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WHO EU chief: Number of people sick from unsafe food is unacceptable

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A regional director for the World Health Organization said the number of people who get sick or die from unsafe food is “staggering” and “unacceptable”.

Foodborne diseases affect more than 23 million people in Europe and Central Asia each year, affecting the poor and the young in particular. Such a disease is responsible for 5,000 preventable deaths annually, according to WHO statistics from 2015.

Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, said the region can and must get better.

“The staggering number of people who get sick or die after eating unsafe food in our region is unacceptable. Food safety is a highly complex health issue in which several national and international actors are involved. Over 200 diseases are caused by the consumption of food contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances, ”he said during a webinar on World Food Day.

“In recent years, food safety in the region has been influenced by new developments that have changed the conditions in which food is produced, processed, traded and consumed. The globalization of the food chain has changed consumer habits and international trade in food and agricultural products is greater than before. This complexity increases the risk of unsafe food spreading across borders and affects the way we deal with food safety risks.

“COVID-19 has presented manufacturers and food safety authorities with additional challenges. This includes the need to implement measures to control and reduce the risk of transmission in food companies. The WHO EU supports its 53 member states in strengthening food safety. Today should encourage action at all levels to prevent, detect and manage food safety risks in the region. “

Growing interest in the region
More than 200 participants attended the virtual event organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and WHO, which can be seen here.

Vladimir Rakhmanin, FAO deputy director general and regional representative for Europe and Central Asia, said food safety has always been a priority for the region.

“We recognize the continuing efforts of member countries to continuously improve their regulatory framework, scientific and technological capacities for official controls in order to protect consumers and enable farmers and businesses to comply with food safety requirements and to have access to local, regional and international standards Markets, ”he said.

“Food safety is growing in importance across the region as more activities and projects are implemented. As we seek more investment and awareness of food safety, we reaffirm support and commitment to working with partners and governments to step up efforts, including strengthening resilient, well-functioning and safe food value chains.

“Among the many lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, the last 15 months’ experience has raised awareness of the importance of demonstrating compliance with food safety requirements as a prerequisite for market access. Food safety risks and threats can easily be transferred from one country to another, and unsafe food can quickly spread to many countries. “

Real threats vs. perceived concerns
Delia Grace, professor of food safety systems at the University of Greenwich, said food safety was once not a priority for low and middle income countries.

“The 2015 WHO report found that the health burden from food safety was equivalent to that of HIV, tuberculosis or AIDS, making food safety high on the list of concerns about people in developing countries. This has always been a priority in high-income countries, also because we have more or less got rid of most infectious diseases, ”she said.

Delia Grace

Grace, a contributing scientist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), said there can be many dangers in the informal sector, such as aflatoxins in milk from Nairobi, Bacillus cereus in boiled milk in Abidjan, Staphylococcus aureus in farmed fish in Egypt, trichinella in Pork in Uganda and Listeria in milk and fish in Ghana.

“This is a saying we have in food safety. What you worry about and what kills you are not the same thing. I bet maybe half of the participants are more worried about GMOs, pesticides, antibiotic residues and are less worried about germs than they think they can handle germs, ”she said.

“When we did this in Vietnam, we asked people what their concerns were and they were very concerned about chemicals and not very concerned about germs. We knew this was wrong as we are food safety specialists, but they didn’t believe us so we had to do the tests. We found that only 1 percent of 366 kidney, liver, and pork samples were above legal limits, and they had little effect because they were so low, but when we looked at the germs, 13 percent of people got sick each year of salmonellosis. “

Experts can be wrong too, Grace said, citing an upcoming World Bank study comparing expert statements with the WHO estimated exposure.

“Experts were very concerned about anthrax and brucella, but if you looked at the levels, it was much more likely E. coli and salmonella,” she said.

Impact of COVID on food safety and the EU on WFSD
Food safety expert Leon Gorris presented a study commissioned by the WHO and FAO to investigate whether COVID-19 has changed the way people deal with food safety risks in Europe and Central Asia.

Leon Gorris

The research involved 22 countries, 18 government agencies, 13 private companies and six consumer groups on the effects of COVID-19 on food safety and food fraud.

“Of the 18 agencies, many of them were affected in terms of resources and the way they were able to conduct their food safety processes. Some employees have had to deal with other activities that support public health measures in food companies, such as measures to contain COVID-19. Quite a few authorities had fewer people available for food safety. The way they responded to this challenge was to focus on essential food safety operations, high risk companies that normally handle food of animal origin. People couldn’t visit the premises to do an inspection so they had to use new virtual platforms to interact with food companies, ”said Gorris.

