Trump administration strips CDC of covid data reporting

As tensions continue to grow between the Trump administration and the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has stripped away the CDC’s control of critical data relating to covid-19. The action has been undertaken under the guise of streamlining and centralising data collection, yet unsurprisingly accusations are rife that the CDC’s reporting system is not fit for purpose. Hospitals in the US are now required to bypass the CDC and send data regarding capacity, allocation of supplies, treatments and other resources direct to the HHS via a system controlled by a private company, TeleTracking. Concerns are being expressed that the move could significantly impact access to and transparency of data, not to mention data privacy, at a time when said data is critical to tracking and understanding the virus. Given the attacks on the much-vaunted Anthony Fauci in recent weeks by the Trump administration, the truth of the matter may well be that the change is rooted in ongoing efforts to marginalise and oust him. A spokesman for the HHS said that the two systems will be linked and that the CDC would continue to make data public. Such dramatic shifts within public services can make transparency of data and accountability more challenging, but in this instance our hope is for more accurate reporting. As borne out by the announcement from the Washington state Department of Health (DOH) regarding changes to the way it defines covid-related deaths. Deaths where covid is involved will now be classified using one of five categories: confirmed, probable, pending, suspect and non-COVID-19-related. Washington State’s DOH has apparently already removed more deaths than have been added in recent days. Many questions have been asked over the recording of covid-related deaths through the course of the pandemic and whether or not this is leading to an inflation of numbers. Let’s hope both these changes lead the way to more accurate reporting.

Medical journals and pharma corruption

In her latest exposé, Dr Maryanne Demasi, shines a spotlight on the relationship between scientific journals and the pharmaceutical industry. The words 'following the science' generally mean information published in scientific journals. We’ve been taught to trust such information and rely on it being unbiased and based on the best research practices available; that the peer-review process prior to publication safeguards validity, credibility, trustworthiness and scientific rigour. However, the system is broken. Rendered corrupt and dysfunctional largely by Big Pharma leveraging money and influence over the journals. Not only do pharmaceutical companies fund many studies (often hiding their involvement), they also provide a huge proportion of journal funding in the form of advertising. Current and former editors have expressed their concerns over such associations and the increasing influence of the drug industry that threatens to quash proper scientific debate and the independence of journals. It’s not evidence-based medicine at fault, but the abuse of the system for profit and gain rather than maintaining the best interests of science.

EU relaxation of GM rules to speed covid vaccine development

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) is calling for a review of GMO rules to speed up the development of COVID-19 vaccines and anti-virals, citing the protection of public health as a reason for circumventing current authorisation procedures. The report comes on the back of proposals from the European Commission (EC) to allow GMO containing vaccines and other medicines designed to combat coronavirus to proceed with clinical trials, which runs contrary to existing EU regulations designed to tightly control the use of GM technologies in the food and agricultural sectors. Whilst the EC proposals are said to only apply for the duration of the pandemic, will the biotechnology sector circumvent existing regulations in the future, ignoring the wider impact on both human and environmental health? We think we all know the answer to that question.

UK government reignites ‘war on obesity’ amidst second-wave fears

The UK government is set to renew its ‘war against obesity’ prior to an anticipated second wave of coronavirus infections. This initiative is a direct response to Boris Johnson’s realisation that his excess weight contributed to the severity of his illness requiring a stay in the ITU after contracting covid-19. Studies have shown that obese individuals are particularly vulnerable to severe illness and death following coronavirus infection. The Government’s proposed interventions include removing unhealthy foods from the checkouts and end of aisles along with ‘buy one, get one free’ promotions on ‘unhealthy’ food – the criteria for which is as yet unknown. The link between viral infections and obesity is nothing new, yet action to combat the problem has been limp and lack lustre to date. Joining the fray is chef, Jamie Oliver, who is continuing his campaign against childhood obesity by pushing Boris Johnson hard on putting children’s health at the heart of any new strategy. In a new editorial in The BMJ, former medical scientist and investigative journalist, Maryanne Demasi PhD, discusses the role of insulin resistance in hospitalisations and deaths due to covid-19, alongside the role of low carbohydrate diets in managing blood glucose levels and improving metabolic health.

New research has highlighted the role of diets rich in vegetables and fruit in reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes (T2D) a key risk factor in the development severe covid symptoms. Published in The BMJ, researchers using data from the EPIC-InterAct study, found that participants with higher levels of vitamin C and carotenoids had a much lower risk of developing T2D. In our experience it never works to make war on anything, let alone trying to wage a war against obesity. People’s relationship with food is deeply conditioned, emotionally-charged and related to our deepest survival instincts. Waging war on obesity will in effect be pitting people against themselves and can only create a greater dichotomy between food and health. Instead, evolutionary-rational diet and lifestyle changes will reap far greater results.

UK supermarkets vow to resist chlorinated-chicken

Aldi, Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer, The Co-op and Tesco have all joined Waitrose as they pledge to resist government plans to allow sub-standard food to enter the UK food chain following Brexit trade deals. All say they are committed to upholding high standards and that customers can be confident they will never knowingly sell chlorinated chickens or hormone-treated beef regardless of any trade deal that may be reached by the UK government. If you’re concerned about how future trade deals may impact the standards of the food you eat or British farmers and agriculture, please sign the National Farmers Union’s food standards petition.