Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Baby food attacked for fat, sugar and salt content

This fad is now becoming really dangerous. Babies need fat and salt and sugar. There are enough pediatric deaths from hyponatremia (insufficient salt) already. See e.g. here

Parents are unwittingly feeding their babies and young children on items that may be worse for their health than junk food, researchers say. Sustain, which campaigns for healthier children’s food, found that a cheeseburger and chocolate biscuits were more nutritious than some food specifically marketed for babies.

An audit of more than 100 products aimed at the infant and children’s market has even raised questions over Farley’s Original Rusk, a popular food that has been used to wean babies for 120 years. The biscuit, made by Heinz, contains more sugar than McVitie’s dark chocolate digestives, according to Sustain. Another alleged offender, also made by Heinz, is Toddler’s Own mini cheese biscuits, said to have more saturated fat per 100 grams than a McDonald’s quarter pounder with cheese.

Only half of all products in the survey were low in saturated fat, salt and sugar, with the tally for Heinz products just one in four. In the case of Cow&Gate, one in nine products was high in sugars.

What may be particularly disturbing to parents is that one product, Cow&Gate Baby Balance biscuits, contained trans fats that are linked to coronary heart disease. Yet there was no mention of this on the label, which is a legal requirement. The company has decided to discontinue this range of biscuits but only after being confronted by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

When Sustain campaigners first approached the company with the findings, they were told there were no trans fats in the product. It was two days later before the company came clean and admitted presence of trans fats. Even then Cow&Gate insisted that small amounts of trans fats did not cause a health risk. It conceded that if there were concrete evidence that trans fats were dangerous, they would be dropped from the biscuits.

The health lobby is alarmed because almost a decade ago a similar study exposed high levels of sugar, saturated fat and salt in food for babies and children, yet it would appear that little action has been taken.

Alan Johnson, the Health Secretary, is being urged to obtain a commitment from all children’s food manufacturers to devise new recipes for their products, remove trans fats and reduce sugar, saturated fat and salt. Sustain is also calling for the Government to develop specific labels for children’s foods so that parents can see at a glance whether a product is healthy.

Christine Haigh, joint co-ordinator of the Children’s Food Campaign run by Sustain, said that the results were staggering. “Many foods marketed for babies and young children are often advertised as ‘healthy’. In reality, in terms of sugar and saturated fat content, some are worse than junk food. In particular, failing correctly to label products that contain dangerous trans fats is outrageous,” she said.

Heinz hit out at the findings and said that it was misleading to compare its range of Toddler’s Own mini cheese biscuits with a McDonald’s quarter pounder. A spokesman said that the biscuits came in a 25g portion size and contained only 1.8g saturated fat per serving, because of the inclusion of cheese in the product. The McDonald's burger, however, was a 194g portion size and contained 13g saturated fat per serving.

He also defended Farley’s Original Rusks and said that Heinz had introduced alternatives with 30 per cent reduced sugar content than the original recipe, Farley’s reduced sugar rusks and reduced sugar banana.

Cow&Gate confirmed that it had already discontinued the range of baby biscuits found with trans fats and defended its range of other products. In a statement the company said: “Three of these are biscuits, which require sugar in the recipe and contain 18 per cent total sugar, which is less than most comparable adult varieties and other baby biscuits. The other product is a 100 per cent fruit purée that contains no added sugar and only the sugar naturally present in the fruit.”

The FSA said: “Babies and young children have different nutritional needs to adults and do not generally need low-fat diets, as fats give them energy and provides some fat soluble vitamins. Babies and young children need foods that provide a high density of calories and nutrients in a small amount of foods as they only have small stomachs.” Its advice to parents was to check labels on children’s processed foods and choose items with low salt and sugar.

Sustain conducted the survey in March. The charity, an alliance for improved food and farming, is also funded by the British Heart Foundation.


Background on swine flu

by Powell Gammill

Swine Flu. Horrors! Why it seems like only yesterday the fear was Avian Flu. That was yesterday's horror. Just so you will know, for seven years I isolated and subtyped influenza virus as part of my duties as a clinical virologist for the State Public Health Laboratory of Arizona. We were the reference laboratory for the state from all of the other clinical laboratories, who sent us a representative sampling of their isolates. A lot of isolates.