“We have heard from the government that they are confident that essential food safety supply chains will continue to operate without impact. Some organizations, such as the European Union, allowed regulatory flexibility to focus on high-risk operations. We do not yet know whether there has been an increase in disease or food fraud.

“Food companies had to cope with implementing new measures against COVID and economic downturns, but by and large they felt confident that food safety was not affected and they did not need to change their food safety management systems. The new virtual way of working was something they had in mind. They experienced online audits and certifications, and some of those simplifications could remain in the post-pandemic. We heard from consumers that they believed in the safety of food but were initially very concerned and not well informed. Consumer awareness of hygiene as part of food safety to which they can contribute has increased. “

In a separate statement, EU Health and Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said the safety of food produced and consumed around the world is the starting point of the European farm-to-table strategy.

“Our food policy is based on the highest food safety standards to protect consumers. We have strict laws and a solid control and traceability system that covers all stages of food production, processing and distribution. For over 40 years, the EU’s rapid alert system for food and feed has ensured that urgent food and feed risk warnings are responded to immediately, ”she said.

“The safety of our food is more important than ever and I look forward to the UN Food Systems Summit this September and my strong support for transformative changes in the way the world produces and consumes food.”

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

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Wildfire Survivors Could Face Higher Cancer Risk – Consumer Health News

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MONDAY, May 16, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Wildfires, like the one currently raging in New Mexico, are known to cause upticks in breathing issues and heart attacks in their immediate wake for folks who live nearby.

Now, new Canadian research shows that these fires may also increase risk for lung and brain cancer over time.

People who lived within about 30 miles of wildfires over the prior 10 years were 10% more likely to develop brain cancer and had a 5% higher risk for lung cancer, compared to folks living further away from these fires.

“We saw a consistent signal for lung and brain cancer risk among people who live near wildfires,” said study author Scott Weichenthal. He’s an associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health at McGill University in Montreal. “We know that a whole range of carcinogens are released during wildfires that may increase the risk for these cancers.”

Wildfires typically begin in forests, grassland or prairies, and are often caused by campfires left unattended, still-lit discarded cigarette butts, sparks from power lines, or arson.

These fires tend to occur in similar parts of the country, so people living in these areas can be continuously exposed to the potentially cancer-causing wildfire pollutants, the study authors noted.

Making matters worse, “wildfires are occurring more frequently, covering larger parts of the country, and wildfire season is starting earlier,” Weichenthal said. These changes are likely due to global warming and climate change, he believes.

For the study, Weichenthal and his colleagues (including PhD student Jill Korsiak, who led the analysis), tracked 20 years of data on more than 2 million Canadians to learn more about how wildfires affect people’s risk for certain cancers.

The study wasn’t designed to look at specific toxins in smoke that may increase cancer risks. “There’s still a lot to learn about the kind of pollution that sticks around after the fire,” Weichenthal said.

It’s not just about outdoor air pollution: “Wildfires also pollute water, soil and indoor air,” he noted.

dr Mary Prunicki, who reviewed the new study, stressed that “we know more about the short-term effects of wildfires than we do about their long-term impact.” She directs air pollution and health research at the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy Research at Stanford University School of Medicine in California.

On the day of and days immediately following a wildfire, there’s an uptick in hospital visits for asthma attacks, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) exacerbations, and other lung conditions, Prunicki said.

“There is a strong literature showing an increase in heart attacks, cardiac arrests and strokes among people who have been exposed to wildfire smoke, especially those who have a preexisting condition,” she explained.

Anyone living near wildfire smoke may have burning eyes, a runny nose, cough and/or difficulty breathing.

Exactly what’s in the smoke depends on what is burning, Prunicki said, but “in general, wildfires contain small particulate matter that can penetrate deep into the lungs and cause health problems.

“There are various toxins that could be in the smoke that have already been associated independently with increases in lung cancer, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons [PAHs],” she added.

There are steps you can take to protect your health if you live in a part of the country where wildfires are common. According to Prunicki, these including understanding your indoor air quality, and if it’s poor, using an air purifier or a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter in your central air conditioning or heating unit. These filters can help remove pollutants from the air you breathe.

Also, “if you have underlying heart or lung conditions, make sure you have your medication at the ready, too,” Prunicki said.

