Dr. Oz is a piece of shit

As long-time readers know, I despise people who knowingly put out false medical information. (Search “Maloney” or “Moritz” for examples of my fact-filled anger.) It’s irresponsible. It’s dangerous. It’s stupid. With the Republican War on Science, the American education system, and wide-spread religious belief, scientific facts don’t need more bullshit artists out there. To do away with alternative and integrative ‘medicine’ practitioners would be nothing short of wonderful. These people promote unproven procedures and drugs that do nothing beyond the placebo effect. It’s awful and they all ought to be ashamed.

Unfortunately, shame isn’t something TV personality Dr. Oz feels easily. He recently tested grocery store apple juices for arsenic levels and determined that there was a dangerous level present. School districts have already taken apple juice off school menus. Parents are alarmed and others are concerned. “Arsenic! Why, that sounds awful! Destroy all the apples!” Except Dr. Oz, a promoter of quackery, failed to distinguish between organic and inorganic arsenic. The former is considered safe at relatively high levels whereas the latter is not. Oz just found the sum total and reported that figure (and, as it turns out, inaccurately anyway). Doctors around the country are calling on Oz to correct his fundamental error. In fact, the FDA sent him this letter before the infamous episode aired:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is aware that EMSL Analytical, Inc. has obtained and tested 50 samples of retail apple juice for total arsenic content on behalf of Zoco Productions. It is our understanding that, based on these test results, you will assert during an upcoming episode of The Dr. Oz Show that apple juice is unsafe because of the amounts of total arsenic found in the samples.

We appreciate that you have made the results of these tests available to us. As we have previously advised you, the results from total arsenic tests CANNOT be used to determine whether a food is unsafe because of its arsenic content. We have explained to you that arsenic occurs naturally in many foods in both inorganic and organic forms and that only the inorganic forms of arsenic are toxic, depending on the amount. We have advised you that the test for total arsenic DOES NOT distinguish inorganic arsenic from organic arsenic.

The FDA has been aware of the potential for elevated levels of arsenic in fruit juices for many years and has been testing fruit juices for arsenic and other elemental contaminants as part of FDA’s toxic elements in foods program. The FDA typically tests juice samples for total arsenic first, because this test is rapid, accurate and cost effective. When total arsenic testing shows that a fruit juice sample has total arsenic in an amount greater than 23 parts per billion (ppb), we re-test the sample for its inorganic arsenic content. The vast majority of samples we have tested for total arsenic have less than 23 ppb. We consider the test results for inorganic arsenic on a case-by-case basis and take regulatory action as appropriate.

The analytical method for inorganic arsenic is much more complicated than the method for total arsenic. You can find the method that FDA uses to test for inorganic arsenic at this web address:

http://www.fda.gov/Food/ScienceResearch/LaboratoryMethods/ElementalAnalysisManualEAM/
ucm219640.htm

The FDA believes that it would be irresponsible and misleading for The Dr. Oz Show to suggest that apple juice contains unsafe amounts of arsenic based solely on tests for total arsenic. Should The Dr. Oz Show choose to suggest that apple juice is unsafe because of the amounts of total arsenic found by EMSL Analytical, Inc.’s testing, the FDA will post this letter on its website.

People tried to prevent this information from being released. A number of independent labs have confirmed the safety of the apple juice Americans are buying, including the batch tested by Oz. Doctors are calling on Oz to retract his statements. At no point has it been unclear that misinformation and fear is all this quack is spreading. But has that caused Oz to correct his horribly flawed report? Nope:

Tim Sullivan, a spokesman for Oz’s show, said in an interview: “We don’t think the show is irresponsible. We think the public has a right to know what’s in their foods.”

“The position of the show is that the total arsenic needs to be lower,” he said. “We did the tests. We stand by the results and we think the standards should be different.”

What a load of horseshit. The show is obviously irresponsible. It just wants to create a stir because it knows its audience consists of many mothers with young children or grandchildren, many of whom drink apple juice. This is about ratings, pure and simple. Oz’s test was flawed because he did not understand the difference between arsenic types. He should have known that prior to even thinking about doing any tests, he was told as much by the FDA, and now every doctor and lab in the country is telling him again. The fact that he would stand by the horseshit claim that he’s just looking out for the public makes him a piece of shit.

New warning labels for cigarettes

I would much rather see a phasing out of the sale of cigarettes, but this will do for now:

Rotting teeth. Diseased lungs. A corpse of a smoker. Nine new warning labels featuring graphic images that convey the dangers of smoking will be required by the Food and Drug Administration to be on U.S. cigarette packs by 2012.

