Retired DG SANTE head gloats about controversial EU food legislation

At ANH International we are always busy working out how to get around problems caused by EU legislation. We have also often highlighted that the highly controversial EU Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation (NHCR) is not fit for purpose. The regulation was intended to ensure that consumers are not mislead by food supplement sellers. Instead, consumers are confused, angry and almost completely in the dark about natural health products, and their use, while companies are deeply frustrated about being effectively silenced, and unable to communicate helpful scientific findings to consumers. So it amused us to read that Basil Mathioudakis, since his retirement in February as head of the European Commission’s DG SANTE food legislation unit, has formed his own consultancy firm and is, “spreading the word globally about the merits of the EU’s food and nutrition regulation as a consultant to industry and governments”. Mathioudakis told NutraIngredients, “The only thing I know is that how good the European legislation is and so that is what I am telling people… I think the food legislation in the European Union is one of the best if not the best”. But the report rightly asks, “when recounting the EU story, does he leave out the chapter containing five EU court cases challenging the Commission and its NHCR?”.

GMO apples on the market

The first genetically modified apples are due to hit American and Canadian markets this year. The fruits engineered by Arctic Apples have been altered to stop the initial browning of the fruit caused by the enzyme polyphenol oxidase. This enzyme is the product of certain genes, however when extra copies of those genes are added, the apple reacts by shutting down all of them and as a result halts the production of the enzyme and eliminates the browning trait. However, this method of genetic engineering, know as RNA interface could have “unintended effects” Wenonah Hauter of Food & Water Watch explains. Silencing the browning gene in particular could mislead customers into thinking a fruit on the verge of rotting is fresh enough to eat. The gene is also heavily involved in the plant’s natural pest defense system, silencing it could lead to an increase in the reliance on chemicals. This is a great concern, given that regulatory approval of the product means the company is free to promote the apple like any other you would see in the market. Read More.

Merck caught with their hands dirty

Merck has been caught with their hands dirty recently. The world’s fourth-largest drug company has been found to lie in a patent trial with Gilead Sciences, overturning a $200-million verdict. The court case involved Gilead’s drug Sovaldi used for the treatment of the hepatitis C virus. Federal Judge Beth Lanson Freeman states, “Merck's misconduct includes - misusing Pharmasset's confidential information - and lying under oath at deposition and trial.” Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times has described this as, “an enormous black eye for Merck”. This case raises familiar questions about the integrity of Big Pharma corporations. Read more.

Scottish mental health services prescribe woodland activities

Nine of Scotland’s 14 health boards are using a Forestry Commission Scotland activity program known as “Branching Out” for those requiring mental health services. Branching Out consists of 12 three-hour sessions of conservation work, art creation and bushcraft, followed by a graduation ceremony. Healthcare professionals accompany their patients and take part, with specially trained woodland experts acting as leaders. The commission’s access, health and recreation adviser, Kevin Lafferty said, “It’s de-medicalised. Everyone dresses the same.. It allows both the healthcare worker and the patient to be more open so they can speak more freely to one another. Being in a woodland itself creates a positive environment for recovery and healing”. 78% of the Scots visit woods for recreation as compared with 56% of the British.

Zambia burns GMO food

More than 700 boxes of Bokomo Cornflakes containing traces of genetically modified organisms (GMO) have been destroyed in Zambia recently. The company responsible for the importing of the products failed to make an application to the National Biosafety Authority to import the cornflakes containing GMOs in accordance to section 10 of the Biosafety Act. Luanshya Municipal Council Public Relations Manager Gideon Thole explained, “the National Biosafety Authority is the government institution specifically mandated to handle matters relating to Genetically Modified Organisms in Zambia.” Read more.

London council says no to glyphosate and yes to chemical-free weedkillers

The London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham gets a thumbs up from us for being the first London council to ban the use of glyphosate-based weedkillers by its contractors, in its parks and open spaces, and for its decision to pioneer trials of chemical-free weedkillers. Their noble aim is to "protect residents’ health and become the greenest local authority in the country”. Horticulture Week reports that “For the past six months, the borough has been exploring chemical-free alternatives, including the use of hot foam or hot steam, and will implement trials of these in the near future”. These decisions have been taken as a result of the World Health Organization findings that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans”. Councillor Wesley Harcourt, H&F cabinet member for Environment, Transport and Residents’ Services said “the health and well-being of our residents is our priority”.