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Archive: Annys Shin

Cribs Recalled after Child Is Poisoned by Lead Paint

If you haven't noticed, I've taken a hiatus to help cover the economic crisis but will sometimes resurface here when news warrants. What has lured me back today is a recall of 3,000 "Newport" cribs and 6,000 matching furniture pieces made by Munire Furniture of Piscataway, N.J. for having lead paint in excess of federal limits. The paint in question was a red paint underneath a darker top coating--still accessible of course, especially by teething babes and toddlers who like to gnaw on the rails. The cribs cost about $600 a pop and the matching furniture had price tags between...

 

By Annys Shin | December 23, 2008; 04:30 PM ET | Comments (1)

SNL Finds a Way to Make Unsafe Toys Funny

Product safety is mostly not funny. So here's a rare bit of levity to brighten your day, courtesy of Ed Mierzwinski over at U.S. PIRG. Apparently, Saturday Night Live used the advocacy group's Annual Trouble in Toyland report to make a joke. It's actually PIRG's second mention on SNL, as Ed will proudly tell you. A brief history of PIRG pop culture references follows: We're proud to have had our work hit a few other popular shows over the years. "What are balloons?" was once the Final Jeopardy answer (in a special kids' tournament on the show) to the question:...

 

By Annys Shin | December 9, 2008; 10:28 AM ET | Comments (1)

Traces of Melamine Found in U.S.-Made Infant Formula

Not sure how this jibes with the Food and Drug Administration's recent risk assessment which said it was "unable to establish any level of melamine and melamine-related compounds in infant formula that does not raise public health concerns" but you be the judge! From Bloomberg News Service : By Justin Blum Nov. 25 (Bloomberg) -- The industrial chemical melamine has been found in infant formula made in the U.S. in low amounts that pose no health concern, according to the Food and Drug Administration. The finding was expected because of the chemicals use in can liners and manufacturing, said Stephanie...

 

By Annys Shin | November 25, 2008; 05:30 PM ET | Comments (0)

"Results May Vary"

We've all seen that line, flashing across the screen in tiny print during some infomercial as a svelte young gal or guy explains they lost a gazillion pounds by trying the Flabinator or some other drug and/or exercise device. The Federal Trade Commission wants to know what you think about some changes the commission has proposed to its guidance on advertising endorsements and testimonials. Among the substantive changes the FTC wants is to make advertisers that use a testimonial of an atypical experience to clearly tell consumers what the typical results would be, rather than just flash these three familiar...

 

By Annys Shin | November 24, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Sen. Boxer Says CPSC Got It Wrong on Phthalates

Earlier this week, the Consumer Product Safety Commission's General Counsel issued a legal opinion laying out how the agency plans to enforce the temporary ban on certain kinds of phthalates in teethers, pacifiers and other children's products. The ban was mandated by the new product safety law that was enacted in August. Phthalates are used to make soft plastic and have been linked to reproductive problems. The CPSC decided that the ban would apply to products made after Feb. 10 when the ban is to take effect. This was a huge relief to manufacturers still grappling with how to comply...

 

By Annys Shin | November 21, 2008; 03:05 PM ET | Comments (0)

IKEA Recalls Roman Shades After Death of Toddler

Federal safety officials are expected to warn consumers today about an emerging hidden hazard: Roman Blinds or Shades. They typically have two inner cords, one on each side that run in and out of the panel and allow the shade to open and close. They are separate from the operating cords, which have some kind of pull at the end. The inner cords can be pulled to form a loop that can then form a noose around a child's neck. Strangulation has long been a potential hazard with blinds that come with looped operating cords, but did not pose a...

 

By Annys Shin | November 20, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Nancy Nord - Not Going Anywhere, Thank You.

On Tuesday, Acting Consumer Product Safety Commission Chair Nancy Nord told staff in an e-mail and those gathered at an international product safety conference in Brussels where she was speaking that she intends to serve out her term on the commission, which ends in 2012. The announcement makes official what has been known for some time, which is that despite everything that happened in the past two years--a few trips to the congressional hot seat, repeated calls for her resignation ("Time for Nord to find an exit sign and follow it," the Chicago Tribune opined in September), and the arrival...

 

By Annys Shin | November 19, 2008; 03:28 PM ET | Comments (0)

Babywearing Ad Turns into a Huge Pain for Makers of Motrin

The blogosphere hath no fury like babywearers scorned. Over the weekend, McNeil Consumer Healthcare, the makers of the pain reliever Motrin, took a virtual beating over an online and print ad that it originally posted on Sept. 30 that featured a supposed first-time mom talking about babywearing as if it was a painful fad. What set people off, I think, was really the tone, which made baby slings and Moby wraps sound like skinny jeans and high heels--only worse. A brief list of ironies: 1. McNeil was forced to pull the ad during International Babywearing Week. 2. Plenty of parents...

