous to the public’s health. The same case could be said about excess dietary sodium, and that should be an equally powerful prod to FDA action, he said.

Tom Neltner, an analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, D.C., said that sugar, too, may become a target in the wake of Thursday’s FDA action.

In regulating food additives, the FDA has historically focused on removing chemicals that cause death and acute injury, Neltner said. Now the agency has demonstrated that it’s ready to step in when a food additive contributes to chronic diseases that kill many people slowly.

“I hope this presages a new willingness to regulate with an eye to these chronic illnesses,” Neltner said.

Even compared with saturated fat - a frequent fellow traveler - trans fatty acid is a bad actor, knocking the blood’s lipid levels into dangerous territory on two fronts. Not only does it raise levels of LDL cholesterol, the bad kind; trans fat consumption depresses levels of HDL cholesterol, which is considered protective against heart disease.

Harvard University public health professor Walter Willett and colleagues estimated in 1994 that consumption of trans fatty acids caused 30,000 Americans to die prematurely of coronary heart disease each year. Other estimates have soared as high as 100,000 premature deaths per year.

In a more recent update of trans fat’s toll, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reckoned that eliminating the remaining trans fat from American diets would prevent the premature cardiovascular deaths of 7,000 Americans and head off three times as many nonfatal heart attacks.

In an interview Thursday, Willett cautioned that regulating sodium and sugar as additives would hardly be as easy as making a decision to ban trans fats.

While trans fats have no nutritional value, salt is an essential nutrient. And sugar, when consumed at reasonable levels, is not harmful, he said. If it is to act on mounting scientific concern about dietary sodium and sugar, the FDA will have to rethink the assumption that an additive it considers to be as safe “is safe in any amount,” Willett said.

The FDA’s regulation of food additives has come under growing criticism in recent years, and again on Thursday with the release of a three-year assessment of the FDA’s program by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

As the number and variety of substances added to food in the United States has exploded, the agency’s resources - as well as its regulatory powers under the 1958 Food Additives Amendment - have been overwhelmed, the Pew report concluded.

The FDA has the legal authority to scrutinize any new chemicals before they are added to food and are introduced to the market, and to approve or deny their use. But in 1997, the agency acknowledged it was sitting on an overwhelming backlog of requests, and announced that it would accept voluntary notifications of planned additive use from food manufacturers.

That policy would allow a food company pondering use of a new chemical in its product to make the case that the proposed additive was “generally recognized as safe,” or GRAS. Unless the FDA challenged the company’s argument, the company would then be free to use the additive as it saw fit.

The review by Pew’s experts found that many manufacturers of foods and food additives have bypassed the voluntary notification process altogether. The result, the report estimates that about 1,000 new chemicals have been introduced into the U.S. food supply without any FDA oversight at all.

1
Text Only
World, nation, state
  • Plan to simplify 2015 health renewals may backfire

    If you have health insurance on your job, you probably don’t give much thought to each year’s renewal. But make the same assumption in one of the new health law plans, and it could lead to costly surprises.

    July 28, 2014

  • Hospital shooting suspect charged with murder

    A man accused of fatally shooting his caseworker and grazing his psychiatrist at a suburban Philadelphia hospital complex before the doctor returned fire has been charged with murder.

    July 28, 2014

  • Man seeks video of Oklahoma City bombing

    One man’s quest to explain his brother’s mysterious jail cell death 19 years ago has rekindled long-dormant questions about whether others were involved in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

    July 28, 2014

  • Bill in Congress to help veterans with PTSD

    A group of lawmakers have joined together to help veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Post Traumatic Brain Injury (PTBI) and other war injuries get speedy medical treatment — and avoid Veteran’s Administration bureaucracy and Department of Defense lack of accountability.

    July 28, 2014

  • U.S.: Russia has fired rockets into Ukraine

    Stepping up pressure on Moscow, the U.S. on Sunday released satellite images it says show that rockets have been fired from Russia into neighboring eastern Ukraine and that heavy artillery for separatists also has crossed the border.

    July 28, 2014

  • U.S. says Russia is firing across border into Ukraine

    Russia is launching artillery attacks from its soil on Ukrainian troops and preparing to move heavier weaponry across the border, the U.S. and Ukraine charged Friday in what appeared to be an ominous escalation of the crisis.

    July 25, 2014

  • Gaza sides agree to lull but truce efforts stall

     Israel-Hamas fighting looked headed for escalation after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry failed Friday to broker a weeklong truce as a first step toward a broader deal and Israel’s defense minister warned Israel might soon expand its Gaza ground operation “significantly.”

    July 25, 2014

  • Planes with Ukraine bodies arrive in Netherlands

    Two more military aircraft carrying remains of victims from the Malaysian plane disaster arrived in the Netherlands on Thursday, while Australian and Dutch diplomats joined to promote a plan for a U.N. team to secure the crash site which has been controlled by pro-Russian rebels.

    July 24, 2014

  • UN school in Gaza caught in cross-fire; 15 killed

    A U.N. school in Gaza crowded with hundreds of Palestinians seeking refuge from fierce fighting came under fire Thursday, killing at least 15 civilians and leaving a sad tableau of blood-spattered pillows, blankets and children’s clothing scattered in the courtyard.

    July 24, 2014

  • Air Algerie jet with 116 on board crashes in Mali

    An Air Algerie jetliner carrying 116 people crashed Thursday in a rainstorm over restive Mali, and its wreckage was found near the border of neighboring Burkina Faso — the third major international aviation disaster in a week.

    July 24, 2014

House Ads
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
AP Video