Tag Archives: agriculture

Cancer survivors in rural areas forgo health care because of cost

Data analysis showed cancer survivors in rural areas who were aged 65 or older were 66 percent more likely to forgo medical care and 54 percent more likely to forgo dental care because of cost, compared with their urban counterparts. "This is the first population-based study to examine whether cancer survivors in rural and urban areas are equally likely to forgo health care as a result of concerns about cost," said Nynikka Palmer, Dr.P.H., M.P.H., postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Social Sciences and Health Policy at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C. "We found a disparity among older survivors, for whom health insurance coverage through Medicare is almost universal, while no disparity was found for younger survivors after controlling for various factors. This suggests that health insurance coverage alone may not ensure equal access to health care…

Elephant at Oregon Zoo diagnosed with tuberculosis

The Oregon Zoo has quarantined an elephant that tested positive for tuberculosis. “Rama,” an Asian elephant that was born at the Portland-based zoo in 1983, tested positive on Friday. He shows no symptoms of the disease, poses no threat to visitors and is expected to make a complete recovery, zoo staff said. “We're confident Rama is going to be fine,” zoo director Kim Smith told The Oregonian newspaper. “It's a very treatable disease. We've caught it early with Rama. We feel very good about this.” Treatment with drugs, however, is expensive, costing more than $50,000, the newspaper reported. None of the other elephants in the zoo's heard of eight Asian elephants are showing signs of tuberculosis, but they will be retested. The zoo tested some staff members Friday and will continue this week. It's unknown how Rama contracted the disease. Tuberculosis spreads among people and between people and animals through airborne bacteria carried in droplets. To become infected, you must be directly exposed to the bacteria while it's airborne. “In order to contact TB, you have to be in really close contact for hours at a stretch,” Smith said. The zoo has tested the herd annually for TB since 1999, based on guidelines developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Those guidelines stemmed from the 1996 deaths of two circus elephants touring in California. An estimated 3 percent of the elephants in the United States have the disease, according to a 2000 study published in the journal Zoo Biology. The zoo gets 1.6 million visitors a year and the elephant herd is a popular attraction. Rama is the smallest of its adult bull elephants, weighing 9,000 pounds.source : http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/06/03/elephant-at-portland-zoo-has-tuberculosis/

Organic industry clout grows with consumer demand

The organic food industry is gaining clout on Capitol Hill, prompted by rising consumer demand and its entry into traditional farm states. But that isn't going over well with everyone in Congress. Tensions between conventional and organic agriculture boiled over this week during a late-night House Agriculture Committee debate on a sweeping farm bill that has for decades propped up traditional crops and largely ignored organics. When Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., a former organic farmer, offered an amendment to make it easier for organic companies to organize industrywide promotional campaigns, there was swift backlash from some farm-state Republicans, with one member saying he didn't want to see the industry get a free ride and another complaining about organics' “continued assault on agriculture.” “That's one of the things that has caught me and raises my concerns, is that industry's lack of respect for traditional agriculture,” said Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., referring to some organic companies' efforts to reduce the number of genetically modified crops in the marketplace. At the same time, Scott acknowledged that he and his wife buy organic foods. Growing consumer interest in organics has proved tough for some Republicans on the committee to ignore. Eight Republicans, most of them newer members of the committee, joined with all of the panel's Democrats in supporting the amendment, which was adopted 29-17. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, a Missouri Republican who owns a farm equipment business and a corn and soybean farm, said she supported the amendment not only because helping organics is good for agriculture but because many of her constituents eat organic foods. “Organics are a niche market in agriculture with a growing market share, so it makes sense for me to allow farmers to invest some of their own funds to promote their products,” she said. The amendment would allow the organic industry to organize and pay for a unified industry promotional campaign called a “checkoff” that is facilitated by the Agriculture Department but is no cost to the government. These promotional programs have traditionally been limited to individual commodities or crops, producing familiar campaigns like “Got Milk?” and “Beef: It's What's for Dinner.” The amendment would not set up such a program for organics, but it would allow USDA to approve an organic promotional campaign if the industry decided it wanted one. Laura Batcha of the Organic Trade Association says one reason the industry would approve a campaign is that many organic producers are concerned that consumers don't understand that products labeled “natural” aren't necessarily organic, which requires certification. The organic industry has exploded in the last decade, with $35 billion in sales and 10 percent growth just last year. There are more than 17,000 certified organic businesses in the country. Producers of organic crops and conventional crops have long been at odds, as organic products have grabbed market share - more than 4 percent of food and beverage sales in 2011 - and the industry has advertised organic foods as healthier than other foods. Organic products are required to be certified by the USDA and are grown without pesticides and genetically modified ingredients, mainstays of traditional agriculture. Government-managed promotional checkoff programs like the one that would be allowed under the amendment are required to be positive and not disparage other products, and some lawmakers seemed wary that such a campaign would be possible. “How do I present organic pork without disparaging non-organic pork?” asked House Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., who opposed the amendment. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, took issue with part of the amendment that would allow the organic producers to opt out of other commodity campaigns, an option that isn't given to conventional producers. “Looks to me like they have a free ride on this thing,” Conaway said, in an at times angry exchange with Schrader. Despite the rancor, the chances that the amendment will become law are good, as the Senate Agriculture Committee added the same amendment to its version of the farm bill. Schrader told his colleagues that embracing organics is essential to appealing to consumers in a time when big farms are often demonized by popular culture. He said that many young people are coming back to farms because of nontraditional agriculture. “American agriculture is under siege,” he said. “Urban folks do not understand where their food and fiber comes from. ... The point here is to hopefully position American agriculture where we're not always trying to catch up to what the American consumer wants.”source : http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/05/17/organic-industry-clout-grows-with-consumer-demand/