 

By Annys Shin | November 17, 2008; 06:20 PM ET | Comments (0)

Monday Round Up

Welcome to another installment in our semi-weekly round-up of Stories To Help You Weather the Recession. (I've given up tacking on Financial Crisis cause I think the R-world pretty much sums things up.) First up is your money. Financial planner and analysts say now may be a good time to put money into certificates of deposit. In flush times, four percent interest seemed laughable. Right now, it's looking pretty darn good. Nancy Trejos wrote about seniors older than 70 and 1/2 who face a unique situation. By law, they have to withdraw money from their retirement counts by the end...

 

By Annys Shin | November 17, 2008; 12:06 PM ET | Comments (0)

All Chinese Food Imports Containing Dairy Held Up at U.S. Border

The Food and Drug Administration has begun stopping imports of Chinese dairy and dairy-based products from entering the country in an effort to keep out food contaminated with the industrial chemical melamine. Melamine is the chemical at the heart of the Chinese infant formula scandal that has killed at least two infants and sickened more than 50,000. Scraps of melamine, which is used to make plastic and fertilizer, were added to milk as a way of boosting the milk's protein content in order to pass quality tests. The same thing was done with wheat gluten, which was then used to...

 

By Annys Shin | November 13, 2008; 02:22 PM ET | Comments (20)

Federal Safety Regulators Say Toys Safer than Ever

On Wednesday, the Consumer Product Safety Commission held its annual toy safety press confab where it lists the top five toy-related safety hazards and generally comments on the state of toys today. Instead of CPSC HQ in Bethesda, the event was held at the Shops at Georgetown Park off Wisconsin Ave. and M Street NW, much to the delight of some of the folks in the audience who I overheard rejoicing in the proximity of a coffee shop. (There is a Starbucks close to CPSC HQ but I guess it's hard to beat a Seattle's Best 50 paces away.) Acting...

 

By Annys Shin | November 13, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Tougher Crib Regulations May Soon Be in the Works

With all that hoopla last week -- something about a historic election -- a wee note went out unnoticed by most folk outside the Consumer Product Safety Commission. It was a staff briefing package to the Commission recommending tougher safety standards for cribs. The commission will vote later this week on whether to move forward with new mandatory standards. The staff based its recommendation on the work of a special group of experts within the agency that looked at more than 1,200 crib incidents. They pinpointed problems with hardware, drop sides and the quality of wood components as potential causes...

 

By Annys Shin | November 10, 2008; 06:28 PM ET | Comments (0)

The Mathematics of Melamine

At the recent Food and Drug Administration's Science Board meeting, FDA officials briefed the board about its efforts to track economic adulteration of food. It was a timely talk given that Chinese officials are reportedly in the middle of a crack down on melamine-tainted animal feed after the industrial chemical turned up in eggs. Melamine is used to make fertilizer and plastic but the factories where it is made regularly sell melamine scraps to whoever wants them. The scraps, in turn, are frequently used to make protein powders that are used to spike animal feed and watered down milk in...

 

By Annys Shin | November 10, 2008; 07:01 AM ET | Comments (0)

Amazon Seeks to Free Consumers from the Clamshell

If you've ever bought small electronics or toys, you've probably tussled with a clamshell or two. By clamshell, I mean that plastic packaging that encases everything from remote controls to Rubik's cubes. I've routinely slashed, stabbed, dug my nails into and even tried to bite them in order to get them to disgorge their contents. Someone has finally heard our grunts of frustration: Amazon.com. The Web retailer on Monday declared war on "wrap rage" with a multi-year "Frustration-Free Packaging" program, starting with 19 best-selling products. They include a computer mouse and Barbie's Party Cruise ship. Check out the list here....

 

By Annys Shin | November 4, 2008; 07:12 AM ET | Comments (0)

Retirees Worried Their Savings Won't Last and Recession-Proof Jobs

Howdy. It's Monday. And not just any Monday. It's the day before what David Broder would say has been "The Best Election Ever"--that is if he was a 20-something who had nothing better to do but watch VH-1 all day. (This weekend he wrote a piece on how Obama v. McCain was the best election he's ever covered, topping even the 1960 JFK v. Nixon contest! Take that Gore v. Bush!) So I know you've got hours of staring at red-and-blue colored maps ahead of you. Not to mention the headache you'll probably get watching the outlines of Ohio, Virginia,...

 

By Annys Shin | November 3, 2008; 10:07 AM ET | Comments (0)

Blogging FDA Science Board Accepts BPA Report

So the report has been presented and a bevy of speakers--some from industry and some from consumer groups--have spoken. And now the board is sorting out what it is going to vote on. The options on the table include accepting the report wholesale or with editorial comments. Larry Sasich, the consumer representative on the board, proposed accepting the report and telling the FDA to look into immediately limiting infants' exposure to BPA. "The point of this whole process is, 'do we have a chemical out there that is potentially harmful to infants and small children?'" he said. "It would be...

