Stay informed about food recalls

Foodborne illnesses kill more than 3,000 people each year in the United States. One in six Americans become sick from a foodborne illness annually. With numbers like that, it’s no wonder that food recalls are on the rise and awareness of the issue seems to be rising, as well.

Food recalls in the United States increased during the second quarter of 2012, according to Stericycle ExpertRECALL, a company which aggregates and tracks cumulative recall data from the two main agencies involved in recalls – the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Food and Drug Administration.

During the second quarter of 2012, FDA enforcement reports documented 169 food recalls initiated by 156 companies and affecting more than 5 million units, the fewest number of units affected by recalls in the past four quarters.

The recall numbers were up 19 percent from the first quarter of 2012 and up 16 percent from the second quarter of 2011.

The report found undeclared allergens or other allergen concerns remained the primary cause of recalls, accounting for nearly 40 percent of food recalls initiated. Foodborne illness concerns accounted for an additional 40 percent of recalls during the quarter, with Salmonella and Listeria being the most common reasons.

Total numbers have not been released yet for the third quarter of 2012, but a search of the FDA’s website shows there were 50 food-related recalls in September alone.

Most recently, a large recall of peanut butter and peanut butter products has made headlines. Before that, mangoes from Mexico sickened more than 100 people. And there have been several instances this year of bagged salads being recalled for possible contamination.

What should you do if you think you have recalled food?

When a food recall alert is issued, it usually includes information to help you identify whether you have the product in your pantry, refrigerator, or freezer and advises you what to do with it.

  • Check the recall notice. Manufacturers will provide information on what to do with the product. Typically, the instructions will tell you to either return the product to the store where you bought it for a refund, or to dispose of the product properly (especially if it has been opened).
  • To identify if a recall product is in your home, match identifying marks of the product with the recall notice details, such as product name and brand, container size and codes.
  • Do not panic. Most recalls are not associated with a food illness outbreak, and many are issued because there is a potential for the food to be contaminated. Often recalls are issued as a precautionary measure.
  • Do not eat the food. Even if you believe the recall to be just a precaution, do not eat the food! It is better to be safe than sorry. Do not donate the food to food banks or feed it to your pets.
  • Do not open the food container. Opening the food and checking it can potentially release bacteria or viruses that cause food illnesses into your home. If you do open or handle the product, wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap.
  • Preserve the evidence. If a portion of the suspect food is available, keep it, wrap it securely, mark “DANGER” and freeze it. Save all packaging materials (e.g. cans, labels, cartons). Save all purchase receipts.
  • Seek treatment if necessary. If you become ill and believe your illness is due to a food product, contact your healthcare provider.

What can you do to protect your family from food affected by recalls?

The most important thing is to stay informed. It might seem hard to find the time to search out all products that have been recalled, but several websites are available to help make the process easier.

One good place to look is the FDA’s website. They keep a running list of recalled food products. You also can sign up to receive email notifications about recalls from the FDA. You can also find similar information at foodsafety.gov.

At Elk & Elk, we are serious about safety and helping keep you healthy. That’s why we use our social media feeds (http://www.facebook.com/ElkandElk and www.twitter.com/elkandelk) to help inform you anytime there are recalls of any kind.

To find out more about the personal injury attorneys of Elk & Elk, please check out our website.

FDA launches online pharmacy awareness campaign, helps ID licensed websites

For millions of Americans, a large percentage of their monthly budgets must go toward prescription medications. Millions of dollars are spent on prescription drugs each year in our country. Ninety percent of senior citizens and 57 percent of non-senior citizens rely on at least one prescription drug on a daily basis.

Combine these numbers with an estimated 48.6 million Americans who do not have medical insurance and you can see why many Americans face the choice of buying food or buying medication.

These circumstances have forced many to look for alternatives, including online pharmacies. If you do an online search for “online pharmacy” you will find a seemingly endless list of websites offering to sell you all manner of prescription drugs.

But when it comes to buying medicine online, it is important to be very careful. Some Web sites sell medicine that may not be safe to use and could put your health at risk.

Some medicines sold online:

  • are fake (counterfeit or “copycat” medicines)
  • are too strong or too weak
  • have dangerous ingredients
  • have expired (are out-of-date)
  • aren’t FDA-approved (haven’t been checked for safety and effectiveness)
  • aren’t made using safe standards
  • aren’t safe to use with other medicine or products you use
  • aren’t labeled, stored, or shipped correctly

To help battle this growing issue, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has launched a national campaign to educate consumers about the dangers of buying medicine from fake online pharmacies and help people safely buy medicine online. “FDA BeSafeRx – Know Your Online Pharmacy” seeks to educate consumers and health care professionals about the health risks of buying prescription medicine through fake online pharmacies and to help current and potential online pharmacy consumers to make informed purchasing decisions.

The FDA did a survey recently and found that one in four Americans had bought prescription drugs online. Nearly 30 percent said they were not confident about safely buying prescription drugs on the Internet.

This FDA campaign comes on the heels of an investigation by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. The NABP looked into 10,000 websites and discovered that a staggering 97 percent were not in compliance with U.S. pharmacy laws.

If you follow this link, you can click on your state so you can always make sure that the online pharmacy you are researching is:

  • Licensed in the United States
  •  Requires a doctor’s prescription
  • Provides a physical address and telephone number in the United States
  • Offers a licensed pharmacist to answer your questions.

The FDA offers some valuable tips for anyone considering buying their prescription drugs online.

