Category: Science

Prostate drug may slow Parkinson’s disease – BBC News

A very interesting development.

I was chatting to my very old friend, as in the number of years, Richard Maugham yesterday and shortly after the call he sent me an email with a link to a recent item on the BBC News website.

Most of you regulars know that Jeannie was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD) in December, 2015 and coincidentally at the same time Richard was also diagnosed with PD.

I’m sure there are a few who read this blog that either have PD of know or someone who has it.

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Prostate drug may slow Parkinson’s disease

By Michelle Roberts,
Health editor, BBC News online

17th September, 2019

A drug used to treat enlarged prostates may be a powerful medicine against Parkinson’s disease, according to an international team of scientists.

Terazosin helps ease benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) by relaxing the muscles of the bladder and prostate.

But researchers believe it has another beneficial action, on brain cells damaged by Parkinson’s.

They say the drug might slow Parkinson’s progression – something that is not possible currently.

Cell death

They studied thousands of patients with both BPH and Parkinson’s.

Their findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, suggest the alpha-blocker drug protects brain cells from destruction.

Parkinson’s is a progressive condition affecting the brain, for which there is currently no cure.

Existing Parkinson’s treatments can help with some of the symptoms but can’t slow or reverse the loss of neurons that occurs with the disease.

Terazosin may help by activating an enzyme called PGK1 to prevent this brain cell death, the researchers, from the University of Iowa, in the US and the Beijing Institute for Brain Disorders, China, say.

Clinical trials

When they tested the drug in rodents it appeared to slow or stop the loss of nerve cells.

To begin assessing if the drug might have the same effect in people, they searched the medical records of millions of US patients to identify men with BPH and Parkinson’s.

They studied 2,880 Parkinson’s patients taking terazosin or similar drugs that target PGK1 and a comparison group of 15,409 Parkinson’s patients taking a different treatment for BPH that had no action on PGK1.

Patients on the drugs targeting PGK1 appeared to fare better in terms of Parkinson’s disease symptoms and progression, which the researchers say warrants more study in clinical trials, which they plan to begin this year.

‘Exciting area’

Lead researcher Dr Michael Welsh says while it is premature to talk about a cure, the findings have the potential to change the lives of people with Parkinson’s.

“Today, we have zero treatments that change the progressive course of this neurodegenerative disease,” she says.

“That’s a terrible state, because as our population ages Parkinson’s disease is going to become increasingly common.

“So, this is really an exciting area of research.”

‘Disease modifying’

Given that terazosin has a proven track record for treating BPH, he says, getting it approved and “repurposed” as a Parkinson’s drug should be achievable if the clinical trials go well.

The trials, which will take a few years, will compare the drug with a placebo to make sure it is safe and effective in Parkinson’s.

Co-researcher Dr Nandakumar Narayanan, who treats patients with Parkinson’s disease said: “We need these randomised controlled trials to prove that these drugs really are disease modifying.

“If they are, that would be a great thing.”

Prof David Dexter from Parkinson’s UK said: “These exciting results show that terazosin may have hidden potential for slowing the progression of Parkinson’s, something that is desperately needed to help people live well for longer.

“While it is early days, both animal models and studies looking at people who already take the drug show promising signs that need to be investigated further.”

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I have now written to the Journal of Clinical Investigation, (JCI).

Interestingly, if one goes to the website of the JCI then one reads the following on the ‘About’ page:

The Journal of Clinical Investigation is a premier venue for discoveries in basic and clinical biomedical science that will advance the practice of medicine.

The JCI was founded in 1924 and is published by the ASCI, a nonprofit honor organization of physician-scientists incorporated in 1908. See the JCI’s Wikipedia entry for detailed information.

It’s a small step forward!

What’s that smell?

A short but interesting YouTube video.

I’m going to try and publish some posts on a whole range of topics. The one common denominator is that they are of interest to yours truly. Hopefully I am not alone in this!

It’s going to be a bit ad hoc including responding to comments from a week today until October 8th/9th.

But today’s post is a short video that nonetheless makes for fascinating viewing.

Onwards and upwards!

And yet another one!

More dog food contaminated with Salmonella.

There’s a continuing problem with Salmonella.

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Berkley Jensen Pig Ear Dog Chews Sold at BJ’s Wholesale Club Recalled

September 3, 2019 — Dog Goods USA is expanding its recent recall to include all 30-packs of Berkley Jensen brand pig ear dog chews sold at BJ’s Wholesale Club stores due to possible contamination with Salmonella.

The previous recall is being expanded after testing by Rhode Island Department of Health found Salmonella bacteria in Berkley Jensen brand pig ear pet chews.

