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

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.

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::

Food Safety News

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… Continue reading

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)

Here’s an expert from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health answering some of the most common questions that people have about the Ebola Virus, Ebola Virus Disease, and the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. In these video clips, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed addresses ways people in the United States can stay safe, why health experts are confident about the precautions recommended for Ebola prevention, and why controlling the outbreaks in West Africa is important to protecting the rest of the world from the disease. Dr. El-Sayed’s research focuses on the social production of health, ethnic and socioeconomic health inequalities, and complex systems approaches in social epidemiology. He earned his medical degree at Columbia University as a Soros Fellow, as well as a DPhil in Population Health at Oxford University, where I was a Rhodes Scholar (Michigan and Oriel, 2009). I am a 2007 graduate of the University of Michigan, where I completed a Bachelor of Science with Highest Distinction in Biology and Political Science as the top graduate in the College of Literature, Sicence, and the Arts.

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.