It’s important as well to reduce the risk of wildfires when you’re enjoying the great outdoors, including dousing your campfire with water until it’s cold to make sure it’s really out.

The new study was published in the May 2022 issue of The Lancet Planetary Health.

More information

Sign up for local air quality notices via the Environmental Protection Agency.

SOURCES: Scott Weichenthal, PhD, associate professor, Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Mary Prunicki, MD, PhD, director, air pollution and health research, Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy Research, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, Calif.; The Lancet Planetary Health, May 2022

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Mental health for kids should be top of mind for parents

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A panel from the Huntsman Mental Health Institute speaks to parents about mental health treatments and prevention for their children on Thursday. (Emily Ashcraft, KSL.com)

Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — Local experts are teaching parents the skills they need to help children who exhibit mental health issues.

“If your child … has a mental health problem, it doesn’t mean you’re a failure as a parent,” Amanda Miller, director of intermediate services at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute, said during the facility’s second “community conversation ” held as part of Mental Health Awareness Month in May.

She said it is important for parents to recognize that mental health issues are an illness, and while environmental stressors can bring them out, biology plays a huge role.

The virtual panel discussion was aimed to educate parents about the things to watch for to know if children are encountering mental health issues, discourage them to talk to their kids, limit electronic devices and to take mental health concerns seriously. It is important to also seek help if and when it is needed.

Children also experience mental health issues differently that adults, said Radha Moldover, who manages Teenscope South, a day treatment center for youth mental health.

She said that for children, depression doesn’t necessarily mean they are sad more often — it can instead manifest as being irritable, annoyed or more sensitive. Moldover said depression in children can be mistaken for teenage moodiness. She also noted that children with attention deficit disorders are at a higher risk for developing depression.

The treatment center located at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute, formerly known as University Neuropsychiatric Institute, provides parents with information about validation, including how to talk and listen to their children, while teaching children about regulating emotions and mindfulness skills.

She said there are a lot of electronic resources available for parents and their families, including apps, YouTube channels and websites. Moldover suggested using these resources if there is a wait and a child cannot see a therapist immediately. Other panelists suggested community groups and school counselors.

Lindsay Wilson-Barlow, who is a child psychiatrist at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute, said that while there are a lot of resources available to help teenagers, just being available as a parent is a good place to start.

“Being there, you know, having your child see you as a resource and somebody who cares and somebody who can be present is, I think the very first step,” Wilson-Barlow said.

She said parents don’t necessarily need to have intense conversations with their children about mental issues, but they should play games together or eat together. She is also stressed that children need to have a sense of connection and community, and have a balance between social media and interacting with friends and others.

Wilson-Barlow suggested setting limits for internet and phone time.

“Generally speaking, what we want to do is create balance,” she said.

Parents can set rules for electronic devices, and if situations change, they can change the rules and provide explanations for those changes, according to Kristin Francis, a child and adolescent psychiatrist who led the panel discussion on Thursday.

Francis said health officials are seeing an “unprecedented need” for mental health services, and it’s possible the COVID-19 pandemic kept people from seeking mental health care while also possibly causing additional stresses.

“Something from the pandemic I’ve definitely seen is that more people recognize it’s OK to not be OK, and they’re seeking help,” she said.

If there is a wait to see a provider, it is likely because the provider is trying to provide quality care to patients whom they have already committed to seeing regularly.

The first community conversation — held last week — was focused on the SafeUT App, which allows youth and certain adults to text a mental health professional at any time. Members of Thursday’s panel suggested that parents should make sure the app is downloaded on their child’s phone before an issue comes up.

“Even if you’re not at that place, it’s a good thing to just introduce to your child,” Wilson-Barlow said.

The final community conversation, which will be available to the public, will include a panel of youth who are sharing how they manage their own mental health issues. The online presentation, “Healing out loud: Unmasking the mental health stigma,” will be held at 6 pm on May 19. More information can be found at healthcare.utah.edu/hmhi.

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Emily Ashcraft joined KSL.com as a reporter in 2021. She covers courts and legal affairs, as well as health, faith and religion news.

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Hypertensive pregnancy disorders linked to future cardiac events

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Monday, May 9, 2022

NIH-funded study explains factors linked to increased risk for heart attack or stroke among women who have pregnancy problems related to high blood pressure.

Women who experienced complications related to developing high blood pressure, or hypertension, during pregnancy had a 63% increased risk for developing cardiovascular disease later in life, according to research funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health.