What’s Being Recalled?

Dog Goods USA LLC of Tobyhanna, PA, has been contacted by the FDA and is conducting a voluntary recall of the following products: non-irradiated bulk and packaged pig ears branded Chef Toby Pig Ears with the lot codes indicated below.

The affected products were distributed nationwide in retail stores.

What Caused the Recall?

According to the company, Dog Goods USA purchased the affected treats from a single supplier in Brazil from September 2018 through August 2019.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, together with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and State partners, is investigating a link between pig ear pet treats and human cases of salmonellosis.

About Salmonella

Healthy people infected with Salmonella should monitor themselves for some or all of the following symptoms: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping and fever.

Rarely, Salmonella can result in more serious ailments, including arterial infections, endocarditis, arthritis, muscle pain, eye irritation, and urinary tract symptoms.

Consumers exhibiting these signs after having contact with this product should contact their healthcare providers.

Pets with Salmonella infections may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever and vomiting.

Some pets will have only decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain.

Infected but otherwise healthy pets can be carriers and infect other animals and humans.

If your pet has consumed the recalled product and has these symptoms, please contact your veterinarian.

For more information and Salmonella and its symptoms and health risks, please refer to the following link: https://www.dfs.gov/animal-veterinary/news-events/fda-investigates-contaminated-pig-ear-pet-treats-connected-human-salmonella-infections.

Dog Goods Company Statement

The following statement has been provided by the company:

Dog Goods has also launched an internal investigation to determine, when and where the Products may have been contaminated.

To date, this internal investigation has not indicated any vulnerability in the company’s practices, including but not limited to the inspection, handling and storage of the Products.

Nonetheless, Dog Goods will continue to investigate the matter, collaborate fully with the FDA and the CDC, and provide further information to its customers and the public as appropriate.

What to Do?

Consumers who have purchased the products are urged to return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.

Consumers with questions may contact the company at 786-401-6533 from Monday to Friday, 9 AM ET through 5 PM ET.

U.S. citizens can report complaints about FDA-regulated pet food products by calling the consumer complaint coordinator in your area.

Or go to https://www.fda.gov/petfoodcomplaints.

Canadians can report any health or safety incidents related to the use of this product by filling out the Consumer Product Incident Report Form.

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Well, there are too many of these salmonella complaints if you ask me.

But it’s better to send out these FDA alerts than not to.

Again, please share as far and wide as you can.

And another one!

Another FDA warning about a dog food.

Specifically Aunt Jeni’s Home Made frozen raw pet food.

Here are the details.

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FDA Warning: Do Not Feed Certain Lots of Aunt Jeni’s Dog Food

August 30, 2019 — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning pet ownersnot to feed their pets certain lots of Aunt Jeni’s Home Made frozen raw pet food.

That’s because 2 samples collected during an inspection of the company’s product tested positive for Salmonella and/or Listeria monocytogenes.

FDA is issuing this warning since these lots of Aunt Jeni’s Home Made frozen raw pet food represent a serious threat to both human and animal health.

Because the products are sold and stored frozen, FDA is concerned that people may still have them in their possession.

No product images have been provided by the FDA or the company.

Which Products Are Affected?

The affected products include:

  • Aunt Jeni’s Home Made Turkey Dinner Dog Food
    Package size: 5 pounds (2.3kg)
    Lot number: 175199 JUL2020
  • Aunt Jeni’s Home Made Chicken Dinner Dog Food
    Package size: 5 pounds (2.3kg)
    Lot number: 1152013 JUL2020

Aunt Jeni’s Home Made pet foods are sold frozen both online and through various retail locations. Lot codes are printed on the lower right corner of the front of each bag.

About Salmonella

Salmonella is a bacterium that can cause illness and death in humans and animals, especially those who are very young, very old, or have weak immune systems.

According to CDC, people infected with Salmonella can develop diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps.

Most people recover without treatment. However, in some people, the diarrhea may be so severe that they need to be hospitalized.

In some patients, the Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream and then to other body sites unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics.

Consult your health care provider if you have symptoms of Salmonella infection.

Pets do not always display symptoms when infected with Salmonella.

However, signs can include vomiting, diarrhea (which may be bloody), fever, loss of appetite and/or decreased activity level.

If your pet has these symptoms, consult a veterinarian promptly.

You should also be aware that infected pets can shed the bacteria in their feces and saliva without showing signs of being sick, further contaminating the household environment.

About Listeria

Like Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes is another bacterium that can cause illness and death in humans and animals, especially those who are pregnant, very young, very old, or have weak immune systems.

