Consumer Health Digest #02-43

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
October 22, 2002


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.


Life University loses accreditation appeal. Life University has lost its appeal of the June 2002 decision of the Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE) decision to revoke Life's accreditation. A school official has announced plans to apply for reinstatement, but that process could take between 6 and 30 months. [MacDonald M. Panel rejects Life's appeal: Loss of chiropractic accreditation threatens university. Atlanta Journal-Constitution, June 21, 2002.] CCE is the only agency for chiropractic recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education. Life may not be able to retain its student body because graduation from a CCE-approved school is necessary for licensure in at least 35 states. Some states will consider regional accreditation, which Life continues to have through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, but that status is also in jeopardy and will be reviewed in December. CCE first revoked Life's accreditation in June after a 12-month probation period, but the appeal temporarily kept it in force. The original decision cited serious problems with diagnostic instruction and faculty oversight of students in the university's clinics. Life has for many years operated the world's largest chiropractic school, but, since June 2002, enrollment in its chiropractic program has fallen from about 2,600 to about 1,300. Nineteen students are already suing the university and its former president (Sid E. Williams, D.C.) for negligence in losing the accreditation; and more students are expected to do the same. [Giltman P. Life's loss of appeal may prove fatal. Marietta Daily Journal, Oct 22, 2002] The Chiropractic Student Resource Site features an archive of news reports about the situation.


"Organic" standards take effect. As of October 21, foods that meet "organic" certification standards can carry a U.S. Department of Agriculture seal that states "USDA / Organic." According to a USDA consumer brochure:

Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; petroleum- based fertilizers or sewage sludge-based fertilizers; bio-engineering; or ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled "organic," a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too.

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USDA makes no claims that organically produced food is safer or more nutritious than conventionally produced food. Organic food differs from conventionally produced food in the way it is grown, handled, and processed.

In other words, although produced differently, the foods themselves do not differ significantly from conventionally produced foods. The standards, which took more than ten years to develop, were mandated by the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) of 1990 despite USDA opposition.

Organically labeled foods generally cost more and may lessen public confidence in the safety of "ordinary" foods. Instead of legitimizing health nonsense, Congress should do more to attack its spread. [Barrett S. "Organic" foods: Will certification protect consumers? Quackwatch, revised Oct 22, 2002]


Chiropractic manipulation fails to lower high blood pressure. Many chiropractors have claimed that spinal manipulation can help lower blood pressure, even though there has never been any scientific evidence that it can do so. This claim was tested in controlled trial of 140 men and women aged 25-60 years with high-normal blood pressure or State I (mild) hypertension. Over a 4-week period, the participants were seen three times a week by either a dietitian who provided dietary counseling or by a chiropractor who provided dietary advice plus spinal manipulation. Among the 128 participants who completed the study, the average systolic/diastolic blood pressure decreased -4.9/5.6 mmHg for diet group and -3.5/4.0 mmHg for the chiropractic group, a difference that was not statistically significant. The researchers concluded, "For patients with high normal blood pressure or stage I hypertension, chiropractic spinal manipulation in conjunction with a dietary modification program offered no advantage in lowering either diastolic or systolic blood pressure compared to diet alone." [Goetz CH and others. Treatment of Hypertension with Alternative Therapies (THAT) study: A randomized clinical trial. Journal of Hypertension 20:2063-2068, 2002]


Dubious autism products seized. U.S. Marshals seized hundreds of bottles of HypoAllergenic Taurine Capsules marketed by Humphrey Laboratories of Lake Oswego, Oregon, doing business as Kirkman Laboratories. The seizure was initiated after the FDA determined that the products were marketed with unsubstantiated claims that they were effective against autism. [FDA seizes dietary supplements with drug claims. FDA news release, Oct 17, 2002] Kirkman claims to be "the only manufacturing company designing products specifically for autistic children." The company's Web site states that taurine "nourishes brain cells and promotes thinking." The company's catalog states: "Dr. Jeff Bradstreet, a physician in Palm Bay, Florida who treats autistic patients reports good success in treating autism with Taurine. . . . Taurine may be beneficial in other developmental disorders and in Down's Syndrome."


U.S. opposes worldwide curbs on tobacco promotion. The United States, Germany and Japan have rejected demands that a proposed global anti-smoking treaty include a call to ban advertising. Most World Health Organization (WHO) members see ending tobacco advertising and sponsorship and raising prices for tobacco products as the two most effective ways of bringing about a quick and sharp cut in consumption. But the United States, backed by Germany and Japan, said it could not support a treaty that called for a ban on advertising or even urged one. [U.S., Germany, Japan rebuff ban on tobacco ads. New York Times, Oct 16, 2002] WHO's Tobacco Free Initiative Web site provides comprehensive information on the organization's tobacco-control policies and programs.


Discount available for "CAM" review journal. The quarterly journal Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies (FACT) aims to present the evidence on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in an analytical and impartial manner. Its features include editorials, debates, book reviews, and many research summaries accompanied by expert commentary. Although some commentaries are too gentle, this flaw is far outweighed by the useful information that would be too expensive and time-consuming for most individuals to gather on their own. Quackwatch has additional information, a sample editorial, and a discount order form. The best overall journal that addresses "CAM" issues is the Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine, published by Prometheus Books.


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This page was posted on October 22, 2002.