 

By Annys Shin | October 31, 2008; 02:45 PM ET | Comments (0)

Blogging the FDA Science Board's BPA Meeting

Well, I'm here at the Hilton in Gaithersburg today at a meeting of the Food and Drug Administration's Science Board. The Science Board advises the FDA commissioner on scientific and technical matters and I'm sure these meetings are not usually a big media draw. But the CNN truck is already parked outside in anticipation of a vote later today by the Science Board on recommendations made by a special panel that reviewed the FDA's draft risk assessment of bisphenol-A. That risk assessment, released in September, concluded that BPA, a chemical used to harden plastic that is found in CDs, polycarbonate...

 

By Annys Shin | October 31, 2008; 11:20 AM ET | Comments (0)

Simplicity Crib Recall Hotline Number Is Down

If you own one of the 1 million Simplicity cribs that were recalled last year and have questions about how to obtain a repair kit, you may have to wait a bit longer. Earlier this week, the Illinois Attorney General's office sued SFCA, an affiliate of Blackstreet Capital Management in Bethesda, in relation to the recall last month of Simplicity bassinets after two children died. The AG's office also put together a guide of recalled nursery products to distribute to parents. While assembling the guide, the AG's staff discovered the company hotline set up to handle the 2007 crib recall...

 

By Annys Shin | October 30, 2008; 11:59 AM ET | Comments (0)

Recalls Drive Away Customers for at Least Nine Months

The consulting firm Deloitte released its annual Food & Product Safety Survey today and it's not great news for the fresh produce industry. Deloitte surveyed consumers nationwide about their perceptions about the safety of the U.S. food suppy and consumer products, specifically fresh produce, consumer electronics, toys, and packaged food and beverages. Here's what Deloitte found: More than half of consumers (58 percent) who heard about product safety and/or quality problems changed their buying habits, turning away from such products for more than nine months, on average. Changes in buying habits were most common for fresh food and packaged food/beverage...

 

By Annys Shin | October 29, 2008; 01:54 PM ET | Comments (0)

New Questions for Chairman of FDA Panel on BPA

Last week, Martin Philbert, who chairs a Food and Drug Administration panel on the chemical bisphenol-A, defended himself in an editorial in a Milwaukee newspaper against charges that he has been influenced by millions of dollars in donations to his research center by BPA makers. But his defense has only attracted more scrutiny from consumer groups and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who heads a House panel that oversees FDA funding. In a letter sent to FDA today, DeLauro asked the FDA to delay the release later this week of its report on the safety of BPA, which is used to...

 

By Annys Shin | October 28, 2008; 07:30 AM ET | Comments (1)

Break Out the Scissors and Bring in the Savings

I hesitate to say coupons are "back." For many people, they were never "out." But they had been declining in popularity in recent years. Not any more. Thanks to hard economic times, there are more converts with each passing day. As my colleague Nancy Trejos reported on Sunday, people are rediscovering the power of coupon clipping. Coupon usage peaked in 1992, when nearly 8 billion were redeemed for nearly $5 billion in savings, according to CMS, which processes coupon payments for merchants. Usage then started declining at an annual rate of 5 to 7 percent. Last year was the first...

 

By Annys Shin | October 27, 2008; 01:11 PM ET | Comments (0)

Update on Delta crib recall

Here are the official releases on the crib recall with model numbers. There are TWO releases, so please scroll down: RELEASE No. 1: Infant Death Prompts Recall to Repair 985,000 Delta Enterprise Drop Side Cribs; Missing Safety Pegs Can Cause Entrapment and Suffocation Hazards WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), in cooperation with Delta Enterprise Corp., of New York, New York., is announcing the voluntary recall to replace missing safety pegs involving 985,000 drop side cribs. Failure to use or install safety pegs can cause an entrapment and suffocation risk to infants and toddlers. When the...

 

By Annys Shin | October 21, 2008; 09:09 AM ET | Comments (0)

1.6 million cribs recalled after two deaths

Delta Enterprises of New York is recalling 1.6 million cribs after two infants died. The information leaked out Monday night before an official release from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. So there is little detail either about the specific model number of the cribs in question or the deaths. The company wasn't providing it as of 9:25 pm E.S.T. on Monday. According to AP: In one of the infant deaths, there was no safety peg and the crib's side detached, leaving a gap. The infant got stuck in the gap and suffocated. In the second instance, the infant died in...

 

By Annys Shin | October 20, 2008; 09:22 PM ET | Comments (0)

Food and Drug Adminstration Opening Offices in China

Last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Levitt announced that finally, after months of negotiation and bureaucratic slogging, the FDA will be sending permanent staff to China. The first office will be in Beijing and two more offices, one in Shanghai and the other in Guangzhou, will open sometime next year, for a total of eight FDA staffers. The stationing of U.S. product and food safety personnel overseas was a key part of the Bush Administration's response to 2007's wave of recalls. The recent melamine-tainted infant formula scandal has not exactly boosted consumer confidence in China's safety regulators. Leavitt...