While hypertensive pregnancy complications previously have been linked to increased cardiovascular risks, the current study controlled for pre-pregnancy shared risk factors for these types of complications and cardiovascular disease. Researchers also found that high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, or being overweight or obese after pregnancy accounted for most of the increased risk between pregnancy complications and future cardiovascular events.

The findings, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, could support healthcare providers in developing personalized heart disease prevention and monitoring strategies for women who had hypertension during pregnancy. The information could also help bridge the gap that often occurs after a woman ends obstetric care and resumes or starts care with another provider.

Using health data shared by more than 60,000 participants in the Nurses’ Health Study II, the research represents one of the most comprehensive reviews evaluating links between future cardiovascular events in women who have had preeclampsia or gestational hypertension. Gestational hypertension is characterized by an increase in blood pressure during pregnancy. Preeclampsia is a more severe complication marked by a sudden rise in blood pressure that can affect the organs and be dangerous for both mother and baby. Both conditions are often diagnosed after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

“Women with a history of gestational hypertension or preeclampsia should be informed that they have an increased risk for cardiovascular disease,” said Jennifer J. Stuart, Sc.D., a study author and associate epidemiologist in the Division of Women’s Health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston. “While the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology recognize these conditions as cardiovascular risk factors, women and their providers have lacked clear direction on what to do in the intervening years between delivery of a hypertensive pregnancy and the onset of cardiovascular disease.”

The researchers’ analysis showed that early screening and monitoring in four targeted areas – blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels, and body mass index – could provide even more personalized targets to help delay or possibly prevent future cardiovascular events among these women.

In this study, almost 10% of women developed hypertension during their first pregnancy. Among these women, 3,834 (6.4%) developed preeclampsia and 1,789 (3%) developed gestational hypertension. Women who were obese before pregnancy were three times more likely to experience a hypertensive pregnancy disorder, and those with a family history of heart disease or stroke also shared increased risks. In their analysis, the researchers controlled for these and other important pre-pregnancy factors that could increase the risk of developing hypertension during pregnancy and having a heart attack or stroke later in life.

After about 30 years, when the average age of women in the study was 61 years, approximately 1,074 (1.8%) of study participants had experienced a cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack or stroke. The type of event women had – and when they had it – often overlapped with specific pregnancy complications.

For example, compared to women with normal blood pressure in pregnancy, women with gestational hypertension, which was associated with a 41% increased risk for cardiovascular disease, were more likely to have a stroke about 30 years after their first pregnancy. Women with preeclampsia, which was associated with a 72% increased cardiovascular risk, were more likely to have a coronary artery event, such as a heart attack, as early as 10 years after their first pregnancy.

Post-pregnancy cardiometabolic risk factors, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and chronic hypertension, explained most of the increased cardiovascular risk observed among women with gestational hypertension or preeclampsia. Chronic hypertension was the largest contributor of all, accounting for 81% of increased cardiovascular disease risks among women who had gestational hypertension and for 48% of increased risks among women who had preeclampsia. Most women who experienced a hypertensive pregnancy disorder developed chronic hypertension in the years or decades after they gave birth.

“This study reinforces how important it is for women and their healthcare providers to address known cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as obesity or having high blood pressure, while thinking about starting a family and then during and after during pregnancy,” said Victoria Pemberton, RNC, a program officer at NHLBI.

For future research, Stuart said diversity is key. Most women in the Nurses’ Health Study II were white, which means the percentage of women affected by different risk factors may vary. The study also provides a foundation to expand on emerging associations, such as studying links between gestational hypertension and stroke and between preeclampsia and coronary artery disease.

Additionally, while over 80% of the increased risk for cardiovascular disease among women with a history of gestational hypertension appears to be jointly accounted for by established cardiovascular risk factors, nearly 40% of the risk for cardiovascular disease following preeclampsia remains unexplained.

Investigating these pathways may help clarify why some women who experienced preeclampsia are more likely to develop heart disease. By better understanding these connections, researchers may be able to contribute insight to help healthcare providers provide even more personalized recommendations and strategies for women at greatest risk.

The research was also supported by grants from the National Cancer Institute and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

To learn more about heart health and pregnancy, visit https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/education-and-awareness/heart-truth/listen-to-your-heart/heart-health-and- pregnancy.

About the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI): NHLBI is the global leader in conducting and supporting research in heart, lung, and blood diseases and sleep disorders that advances scientific knowledge, improves public health, and saves lives. For more information, visit www.nhlbi.nih.gov.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH):
NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 institutes and centers and is a component of the US Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

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