FDA to look into whether it should be regulating homeopathies

Here’s news that will be of interest to those of you who try to eskew Western medicine where possible in favor of more tradition (others would say unproven) remedies: The FDA this week will look into whether it should be regulating these medicines.

NPR dove deep into the issue Monday morning:

Homeopathic medicine has long been controversial. It’s based on an idea known as “like cures like,” which means if you give somebody a dose of a substance — such as a plant or a mineral — that can cause the symptoms of their illness, it can, in theory, cure that illness if the substance has been diluted so much that it’s essentially no longer in the dose.

Critics say those ideas are nonsense, and that study after study has failed to find any evidence that homeopathy works.

“Homeopathy is an excellent example of the purest form of pseudoscience,” saysSteven Novella, a neurologist at Yale and executive editor of the website Science-Based Medicine. “These are principles that are not based upon science.”

Novella thinks consumers are wasting their money on homeopathic remedies. The cost of such treatments vary, with some over-the-counter products costing less than $10.

Some of the costs, such as visits to doctors and the therapies they prescribe, may be covered by insurance. But Novella says with so many people using homeopathic remedies, the costs add up.

There’s also some concern that homeopathic remedies could be dangerous if they’re contaminated or not completely diluted, or even if they simply don’t work.

As NPR makes clear, this doesn’t mean regulation is on the horizon. The FDA just is seeking some information of what, if anything, it might or ought to do. But I’m guessing the hearings will be pretty high energy.

Posted by Steve

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So now your ‘gluten-free’ food should actually be gluten-free

This may come as a major shock, but products you’ve been seeing (and maybe buying) that claim to be “gluten-free” weren’t necessarily telling the truth.

Now, all that is set to change. Or is supposed to. (Depends on your level of skepticism, and as an added disclaimer, we’re talking U.S. products here.)

We’ve reached a deadline — set up a year ago — for food manufacturers to get their facts straight. Now, according to Food and Drug Administration rules, if someone (corporations are people) sells a product that’s mislabeled there can be regulatory repercussions.

Here’s more from the good folks at the FDA:

In August 2013, the Food and Drug Administration issued a final rule that defined what characteristics a food has to have to bear a label that proclaims it “gluten-free.” The rule also holds foods labeled “without gluten,” “free of gluten,” and “no gluten” to the same standard.

Manufacturers had one year to bring their labels into compliance. As of August 5, 2014, any food product bearing a gluten-free claim labeled on or after this date must meet the rule’s requirements.

[snip]

In addition to limiting the unavoidable presence of gluten to less than 20 ppm, FDA now allows manufacturers to label a food “gluten-free” if the food does not contain any of the following:

  • an ingredient that is any type of wheat, rye, barley, or crossbreeds of these grains
  • an ingredient derived from these grains and that has not been processed to remove gluten
  • an ingredient derived from these grains and that has been processed to remove gluten, if it results in the food containing 20 or more parts per million (ppm) gluten

Foods such as bottled spring water, fruits and vegetables, and eggs can also be labeled “gluten-free” if they inherently don’t have any gluten.

Under the final rule, a food label that bears the claim “gluten-free,” as well as the claims “free of gluten,” “without gluten,” and “no gluten,” but fails to meet the requirements of the rule is considered misbranded and subject to regulatory action by FDA.

Just what those actions are don’t seem to be spelled out — big surprise?

The FDA does not that products with longer shelf lives — like pasta — might still be in stores for a while, which is OK. So you will likely want to check that, if you’re curbing your gluten consumption. The FDA also is urging restaurants to follow these rules, although it can be a little trickier because they really apply to packaged foods.

Posted by Steve