 

By Annys Shin | October 20, 2008; 12:11 PM ET | Comments (0)

2,000 Cribs Recalled After Death of 5 month old

Playkids USA of Brooklyn, N.Y. said it was recalling 2,000 convertible cribs after a five-month-old child died on Aug. 31, 2008. The infant became entrapped between the mattress and the drop side rail and suffocated. The cribs involved are portable and the sides are made of a mesh which can expand, creating a gap between the mattress and the side that an infant can fall into and get stuck. The last portable crib recall was in 2005 when Delta Enterprise Corp. recalled about 10,000 cribs because the slats could separate from the headboard, posing a suffocation hazard. The crib being...

 

By Annys Shin | October 16, 2008; 02:15 PM ET | Comments (0)

Preemption: Not a Blunderbuss

Yes, a posting not related to the financial crisis! However, it is about preemption, that most important, but possibly dullest of all product safety issues. Preemption refers to having federal regulations trump state ones, including stronger state ones. The trial lawyers issued a report Wednesday on what it describes as the Bush Administration's systematic attempts to impose preemption on the world through executive fiat, either by filing amicus briefs on behalf of drug companies fighting product liability suits, or by inserting preemption language into numerous federal regulations by including it in the preamble. One example is the National Highway Transportation...

 

By Annys Shin | October 16, 2008; 07:04 AM ET | Comments (2)

The Financial Crisis and YOU: Some Helpful Links

As the financial crisis has unfolded, many of my colleagues have been compiling information for consumers, from details such as whether they can still use their Wachovia bank card, to whether or not they should buy that pad in Brooklyn. Some are based on your questions so keep them coming at http://washingtonpost.com/yourmoney. Here are links to those pieces: The Crisis and Your Pocket Book series are answers to reader questions. You can check out the installments so far here: The Crisis and Your Pocketbook 3 The Crisis and Your Pocketbook 2 The Crisis and Your Pocket Book Getting in Touch...

 

By Annys Shin | October 15, 2008; 01:58 PM ET | Comments (0)

Shoppers? Yes, They Still Exist

My colleague Kendra Marr was out chatting with shoppers yesterday -- yes, there are still some people shopping, though retail sales figures might have you thinking otherwise. Caleb Huey, a 19-year-old junior at American University, said he was feeling guilty about his new winter wardrobe, but he couldn't stop himself from blowing most of his paycheck from his job at a marketing company. "With the economic downturn, I've been shopping more," he said. "I makes be feel secure to go out and buy more things. I don't know why." In fact, while he was shopping in Georgetown yesterday, someone stole...

 

By Kathy Lally | October 9, 2008; 01:04 PM ET | Comments (1)

But Wait, There's Still More!

Kevin Trudeau doesn't understand the word, "No." A federal judge has banned him from infomercials for three years yet again. The ruling is the latest turn in a decade long quest by the Federal Trade Commission to stop Trudeau, who it says is "a prolific marketer who has either appeared in or produced hundreds of infomercials." The FTC filed its first case against him in 1998 over infomercials for products that he claimed could cause significant weight loss and cure addictions to heroin, alcohol, and cigarettes. Oh, and give users photographic memory to make it easier for them to remember...

 

By Annys Shin | October 8, 2008; 01:01 PM ET | Comments (0)

New Data on Children Killed by Unstable Furniture and TVs

On Wednesday, the Consumer Product Safety Commission released new data showing that between 2000 and 2006--the most recent data available--there have been 180 deaths involving heavy furniture such as dressers or armoires, and televisions falling and crushing people. Eighty percent of the deaths involved children younger than 10. And there were 40 reports of tip-over deaths between 2005 and 2006 alone. And such accidents continue. Last Saturday, a nine-month old in Arizona died after a television fell and crushed her. There are various theories as to why there was a big increase. Don Mays of Consumers Union thinks it could...

 

By Annys Shin | October 2, 2008; 07:34 AM ET | Comments (2)

Is your child's booster seat safe?

Safety experts have singled out 13 child booster seats for not doing a good enough job of protecting children during a crash. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute said Wednesday that the booster seats for children ages 4 to 8 don't position them so they receive optimal protection from safety belts, which is their main purpose. The IIHS gave the thumbs down to the following models: Compass B505 Compass B510 Cosco/Dorel Traveler Evenflo Big Kid Confidence Safety Angel Ride Ryte Cosco/Dorel Alpha Omega Cosco/Dorel (Eddie Bauer) Summit Cosco Highback Booster* Dorel/Safety 1st...

 

By Annys Shin | October 1, 2008; 11:30 AM ET | Comments (0)

Cadbury Pulls Products in Asia Because of Melamine

Just got off the phone with a Cadbury spokeswoman in Britain who said the only region affected by the recall is Asia. However, she could not tell me where North American Cadbury products are sourced or where the ingredients for North American Cadbury products come from. She forwarded my question to another spokesperson. I'll let you know what they tell me. In the meantime, here is what is known so far, courtesy of the AP: HONG KONG -- A Cadbury spokesman says preliminary results show its Chinese-made chocolates contain the industrial chemical melamine. The spokesman said Monday it was too...

