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Roundup: Food Additives Banned, Hand Sanitizer Study, and Juul Sales Surge

FDA Revokes Use of 7 Synthetic Food Additives After Consumer Groups Sue

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced that seven compounds that mimic certain flavorings will no longer be allowed to be used as food additives.

The FDA’s action comes in response to a lawsuit filed last year by several environmental and consumer groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Center for Food Safety, and the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The FDA said the data presented in the legal action by these groups show that these synthetic substances “caused cancer in laboratory animals under the conditions of the studies.”

The FDA revoked the use of these six synthetically derived substances: anibenzophenone (benzophenone), ethyl acrylate, eugenyl methyl ether (methyl eugenol), myrcene, pulegone and pyridine. These compounds are used to add flavorings that taste like mint or cinnamon. The seventh synthetic flavor, styrene, was revoked as an additive because manufacturers no longer use it. Most consumers are not familiar with the substances because food manufacturers are permitted to label them simply as “artificial flavors.”

“Based on evidence presented by the petitioners (the environtmental and consumer groups) that benzophenone causes cancer in animals, the FDA also is amending the food additive regulations to no longer provide for its use as a plasticizer in rubber articles intended for repeated use in contact with food,” the FDA states.

Companies who use these additives will have 24 months to identify suitable replacements in food products, the FDA said.

Despite their revocation, the FDA says the additives “do not pose a risk to public health under the conditions of their intended use.” The synthetic flavorings are typically used in foods available in the U.S. marketplace in very small amounts and their use results in very low levels of exposures and low risk, the agency said.

In July, the American Academy of Pediatrics [1] (AA) issued a statement published in the Pediatrics medical journal, referring to “critical weaknesses in the current regulatory system.” The AAP is urging toe FDA to retest all previously approved chemicals found in packaged food.

The AAP refers specifically in its statement to concerns about the use of “colorings, flavorings, and chemicals deliberately added to food during processing” and other substances that come in contact with food during manufacturing or packaging that can cause contamination.

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Study: Hand Sanitizers Fare Better Than Soap-and-Water in Preventing Infections

Under certain circumstances, hand sanitizers could be a better way to clean hands — compared to just washing with soap and water, a study published in Pediatrics [4] found. Washing your hands properly with soap and water, and making sure your kids to the same, is usually the best way to help families maintain proper hygiene, especially as the flu season gets underway.

If soap and water are unavailable, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer will do the trick, experts have said. Just be sure to use enough to cover the entire hand and rub the solution until it dries, usually about 15 to 20 seconds. A new study comparing the  proper use of santizers to  hand-washing found that sanitizers may be the better bet — in terms of protecting kids against infections.

Researchers monitored 911 children up to age 3 who attended 24 day care centers in Almería, Spain, over an eight-month period. Children were divided into three hand-cleaning groups: One that used hand sanitizers, one that used soap and water, and a control group that followed the day care center’s usual hand-washing routines.

The soap-and-water group had a 21 percent higher risk of contracting a respiratory infection than the hand-sanitizer group. Additionally, the soap group required 31 percent more antibiotic prescriptions than the sanitizer group.

But how they clean their hands could make a significant difference in whether small children get sick. The researchers concluded: “hygiene programs that include hand sanitizer and educational measures for day care center employees, children and parents” produce the best results. These results included “reduced episodes due to respiratory infections and antibiotic prescriptions for these infections in children attending day care centers.”

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Sales of Juul e-Cigarettes Skyrocket, Posing Risks to Youth, CDC Says

Sales of Juul an e-cigarette shaped like a USB flash drive, surged more than seven-fold from 2016 to 2017, representing the biggest share of the U.S. e-cig market by December 2017, according to new data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Use of Juul by young people in schools, including in classrooms and bathrooms, has been widely reported, the CDC states. Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, and Juul contains among the highest nicotine content of any e-cigarette on the U.S. market, the CDC Says. Nicotine is highly addictive and can harm a child’s brain development, which continues into the mid-20s.

Last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it issued more than 1,300 warnings and monetary penalties to retailers that illegally sold Juul and other e-cigarette products to minors. The largest enforcement effort in FDA history is part of the agency’s campaign to curb what it is deeming as an “epidemic” of young people using e-cigarettes and related nicotine products.

Most of the monetary fines assessed in the FDA’s crackdown were for the illegal sale of five e-cigarette products – Blu, Juul, Logic, MarkTen XL and Vuse. These brands represent 97 percent of the U.S. e-cigarette market.

“The popularity of Juul among kids threatens our progress in reducing youth e-cigarette use,” said Robert Redfield, M.D., director of CDC. “We are alarmed that these new high nicotine content e-cigarettes, marketed and sold in kid-friendly flavors, are so appealing to our nation’s young people.”

The CDC says its analysis included purchases from most US retail stores, but it did not include sales via the Internet or through “vape shops,” so sales may be underestimated.

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