Other images include a man with a tracheotomy smoking and a mother holding a baby with smoke swirling around them. The labels will include phrases like “Smoking can kill you” and “Cigarettes cause cancer.”

The labels, which the FDA released Tuesday, are a part of the most significant change to U.S. cigarette packs in 25 years. They’re aimed at curbing tobacco use, which is responsible for about 443,000 deaths in the U.S. a year.

GE Salmon may gain FDA approval

The FDA is considering allowing a company to market a fish that has been genetically engineered.

If the FDA approves the sale of the salmon, it will be the first time the U.S. government allows such modified animals to be marketed for human consumption. The panel was convened by the agency to look at the science of the fish and make recommendations on its safety and environmental impact.

Ron Stotish, chief executive of the Massachusetts company that created the salmon, AquaBounty, said at Monday’s hearing that his company’s fish product is safe and environmentally sustainable.

FDA officials have largely agreed with him, saying that the salmon, which grows twice as fast as its conventional “sisters,” is as safe to eat as the traditional variety. But they have not yet decided whether to approve the request, saying there is no timeline for a decision.

One of the chief concerns most people have about genetically altered food is that it contains DNA. I kid you not. That concern is more prevalent where cloned animals are in question, but it’s just as incoherent.

But there are more reasonable concerns.

Critics have two main concerns: The safety of the food to humans and the salmon’s effect on the environment.

Because the altered fish has never been eaten before, they say, it could include dangerous allergens, especially because seafood is highly allergenic. They also worry that the fish will escape and intermingle with the wild salmon population, which is already endangered.They would grow fast and consume more food to the detriment of the conventional wild salmon, the critics fear.

There’s really no reason to suspect any extra allergies. These fish are being caused to grow faster through the use of hormones they already regularly produce; they’re just producing more hormones than they would without the inserted gene and regulator. If someone doesn’t have an allergy as a result of these hormones now, they won’t have an allergy to these new salmon.

As far as contamination is concerned, I doubt there will be any intermingling, but if it does happen, it seems unlikely the new fish will out-compete the current wild population. Natural selection could act to increase the frequency of hormone production relatively easily. It hasn’t. It’s unlikely the new population would be more fit in the given wild population’s environment.

I foresee this getting approval, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the FDA acquiesced to critic’s demands and forced a ‘warning’ to be placed on the fish listing it as genetically altered. This would be unfortunate since there is no effective difference between eating a wild population salmon and a genetically altered salmon. But it’s the FDA. There will be an unnecessary warning added; it’ll probably be removed in 5-10 years when it becomes even more clear that this fish is very safe to eat.

Good call

Another anti-science Bush position falls.

The Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday it would accept, not appeal, a federal judge’s order that lifts Bush administration restrictions limiting over-the-counter sales of “Plan B” to women 18 and older. U.S. District Judge Edward Korman ruled last month in a lawsuit filed in New York that President George W. Bush’s appointees let politics, not science, drive their decision to restrict over-the-counter access.

This is good news. Bush’s wholly wrong politics were harming what should have been yet another good result of good science.

Plan B is emergency contraception that contains a high dose of birth control drugs and will not interfere with an established pregnancy. It works by preventing ovulation or fertilization. In medical terms, pregnancy begins when a fertilized egg attaches itself to the wall of the uterus.

If taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, it can reduce a woman’s chances of pregnancy by as much as 89 percent.

Critics of the contraceptive say Plan B is the equivalent of an abortion pill because it can prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus. Recent research suggests that’s possible but not likely.

Plan B prevents fertilization. Abortion is defined as acting after fertilization. For instance, God should be known as the number 1 abortionists by those who believe he exists.

Conservatives, as usual, get this wrong. They suggest that this is about parental rights while, again, asserting an exalted state of reverence for a grouping of a few differeniated cells. I personally think the walking, breathing, thinking, highly conscious women should have rights, not a couple cells, but hey, I’m just reasonable. I know that isn’t the conservative motif.

In reality, parents should have no place in making these decisions with their children who are of age to have sex. The state says they’re responsible enough to do that, then they must be responsible enough to deal with all the surrounding factors that come with it. Of course, going beyond that, this medicine is approved for over-the-counter use. As long as parents have no say in their children’s ability to buy Tylenol, they should have no say in their ability to buy Plan B.

Opponents, including prominent conservatives, counter that it would encourage promiscuity and might even become a tool for criminals running prostitution rings, as well as for sexual predators.

These people are eminently stupid. Let’s ban condoms, the pill, and the pull-out method, too. Clearly, the pimp business should dictate science.