Irish anti-fluoridation success

On Monday, November 10, the Kerry County Council unanimously passed a motion opposing public water fluoridation. The motion states that “Kerry County Council will write to the Government calling for the cessation of public water fluoridation”. The vote received cross party support and was passed without any disagreement amongst the councilors. This vote comes just weeks after Cork and Dublin passed similar motions, which looks very like it being only a matter of time until Ireland’s water system is fluoride free. Damian Quigg, who tabled the motion, said that the fact that other European Member States, as well as Northern Ireland, didn’t fluoridate their water concerned him and he will continue to support campaigns for the removal of fluoride from public water supply. Another Fine Gael Councillor commented that the job of Irish Water was not to medicate the Irish populace, but to deliver clean and safe water and it was absurd to be dosing the entire country.

Family dinners may protect against childhood obesity

A new study published in Pediatrics found that families who sit round a table together to eat, share and nurture each other at meal times may reduce their children’s risk of obesity. The study looked at 120 children, their parents and their family meal times. The study was focused particularly on communication, interpersonal and food-related dynamics, the food served, the meal length, and the child/ren’s weight status. The results showed "significant associations between positive family- and parent-level interpersonal dynamics (ie, warmth, group enjoyment, parental positive reinforcement) at family meals and reduced risk of childhood overweight. In addition, significant associations were found between positive family- and parent-level food-related dynamics (ie, food warmth, food communication, parental food positive reinforcement) and reduced risk of childhood obesity".  Lead author Jerica M. Berge of the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, said that the findings may "…mean that when children have structure and more supervision at the meal they have more protection against overweight or obesity, (meaning) maybe a less chaotic meal environment and more chances to connect". The study also found the kitchen to be the best environment for a meal rather than family rooms, offices or bedrooms.

Global dislike and mistrust for GM food is increasing

EU rules currently allow genetically modified (GM) crops to be grown anywhere within the EU once they’ve been given the go ahead by the European Food and Safety Authority (EFSA). However, MEPs recently voted to allow individual EU countries to ban the cultivation of GM food crops on their soil, even if the EU has already approved them for wider cultivation. In addition to this, 57 million people, including Hollywood stars, academics and activists, have signed an open letter to the British public warning against GM foods. The US government and the European Commission are negotiating a free trade treaty – the TTIP – that would open the floodgates to American GM food into Britain and Europe. In this open letter the Americans warn British families not to be drawn into the ‘Frankenstein Food’ experiments. The letter, signed by the likes of designer Vivienne Westwood, chef Valentine Warner, actress Susan Sarandon, Daryl Hannah, Robert Kennedy Jnr, Jeremy Irons, and many more, was delivered to Downing Street, but already more American foods containing GM ingredients are being found in British stores. The letter argues that GM crops have never delivered on any promises and have “raised more and more worrying questions about their effectiveness, their necessity, and even their safety”.

Doctors from the dark ages try to silence medical innovation bill

Lord Maurice Saatchi’s Medical Innovation Bill has received a letter from 100 doctors saying it is rubbish. The bill, if passed, will allow doctors to try reasonable innovative treatments, so long as they have the agreement of the patient (or patient’s representative) and of a panel of medical specialists. However, even though the bill is supported by No 10 Downing Street, the secretary of state for health, the UK chief medical officer, the government’s chief scientific adviser, the medical director of the NHS, Britain’s top judges and 20,000 respondents to the government’s public consultation on the bill, the 100 opposed say that they are, “dismayed that the bill is being promoted as offering hope to patients and their families when it will not make any meaningful difference to progress in treating cancer”. The response from Saatchi quotes the view of Professor Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford university, who says there will be no cure for cancer “until real doctors with real patients in real hospitals can attempt an innovation”. He also points out that in the UK this year 94.4% of Britain’s cancer patients will receive only the standard procedure, a procedure that is repeatedly failing.

Swedish mobile phone study reveals 3-fold increased brain tumour after 25 years

A recent large cohort study from Sweden lends further weight to previous findings by the author, Lennart Hardell, about mobile and cordless phones and brain tumour risk. Published online in the journal Pathophysiology, the analysis looked at data from a total of 1498 malignant brain tumour cases and 3530 controls. The authors found that use of mobile and cordless phones increased the risk of tumours (mostly gliomas), "a risk that increased significantly with latency and cumulative use. The highest risk was in the longest latency group (greater than 25 years), giving a statistically significant 3-fold increased risk". The authors concluded "glioma and also acoustic neuroma are caused by RF-EMF emissions from wireless phones, and thus regarded as carcinogenic, under Group 1 according to the IARC classification, indicating that current guidelines for exposure should be urgently revised".

Farmed salmon’s omega-3 oil levels dropping

The International Fishmeal and Fish Oil Organization (IFFO) has warned of lower levels of omega-3 oil in farmed salmon "due to changes in fish feed". "Pressure on sustainable fish oils supplies" has meant that the fish oil content of fish feed is being replaced by omega-6 vegetable oil. An anchovy fishery in Peru, which is a main supplier of fish oil, has closed due to dwindling numbers of fish. This is "attributed to the effect of an El Nino event, a periodic hemispheric weather phenomenon caused by a Kelvin wave, a huge mass of warm water that moves into surface waters of the eastern Pacific". Further pressures on the industry include the increasing popularity of omega-3 foods, supplements and drugs. IFFO's director general Andrew Mallison is reported to have also warned fish retailers and producers about accurate labelling of salmon with the actual content of omega-3 eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA).

Juncker bows to pressure and scraps EC chief scientific advisor role

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has decided "to axe the role of chief scientific advisor in the new European Commission", which means that Anne Glover will no longer work with the Commission from January. It appears that Juncker has caved in to pressure from organisations such as Greenpeace, GM Watch, Friends of the Earth, EarthOpenSource, Testbiotech, the Danish Ecological Council, Pesticide action Network, cancer prevention and breastfeeding groups. In an open letter to Juncker, the groups stressed that the post was “fundamentally problematic as it concentrates too much influence in one person, and undermines in-depth scientific research and assessments carried out by or for the Commission directorates in the course of policy elaboration”. In the expected backlash, there are reports that "dozens of academics have said they are disappointed by the decision, including chief scientific advisor at the UK's Department of Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Professor Ian Boyd".