Monday, January 14, 2013

CA: Regulations eased on homemade food businesses

Not before time.  Hopefully it foretells similar action elsewhere

California's homemade food makers are now able to sell their products to restaurants and grocery stores, thanks to a new law that went into effect this year.

The California Homemade Food Act created a new category of producers called "cottage food producers," which will allow people to cook their food items right from their kitchens at home.

"We all are very optimistic and excited," said Patricia Kline of San Francisco, who makes and sells small fruit pies.

Kline sells her pies at farmer's markets, online and also does special events like weddings and lunches. She says one of the huge barriers to enter into this business was the requirement to use commercial kitchens.

"Having the this law in place will allow me to be able to take advantage of orders that come in that day, and take advantage of pop-up opportunities and pick-up wholesaling," she said.

Assemblyman Mike Gatto, a Democrat from Los Angeles, helped pioneer the new law after he read a story about Mike Stambler, a bread maker from Los Angeles who had his business shut down in 2011 after authorities discovered he was selling bread he made from his home. Gatto saw this as an opportunity to help those like Stambler and drafted the bill.

"If you want to enter the food production business, the barriers before this bill were enormous," Gatto said. "I just thought there was a lot of business demand for people who wanted to enter this business and they didn't have an outlet. I wanted to make it a bit easier for them," he said.

Approved items include jams, baked goods, cookies, coffee, nuts, vinegar, candy and dried pasta.

"We talked with the different health departments and various scientists, and these are products that are 99.9 percent safe," Gatto said.

Nutritionist Laura Cipullo says that if the food item is cooked, it will probably kill any type of food-borne illness, and since vinegar is acidic it would be less likely to carry bacteria.

"The pros are that they are made better, more wholesome and healthier and give more people the ability to have more jobs and a different variety of food," Cipullo said.

The state will require cottage food producers to a take a food-handling class and pass an exam that is created by the California Department of Public Health.

The California Restaurant Association does not see any major fallout for the restaurant industry with the new law. But it had initial concerns about whether the new cottage food producers would be held to similar food safety and sanitation standards as restaurants.

"We kind of have a wait-and-see attitude to see how the agencies enforce some the of standards that our outlined in the law," said Angelica Pappas spokesperson for the California Restaurant Association.

Kline believes this new law will help families create small businesses they need to help them make that extra money they need in a bad economy.

"It can only be a good thing to have a close relationship with you, the customer, and me, the producer of what you're going to eat," Kline said.

In 2013, the total revenue limit will be $35,000 and will rise to $50,000 by 2015. 

"People view it as a way to become the small business and are very excited and very positive about the law and a lot of people think it will change their lives," said Gatto.


Drug could reverse 'permanent' deafness by regenerating hair cells in inner ear

Sounds hopeful but not really probable.  Mice may have better regenerative abilities than humans

A potential cure for permanent deafness has been found by scientists using a drug that stimulates the inner ear.  The drug, codenamed LY411575, triggers the regeneration of sensory hair cells.

Until now it has not been possible to restore the cells once they have been lost due to factors such as loud noise exposure, infection and toxic drugs.  This type of deafness, often suffered by rock musicians and DJs, is generally assumed to be irreversible.

Scientists succeeded in partially restoring hearing to mice that had been deafened by loud noise.  Although the research is at an early stage, they believe it could lead to effective treatments for acute noise-induced deafness in humans.

The tiny sensory hairs in the cochlea are vital to hearing. Sound vibrations transferred from the eardrum shake the hairs, causing nerve messages to be fired to the brain.  Without the hairs, the hearing pathway is blocked and no signals are received by the brain’s auditory centre.

While birds and fish are capable of regenerating sound-sensing hair cells, mammals are not.

The new approach involves reprogramming inner ear cells by inhibiting a protein called Notch.

Previous laboratory research had shown that Notch signals help prevent stem cells in the cochlea transforming themselves into new sensory hair cells.

The drug LY411575 suppresses Notch. Mice with noise-induced hearing loss generated functioning sensory hair cells after the drug was injected into their damaged cochleas.

Lead researcher Dr Albert Edge, from Harvard Medical School in the US, said: 'We show that hair cells can be regenerated from the surrounding cells in the cochlea.

'These cells, called supporting cells, transdifferentiate into hair cells after inhibition of the Notch signalling pathway, and the new hair cell generation results in a recovery of hearing in the region of the cochlea where the new hair cells appear.

'The significance of this study is that hearing loss is a huge problem affecting 250 million worldwide.'

Details of the study are reported in the journal Neuron.

A green fluorescent protein was used to label the newly generated hair cells.

Electronic measurements of auditory brainstem responses confirmed that three months after treatment, lost hair cells had been replaced and were working.  Improvement in hearing was seen over a wide range of frequencies.

Dr Edge added: 'The missing hair cells had been replaced by new hair cells after the drug treatment, and analysis of their location allowed us to correlate the improvement in hearing to the areas where the hair cells were replaced.

'We’re excited about these results because they are a step forward in the biology of regeneration and prove that mammalian hair cells have the capacity to regenerate.

'With more research, we think that regeneration of hair cells opens the door to potential therapeutic applications in deafness.'

Vivienne Michael, chief executive of the charity Deafness Research UK, said: 'As always, we have to be cautious about new research findings but this US research is extremely encouraging.

'At the moment there is no way of reversing eight in 10 cases of hearing loss, including noise-induced deafness and the progressive deafness so many of us experience as we age - hearing aids are the only answer.

'These results show just how important it is to increase the investment in research into medical treatments that could prevent or reverse hearing loss and improve the quality of life for the millions of people affected.'


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