 

By Annys Shin | September 29, 2008; 10:53 AM ET | Comments (9)

Corn Refiners Whispering Sweet Nothings in Our Ears

First there was Big Tobacco. And we've talked about Big Salt before. Now, it looks like there's.... ...Big High Fructose Corn Syrup? I was watching television about a week ago when I spotted a commercial featuring a couple sitting in the grass. The woman of the pair had in her hand a can of soda, which sparked a little flirtatious banter about, you guessed it, high fructose corn syrup. HFCS, as I'll call it for now, is a sweetener and preservative used in many processed foods, according to the Mayo Clinic. It is made by changing the sugar in cornstarch...

 

By Annys Shin | September 24, 2008; 07:32 AM ET | Comments (4)

Another Simplicity Crib Recall

There's been so many Simplicity recalls, it's getting hard to keep them straight. A few weeks ago, retailers recalled 900,000 Simplicity bassinets. Today, the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced that nine major retailers are recalling about 600,000 Simplicity cribs sold between January 2005 and August 2008 because the drop side can come loose, creating a gap in which babies can get caught and suffocate to death. Fortunately in this case, no deaths were associated with the cribs. Simplicity recalled 1 million cribs last September because of problems with the drop side detaching, after the death of three infants. The models...

 

By Annys Shin | September 17, 2008; 11:20 AM ET | Comments (3)

Why Feb. 10, 2009 is the New Christmas

Today, the Consumer Product Safety Commission's general counsel Cheryl Falvey released a legal opinion on whether the new lead limit, passed as part of the massive product safety reform bill, applies to products that were made and shipped before the law took effect on Aug. 14. Before you fall asleep on me, this is not boring legalese. It means that after Feb.10, 2009, all products on store shelves must comply with a strict new lead limit of 600 parts per million. The limit applies to total lead content and not just lead paint. The Feb. 10 date was imposed by...

 

By Annys Shin | September 15, 2008; 01:28 PM ET | Comments (0)

Sparks Fly in the District

My colleague Jordan Weissmann reports that the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington health advocacy group, filed a lawsuit yesterday in an effort to stop MillerCoors LLC. from selling Sparks, its alcoholic energy drink, in the District. The suit alleges that Sparks contains ingredients -- caffeine, ginseng and taurine -- that have never been approved for use in alcoholic beverages, and that the government erred by allowing the the drink on the market. The suit, filed in DC Superior Court, accuses MillerCoors of actively marketing Sparks, which contains 6 percent alcohol, to underage consumers. The CSPI...

 

By Kathy Lally | September 9, 2008; 08:11 AM ET | Comments (0)

How the CPSC is like an Australian speed skater

If you never associated the Consumer Product Safety Commission with an Olympic athlete, let alone a gold medal-winning Olympic athlete, the agency has a little video clip to show you. Yesterday the agency kicked off an all-day meeting to discuss various issues involved in implementing the massive, recently passed product safety law with a recap of Australian Steven Bradbury's unlikely win in the men's 1,000 meter short track event at the 2002 Winter Olympics. Bradbury, to refresh your memory, won after Apolo Anton Ohno, who was favored to win, wiped out along with several other competitors. (Ohno managed to get...

 

By Annys Shin | September 5, 2008; 01:20 PM ET | Comments (0)

Nebraska Beef Pursues Church Ladies

A few weeks ago, I spoke with Bill Lamson, an attorney for Nebraska Beef, the Omaha meat packer that has had two large recalls this year of beef linked to two separate E. coli outbreaks, including one that sickened Whole Foods Market customers in two states. I found him to be exceedingly reasonable and pleasant to speak with. At the time, I asked him about the lawsuit that Nebraska Beef had filed against a church in rural Minnesota in connection with a cluster of E. coli illnesses two years ago among more than a dozen parishioners who ate at the...

 

By Annys Shin | September 3, 2008; 10:05 AM ET | Comments (0)

Raw Mexican Jalapeno and Serrano Peppers are Safe to Eat Again

So the salmonella saintpaul outbreak of 2008 is over. That is what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration just got done telling reporters. Because the illnesses have tapered off and because potentially contaminated jalapeno and serrano peppers are no longer in circulation in U.S. markets, FDA also lifted its warning against raw Mexican jalapeno and serrano peppers. It was a bit of an anticlimactic ending to the biggest salmonella outbreak in a decade. No wild pigs to blame--yet. The FDA's field investigation in Mexico is over but the agency is still analyzing what...

 

By Annys Shin | August 28, 2008; 01:01 PM ET | Comments (1)

Mom's Says No More Evian

News flash: Another retailer chain shrinks its carbon footprint -- and yours. This time, it's by banning imported bottled water from its shelves. Score another hanging chad-less point for Al Gore. No, it's not Wal-Mart. Or even Whole Foods Market. It's Rockville, Md. based MOM's - My Organic Market - with five stores in the DC metro area. On Tuesday, MOM's put out a press release subtitled "Local Organic Grocery Store Forgoes Profit in Favor of the Environment." Modest. I like it. "Once we thought about the amount of energy, oil, and water that go into producing, shipping, and disposing...

