Are You Risking Food Poisoning By Ignoring Expiration Dates?

In today’s Slate is an article by Nadia Arumugam titled: “Ignore Expiration Dates: ‘Best by,’ ‘Sell by,’ and all those other labels mean very little.” While I might disagree with her about how tasty expired food is, the last paragraph of the article contains a lot of wisdom when it comes to freshness labels and food safety:
“Expiration dates are intended to inspire confidence, but they only invest us with a false sense of security. The reality is that the onus lies with consumers to judge and maintain the freshness and edibility of their food–by checking for offensive slime, rank smells, and off colors. Perhaps, then, we should do away with dates altogether and have packages equipped with more instructive guidance on properly storing foods, and on detecting spoilage. Better yet, we should focus our efforts on what really matters to our health–not spoilage bacteria, which are fairly docile, but their malevolent counterparts: disease-causing pathogens like salmonella and Listeria, which infect the food we eat not because it’s old but as a result of unsanitary conditions at factories or elsewhere along the supply chain. A new system that could somehow prevent the next E. coli outbreak would be far more useful to consumers than a fairly arbitrary set of labels that merely (try to) guarantee taste.”
It’s true: while improper food preparation at home or in a restaurant can cause food poisoning, the most virulent forms of food poisoning are caused neither by domestic food preparation or food that has spoiled – the worst forms of food poisoning originate at the factories. If a product is OK when it makes it to your grocer’s shelf, it probably won’t do much harm to you, even if you consume it past a “sell by” date. But if a product has a problem before it reaches your grocer’s shelf, you’re probably facing a serious case of food poisoning.

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Follow-Up On “Semper Ride” Motorcycle Safety Film

Dave Hudacsko, part of the team responsible for the “Semper Ride” motorcycle accident film that I blogged about here, saw my blog post about the movie and reached out to me to let me know that the film has a website – http://www.semperride.com – and that, pending final approval from the Marine Corps, you’ll be able to watch a lot of the film and see other features on the website.
The film’s target audience is young Marines – too many of whom are dying in motorcycle accidents – but it should also appeal to any young male motorcycle rider you know who’s convinced of his own invincibility and certain that he is too good a rider to ever have a motorcycle accident.
I think anyone interested in preventing motorcycle accidents can give a giant “Hoo-rah!” to that.

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FDA Announces Effort To Reduce Radiation Overdose Medical Malpractice

In my January 25 blog post, I discussed a phenomenon that should be of concern to patients in Massachusetts and elsewhere – the prevalence of medical malpractice involving radiation overdose.
This week, the Food and Drug Administration announced its “Initiative to Reduce Unnecessary Radiation Exposure from Medical Imaging.” The initiative will focus on two goals: 1.) insuring the medical necessity of any imaging procedure and 2.) optimizing the amount of radiation necessary for each procedure.
Over the past two decades, Americans’ exposure to ionizing radiation has nearly doubled. This increase in radiation exposure is largely attributable to exposure from CT scans, fluoroscopy and nuclear medicine. According to one study, the CT scans performed in the United States in 2007 alone could lead to 29,000 additional cases of cancer down the road.
It will be interesting to see how successful the FDA is in persuading the medical profession to use medical imaging only when necessary, especially in light of how profitable such procedures are for hospitals.
The corporate defense blog Mass Tort Defense has more on this story.

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More Than A Dozen Massachusetts Consumers Suffer Salmonella Poisoning In Outbreak

Recently, the United States Department of Agriculture instituted the recall of 1,240,000 pounds of Italian sausage manufactured by Rhode Island-based meat packing company, Daniele International, after discovering that a sample of their black pepper salami contained salmonella.
On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control announced that, between July 2009 and the present, approximately 225 people in 44 states have been infected with a particular strain of salmonella, Salmonella Montevideo. Thirteen Massachusetts consumers have been infected with Salmonella Montevideo during that time. Some people believe that at least some of the Salmonella Montevideo episodes can be linked to Daniele International’s black pepper sausage.
Here is a CDC map of the outbreak:
CDC Salmonella Outbreak.jpg
Today, the Associated Press reports that a Chicago man, who suffered salmonella poisoning, has filed a lawsuit against Daniele International and two of Daniele’s pepper suppliers, saying that they failed to take steps to prevent the outbreak.
Salmonellosis, the type of food poisoning caused by consuming salmonella-tainted food, typically produces symptoms such as fever, nausea and cramping. However, in children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems, salmonellosis can be fatal.
We will keep you updated on this recall and further lawsuits against Daniele International.

