Reading List: Peanut Allergy Solution, the Raw Milk Ban & Choke-Proof Hot Dogs

by in Food News, February 26, 2010

peanut

In this week’s nutrition news: Restaurants are serving lower-calorie fare, an artificial food coloring controversy and the cure for peanut allergy might be near.

Quest to Cure Peanut Allergy
Peanut allergies are so dangerous that many schools and offices have gone peanut-free. At some schools, kids with the allergy are separated from the rest of the group during lunchtime — a solution many criticize. But there may be a resolution soon. A recent British study examined 23 young peanut allergy sufferers to see if they could build a peanut tolerance. Over time, the test subjects ate increasing amounts of peanut flour a day. Twenty were able to eat more than 30 peanuts safely after the study ended. Now a larger study is going to try the same thing with more than 100 kids ages seven to 17.

Restaurants Offer Lighter Choices
Despite the economy, Americans still love to eat out. In many cities around the country, large chains now have to display their calorie info for each dish; this means more healthy options are popping up on menus. Applebee’s now has a selections of items “Under 550 Calories” and Starbucks has “skinny” drinks under 100 calories. Even Cheesecake Factory has whittled down portions — they’ve recently introduced small plates and snack menus. But will consumers use the information to make healthier choices? Will you?

Push to the End Raw Milk Ban
You won’t find raw milk in most markets — it’s against the law to sell it in 23 states. Supporters of raw milk are asking legislators to call off the ban because they believe pasteurization kills off helpful nutrients and enzymes. Public health officials disagree — raw milk contains potentially dangerous bacteria, which can be deadly to the very young and old (they have weaker immune systems). According to data from the CDC (Center For Disease Control and Prevention), more than 1,500 people got sick from drinking raw milk between 1996 and 2006. As a food safety advocate, I’m not a fan of the widespread sale of raw milk; lifting the ban could potentially be disastrous.

Choke-Proof Hot Dogs?
Most non-fatal choking hazards (60% of them) are related to food. Yikes! The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now wants warning labels on foods that pose a choking hazard — just like the ones on small toys that alert parents with toddlers. But wait, the AAP also wants foods like hot dogs to be “re-designed” so they’re less likely to get lodged in a small throat. The Food and Drug Administration plans to review the recommendations released by the AAP — we’ll keep you updated.

Warning for Food Colorings
Besides adding those fake bright colors to food, synthetic food colorings such as Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Orange B and Red 3 have been linked to hyperactivity and behavioral issues in kids. Maryland officials are actually looking to ban artificial coloring in school foods and to demand that packaged foods with these dyes carry warning labels. The Center for Science in the Public Interest is backing Maryland; they maintain that, although these artificial dyes are cheaper than using real food ingredients, we shouldn’t be taking risks when it comes to our children. What do you think?

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