 

By Annys Shin | August 21, 2008; 07:05 AM ET | Comments (15)

Not-so-live blogging House Food Safety Hearing No. Two

Apologies for the delayed post. My air card died just as the produce industry was piling on the FDA and CDC. If you want to listen along, you can go to the House Energy and Commerce Committee Web site. The theme of today's hearing is "Lessons Learned" from the salmonella outbreak. So in that vein, I thought I'd write up my top five lessons learned. 1. Outbreaks don't respect state borders. I wrote Wednesday about a Colorado woman, Cheryl Grubbs, whose husband was an outbreak victim. She had trouble getting the attention of her local health officials partly because Colorado...

 

By Annys Shin | July 31, 2008; 12:44 PM ET | Comments (3)

BREAKING NEWS: Salmonella Saintpaul Found in Irrigation Water on Mexican Pepper Farm

Dr. David Acheson, who is the top food safety official at the Food and Drug Administration, has just told the House panel that they have found likely source of Salmonella saintpaul, which has eluded countless officials for weeks. "We have a positive sample in water used for irrigation and serrano peppers from the same farm that have matched outbreak strain," he said. Acheson says the FDA is now changing its warning to include Mexican Serrano peppers. The agency says consumers should now stop eating raw serrano peppers. Dr. Lonnie King of the Centers for Disease Control is testifying after Acheson...

 

By Annys Shin | July 30, 2008; 02:44 PM ET | Comments (8)

Live blogging the House's food safety hearing

Hello from the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture That I Have Never Heard Of Until Now. I've threatened to live blog before and today I have finally procured a laptop and an air card. The point of this gathering today--and there is a second one tomorrow--is ostensibly to talk about the problems with tracing produce through the distribution chain in case of an outbreak or terrorist attack on the food supply. The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control honchos have said the difficulty tracing tomatoes slowed the Salmonella saintpaul investigation. Other food safety...

 

By Annys Shin | July 30, 2008; 02:22 PM ET | Comments (3)

Found: Smoking Jalapeno

As reported Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration has found the strain of salmonella that has been making people sick since April in a jalapeno pepper collected from a small Texas produce distributor. The FDA found the pepper by tracing back food eaten by people who got sick. The victims were part of one of the restaurant clusters FDA has been investigating, hoping to come across a lead like this one. Now the FDA can focus its efforts on where that pepper came from and hopefully find a source. So you don't get confused, there is a separate recall going...

 

By Annys Shin | July 23, 2008; 07:03 AM ET | Comments (36)

The Product Safety Bill: Not Done Yet

Last week, House and Senate lawmakers met for the second time to hash out their differences on product safety reform legislation. Remember that? Congress's attempt to protect us from lead paint on toys and dots that turn into the date rape drug when you swallow them? Anyway, while they whittled down the number of things they disagree about, they still haven't resolved everything. The outstanding issues include a ban on phthalates--chemicals that make plastic soft and have been linked to reproductive problems--and preemption. In English, that means whether some of the new standards and testing protocols that will go into...

 

By Annys Shin | July 21, 2008; 12:05 PM ET | Comments (1)

Tomato Salad for Everyone

So the latest in the salmonella outbreak last week was the Food and Drug Administration lifting their warning about certain types of tomatoes. All we know at this point is tomatoes on the market are safe because there is no way they could be coming from farms that were shipping tomatoes back in April when people first started getting sick. FDA and the Centers for Disease Control are not saying tomatoes weren't responsible for the outbreak, only that the ones on the market now are safe. They are "seriously considering" the possibility that jalapeno peppers as well as tomatoes may...

 

By Annys Shin | July 21, 2008; 07:42 AM ET | Comments (115)

Latest in the Salmonella Outbreak

With the tally of ill people brushing up against 1,200, the folks trying to figure out--and stop--the source of the salmonella outbreak are hoping a new set of interviews in New Mexico and Arizona will provide more leads. The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with state health officials in the two states and the Indian Health Service, are talking to people who fell ill after June 1. For anyone who has been following the outbreak investigation closely, this doesn't sound that earth shattering, but it could prove fruitful. All of the folks...

 

By Annys Shin | July 17, 2008; 02:13 PM ET | Comments (1)

Here's the Beef

Happy Monday folks. Sorry I've been radio silent for a week. I had a lot of tomatoes and pepper news to weed through. And beef news too, which is what I'm going to tell you about today. Last Friday, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer and Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Richard Raymond announced the agency would soon begin disclosing the names of retailers that receive recalled meat but only in situations where there's a high chance of people getting sick from eating the recalled meat. Raymond has been pushing for this rule for two years. Two. And...

 

By Annys Shin | July 14, 2008; 10:34 AM ET | Comments (41)

Meanwhile, in Nebraska...

