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.

 

Telemarketing company accused of misleading donors

Akron-based InfoCision, a telemarketing company that solicits donations for charities such as the American Cancer Society, is accused of keeping most of the money raised and lying to the public about it.

An article in the October issue of Bloomberg Markets Magazine details the allegations against the company. According to the article, InfoCision instructs its employees to say that at least 70 percent of the money they raise for the American Cancer Society and American Diabetes Association will go toward charity. But these charities, which approved the telemarketing scripts, in actuality had already agreed to give InfoCision more than half of the money raised.

But the truth is even worse than that, the article claims. InfoCision kept all the donation money that it raised on behalf of the American Cancer Society in 2010, according to Bloomberg Markets. The article reports that in fiscal 2010, InfoCision raised $5.3 million for the ACS. None of that money went to cancer research or to help cancer patients, according to the society’s filings with the IRS and the State of Maine.

InfoCision also kept 78 percent of the donation money that it collected last year in its nationwide neighbor-to-neighbor program on behalf of the American Diabetes Association.

This is not the first time the company has faced close scrutiny. In April, InfoCision agreed to pay $75,000 and change its calling practices to ward off action by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

DeWine said the company failed to make required disclosures to consumers when it made solicitation calls on behalf of its nonprofit clients.

DeWine’s office concluded InfoCision violated state law on “multiple occasions” in four ways:

  • Failing to identify InfoCision as a paid solicitor when it called consumers to seek donations for its clients
  • Misleading consumers who asked about how much of the funds raised would go to the charity it represented
  • Misleading consumers that callers were volunteers or employees of a charity
  • Failing to file timely financial reports to the state about the results of its fundraising drives.

The attorneys of Elk & Elk are investigating a potential claim against telemarketing companies who misrepresent that they are working for charities. Or, who misrepresent the percentage of your donation which actually goes to the charity.

If you were contacted by a telemarketer and gave to a charity, please call us now at 1-800-ELK-OHIO or fill out our online evaluation form.

Many drivers welcome new safety features in vehicles

If you’ve spent much time at all on Ohio’s roads, you know there are plenty of drivers who most of us would not consider “good” drivers. You know the ones I mean. The texters. The speeders. The aggressive drivers. The exhausted drivers. The newspaper readers. Unfortunately, our roads are full of drivers whose actions put the rest of us at risk. So how do you explain a recent survey funded by Ford that showed 99 percent of respondents considered themselves good drivers?

The survey of more than 2,000 drivers conducted in May found that all but 1 percent of respondents thought they were good drivers, even though a majority of them also admitted to taking part in activities that distract them from driving.

According to the study released last month:

  • 76 percent of Americans admitted to snacking or drinking beverages while driving.
  • 55 percent said that they drive at excessive speeds.
  • 53 percent used their cell phone while driving.
  • 37 percent operated a vehicle when they were too drowsy to drive.
  • 25 percent of Americans in the survey found nothing wrong with picking up the phone to look for contact numbers, while driving.

Most people do these other activities while driving because they feel too rushed and need to multitask.

Not surprisingly, all these dangerous activities have led to drivers finding themselves in dangerous situations. The survey found that 57 percent have had an accident or close call with someone in their blind spot, 48 percent hit or almost hit something backing out of a parking lot and 38 percent avoid parallel parking like the plague.

Most of those surveyed said they would be somewhat or very interested in technology that could help them operate their vehicles more safely. Nearly nine out of 10 of the survey respondents expressed interest in technology that could assist in slowing their car if it determines there is a potential collision ahead. Two-thirds of the drivers who participated in the survey indicated they would be interested in systems that can help them see around other vehicles while backing out of a parking space and detect other vehicles that might be in a blind spot over their shoulders. Eighty percent expressed interest in a lane-keeping system for added safety when driving fatigued.

However, most drivers are not ready for self-driving cars. Only 39 percent of those surveyed said they would be comfortable driving an autonomous vehicle.

Many of these safety features are already available in high-end models from most carmakers. However, companies need to find a way to work them into more models. But even if car companies added top-of-the-line safety features to every car coming off assembly lines, it still is up to drivers to not let themselves be distracted while they are behind the wheel. Trying to eat or send a text or drive when you are exhausted are not things drivers should be doing, no matter how busy and time-stressed they may be. When you are behind the wheel, put down your cell phone and watch the road around you.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a vehicle accident caused by a distracted driver, you need an experienced personal injury lawyer. Contact the Ohio auto accident lawyers of Elk & Elk at 1-800-ELK-OHIO today or fill out our online contact form.