Public Health News Roundup: September 20
FDA Releases Preliminary Info on Arsenic in Rice
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released preliminary data on arsenic levels on approximately 200 samples of rice and related products. The agency intends to collect data on approximately 1,200 samples by the end of the year, when it will analyze the results and determine whether further action is needed. The agency has no further recommendations based on the initial results. “The FDA is committed to ensuring that we understand the extent to which substances such as arsenic are present in our foods, what risks they may pose, whether these risks can be minimized, and to sharing what we know,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, MD, in a release. “Our advice right now is that consumers should continue to eat a balanced diet that includes a wide variety of grains – not only for good nutrition but also to minimize any potential consequences from consuming any one particular food.” Read more on nutrition.
Report: U.S. Obesity Rates to Climb
A new report from Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation finds that the obesity rate of U.S. adults will jump significantly over the next two decades. F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future 2012 looks at the rates of obesity and obesity-related diseases in each state, concluding lowering the average body mass index even 5 percent could significantly lower health care costs. “This study shows us two futures for America’s health,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, RWJF president and CEO. “At every level of government, we must pursue policies that preserve health, prevent disease and reduce health care costs. Nothing less is acceptable.” Read more on obesity.
School-Related Vaccine-Exemption Rates Up
Exemptions for school-required vaccinations increased between 2005 and 2011, according to a new study in The New England Journal of Medicine. Non-medical exemptions were more common in states with relaxed opt-out policies and those that permitted philosophical exemptions. During this period, the rates of non-medical exemptions were higher in the states with easy opt-out policies, such as California and Maryland, and in those states that allowed philosophical, instead of only religious, exemptions. Saad Omer, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Emory University in Atlanta and lead author of the study, has previously found pertussis, or whooping cough, to be more common in such states. He said the increase in social media and the effectiveness of immunization programs—parents don’t see the vaccine-preventable diseases nearly as often—are both factors in the increase in exemptions. Read more on vaccines.