With tomatoes getting all the attention--or should I say Mystery Produce--you may have missed the latest ground beef outbreak in the Midwest. On Thursday, Nebraska Beef, an Omaha-based meat packer, said it was recalling 5.3 million pounds of hamburger meat that it produced since in mid-May after it was linked to an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in Ohio and Michigan. The Kroger grocery chain which bought from Nebraska Beef is pulling ground beef from stores across the country. This was an expansion of a recall announced Monday of only a half a million pounds. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's...

 

By Annys Shin | July 5, 2008; 04:39 PM ET | Comments (33)

Toy Chests Are Not Toys

I know everyone is probably gone for the Fourth, but a recall just flashed over my e-mail that I thought you might like more info about. Bayside Furnishings of San Diego said yesterday it is recalling 9,350 LaJolla Boat and Pirates of the Carribean Twin Trundle beds after a 22-month-old boy died when the lid of a toy chest that is at the end of the bed fell on his neck and strangled him. The beds were sold at Costco, Costco.com and furniture retail stores from January 2006 through May of this year for between $700 and $1,400. Bayside is...

 

By Annys Shin | July 4, 2008; 07:36 AM ET | Comments (0)

Blogging the Product Safety Bill Conference

I should probably call this entry retrospective blogging on the product safety bill conference since it took place at 4ish Wednesday and will continue after Congress returns from the July 4 recess. Not much news came out of the event, where members from the House and Senate were supposed to resolve differences between each chamber's version of product safety reform legislation. They didn't finish Wednesday and will meet again in July. Despite keeping us in suspense for who knows how much longer, the lawmakers were at least kind enough to have the meeting in a room big enough for the...

 

By Annys Shin | June 27, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

The CPSC Channels Gallagher

So I was watching the Today Show this morning with the babe and the hub (the hub was watching it to catch a glimpse of a Redskins player who was a groomsman in a Today Show-sponsored wedding) and I was pleasantly surprised to catch a segment starring Consumer Product Safety Commission spokeswoman Julie Vallese and an exploding watermelon. The soon-to-be-exploded watermelon. (Annys Shin) With July Fourth around the corner, the CPSC is out with its annual "fireworks can blow your fingers off" message. And what better way to get the attention of the target teen audience, or rather their parents...

 

By Annys Shin | June 25, 2008; 10:05 AM ET | Comments (1)

What's That Smell?

What do rubber duckies, shower curtains, and air fresheners have in common? If you said phthalates, you'd be right! The Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and the Alliance for Healthy Homes is suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency saying it should require manufacturers to test household air fresheners for safety and to disclose their chemical ingredients. The lawsuit is based on a 2007 NRDC analysis of more than a dozen common household air fresheners, which found that most contained phthalates, chemicals that may affect hormones and reproductive development in children and infants. The back story is this: The...

 

By Annys Shin | June 20, 2008; 07:36 AM ET | Comments (0)

Is It Curtains for Your Shower Curtain?

I'm back from the City of Brotherly Love for my sister-in-law's wedding. And in my inbox this morning, I see the Great Plastic Safety Debate raged on in my absence. The subject this time is shower curtains. The opening salvo came from the Falls Church-based Center for Health and Environmental Justice, which put out a report saying that that new shower curtain smell is not so good for you. CHEJ hired an independent lab to test several shower curtains purchased at big box stores for various chemicals and heavy metals. The lab found the shower curtains contained phthalates, a chemical...

 

By Annys Shin | June 18, 2008; 09:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

You Say Tomato, I Say Salmonella

Hi. Your food safety nerd here checking in. (Aren't you so glad Nancy and Ylan are writing now too so you don't have to read about bugs in your food all the time?) I've been keeping an eye on this salmonella outbreak linked to tomatoes and after a few updates, it looks like it's finally hit the big time. The Food and Drug Administration yesterday issued a broad warning, telling consumers not to eat raw Roma, red plum or red round tomatoes, or products that contain these types of raw red tomatoes unless the tomatoes are from the following places:...

 

By Annys Shin | June 9, 2008; 11:07 AM ET | Comments (86)

USDA Rescinds "Raised without Antibiotics" Label from Tyson Chicken

I bring you an update on the Tyson Foods "raised without antibiotics" labeling case. The back story, briefly, is that Tyson was selling chicken under the label "raised without antibiotics." The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees meat and poultry, signed off on the use of the label. Tyson's competitors, Sanderson Farms and Perdue Farms, cried foul (excuse my word choice) and challenged Tyson's use of the label in court and with the USDA. A federal judge in Baltimore ruled last month that Tyson had to stop using the claim in its advertising. That brings us to this week. Tyson...

 

By Annys Shin | June 4, 2008; 07:08 AM ET | Comments (0)

Check Those Pool Drains

The opening of our neighborhood public pool this past week got me thinking about the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Safety Act, which I wrote about a few months back. The bill requires operators of public pools and spas to install drain covers to prevent the suction of the drain from pinning children underwater, among other provisions. It was named for the granddaughter of former Secretary of State James Baker who died in 2002 after she became entrapped by a spa drain. The bill came close to becoming a casualty of one Senator's crusade against irresponsible spending by Congress, but...

