Putting the latest cancer scare into perspective

Occasionally a slice of bacon can be just fine.

People have been abuzz all week since a World Health Organization report suggests that bacon and processed meat increases cancer risk. That’s likely a valid conclusion based on decades of science. In fact, I remember reporting on a study that showed this in 1988. But this doesn’t mean you should immediately halt eating processed meats. Just be prudent. Moderation, as with all things. 

Here’s an article by Julia Belluz, who covers health for Vox.com that tells more. 

The WHO’s new warnings about bacon and cancer, explained – Vox

Campaign aims to improve home food safety (VIDEO)

Foodborne illness sources
The CDC studied 10 years of data to identify common sources of food borne illness.

While it’s always good to be wary of public education campaigns driven by commercial interests, a new effort by the food industry to communicate about preventing food borne illness by improving home food safety has a few worthy elements. The new “Mythbusters” campaign aims to increase safe food handling in homes, which are the source for about 9% of food-related sickness in the United States each year. Commercial or restaurant kitchens are the source for most food borne disease, accounting for about seven times more cases than private kitchens.

The skeptic in me questions why backers like Foster Farms, Cargill, and the trade associations representing manufacturers of most of the food items that wind up in grocery stores and commercial kitchens, want to shine the light on home kitchens more than safety improvements in industrial food processing. To be fair, the large companies do pay attention to food safety, and I am unlikely to ever be completely comfortable eating factory-farmed, processed products. If they are doing their part, then asking consumers to be careful with home food safety, too, probably makes sense.

Food safety myth buster #1
Industry-led group is trying to educate public about food safety “myths.”

Food safety is serious business. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3,000 people die every year from consuming contaminated food or beverages, many thousands more are sickened.

Food prepared in home kitchens accounts for a lot of illness, but it’s a minor factor compared to restaurants or delis where many people can be exposed to contamination. Based on 10 years of data, the CDC estimates that nearly 7 out of every 10 cases of food borne illness are traced to restaurants, 1 out of every 10 to foods prepared in a private home, and the rest are attributed to caterers or institutional kitchens.

The project’s website has fact sheets, videos, and other resources to help families keep their home kitchens and the foods they eat safer. For example, a safe school lunch flyer reminds people to use separate cutting boards for meats and vegetables and use insulated bags, freezer gel packs or a frozen juice box to help keep lunches safe after they go out the door.

Salmonella cases linked to pig roasts

Washington state health authorities safe trying to determine how more than 55 people were sickened with salmonella in recent weeks. Two were hospitalized. 

Preliminary investigation suggests whole pig roasts at private events may have been a common factor in the salmonella cases. 

Health officials recommend that pork should be cooked to at least 145 degrees before being served. Even when cooked, food can be contaminated if such things as utensils, cutting boards, or hands are used to handle raw meat and cooked meat without proper washing between each. 

Read more at::

http://www.doh.wa.gov/Newsroom/2015NewsReleases/15135SalmonellaPorkillnesses
And
Food Safety News

Directory: Where to find organic and healthy foods in Washington Heights and Inwood

After a neighbor complained that she could only find “five or six” organic foods in Washington Heights or Inwood, I started collecting data that shows otherwise. In fact, the selection of organic, local and natural items available in northern Manhattan has increased significantly just in the four months since started compiling this directory. Now, healthy and organic options continue to expand — throughout our diverse community. Please contribute to my list, below.

Update May 12, 2016: In addition to the stores on the list below, nearly every corner store or bodega in the area now has some organic items, and many have fresh fruits for sale.

Organic food and natural products in Washington Heights and Inwood

Fresh carrots and radishes by Hawthorne Valley Farm.

Fresh carrots and radishes by Hawthorne Valley Farm.

Hawthorne Valley Farms sells organics at Inwood Greenmarket.

Hawthorne Valley Farms sells organics at Inwood Greenmarket.

Organic canned goods.

Organic canned goods.

Organic goods at Frank's Market.

Organic goods at Frank's Market.

C-Town has a growing organic produce section.

C-Town has a growing organic produce section.

Organic beverages at Antillana.

Organic beverages at Antillana.

Shelves Filled With Organics At Fine Fare.

Shelves Filled With Organics At Fine Fare.

Fine Fare recently expanded organic produce.

Fine Fare recently expanded organic produce.

Inwood Greenmarket In Summer.

Inwood Greenmarket In Summer.

Natural Household Products At Dichter Pharmacy.

Natural Household Products At Dichter Pharmacy.

Purple Cauliflower At Inwood Greenmarket.

Purple Cauliflower At Inwood Greenmarket.

Organic Pasta Sauces At Pathmark.

Organic Pasta Sauces At Pathmark.

Organic Dairy Products At Pathmark.

Organic Dairy Products At Pathmark.

C-Town Has Signs That Guide To Healthier Choices.

C-Town Has Signs That Guide To Healthier Choices.

Organic Grains At Pathmark

Organic Grains At Pathmark

Organic Spices.

Organic Spices.

