You Are What You Eat

FDA proposes new guidelines for nutrition labels

Making healthy choices at the grocery store may soon get a bit easier. The FDA announced that it will focus on updating nutrition labels this year. The details have not been made public yet, but nutrition experts are hopeful that the new labels will be more straightforward.

“It’s time to update [labels] to make [them] easier for consumers to use,” said Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

The Center’s “wish list” for label changes includes:

  • Calories per serving should be more prominent
  • Eliminated extraneous information
  • Updated serving sizes
  • Eliminating deceptive single-size servings and providing nutrition information for large single serving containers
  • Differentiate between natural and added sugars and establish a Daily Value for added sugars
  • Fiber content should only reflect intact fibers from whole grains, beans, vegetables, fruit and other foods 


We like the CSPI nutrition label proposals, but wouldn’t it be nice if we knew what pesticides are used on the foods we eat? The American Academy of Pediatrics, the President’s Cancer Panel, and physicians nationwide have publicly advised consumers, especially children and pregnant women, to reduce our dietary exposure to synthetic pesticides. For example, the synthetic pesticide DDT – banned in the United States since 1972 but still used as a pesticide in other countries – may increase the risk of Alzheimer ’s disease.

In a study recently published JAMA Neurology, Rutgers scientists discuss their findings in which levels of DDE, the chemical compound left when DDT breaks down, were higher in the blood of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease patients compared to those without the disease.

Although the levels of DDT and DDE have decreased significantly in the United States over the last three decades, the toxic pesticide is still found in 75 to 80 percent of the blood samples collected from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for a national health and nutrition survey. This occurs, scientists say, because the chemical can take decades to breakdown in the environment. In addition, people may be exposed to the pesticide by consuming imported fruits, vegetables and grains where DDT is still being used and eating fish from contaminated waterways.


As more and more crops containing genetically modified organisms, known as GMOs, make their way into the marketplace, there has been a rise in public sentiment to require GMO labeling.

Reuters reports, “The issue is hotly contested, with more than 20 states considering laws to mandate labeling of foods made with gene-altered corn, soybeans, sugar beets and other biotech crops. Currently, labeling of such foods is voluntary.”

If you want to avoid GMOs in your diet, look for foods labeled as “organic.” Federal law prohibits the use of genetic engineering prohibited in foods defined as organic. Nevertheless, these products may contain slight traces of genetically modified organisms in certain cases.

Knowledge is power 

Please take the time to read the labels on foods you buy. Be wary of front labels claiming a product is “natural,” that it can reduce cholesterol, or provides other medical benefits.

“In a perfect world, agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission would be aggressively policing the marketplace and taking enforcement action against companies like these,” said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. “Until then, lawsuits by consumer groups and private citizens can play an important role by using the courts to get companies to change their labeling and advertising for the better.”

What information would YOU like to see on nutrition labels?
Post your suggestions in the comments section below.



Fat, calories, sugar: Nutrition labels getting a makeover” by Jen Christensen, CNN, January 24, 2014.

Food Labeling Chaos: The case for reform” by Bruce Silverglade and Ilene Ringel Heller, © 2010 by Center for Science in the Public Interest.

DDT exposure more common in people with Alzheimer’s: study” by Genevra Pettman, Reuters Health, January 27, 2014.

Organic food and farm groups ask Obama to require GMO food labels” by Carey Gillam, Reuters, January 16, 2014.

Tackle the Tower Stair Climb Race & Walk

jan_article2The newly formed Health and Wellness Committee at Elk & Elk invites you to join us and register for the 12th annual Tackle the Tower Stair Climb to benefit the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland on Saturday, February 8, 2014. Participants will climb 37 flights of stairs at the Tower at Erieview, located in the Center Court of the Galleria & Tower at Erieview, 1301 E. 9th Street in Downtown Cleveland.

The race starts at 9:00 a.m. in Stairwell B. Runners will be lined up in the order that their entry was received and will start every 10 seconds.

If you’re not a runner, you can still get plenty of exercise while helping a good cause by joining the Fun Walk at 8:45 a.m. in Tower A.

3rd Annual Fireman’s Team Challenge Traveling Trophy

Firehouses from near and far will be competing in the Firefighter Race, beginning at 10:30 a.m., with the firefighters running in full gear. The firehouse with the most participating members wins the Fireman’s Team Challenge. Stick around to cheer them on – they’ll be carrying 50 lbs. of equipment.

Team Challenge

New for 2014, teams will compete in one of three divisions: Male, Female or Co-ed. Teams must consist of 4 members. Co-ed teams must have 2 males and 2 females. Top 3 teams in each division win prizes!

Many Hearts. One Home.

Ronald McDonald House provides families a comfortable place to rest while their children receive medical treatment in area hospitals.

We encourage you to go the extra step to help the families staying at RMH Cleveland by raising pledges. Set up your own personal donation page through FirstGiving – you can personalize your page and set a fundraising goal.


For more information about registration, sponsorship opportunities, or volunteering at the event, go to

Online registration is open until Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 9:00 a.m.