 

By Annys Shin | June 3, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Babies v. Rubber Duckies: Round One

In all the fuss over whether to officially consider the polar bear an endangered species, environmentalists and wildlife enthusiasts have apparently overlooked another equally endangered creature: the rubber ducky. Or so says a group called Consumers for Competitive Choice (C4CC). C4CC, which says it is "an alliance of consumer organizations with one million members throughout the United States," has launched a campaign entitled "Save the Rubber Duckies!" Why, you ask, are these creatures in need of saving? Does it have something to do with global warming? Or predators perhaps? Or is their natural habitat being destroyed and replaced by soaking...

 

By Annys Shin | May 22, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (3)

Should You Care About Buyouts?

Excuse my absence. I am just back from the wilds of Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. Okay, it wasn't really wild, but I did see some buffalo. Anyway, while I catch up, I thought I'd bring up something I wasn't able to delve into before I left. I wrote not long ago about Bain Capital's buyout of Bright Horizons Family Solutions, the nation's largest provider of employer-sponsored child care. The Service Employees International Union , which doesn't represent any Bright Horizons employees but has decided to speak up anyway, is worried the buyout will be bad for workers and parents....

 

By Annys Shin | May 19, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (3)

Regretting Extra Therms Among Other Things

A couple of weeks ago, I did a piece on how to go about buying natural gas and electricity from someone other than your old utility. Soon after, I got a call that I think highlights an element of so-called energy choice that I touched on indirectly in the story: buyer's remorse. It's not a sensation that usually accompanies the reading of an electric bill, but several of the folks I talked to for the story--including those who saved money--experienced some share of regret. The Northern Virginia woman who called me has been buying from an alternative gas supplier for...

 

By Annys Shin | May 7, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (2)

The Global Food Crisis

Today, my colleague Jane Black from the Food section has dropped in to share what she learned while working on a piece for the Post's Global Food Crisis series on local shoppers trying to rein in their growing food bills. She picked up some tips on how to reduce food costs and she's been kind enough to share them with us. Take it away Jane: Since last March, the price of a dozen eggs has jumped 36 percent; a gallon of milk is up 23 percent. Bread, meat and other staples are up, too. New studies show that shoppers are...

 

By Annys Shin | May 1, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

FDA takes a look at BPA

Ever since the National Toxicology Program (NTP) said two weeks ago that there is "some concern" for neural and behavioral effects in fetuses, infants, and children from bisphenol A (BPA), a widely used compound in hard plastic food containers, one retailer after another has pledged to pull BPA from baby products and consumers have been eyeing their water bottles, their kid's binky, and their Tupperware uneasily. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the use of BPA in products that come into contact with food, such as baby bottles and baby formula cans. When my colleague Lindsey Layton first reported...

 

By Annys Shin | April 28, 2008; 11:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Choice?

I've been delving into the process of finding alternate suppliers of electricity and gas, known as "energy choice." Apparently, there are some brave souls out there who have put in a good chunk of their time figuring out where to get the best deal for their electricity and gas needs. It involves calling the various licensed suppliers, getting rate quotes and comparing those to the rate your utility is offering. If you go with the alternates, you can sign up for a variable or fixed rate for a certain number of months. Before you renew, of course, it's wise to...

 

By Annys Shin | April 23, 2008; 07:05 AM ET | Comments (0)

Would You Like Your Steak Adulterated?

Just in time for grilling season.....last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture hosted a confab at the Holiday Inn in Georgetown on E. coli O157:H7 in beef. (Yes, you can spend two days talking about the effects of fecal matter in meat.) The big topic of discussion was the recent news that the USDA's Food Safey Inspection Service was considering treating E. coli O157:H7 found on intact meat or primal cuts used for roasts and steaks as an adulterant. Currently, it's only considered an adulterant in ground beef. To part the weeds for you: Making someting an adulterant has legal...

 

By Annys Shin | April 14, 2008; 08:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

How to Cook a Cattle Head

Sorry, you'll have to indulge me for a second. On Friday, the USDA announced that a Kansas beef packer was recalling cattle heads because the tonsils had not been removed from all of them. The tonsils are removed to reduce the risk of mad cow. Despite the tonsil situation, there is an extremely low risk of any human illness resulting from this particular set of cattle heads because the cattle were all younger than 30 months old. Anyhow, the mad cow part was not what got my attention. What grabbed me was the cattle head part! I figured it had...

 

By Annys Shin | April 8, 2008; 09:21 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Pervasive Plastic Bag

We're getting some company here at The Checkout. As of today, I'm being joined by two of my colleagues, Ylan Q. Mui, who covers retail for the newspaper, and Nancy Trejos, who writes about personal finance. We'll be taking turns on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, so check in when you can. We'll also weigh in when news breaks or we find a really juicy story that we can't wait to share. As always, feel free to write to us at thecheckout@washpost.com. Here's Ylan, taking on reusable shopping bags. I jumped on the eco-bandwagon two years ago and bought my first...

 

By Annys Shin | April 7, 2008; 08:00 AM ET | Comments (26)

 

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