Most people don't really realize it but influenza aka flu kills an estimated 36,000 people a year in the USA. The vast majority are either under 5 years of age or over 55 years old. Cause of death is almost always pneumonia. The current swine flu's mortality rate of 7% is not much higher that any other flu we have recently experienced. So why the media generated scare? Ahhhh, that is a good question.

Yes it is unusual to get flu this late in the year. Flu season in the USA typically cranks up in late Sept-early October and ends by the middle of March --- as it did this year. Then a bunch of so called H1N1 associated with "swine" flu were detected in April. Almost all had strong Southern Mexico association.

The southern part of Mexico, Central and South America have a flu season that extends a few more weeks. While it should now be over, it is less surprising that this flu outbreak is occurring now in Mexico City. The cases in the USA have almost all been easily connected with a recent visit to Mexico.

Mexico City has some of the worst air pollution in the world leading to increased pulmonary complications and increased infectivity from compromised lungs and increased death from the stress of oxygen deprivation. Undoubtedly this contributed to the late blossoming of this new strain of influenza virus, and to a somewhat higher than normal rate of death. But as you have seen, in the USA there has only been one death --- a 23 month old child from Mexico City transported to a Houston hospital in an unsuccessful attempt to save its life.

Typical flu cycle: Influenza viral strains appear in the Asia's and are associated with livestock, particularly pigs (swine). They migrate north into Europe. From here the virus hops a flight on migratory birds landing in the North Americas. Eventually migrating south for the winter in the Central and South Americas.

Avian and Swine transmission is common, and usually certain genes (the virus has eight genes in its RNA chromosomes) will mutate to adapt to its transmission through a common set of hosts. Influenza virus has a high mutation rate. Additionally it has 8 unique chromosomes (each with a single gene) that can reassort if two or more unique strains are present infecting the same cells in a host. This is where the terms avian and swine influenza are from.

Human to human transmission is the predominant way flu is spread in humans. Human to human transmission for this particular swine flu strain does not seem to be good. Only one case has good evidence for such transmission. Too warm and dry for flu to thrive in our country right now. Hence my lack of credence at the panic and steps being taken by various governments around the globe. This is no worse than any other flu. So why the attention and excessive government preparation?

Masks? DO they work? Yes, despite what our government says, masks help. But they are correct, masks only help if you walk into a room occupied or recently occupied by someone infected with the flu where droplets of infected material expelled from the mouth (lungs) may still be circulating in the air. That doesn't last too long. Most transmission of the virus occurs when we touch a contaminated surface and rub our face and eyes. Something we subconsciously do many times a day. Here is where the claims of hand cleaner to cut down on transmission come it. Such alcohol based solutions are quite effective in removing any influenza contaminated material from hands, and any soap is equally effective. The influenza virus is quite readily killed by either.

The government has advocated masks on infected people. I really do not like that suggestion. While it would be very effective in keeping the virus from being transmitted to others, IF a sick person is showing ANY respiratory distress at all they SHOULD NOT be wearing a mask that will add to their difficulty of breathing. This can contribute to respiratory and circulatory failure.

If you do buy masks look for ones labels N-95 or higher. This means it will block 95% of all particles 0.3 microns or larger. Be sure the mask securely seals against the face completely around the mask. Any break, including caused by facial hair, will be where the air is drawn in and not through the filter of the mask --- defeating the mask. Psychologically some people do not like wearing a mask or need some hours of on and off wear to acclimate.

My bottom line, this whole flu thing is blown way out of proportion. It is unlikely to be of threat to the USA, is unlikely to last long and current government preparations are not about the flu. I will not be wearing a mask or doing anything I would not normally do --- indeed I went grocery shopping this morning.

Addendum-- The swine flu isolate is interesting in that it has around a 6% difference in genetic sequence compared to this years H1 isolates. This is huge! There does not seem to be a link between this strain and any in circulation around the globe this year. Nor does it match any in circulation that have been preserved and sequenced. It bears some similarity in appearance, but not sequence to a 1998 H3 strain that circulated in pigs. The interpretation is this isolate was in circulation elsewhere in the world undetected and then was transported to Mexico City in late March where it exploded in an dwindling flu season.


1 comment:

John A said...


Spotted today via Fark.com:
*Goernment to fine non-smoking*
The Gong'an county government in Hubei province has ordered its staff to puff their way through 230,000 packs of Hubei-produced cigarette brands a year, the Global Times said.

Departments that fail to meet their targets will be fined, according to the report.

"The regulation will boost the local economy via the cigarette tax," said Chen Nianzu...