According to CDC, listeriosis in humans can cause a variety of symptoms, depending on the person and the part of the body affected.

Symptoms can include headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions in addition to fever and muscle aches.

Pregnant women typically experience only fever and other flu-like symptoms, such as fatigue and muscle aches.

However, infections during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or life-threatening infection of the newborn.

Pregnant women and their newborns, adults age 65 and older, and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to get sick with listeriosis.

Anyone with symptoms of listeriosis should contact a health care provider.

Listeria infections are uncommon in pets. However, they are still possible.

Symptoms may include mild to severe diarrhea, anorexia, fever, nervous, muscular and respiratory signs, abortion, depression, shock and death.

Pets do not need to display symptoms to be able to pass Listeria on to their human companions.

As with Salmonella, infected pets can shed Listeria in their feces and saliva without showing signs of being sick, further contaminating the household environment.

What to Do?

If you have any of the affected product, stop feeding it to your pets and throw it away in a secure container where other animals, including wildlife, cannot access it.

Consumers who have had this product in their homes should clean refrigerators and freezers where the product was stored.

Clean and disinfect all bowls, utensils, food prep surfaces, pet bedding, toys, floors, and any other surfaces that the food or pet may have had contact with.

Because animals can shed the bacteria in the feces when they have bowel movements, it’s important to clean up the animal’s feces in yards or parks where people or other animals may become exposed.

Consumers should thoroughly wash their hands after handling the affected product or cleaning up potentially contaminated items and surfaces.

U.S. citizens can report complaints about FDA-regulated pet food products by calling the consumer complaint coordinator in your area.

Or go to https://www.fda.gov/petfoodcomplaints.

Canadians can report any health or safety incidents related to the use of this product by filling out the Consumer Product Incident Report Form.

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There’s a great deal of useful information contained in this recall.

As always, please share as much as you can.

Pig Ears Dog Treats Recall

Because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella bacteria.

Yet another recall.

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Brutus & Barnaby Pig Ears Dog Treats Recall

August 27, 2019 — Brutus & Barnaby LLC of Clearwater, Florida, is recalling all size variations of its Pig Ears for Dogs because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella bacteria.

What Products Are Recalled?

Bags of Brutus & Barnaby Pig Ears were distributed throughout all states via Amazon.com, Chewy.com, Brutusandbarnaby.com and the brick and mortar Natures Food Patch in Clearwater, Florida.

The product label is identified by the company’s trademarked logo and reads “Pig Ears 100% Natural Treats for Dogs”.

The affected products were available in 4 sizes:

  • Brutus & Barnaby Pig Ears (8 Count)
  • Brutus & Barnaby Pig Ears (12 Count)
  • Brutus & Barnaby Pig Ears (25 Count)
  • Brutus & Barnaby Pig Ears (100 Count)

Brutus & Barnaby has ceased the production and distribution of the product as FDA and the company continue their investigation as to what caused the problem.

About Salmonella

Salmonella can affect animals eating the products and there is risk to humans from handling contaminated pet products, especially if they have not thoroughly washed their hands after having contact with the products or any surfaces exposed to these products.

Healthy people infected with Salmonella should monitor themselves for some or all of the following symptoms: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping and fever.

Rarely, Salmonella can result in more serious ailments, including arterial infections, endocarditis, arthritis, muscle pain, eye irritation, and urinary tract symptoms.

Consumers exhibiting these signs after having contact with this product should contact their healthcare providers.

Pets with Salmonella infections may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever, and vomiting.

Some pets will have only decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain.

Infected but otherwise healthy pets can be carriers and infect other animals or humans.

If your pet has consumed the recalled product and has these symptoms, please contact your veterinarian.

What to Do?

Consumers who have purchased Brutus & Barnaby pig ears are urged to destroy any remaining product not yet consumed and to contact the place of purchase for a full refund.

Consumers with questions may contact the company at 800-489-0970 Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 PM ET.

U.S. citizens can report complaints about FDA-regulated pet food products by calling the consumer complaint coordinator in your area.

Or go to https://www.fda.gov/petfoodcomplaints.

Canadians can report any health or safety incidents related to the use of this product by filling out the Consumer Product Incident Report Form.

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Once again, please share this as much as possible. One dog with salmonella is one dog too many!

 

Be aware of ‘flat-face’ dogs!

An article on Mother Nature Network is required reading!

Now I have been a subscriber of MNN for some time and while there are plenty of articles about dogs I do not republish them.

This was because ages ago when I asked permission to so do it was not granted.