Frozen Organics At Pathmark.

Frozen Organics At Pathmark.


While much of the growth is spurred by customer requests, City Harvest’s Healthy Neighborhood Program works with corner stores and supermarkets in Washington Heights and Inwood to increase the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables. City Harvest aims to expand to more stores this year.

Here is a list of places that sell organic or natural products in our community. If you have information to add, please enter a comment, and the page will be updated periodically.

  • C-Town 4918 Broadway  sells a growing variety of organic fresh vegetables and fruits, Bob’s Red Mill grain products, household products by Seventh Generation, Mrs. Meyers, and others, and meats and poultry raised without antibiotics, including some organic meats (check the freezer case.) Carries large selection of organic spices and packaged foods, including multiple brands of organic beans and other staples. Very good about ordering items on request.
  • Bravo 4261 Broadway carries organic dairy products, frozen vegetables and some organic produce.
  • Food Universe (formerly Associated) 5069 Broadway has a selection of organic produce and multiple brands of dairy, natural and antibiotic-free meats, and environmentally sensitive household products. Has organic baby food, spices and both canned and frozen foods, and organic grains. Major brands carried include: Amy’s, Kashi, Bob’s Red Mill, Cascadian Farms, Stonyfield Farms, Spice Hunter.
  • Associated 592 Fort Washington Ave., has multiple brands of organic dairy products, some organic produce, and natural household items. Store is scheduled for renovation and upgrade in 2016.
  • Frank’s Market 807 W. 187th St.,  has an extensive selection of organic produce, canned and other packaged food items, organic meats and poultry, frozen foods, and dairy. Wide selection of organic groceries, including Bob’s Red Mill and other brands of grains and baking products.
  • Jin’s Superette, 804 W. 181st St., has organic produce, dairy, frozen foods and canned goods, plus an array of organic snacks.
  • Dichter Pharmacy, 4953 Broadway, , has variety of organic and natural health and beauty products and some household items, including cleaning products. Very good about ordering items on request. Also sells Ronnybrook dairy products, including milk and ice cream.
  • All About Green, Sherman Ave between 10th Ave. and Isham St., has hundreds of organic and natural cleaning and household products, primarily in large sizes for commercial use. Store hours seem somewhat unpredictable.
  • Saturdays: Most of the products sold at the Inwood Greenmarket are raised naturally and some are certified organic. All are local. See http://www.grownyc.org/greenmarket/manhattan/inwood for details and a list of the vendors. Hawthorne Valley Farm is a year-round vendor of vegetables, fruit, cheese, yogurt, pastries and sauerkraut that is certified organic. Bread Alone sells organic breads and pastries.
  • Tuesdays: Fort Washington Greenmarket on Fort Washington Ave., at 168th Street (Columbia University Medical Center) has several organic vendors. See  http://www.grownyc.org/greenmarket/manhattan/fort-washington. (Market closed during winter months.)
  • Thursdays: The 175th Street Greenmarket has natural products and farmers selling specialty produce of Mexican and other Latino origins, all from local growers. See http://www.grownyc.org/greenmarket/manhattan/175th-street
  • Park Terrace Deli, 510 W. 218th St., has more than 200 organic products, including frozen vegetables and prepared foods, canned groceries, snacks, multiple brands of organic dairy and beverages, and a limited selection of organic fresh fruits.
  • Fine Fare, 4776 Broadway near Dyckman, has over 300 organic grocery items, including spices, grains, cereals, multiple brands of organic dairy, and produce. No organic meats or chicken.

The following stores (supermarkets and “corner stores” or bodegas) participate in City Harvest’s Healthy Neighborhood Program to increase produce availability and offer healthy shopping tours and in-store cooking demonstrations:

  • Bravo supermarkets at 1331 St. Nicholas Ave., 4138 Broadway, and 4261 Broadway.
  • C-Town, 1016 St. Nicholas Ave.
  • C-Town, 4918 Broadway
  • La Mina Supermarket, 553 W. 157th St.
  • 119 AR Grocery Corp., 119 Ellwood St.
  • 128 P&L Grocery Corp., 128 Audubon Ave.
  • Bello Deli Food, 5009 Broadway.
  • Diaz Deli Grocery, 2143 Amsterdam Ave.
  • Frutera El Buen Camino, 3888 Broadway.
  • M.D.K. Grocery Corp., 100 Audubon Ave.
  • My Deli Grocery, 670 W. Academy St.
  • My Sweet Deli, 187 Sherman Ave.
  • Red Apple Deli Market Corp., 134 Hamilton Pl.
  • The New Generation, 242 Sherman Ave.

 

 

 

More green tea benefits: It may fight oral cancer

Green tea health benefits.
Green tea health benefits.
Penn State researchers find green tea has potential value in fighting oral cancer. Photo by Nathan Cooke. Used with permission under Creative Commons license.

Researchers at Penn State say they have found another point to add to the growing list of green tea benefits, this time potential anti-cancer effect. Their research shows that a compound in green tea targets mouth cancer cells, without harming healthy cells. Read more at MicrobeWorld.org.