Small restaurants serving big calories, salt, studies find

Despite public health progress in cutting calories, as well as salt and fat from fast foods and supermarket products, neighborhood restaurants are still packing big helpings of each into their meals, a trio of studies suggests. Small independent eateries are not required to display nutritional information for consumers - if they did, the researchers report, patrons would routinely see single meals containing nearly a full day's worth of calories and fat plus one and half times the daily recommended intake for salt. “It's really a disgrace. Every day the newspapers say things about the obesity epidemic… To a large extent, you can trace that to too many calories,” said Susan Roberts, director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Energy Metabolism Lab and professor of nutrition at Tufts University, in Boston. About two thirds of Americans are considered overweight or obese, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. And as American waistlines continue to expand, public health policy has focused on the quality of food available in supermarkets and restaurants. President Barack Obama's 2010 Affordable Care Act, for example, contains a requirement that restaurants with at least 20 outlets in the U.S. make their nutritional information available to customers. But one of three new studies published in JAMA Internal Medicine on Monday points out that policy only applies to about half of the nation's restaurants. The other half is made up of smaller chains or independent restaurants exempt from the requirement. For their analysis, Roberts and her colleagues measured the calories in 157 meals at small Mexican, American, Chinese, Italian, Japanese and Thai restaurants in and near Boston between June and August 2011. Overall, the researchers found the average meal at those restaurants contained 1,327 calories. That's about 66 percent of the 2,000 daily calories recommended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. About 8 percent of the meals exceeded 2,000 calories. The meals from small restaurants also contained up to 18 percent more calories than comparable dishes from larger chains - suggesting the requirement to display nutritional information is keeping the large-chain restaurant meals healthier, according to the researchers. In another of the studies published Monday, Canadian researchers led by Mary Scourboutakos from the University of Toronto found similarly high calorie counts in more than 3,500 meals from Ontario restaurants they analyzed. What's more, Scourboutakos and her fellow researchers found that individual meals contained an average of 89 percent of the daily recommended amount of fat and 151 percent of the daily recommended amount of salt. A third study also zeroed-in on salt as a major area of concern. Several organizations, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Department of Health and Human Services, the American Medical Association, the American Heart Association and the World Health Organization have all called for reductions in the amount of sodium people consume. The Institute of Medicine recommends that most healthy people get 1,500 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day, with an upper limit of 2,300 mg. But the average American eats closer to 3,600 mg each day, largely in processed foods. For their new study, Dr. Stephen Havas of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago and his colleagues analyzed 402 processed foods and 78 fast-food products to see if their salt content had changed between 2005 and 2011. They found a small decrease in the amount of salt in processed foods over that period but also a similarly-sized increase in the amount of salt in fast-food products. The differences in each category, however, were small enough that they could have been due to chance. Havas said the results show that the calls for voluntary reductions in salt have been a “total failure.” “The only thing that will solve this problem is for the amount of salt in our food to be regulated,” he added. But regulating food and what goes into it has been a controversial topic, according to Dr. Mitchell Katz, from the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services in California. Instead, he suggests in a commentary accompanying the three studies that doctors should advocate for their patients' right to know what they're eating. “As we debate the controversial role of government in stemming the interrelated endemics of obesity, diabetes mellitus, and heart disease, we must insist on the right of our patients (as well as ourselves) to know what we are eating, whether fast food or slow, whether large chain, small chain, or individual restaurant,” he wrote. One encouraging finding from the study of Toronto restaurant meals highlighted by Scourboutakos and her colleagues is that entrees identified on the restaurant menus as “healthy” were generally at least healthier - with about 474 calories, 20 percent of the day's value of fat and 50 percent of the recommended daily intake of sodium. Roberts told Reuters Health she'd like to see restaurants add a few healthy choice options to their menu to at least give people an alternative. “That would mean the restaurant doesn't have to calculate the whole menu and that would give people choices,” she said.source : http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/05/14/small-restaurants-serving-big-calories-salt-studies-find/