However this is so important that I’m breaking the code, so to speak, and republishing it.

The original is here.

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By MARY JO DILONARDO
July 10, 2019.

Flat-faced dogs like bulldogs have a hard time breathing in hot, humid weather. (Photo: Lindsay Helms/Shutterstock)

People just seem to love snub-nosed dogs. From bulldogs and pugs to Boston terriers and Cavalier King Charles spaniels, these flat-faced breeds are regulars at the dog parks and stars on social media.

According to the American Kennel Club, French bulldogs and bulldogs are the fourth and fifth most popular breeds in the U.S. (following only Labrador retrievers, German shepherds and golden retrievers). Their faces are just so photogenic and cute.

Breeds with broad, short skulls are called brachycephalic. They have flat faces and large, wide-set eyes that give them somewhat of a baby-like appearance. As common as these breeds are in public, they’re also regular patients at the veterinarian’s office because they’re more likely to have an array of health conditions, often because of breathing problems called brachycephalic syndrome. A survey of five years of Australian pet health insurance claims found that the average annual veterinary bill for a British bulldog was $965 compared to $445 for a mixed breed.

Here are some of the medical problems that come along with those photogenic faces.

Heat and summer

Dogs with short snouts are at a higher risk of heat-related issues because their anatomy makes it harder for them to have easy breathing, especially in the heat and humidity. Make sure to have plenty of water on hand, keep pets in the shade and ideally, indoors, during the hottest hours of the day.

Snoring

Pugs and other brachycephalic breeds often make snoring, wheezing noises. (Photo: fongleon356/Shutterstock)Narrowed nostrils and elongation of the soft palate in snub-nosed dogs obstructs the passage of air through the nose and throat. That’s why these dogs often seem to be making snoring, wheezing or snorting noises. It’s a good idea to make sure your vet closely monitors what’s going on to make sure the noises don’t change or there isn’t an obstruction.

Planes and safety

Because of their breathing difficulties, snub-nosed breeds don’t make good airplane travelers. Some dogs with brachycephalic syndrome may have a narrow trachea, collapsed larynx or other issues that can also hamper breathing, according to the American College of Veterinary Surgeons. Some airlines don’t let these breeds fly.

Eye problems

Snub-nosed breeds often have eye problems because their eyes don’t always close completely. (Photo: kotaharu/Shutterstock)

With their big, wide-set eyes, brachycephalic breeds are more likely to develop certain opthalmologic issues. Because they have a shallow eye socket that gives them the “bulging eyes” look, many of these dogs can’t always fully blink. This can lead to dry corneas and corneal ulcers, according to The Kennel Club. Their unusual eye and eyelid anatomy also makes them more likely to have conjunctivitis and eye injuries.

Skin issues

Along with breathing problems, flat-faced dogs are also often more likely to have skin problems, according to an American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) analysis of pet insurance claims. It’s because these dogs often have deep skin folds and wrinkles. They are often more likely to have issues with fungal skin disease, allergic dermatitis, ear infections and pyoderma (a painful skin disease with painful pustules).

What are the brachycephalic breeds?

Not sure if that smushy-faced pup is one to worry about? Nationwide Pet Insurance identifies two dozen breeds that fall under the brachycephalyic breed description:

  • Affenpinscher
  • Boston terrier
  • Boxer
  • Brussels griffon
  • Bulldog
  • Bulldog (Olde English)
  • Bulldog (Victorian)
  • Cavalier King Charles spaniel
  • Dogue de Bordeaux
  • French bulldog
  • Japanese chin
  • Lhasa apso
  • Mastiff
  • Mastiff (Brazilian)
  • Mastiff (Bull)
  • Mastiff (English)
  • Mastiff (Neapolitan)
  • Mastiff (Pyrenean)
  • Mastiff (Tibetan)
  • Mastiff (Spanish)
  • Olde English bulldog
  • Pekingnese
  • Pug
  • Shih tzu

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There are many more “brachycephalyic breed” dogs than I realised. This was an important article, me thinks. Many, many readers of this place will have one.

 

So go on, how old is your dog?

An explanation of how old is that pet of yours.

One of the most frequent questions dog and cat owners get asked is how old is he or she. The pet that is!

And one of the most frequent concerns we have for our pets is how long will they live, as in what is their natural life span. Certainly, most of us realise that the larger dogs live slightly shorter lives but is that borne out in practice.

Well a recent professional article on The Conversation blogsite answered those questions.