The Elk & Elk Health and Wellness Committee is dedicated to promoting the health and well-being of our employee’s lives through health education and activities that will support positive lifestyle changes and creating a supportive environment in order to help our employees achieve all aspects of a healthy life: physical, emotional, financial, occupational, social, and intellectual.

Your Halloween contact lenses may be scarier than you think

Halloween contact lenses can cause serious eye injuries

(Updated 10/15/2015) – Those eerie contact lenses you saw online might seem like the perfect addition to your Halloween costume, but decorative contact lenses may limit your vision and can cause permanent damage to your eyes.

Also known as cosmetic or theatrical lenses, decorative contact lenses are used to change the look of your eyes, not to correct vision. Available in a wide range of styles, they can simply change the color of your eyes or create fantastic effects, such as cat eyes.

Study: Decorative contact lenses contain dangerous chemicals

The American Academy of Ophthalmology issued a warning about over-the-counter decorative contact lenses after a recent study revealed that several varieties tested positive for chlorine and other harmful chemicals.

“One pair seeped chlorine after a routine rinse, prompting concern from researchers about toxicity to the eye,” the ophthalmology academy wrote in a release. “The study also noted that colorants printed or pressed onto some decorative lenses create an uneven texture. Those rough surfaces could scratch the eyes, potentially allowing in bacteria that can cause infection and even blindness.”

Novelty lenses can limit vision

Another study, published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, showed that some colored lenses make it difficult to see, especially in low light. Vision exams indicated people wearing contacts with a limited clear, open space around the pupil had difficulty focusing. Objects at a distance became blurrier and contrast was diminished, making it difficult to spot dark objects at night or pale items against a light background.

Halloween contact lens safety tips

You should never buy any contact lenses from a street vendor, a beauty supply store, flea market, novelty store, Halloween store or online if the site doesn’t require a prescription.

Wearing any contact lenses can cause serious damage to your eyes if the lenses are not used correctly. Decorative contacts can lead to eye pain, bacterial infections and corneal ulcers. One study found that the lenses increased by 16 times the risk of developing keratitis, a potentially blinding infection that causes ulcers in the eye.

Prevent Blindness Ohio offers the following safety tips regarding cosmetic contact lenses:
Always visit a licensed eye care professional to be fitted for cosmetic contact lenses.

  • Never buy contact lenses without a prescription.
  • Always clean and disinfect contact lenses according to instructions.
  • Always use water-soluble cosmetics or those labeled safe for use with contact lenses. Do not apply skin creams or moisturizers too close to the eyes.
  • Never wear opaque lenses if you have any problems with night vision.
  • Never share or trade your contact lenses with anyone.
  • Be watchful about your child’s or teen’s appearance. If they are wearing cosmetic contacts, question them about where they obtained them.

Feds seize illegal contact lenses

Federal agencies warn against counterfeit decorative contact lenses.
Photo courtesy of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

In 2013, the federal government warned consumers about the dangers associated with decorative contact lenses and began cracking down on illegal sales.

Contact lenses are actually medical devices and as such, are overseen by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).[1] In an ongoing effort – dubbed “Operation Double Vision” – the FDA and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials are working to seize counterfeit contact lenses and illegally imported decorative lenses.

That same year, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine teamed with Prevent Blindness Ohio and the Ohio Optical Dispensers board to warn consumers about the dangers of decorative contact lenses.

“As we prepare for Halloween, we want to remind Ohio families that over-the-counter sales of decorative contact lenses are illegal,” DeWine said. “Contact lenses are medical devices, and if they are not administered properly, they can cause serious eye infections that can lead to permanent damage, including blindness.”

Buying Decorative Contact Lenses

You can buy contact lenses, including decorative contact lenses, from an eye care doctor, on the Internet or from a mail-order company. It’s very important that you only buy contact lenses from a company that sells FDA-cleared or approved contact lenses and requires you to provide a prescription.

Anyone selling you contact lenses must get your prescription and verify it with your doctor. They should request not only the prescription, but also the name of your doctor and their phone number. If they don’t ask for this information, they are breaking federal law and could be selling you illegal contact lenses.

Protect your eyes by having an eye exam, getting a prescription and buying contact lenses from a legal source.

For more information or to report the illegal sales of cosmetic contact lenses, contact the Ohio Optical Dispensers Board at (614) 466-9709 or

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2013 and has been updated with new content.



Ji, Yong Woo, et al. “Comparison of Surface Roughness and Bacterial Adhesion Between Cosmetic Contact Lenses and Conventional Contact Lenses.” Eye & contact lens 41.1 (2015): 25-33.

Jung, Ji Won, et al. “Effect of the pigment-free optical zone diameter of decorative tinted soft contact lenses on visual function.” British Journal of Ophthalmology (2015): bjophthalmol-2015.



[1] On November 9, 2005, section 520(n) was added to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the Act) by Public Law 109-96 to establish that all contact lenses are devices under section 201(h) of the Act. Because all contact lenses are now regulated as devices, including decorative, non-corrective contact lenses intended only to change the normal appearance of the eye, all contact lenses must be the subject of a cleared premarket notification (510(k)) or an approved premarket approval application (PMA) before they may be legally marketed. Additional device authorities, such as the requirement that lenses be dispensed only upon a prescription order, also apply.