According to a news release from the researchers:

Earlier studies had shown that epigallocatechin-3-gallate — EGCG — a compound found in green tea, killed oral cancer cells without harming normal cells, but researchers did not understand the reasons for its ability to target the cancer cells, said Joshua Lambert, associate professor of food science and co-director of Penn State’s Center for Plant and Mushroom Foods for Health. The current study shows that EGCG may trigger a process in the mitochondria that leads to cell death.

“EGCG is doing something to damage the mitochondria and that mitochondrial damage sets up a cycle causing more damage and it spirals out, until the cell undergoes programmed cell death,” said Lambert. “It looks like EGCG causes the formation of reactive oxygen species in cancer cells, which damages the mitochondria, and the mitochondria responds by making more reactive oxygen species.”

(Source: Penn State News Office)

The Science of Ebola

Ebola quick guide from NYC.gov.
Ebola quick guide from NYC.gov.

Ebola has been studied since the mid-1970s, when the first cases near the Ebola River in Africa were identified. This summary is based on a review of some of the major studies and briefings by some of the world’s top experts as part of my role at work.

People in the United States can protect themselves by spreading facts, not fear. There’s plenty still unknown, but we know way more than a lot of people think. For example, there’s been a lot of lab research to determine whether Ebola can be transmitted in the air or other casual contact. None of the studies indicate that it can be.

Here are some things we know about the Ebola virus, which scientists have been studying since the 1970s:

  • A person infected with Ebola is not contagious until after symptoms appear. In fact, the virus frequently is undetectable in the blood of an infected person – even with the most precise tests available – until after symptoms appear. This is why the risk to other people is extremely low until the infection begins to trigger symptoms.
  • There is no evidence at all to suggest that casual contact transmits Ebola. Many health care workers and others have safely been in rooms or other close quarters with Ebola patients. In Dallas, four people were in the apartment with Thomas Eric Duncan when he was very sick with Ebola and all have been free of infection, more than 21 days later. All 43 people who were near Mr. Duncan but not involved in his hospital care are confirmed to be free of infection.
  • The virus replicates extremely rapidly once symptoms begin, which is why the protocol for health care workers who have left an outbreak area calls for twice daily temperature checks. This is a known way to identify possible Ebola infection at the earliest point.
  • While the Ebola virus replicates quickly in a person who has symptoms of Ebola Virus Disease, the virus does not have much strength once outside an infected person. If a droplet lands on a surface like a doorknob or countertop, the virus survives only a few hours and is easily killed by ordinary household cleaners (bleach is recommended.)
  • There has been no evidence that Ebola is transmitted through the air, nor have lab studies indicated this happens.
  • In order for the disease to spread, a droplet of body fluid must be transferred directly from a symptomatic person to an entry point in another person within about three feet — through a cut or other break in the skin, eyes, nose, mouth, or other opening.
  • Body fluids include – quoting the CDC here – “pee, poop, spit, sweat, vomit, semen, or breast milk” or blood. The virus does survive in blood longer than in other fluids.
  • Transmission via sweat is a theoretical possibility but remote — and relatively far-fetched outside of the rural parts of Africa where the facilities are so poor. It would require sweat from a symptomatic patient to be transferred directly onto another person and enter their system through eyes, mouth, a cut or other opening. The viral load in sweat is low until patients are violently sick. There was one documented case in 2001 in Uganda involving a person who contracted the disease after sleeping on a blanket that had been used by another person who died of Ebola. No other cases like this have been reported, and most cases where contact with sweat was suspected involved people who also had other exposure, such as to an Ebola patient’s blood.
  • One of the reasons the CDC recommends isolation and confirmatory tests as soon as fever first occurs in a person who was in the outbreak area is that the viral load grows logarithmically after the first couple of days from symptom onset – 3 days seems to be typical. In New York, an Ebola blood test takes a few hours. That’s different from most other places where test results can take overnight, days or even longer. A test before symptoms wouldn’t find the virus, but a test at the earliest onset of symptoms probably would — and increases the chances of successful treatment. This is what happened in the case of Dr. Craig Spencer, who was isolated as soon as his temperature went above normal (to 100.3 degrees.)

If you are concerned about Ebola in the United States, get a flu shot. This will help both because the flu sickens and kills many more people than Ebola and because flu symptoms may be mistaken for Ebola symptoms in people who misunderstand their risks. If you have a flu shot and exhibit fever, nausea, or other possible signs of Ebola, doctors will have an easier time figuring out what your illness actually is. Mayor DiBlasio said that preventing the flu in New York is important so that the city’s emergency departments are not flooded with people who think they have Ebola but have no actual risk of getting it.

For more information, visit the NYC Department of Health website at http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/diseases/ebola.shtml or the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/index.html.

The source for most of this article is http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/transmission/human-transmission.html and the studies that are cited on that page. This article is not intended as medical advice. For that, please consult your own health care professional.