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How old is my pet in dog years or cat years? A veterinarian explains

By

Clinical Instructor of Veterinary Medicine, Mississippi State University

July 23rd, 2019

“Just how old do you think my dog is in dog years?” is a question I hear on a regular basis. People love to anthropomorphize pets, attributing human characteristics to them. And most of us want to extend our animal friends’ healthy lives for as long as possible.

It may seem like sort of a silly thing to ponder, born out of owners’ love for their pets and the human-animal bond between them. But determining a pet’s “real” age is actually important because it helps veterinarians like me recommend life-stage specific healthcare for our animal patients.

There’s an old myth that one regular year is like seven years for dogs and cats. There’s a bit of logic behind it. People observed that with optimal healthcare, an average-sized, medium dog would on average live one-seventh as long as its human owner – and so the seven “dog years” for every “human year” equation was born.

Not every dog is “average-sized” though so this seven-year rule was an oversimplification from the start. Dogs and cats age differently not just from people but also from each other, based partly on breed characteristics and size. Bigger animals tend to have shorter life spans than smaller ones do. While cats vary little in size, the size and life expectancy of dogs can vary greatly – think a Chihuahua versus a Great Dane.

Human life expectancy has changed over the years. And vets are now able to provide far superior medical care to pets than we could even a decade ago. So now we use a better methodology to define just how old rule of thumb that counted every calendar year as seven “animal years.”

Based on the American Animal Hospital Association Canine Life Stages Guidelines, today’s vets divide dogs into six categories: puppy, junior, adult, mature, senior and geriatric. Life stages are a more practical way to think about age than assigning a single number; even human health recommendations are based on developmental stage rather than exactly how old you are in years.

Canine life stages

Veterinarians divide a dog’s expected life span into six life stages based on developmental milestones. These age ranges are for a medium-sized dog; smaller dogs tend to live longer, while larger dogs tend to have shorter life expectancies.

STAGE
AGE (YEARS)
CHARACTERISTICS
Puppy 0 – 0.5 Birth to sexual maturity
Junior 0.5 – 0.75 Reproductively mature, still growing
Adult 0.75 – 6.5 Finished growing, sexually and structurally mature
Mature 6.5 – 9.75 From middle to last 25% of expected lifespan
Senior 9.75 -13 Last 25% of life expectancy
Geriatric over 13 Beyond life span expectation

Chef Toby Pig Ears Recall for dog treats.

Yet another dog food (treats) recall.

There seem to be more than normal just at present.

But anyway let’s go directly to the recall.

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Dog Goods USA Recalls Chef Toby Pig Ears Dog Treats

August 16, 2019 — Dog Goods USA LLC of Tobyhanna, PA, is recalling its Chef Toby Pig Ears Treats due to possible contamination with Salmonella bacteria and its associated health risks.

Chef Toby Pig Ears Treats
Product Images

The images below represent the labels of the recalled products:

What Caused the Recall?

Dog Goods bought the affected products from a single supplier in Brazil from September 2018 through August 2019 and distributed them nationwide in retail stores.

The FDA sampled pig ears manufactured by its supplier in Brazil and one sample tested positive for Salmonella.

As previously reported on this website, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), together with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and State partners, is investigating a suspected link between pig ear pet treats and human cases of salmonellosis.

What’s Being Recalled?

Dog Goods USA LLC is conducting a voluntary recall of the following bulk and packaged pig ears branded Chef Toby Pig Ears.

Product lot codes include: 428590, 278989, 087148, 224208, 1168723, 428590, 222999, 074599, 1124053, 226884, 578867, 224897, 1234750, 444525, 1106709, 215812, 230273, 224970, 585246, 327901, 052248, 210393, 217664, 331199, 225399, 867680, 050273, 881224, 424223, 225979, 431724, 226340, 880207, 334498.

About Salmonella

Healthy people infected with Salmonella should monitor themselves for some or all of the following symptoms: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping and fever.

Rarely, Salmonella can result in more serious ailments, including arterial infections, endocarditis, arthritis, muscle pain, eye irritation, and urinary tract symptoms.

Consumers exhibiting these signs after having contact with this product should contact their healthcare providers.

Pets with Salmonella infections may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever and vomiting.

Some pets will have only decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain. Infected but otherwise healthy pets can be carriers and infect other animals and humans.

If your pet has consumed the recalled product and has these symptoms, please contact your veterinarian.

For more information about Salmonella and its symptoms and health risks, please refer to the following link: FDA Investigates Contaminated Pig Ear Pet Treats Connected to Human Salmonella Infections.

Company Statement

Dog Goods has also launched an internal investigation to determine if, when and where the Products may have been contaminated.