Beware of online pharmacies that:

  • Allow you to buy drugs without a prescription from your doctor
  • Offer deep discounts or cheap prices that seem too good to be true
  • Send spam or unsolicited email offering cheap drugs
  • Are located outside of the United States
  • Are not licensed in the United States

The personal injury lawyers of Elk & Elk want you to be informed of the dangers in buying prescription medications online so you can protect yourself and your loved ones. To find out more about Elk & Elk, visit our website.

Group discourages use of trampolines for play

Most kids love to play on trampolines. Bouncing up and down on a backyard trampoline looks like a lot of fun, but one expert says use of the popular piece of equipment should be strongly discouraged.

Michele LaBotz, co-author of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ statement on trampoline safety, says that even safety features such as netting enclosures and padding do not significantly decrease the risk of injury. The new policy was published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

The new statement also admits that trampolines do have an acceptable role when used as part of a structured athletic training program that includes appropriate coaching, supervision and safety measures.

The National Electronic Injury Surveillance System estimates that 98,000 trampoline-related injuries resulting in 3,100 hospitalizations were reported in 2009, the most recent year for which statistics are available. That is down from 3,300 hospitalizations and 112,000 injuries reported in 2004.

Other groups – The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, The Canadian Pediatric Society and the Canadian Academy of Sports Medicine – have also issued similar statements discouraging recreational and playground use of trampolines.

According to LaBotz:

–          About three-fourths of trampoline injuries happen when more than one person is jumping

–          Kids 5 and younger are at greater risk for serious injury

–          Fractures and dislocations make up 48 percent of injuries

–          Falls from a trampoline account for 27 to 39 percent of injuries

–          Head and neck injuries make up 10 percent to 17 percent of trampoline injuries

Jumping on a trampoline can be a great way for kids or adults to get a vigorous workout. Parents, if you want to let your kids use a trampoline, at least make an informed decision. Know the risks and take every step possible to make it a safe experience for your children, including supervising your children and making sure only one person at a time is on the trampoline.

To find out more about the personal injury lawyers of Elk & Elk, visit our website today.

 

Drivers who use cell phones are high-risk drivers, even without devices

By now, we all are aware of the dangers of texting or using other electronic devices while you are behind the wheel. In 2010, more than 1.2 million accidents involved drivers who were talking on their phones or texting. In response, many states have enacted laws banning the use of cell phones by drivers. Last month, Ohio became the 39th state to ban texting while driving.

However, a recent study shows that banning the use of cell phones while driving may not necessarily have the expected effect. That’s because researchers found that people who use cell phones while driving are more likely to be high-risk drivers, even when you remove cell phones from the equation.

The study, conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s New England University Transportation Center, looked at the behavior of 108 Greater Boston drivers. About half of the drivers admitted frequent phone use when driving and the rest said they rarely used their phones behind the wheel.

For each person, the researchers compared answers on a questionnaire with data collected from on-board sensors during a 40-minute test drive.

The frequent callers tended to:

–          Drive faster

–          Change lanes more often

–          Spend more time in the far-left lane

–          Accelerate rapidly

–          Slam on their brakes

The results suggest that the driver’s personality may be the real risk. “They are subtle clues indicative of more aggressive driving,” said study leader Bryan Reimer, a human factors engineer at MIT.

“Legislating the technology alone is not going to solve the problem,” Reimer said. “We need to look more at the behavior of the individual.”

This may explain why cell phone bans have not resulted in lower accident numbers. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, two separate studies found no reduction in crashes due to hand-held cell phone or texting bans, based on insurance claim rates in states with and without the laws.

Whether or not the bans are showing a definitive reduction in crashes, legislators need to continue looking at ways to adapt laws to keep up with technology and keep all drivers safe on the roads. As Massachusetts Sen. Mark Motigny said, “You can’t really legislate against irresponsibility or stupidity, but you can at least take away one of the distractions.”

As always, the ultimate responsibility lies with each individual driver. Slowing down and driving defensively are always the best ways to reduce accidents and save lives.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, contact the Ohio auto accident attorneys of Elk & Elk today. Call 1-800-ELK-OHIO or fill out our online evaluation form.

 

FDA warns OTC muscle pain relievers can cause chemical burns

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is alerting the public that certain muscle pain relievers designed to be rubbed into the skin – like Bengay and Icy Hot – can in rare cases cause  serious chemical burns.

The over-the-counter products are applied to the skin for relief of mild muscle and joint pains. Most of these products contain menthol, methyl salicylate or capsaicin. When applied to the skin, the products create a local sensation of warmth or coolness. They shouldn’t cause pain or skin damage.

But FDA regulators say they have received reports of skin injuries ranging from first- to third-degree chemical burns caused by the products. Some of burns have required hospitalization, according to a notice posted on the FDA’s website.

Based on the FDA’s analysis of reported cases, the majority of second- and third-degree burns occurred with the use of products containing menthol as the single active ingredient, and products containing both menthol and methyl salicylate with a concentration of ingredients that was greater than 3 percent menthol and 10 percent methyl salicylate.

Present FDA guidelines do not require these products to have warnings on their labels about burns to the skin.

The FDA is asking consumers to discontinue use of these pain relief products if any sign of skin injury, including pain, swelling or blistering, appears and requests that physicians instruct patients on the appropriate use of the cream, ointment, patch or gel pain relievers that contain any of the aforementioned ingredients.

When using OTC topical muscle and joint pain relievers, the FDA recommends that you not bandage the area tightly and that you not apply local heat (heating pads, lamps, hot water in bags or bottles) to the area because doing so can increase the risk of serious burns.

The FDA also says you should not apply these pain relievers to wounds or damaged, broken or irritated skin.

The drug recall attorneys of Elk & Elk have almost 50 years’ experience helping clients who have been injured by defective drugs or medical devices. Call 1-800-ELK-OHIO today or fill out our online consultation form to see how we can help you.