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Toyota Recall II: Is Sudden Uncontrolled Acceleration Something To Be Worried About?

The pro-business blog Point of Law insists, citing to an article in Popular Mechanics, that the dangers posed by Toyota’s acceleration system are overblown. Meanwhile, Department of Transportation head Ray LaHood is telling Toyota owners to stop driving (at least until political concerns cause him to backtrack).
Who do you trust?
Someone should tell Popular Mechanics that forty-one percent of reports of sudden uncontrolled acceleration are about Toyotas. Meanwhile Toyota held about 16 percent of US market share in 2009. Sounds statistically significant to me.

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Consumer Product Safety Commission Tells Massachusetts Parents To Stop Using Cribs

Today the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued an immediate recall of “Generation 2 Worldwide” and “childESIGNS” drop side cribs because of the risk of death from suffocation or strangulation created by the cribs’ drop side design. The recall notice urges parents to stop using the cribs immediately and not to attempt to fix the cribs’ design flaws. Here is a copy of the notice in its entirety:
Generation 2 Worldwide and “ChildESIGNS” Drop Side Crib Brands Recalled; Three Infant Deaths Reported

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is announcing the recall of all Generation 2 Worldwide and “ChildESIGNS” drop side cribs. CPSC is warning parents and caregivers who own these drop side cribs that infants and toddlers are at risk of serious injury or death due to strangulation and suffocation hazards presented by the cribs. CPSC staff urges parents and caregivers to stop using these cribs immediately and find an alternative, safe sleeping environment for their baby. Do not attempt to fix these cribs.
The crib’s plastic hardware can break which can cause the drop side of the crib to detach from a corner of the crib. When the drop side detaches, it creates a space into which an infant or toddler can roll and become wedged or entrapped. When a child is entrapped between the drop side and the crib mattress, it creates a risk of suffocation or strangulation. In addition, the crib’s mattress support can detach from the crib frame, creating a hazardous space in which an infant or toddler could become entrapped and suffocate or strangle.
CPSC has received reports of three infants who suffocated when they became entrapped between the crib mattress and the drop side when the drop side detached. In July 2007, an eight month old child from Newark, Ohio suffocated when he became entrapped between the drop side and the crib mattress. The drop side of his crib had detached due to a broken plastic stop tab on the lower track. In October 2003, an eight month old child from Richmond, Ind. suffocated when he became entrapped between the drop side and the crib mattress. The plastic hardware on the drop side was broken and allowed the drop side to detach from the crib headboard in one corner. In September 2002, a six month old from Staunton, Va. suffocated when he became entrapped between the drop side and crib mattress. The lower drop side track was missing two screws which allowed it to pull away from the headboard post and detach.
CPSC has also received reports of 20 other drop side incidents, 12 of which involved the drop side detaching in a corner of the crib. In two of these incidents, a child became entrapped. One child suffered bruising from the entrapment. There are five reports of children falling out of the cribs due to drop side detachment. One child suffered a broken arm as a result of the fall.
In addition, CPSC has received 8 reports of mattress support detachment in these cribs. Due to the space created by the detachment, three children became entrapped between the crib frame and the sagging mattress and four children crawled out of the crib. There was one report of cuts and bruises.
Due to the fact that Generation 2 went out of business in 2005, CPSC has limited information about the cribs. Although CPSC does not know the total number of units distributed or the years of production, it is believed that there were more than 500,000 of these cribs sold to consumers. Some of the known model numbers are: 10-110X, 10-210X, 21-110X, 20-710X, 64-315X, 26-110X, 90-257X, 20-810X, 46-715X, 64-311X, 74-315X, 21-815X, 21-810X, 20815X, 308154 and 54915. (The “X” denotes where an additional and varying number may appear at the end of the model number.) However, all Generation 2 Worldwide and “ChildESIGNS” drop side cribs are included in this recall, including those with other model numbers.
The name “Generation 2 Worldwide” appears on a label affixed to the crib’s headboard or footboard. Some labels identify the place of manufacture as Dothan, Ala. Others identify China as the country of manufacture. The name “ChildESIGNS” appears on the teething rail of some of the cribs.
The recalled cribs were sold at numerous local furniture and retail stores including Buy Buy Baby, and Kmart and Walmart stores nationwide for between $60 and $160. Consumers should contact the store from which they purchased the crib for remedy information, which will vary between a refund, replacement crib or store credit, depending on the retailer. Consumers are urged to contact CPSC and report any difficulties in obtaining a remedy from their place of purchase.
Important Message from CPSC:
CPSC would like to remind parents not to use any crib with missing, broken, or loose parts. Make sure to tighten hardware from time to time to keep the crib sturdy. When using a drop-side crib, parents should check to make sure the drop-side or any other moving part operates smoothly. Always check all sides and corners of the crib for disengagement. Any disengagement can create a gap and entrap a child. In addition, do not try to repair any side of the crib, especially with tape, wire or rope.
For more information on Crib Safety, visit CPSC’s Crib Information Center.
Picture of Recalled Drop Side Crib Picture of name ‘ChildESIGNS’ on teething rail