To date, this internal investigation has not indicated any vulnerability in the company’s practices, including but not limited to the inspection, handling and storage of the Products.

No illnesses have been linked to the products to date.

Nonetheless, Dog Goods will continue to investigate the matter, collaborate fully with the FDA and the CDC, and provide further information to its customers and the public as appropriate.

What to Do?

Consumers who have purchased the products are urged to return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.

Consumers with questions may contact the company at 786-401-6533 (ext 8000) from 9 am ET through 5 pm ET.

U.S. citizens can report complaints about FDA-regulated pet food products by calling the consumer complaint coordinator in your area.

Or go to https://www.fda.gov/petfoodcomplaints.

Canadians can report any health or safety incidents related to the use of this product by filling out the Consumer Product Incident Report Form.

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As always, please share this as far and wide as you can.

Eating organic food!

The jury is still out with regard to organic food being better for you, but …

Jeannie has been a vegetarian for years and I subscribed as soon as we met some eleven years ago.  About two years ago we became vegan and non-dairy.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that being vegetarian or vegan means eating organically; it’s an assumption.

Now as it happens we also do our best to eat organically.

Is it healthier, all things being equal?

Well The Conversation recently published a post exploring this subject.

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Organic food health benefits have been hard to assess, but that could change

By

Assistant Professor, Boise State University

August 16th, 2019

“Organic” is more than just a passing fad. Organic food sales totaled a record US$45.2 billion in 2017, making it one of the fastest-growing segments of American agriculture. While a small number of studies have shown associations between organic food consumption and decreased incidence of disease, no studies to date have been designed to answer the question of whether organic food consumption causes an improvement in health.

I’m an environmental health scientist who has spent over 20 years studying pesticide exposures in human populations. Last month, my research group published a small study that I believe suggests a path forward to answering the question of whether eating organic food actually improves health.

What we don’t know

According to the USDA, the organic label does not imply anything about health. In 2015, Miles McEvoy, then chief of the National Organic Program for USDA, refused to speculate about any health benefits of organic food, saying the question wasn’t “relevant” to the National Organic Program. Instead, the USDA’s definition of organic is intended to indicate production methods that “foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity.”

While some organic consumers may base their purchasing decisions on factors like resource cycling and biodiversity, most report choosing organic because they think it’s healthier.

Sixteen years ago, I was part of the first study to look at the potential for an organic diet to reduce pesticide exposure. This study focused on a group of pesticides called organophosphates, which have consistently been associated with negative effects on children’s brain development. We found that children who ate conventional diets had nine times higher exposure to these pesticides than children who ate organic diets.

Our study got a lot of attention. But while our results were novel, they didn’t answer the big question. As I told The New York Times in 2003, “People want to know, what does this really mean in terms of the safety of my kid? But we don’t know. Nobody does.” Maybe not my most elegant quote, but it was true then, and it’s still true now.

Studies only hint at potential health benefits

Health-conscious people want to buy organic for its health benefits, but it’s not yet clear whether such benefits exist. Goran Bogicevic/Shutterstock.com

Since 2003, several researchers have looked at whether a short-term switch from a conventional to an organic diet affects pesticide exposure. These studies have lasted one to two weeks and have repeatedly shown that “going organic” can quickly lead to dramatic reductions in exposure to several different classes of pesticides.

Still, scientists can’t directly translate these lower exposures to meaningful conclusions about health. The dose makes the poison, and organic diet intervention studies to date have not looked at health outcomes. The same is true for the other purported benefits of organic food. Organic milk has higher levels of healthy omega fatty acids and organic crops have higher antioxidant activity than conventional crops. But are these differences substantial enough to meaningfully impact health? We don’t know. Nobody does.

Some epidemiologic research has been directed at this question. Epidemiology is the study of the causes of health and disease in human populations, as opposed to in specific people. Most epidemiologic studies are observational, meaning that researchers look at a group of people with a certain characteristic or behavior, and compare their health to that of a group without that characteristic or behavior. In the case of organic food, that means comparing the health of people who choose to eat organic to those who do not.

Several observational studies have shown that people who eat organic food are healthier than those who eat conventional diets. A recent French study followed 70,000 adults for five years and found that those who frequently ate organic developed 25% fewer cancers than those who never ate organic. Other observational studies have shown organic food consumption to be associated with lower risk of diabetes, metabolic syndrome, pre-eclampsia and genital birth defects.

The problem with drawing firm conclusions from these studies is something epidemiologists call “uncontrolled confounding.” This is the idea that there may be differences between groups that researchers cannot account for. In this case, people who eat organic food are more highly educated, less likely to be overweight or obese, and eat overall healthier diets than conventional consumers. While good observational studies take into account things like education and diet quality, there remains the possibility that some other uncaptured difference between the two groups – beyond the decision to consume organic food – may be responsible for any health differences observed.

