Headlines: June 6, 2010
by Meg Larkin
In regulatory news, the Kellogg Company has agreed to advertising restrictions in order to end a Federal Trade Commission inquiry. The FTC had been investigating Kellogg’s claims that its Rice Krispies cereal would help boost children’s immune systems. The Rice Krispies investigation expanded a settlement order agreed to last summer over another Kellogg cereal, Frosted Mini-Wheats, which Kellogg's claimed improved children's concentration. It is slightly odd that the FTC is the agency spearheading these investigations because the FDA usually handles issues of accuracy in food packaging. According to the New York Times, “The new expanded order bars the company from making ‘claims about any health benefit of any food unless the claims are backed by scientific evidence and not misleading.’ ”
In FDA news, a new Amgen drug has been approved to fight osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is extremely prevalent in women over 50, which means the new drug, Prolia, may be the next big earner for Amgen. Studies of the drug before approval showed that it “reduced the incidence of vertebral, nonvertebral, and hip fractures in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis.”
In health reform news, the Obama Administration is starting to work with insurers to effectuate a smooth transition under the new health care law. After a long and bitter fight over the law’s enactment, insurers and the Obama administration both have huge stakes in the health reform law’s success. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius said recently that she is “seeking a public-private partnership to carry out the law.” However, the administration has also made clear that health care consumers are still a top priority. In implementing the new law, which sets up stringent requirements for insurers, the Obama administration has to collaborate with an industry they have grown to distrust in order to ensure the expanded availability of insurance that is required by the new law.
In other government news, a tobacco tax loophole in the Children’s Health Insurance Program has cost the government over $250 million. According to the Boston Globe, “The loophole allowed companies to avoid huge tax increases on loose rolling tobacco by relabeling their product as pipe tobacco. The simple marketing twist lets companies pay $2.83 per pound, rather than the $24.78 per pound levied on rolling tobacco.” Although the loophole was identified last year, the Obama Administration has yet to release new regulations closing the loophole. While legislation that would close the loophole has been introduced in congress, it has not been voted on by either house.
Finally, there may be hidden dangers in fruits and vegetables. Researchers at the University of Montreal and Harvard University found that elevated levels of pesticide exposure may be linked to ADHD in children. The study’s results are concerning because the levels of pesticide exposure linked to increased incidence of ADHD were previously thought safe. While the researchers classify their findings as suggestive, not definitive, consumers are encouraged to buy local or organic fruit and vegetables, and to eat low risk fruits with hard skins that get discarded, like mangoes and avocadoes, instead of soft fruits that are eaten with the skin on, like peaches. Softer fruits are more likely to absorb more pesticide that cannot be removed by washing. While the United States has fairly strict regulations governing pesticide use, produce from abroad is more likely to contain high levels of pesticide.
Meg Larkin is a law student at Boston University. Please feel free to email her with any questions, comments, suggestions or concerns.