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Surprising Statistic: In 2008 More Marines Died In Motorcycle Accidents Than In Iraq

I recently came across this statistic: in 2008 more US Marines died in motorcycle accidents than died in Iraq. The actual numbers: twenty-five Marines died in motorcycle accidents in 2008, twenty-two Marines were killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
In response, the Marine Corps has produced “Semper Ride,” a motorcycle safety film. The film features many top bikers and motocross figures, including Ben Bronstom, Chris “Teach” McNeil and Josh Herrin.
The film makes many sensible points, including that no matter how good a rider you are, you can be the victim of a serious motorcycle accident if a car driver is careless even for a second. Also, if you’re a beginning rider, dirt biking is good training for learning to handle a motorcycle.
Upon reflection, the stats about Marines’ motorcycle accidents should not be so surprising. When the war in Iraq was at its height, car safety advocates were pointing out that the number of lives claimed by our nation’s roads annually – approximately 42,000 – dwarves the number of lives lost in Iraq. The only surprising thing is that even among a cohort like the Marines, who face so many dangers, motorcycle accidents are a serious risk.
Sadly, the lives lost in auto and motorcycle accidents are often easily preventable deaths. So buckle up and keep an eye out for the Marine, or other motorcyclist, who might be in traffic with you.

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Massachusetts Women Should Be Aware Of The Risks of Yaz

According to this news article, fifty Indiana women have sued Bayer, the maker of the Yasmin (or “Yaz”) birth control pill, because their use of the pill caused serious health problems, such as stroke and heart attacks.
Yasmin or “Yaz,” has been sold since 2001. It contains a hormone known as drospirenone that can lead to high levels of blood potassium. High levels of potassium can, in turn, lead to a condition known as hyperkalemia, which can be responsible for heart attacks, blood clots and circulatory problems.
In the past few months, dozens of lawsuits have been filed against Bayer, claiming that Yaz is unsafe. The Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning letter concerning Yaz, however Bayer has not recalled the product.
To date, no Yaz lawsuits have been filed in Massachusetts. We will update you if Massachusetts women do become part of this litigation.

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Link Of The Day: Medical Malpractice “Reform”

Joanne Doroshow of the Center For Justice and Democracy has this fabulous blog post today over at The Huffington Post.
Doroshow makes two good points. First, medical malpractice reform in Texas has been an abysmal failure – as it has been elsewhere.
Second, there are almost no frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits. A medical malpractice lawyer has to advance significant out-of-pocket costs to prosecute any medical malpractice case. In every medical malpractice case, he will have to pay for filing fees, depositions and, most costly of all, expert witness fees – the experts being, of course, doctors who command very high fees for their time. These costs run into the tens of thousands of dollars and, with an aggressive insurance defense bar out there, no lawyer in his right mind files frivolous cases.
I don’t think there is even a public perception that plaintiff’s lawyers file frivolous med mal lawsuits. Instead, I think there is a public perception that juries sometimes give outlandish rewards to the victims of medical malpractice and that must be stopped. Well, there are legal mechanisms in place, ones that have always been there and that are used quite frequently, that allow judges to throw out verdicts that are not in line with the actual harm suffered.
Instead of limiting the rights of victims of medical malpractice, health care reformers should focus on the truly large costs of health care: the costs associated with obesity and diabetes. If we could find better treatments for these diseases, the cost of health care could be cut by a third to one-half. And we wouldn’t be turning medical malpractice victims in victims twice: first in the operating room and then in the courtroom.

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