What next?

Often, new medical and health knowledge comes from carefully designed clinical trials, but no such trial has been conducted for organic food. Anyaivanova/Shutterstock.com

When clinical researchers want to figure out whether a drug works, they don’t do observational studies. They conduct randomized trials, where they randomly assign some people to take the drug and others to receive placebos or standard care. By randomly assigning people to groups, there’s less potential for uncontrolled confounding.

My research group’s recently published study shows how we could feasibly use randomized trial methods to investigate the potential for organic food consumption to affect health.

We recruited a small group of pregnant women during their first trimesters. We randomly assigned them to receive weekly deliveries of either organic or conventional produce throughout their second and third trimesters. We then collected a series of urine samples to assess pesticide exposure. We found that those women who received organic produce had significantly lower exposure to certain pesticides (specifically, pyrethroid insecticides) than those who received conventional produce.

On the surface, this seems like old news but this study was different in three important ways. First, to our knowledge, it was the longest organic diet intervention to date – by far. It was also the first to occur in pregnant women. Fetal development is potentially the most sensitive period for exposures to neurotoxic agents like pesticides. Finally, in previous organic diet intervention studies, researchers typically changed participants’ entire diets – swapping a fully conventional diet for a fully organic one. In our study, we asked participants to supplement their existing diets with either organic or conventional produce. This is more consistent with the actual dietary habits of most people who eat organic food – occasionally, but not always.

Even with just a partial dietary change, we observed a significant difference in pesticide exposure between the two groups. We believe that this study shows that a long-term organic diet intervention can be executed in a way that is effective, realistic and feasible.

The next step is to do this same study but in a larger population. We would then want to assess whether there were any resulting differences in the health of the children as they grew older, by measuring neurological outcomes like IQ, memory and incidence of attention-deficit disorders. By randomly assigning women to the organic and conventional groups, we could be sure any differences observed in their children’s health really were due to diet, rather than other factors common among people who consume organic food.

The public is sufficiently interested in this question, the organic market is large enough, and the observational studies suggestive enough to justify such a study. Right now, we don’t know if an organic diet improves health, but based on our recent research, I believe we can find out.

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Fingers crossed that new research takes place.

Because good health at any age is precious!

Texas Tripe Recall

Yet another Dog Food Advisory.

This one from Texas Tripe Inc.

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Texas Tripe Recalls Pet Food Due to Salmonella and Listeria

August 14, 2019 — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning dog owners not to feed certain lots of Texas Tripe raw pet food after samples tested positive for Salmonella and/or Listeria monocytogenes.

The FDA is issuing this alert because these lots of Texas Tripe Inc. raw pet food represent a serious threat to human and animal health.

Because these products are sold and stored frozen, FDA is concerned that people may still have them in their possession.

What’s Being Recalled?

The recalled products are sold frozen in 20-pound and 40-pound cases.

Each case contains multiple plastic pouches.

Lot codes to help identify recalled product are printed on the outside of the cases. But the lot codes are not printed on the individual sealed plastic pouches, also known as chubs.

So, if the case has been discarded, there are no unique identification numbers on the individual chubs that allow customers to determine that they possess the recalled products.

These products are manufactured by Texas Tripe Inc. and were sold direct to consumers online and by phone.

The chart below lists the recalled products and lot numbers provided by the firm to FDA on 8/6/2019. These include 35 lots for each of the following 23 product varieties.

The FDA-sampled products below tested positive for Salmonella and/or Listeria monocytogenes (as of 8/13/19) but have not been recalled.

  • Texas Tripe Chicken Blend: Lot 19196-6
  • Texas Tripe Pork Blend: Lot 19190-09
  • Texas Tripe Beef Blend: Lot 19191-05

Where Were the Products Sold?

According to the company, recalled products have been sold directly to consumers in the following states:

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Virginia

What Caused the Recall?

The Office of the Texas State Chemist (OTSC) collected 23 finished product samples at Texas Tripe Inc. Of the 23 samples, 16 tested positive for Listeria and/or Salmonella.

The FDA followed up these findings with an inspection and collected and analyzed samples of unopened finished product, after the firm performed corrective actions, from additional lots of some of the same products tested by OTSC.

FDA testing showed some of the samples contained Salmonella and/or L. mono.

FDA and OSTC shared their test results with Texas Tripe Inc. The firm initiated a recall on July 3, 2019 by directly notifying some of its customers via email.

