Consumer Health Digest #01-10

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
March 5, 2001


Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., and cosponsored by NCAHF and Quackwatch. It summarizes scientific reports; legislative developments; enforcement actions; news reports; Web site evaluations; recommended and nonrecommended books; and other information relevant to consumer protection and consumer decision-making.


Yahoo accused of bad citizenship. Depite repeated requests, Yahoo continues to permit use of its free E-mail service to libel and harass quackery critics. The company, which recently acquired eGroups (now called Yahoo Groups), has also refused to (a) stop similar messages from being posted to eGroup bulletin boards. and (b) provide the name and telephone number of an individual with whom the problem could be discussed. Before the acquisition, eGroups promptly cancelled privileges for people who had used their services improperly. They also had an open channel to their legal department and rigidly enforced their Terms of Service.


"Chiropractic pediatrics" exposed as fraud. Canoe.ca has cl.osely examined how Canadian chiropractors treat children. Its findings will be posted throughout this week in a series of articles that concludes:

Chiropractors treat infants and children, and most of what they do to them is quackery. They use illegal and unlicensed devices to diagnose and treat a variety of childhood illnesses. Some of their diagnoses—including misaligned vertebrae, childhood osteo-arthritis and unequal leg lengths—are bogus. And the treatments they use to correct these so-called problems—spinal adjustment by hand or machine --are useless.

The first portion of the series was posted on Sunday, March 4th.


Drinking green tea not found to prevent cancer. A large study has found no evidence that drinking green tea prevents stomach cancer. The study involved more than 26,000 Japanese men and women who were followed over a 9-year period. No relationship was found between the number of cups consumed and the incidence of stomach cancer. [Tsubono Y and others. Green tea and the risk of gastric cancer in Japan. New England Journal of Medicine 344:632-626, 2001.] An accompanying editorial explains why previous data suggesting that green tea might have a protective effect might be wrong. [Sano T, Sasako M. Green tea and gastric cancer. New England Journal of Medicine 344:675, 2001]


Fluoridation status of 50 largest U.S. cities. The National Center for Fluoridation Policy Research has tabulated the fluoridation status of the 50 largest cities in the United States. As of March 3, 2001—based on 1999 U.S. Census Bureau population estimates—44 are fluoridated. Of the rest, 2 have been approved and are awaiting implementation and one is required by state law to fluoridate. The details are available in PDF format.


Warnings now required for cigar labels. As of February 13, 2001, the seven largest U.S. cigar companies must warnings in their advertising and packaging that cigar smoking is associated with serious health risks. Under FTC consent agreements, the companies must clearly and prominently display one of the following warnings on a rotating basis:

The seven companies control about 95% of the U.S. market. They agreed to use the warnings because the FTC considers failure to disclose the dangers of cigar smoking an unfair or deceptive practice.


European Union may be headed toward more prominent cigarette warnings. On February 28th, the European Union (EU) agreed to ask its members to order tobacco companies to have graphic health warnings that cover up to 40% of the packages of cigarettes marketed after September 2002. The draft law requires tobacco-makers to reduce the tar and nicotine content of cigarettes sold within the member countries or made for export. The proposal also bans terms such as "low tar," "light," and "mild" because they are inherently misleading. The proposed regulations must still be endorsed by each of the 15 EU member countries and by the EU Assembly.


FDA cautions food manufacturers about "novel" food ingredients. On January 30, 2001, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a letter warning food companies to be cautious about claims made for herbs and various other substances added to foods. The agency's letter expressed concerns that some herbal and other botanical ingredients added to conventional foods can (a) cause the food to be adulterated when ingredients are not used in accordance food additive regulations and are not generally recognized as safe for their intended use or (b) cause the product to be misbranded through the use of an unapproved claim suggesting that the product is intended to treat, cure, or mitigate disease. The FDA also warned that claims that a food can affect structure or function are permissible only if the effect is achieved through nutritive value.


Merck & Co. Web site offers superb information. The full text the Merck Manual of Diagnosis and TherapyManual (17th Edition) is now available online in both professional and consumer versions. The Merch Manual 17th edition covers most diseases, but much of it is too technical for laypersons. The consumer version is called the Merck Manual of Medical Information: Home Edition. Both versions can be either browsed or searched online.


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This page was posted on March 5, 2001.