Why FDA Is Concerned

Pet foods and treats contaminated with Salmonella and L. mono are of particular public health importance because they can affect both human and animal health.

Pets can get sick from these pathogens and may also be carriers of the bacteria and pass it on to their human companions without appearing to be ill.

People can get sick from handling contaminated pet foods and treats or touching surfaces that have had contact with the contaminated pet foods and treats.

Additionally, if a person gets Salmonella or L. mono on their hands, they can spread the bacteria to other people, objects, and surfaces.

The FDA is aware of recent cases in which humans and/or animals have gotten sick from exposure to Salmonella-contaminated pet foods (Salmonella-human cases, Salmonella-kitten, Salmonella-kitten and dog).

Although FDA is not aware of a documented case of a person acquiring L. mono infection from a pet food, once Salmonella or L. mono get established in the pet’s gastrointestinal tract, the animal can shed the bacteria in the feces when it has a bowel movement, and the contamination may continue to spread.

Because animals can shed the bacteria in the feces when they have bowel movements, it’s particularly important to clean up the animal’s feces in yards or parks where people or other animals may become exposed, in addition to cleaning items in the home.

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requires that all animal food, like human food, be safe to eat, produced under sanitary conditions, contain no harmful substances, and be truthfully labeled.

Without an effective control for pathogens, such as cooking, animal food is more likely to contain pathogens such as Salmonella and L. mono.

Refrigeration or freezing does not kill the bacteria.

About Salmonella

Salmonella is a bacterium that can cause illness and death in humans and animals, especially those who are very young, very old, or have weak immune systems.

According to the CDC, people infected with Salmonella can develop diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps.

Most people recover without treatment, but in some people, the diarrhea may be so severe that they need to be hospitalized.

In some patients, the Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream and then to other body sites unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics.

Consult your health care provider if you have symptoms of Salmonella infection.

Pets do not always display symptoms when infected with Salmonella, but signs can include vomiting, diarrhea (which may be bloody), fever, loss of appetite and/or decreased activity level.

If your pet has these symptoms, consult a veterinarian promptly.

You should also be aware that infected pets can shed the bacteria in their feces and saliva without showing signs of being sick, further contaminating the household environment.

About Listeria

Listeria monocytogenes (L. mono) is a bacterium that can cause illness and death in humans and animals, especially those who are pregnant, very young, very old, or have weak immune systems.

According to CDC, listeriosis in humans can cause a variety of symptoms, depending on the person and the part of the body affected.

Symptoms can include headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions in addition to fever and muscle aches.

Pregnant women typically experience only fever and other flu-like symptoms, such as fatigue and muscle aches.

However, infections during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or life-threatening infection of the newborn.

Pregnant women and their newborns, adults age 65 and older, and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to get sick with listeriosis.

Anyone with symptoms of listeriosis should contact a health care provider.

L. mono infections are uncommon in pets, but they are possible.

Symptoms may include mild to severe diarrhea, anorexia, fever, nervousness, muscular and respiratory signs, abortion, depression, shock and death.

Pets do not need to display symptoms to be able to pass L. mono on to their human companions.

Once L. mono gets established in the pet’s gastrointestinal tract, the animal can shed the bacteria in the feces when it has a bowel movement…

And the contamination may continue to spread, further contaminating the household environment.

What to Do?

If you have any recalled product, stop feeding it to your pets and throw it away in a secure container where other animals, including wildlife, cannot access it.

Consumers who have had this product in their homes should clean refrigerators/freezers where the product was stored and clean and disinfect all bowls, utensils, food prep surfaces, pet bedding, toys, floors, and any other surfaces that the food or pet may have had contact with.

Clean up the pet’s feces in yards or parks where people or other animals may become exposed.

Consumers should thoroughly wash their hands after handling the recalled product or cleaning up potentially contaminated items and surfaces.

If you believe you have symptoms of Salmonella and L. mono, consult your health care provider.

People who think their pets have become ill after consuming contaminated pet food should first contact their veterinarians.

Veterinarians who wish to have pets tested for Salmonella may do so through the Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network (Vet-LIRN Network) if the pet is from a household with a person infected with Salmonella.

U.S. citizens can report complaints about FDA-regulated pet food products by calling the consumer complaint coordinator in your area.

Or go to https://www.fda.gov/petfoodcomplaints.

Canadians can report any health or safety incidents related to the use of this product by filling out the Consumer Product Incident Report Form.

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Yet again, share this as far and wide as you can.

And, please, check that you aren’t continuing to use a Texas Tripe product from the above list.