News bites
Sound Consumer | December 2005


Personal care products database

Many consumers assume that all personal care products are tested for safety. But in fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it cannot require companies to test cosmetic products for safety before marketing. Only 11 percent of the 10,500 ingredients documented in cosmetics reportedly have been studied.

The Environmental Working Group has launched an online database of 14,000 lotions, deodorants, shampoo and other products — and the ingredients in them. Based on toxicity, safety ratings and brand comparisons, it helps consumers find safer products. Visit www.ewg.org/reports/skindeep.


Growing better with Coke?

Farmers in India have come up with a new method to keep crops free of bugs. Instead of expensive pesticides, they’re spraying their cotton and chili fields with Coca-Cola. One farmer reports that he sprayed cola on several hectares of cotton and noticed that the pests began to die soon after.

But it’s not only Coke that’s bad for bugs. The farmers reportedly swear that Pepsi and other soft drinks work, too. Coke also has been reported to be good for cleaning lavatories, as a windscreen wipe and for removing rust spots. (The Guardian)


Eating out bad for kids’ hearts

Restaurant food may have a hidden cost beyond your wallet. Kids who eat out often have higher blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol levels and blood sugar issues that could lead to type-2 diabetes. (Cardiovascular Research and Education Foundation)


Offspring die from GE soy

A Russian scientist is reporting possible toxicity and reproductive issues involving genetically engineered (GE) soy. Irina Ermakova, a leading scientist of neurophysiology at the Russian Academy of Sciences, wanted to see if eating GE soy might influence offspring. She fed one group of female rats GE soy, another group of female rats non-GE soy, and a third group no soy.

The offspring from mothers who ate GE soy were much smaller and 30 percent weighed significantly less than the other babies. After three weeks, 55 percent of the offspring from the GE soy group had died versus 9 percent from the non-GE soy group, and 7 percent from the non-soy control group. Scientists caution that the study needs to be peer reviewed, but in the United States, they’re calling on the National Institutes of Health to replicate the research for validity. (Institute for Responsible Technology)


Ginseng fights colds

North American ginseng may have a small but significant impact on common colds, reducing their severity and duration. A four-month Canadian study involved 323 people taking either a placebo or North American ginseng extract. Those taking the ginseng had milder symptoms and fewer days with symptoms. (Canadian Journal of Medicine)


OJ for sale

Americans drink more orange juice than anyone else on the planet, but now our juice might be coming from Brazil, not Florida. Brazil entered the orange juice market in the 1980s after freezing weather damaged the Florida citrus supply. Brazil can grow citrus for half the cost to Florida growers and is now the global leader in the industry. Next time you buy frozen OJ, look at the bottom of the can to see where your juice is from. (The Ledger (Lakeland, Fla.)/New York Times)


Roundup — not safe

Monsanto has agreed to stop using the terms “biodegradable” and “environmentally friendly” in all advertising of products containing glyphosate, an active ingredient in weed-killers such as Roundup. The New York Attorney General’s office had filed legal complaints that Monsanto’s ads were misleading. Research shows that glyphosate/Roundup may cause cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, nerve and respiratory damage. Monsanto also has agreed to pay $50,000 toward the cost of litigation. (Beyond Pesticides)


Country of origin labeling

Polls show that Western ranchers and consumers overwhelmingly support mandatory country of origin (COOL) labeling on meat, and new rules were supposed to take effect last year. Now, the U.S. Senate has voted to postpone implementation to 2008 amid opposition by the Food Marketing Institute and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. The Senate’s move effectively kills the program, since the new implementation date is past the 2007 expiration date of the 2002 Farm Bill that originally mandated it. (Associated Press)


A deal on plastic bags

The mayor of San Francisco has worked out a partnership with supermarkets to reduce the number of bags entering the waste stream. Six grocery companies representing 60 percent of the stores in San Francisco are expected to sign a letter of agreement to reduce by 10 million the number of bags going to landfills over the next year. Stores can use different strategies to reach the goals, such as selling reusable bags, in-store recycling and limiting double bagging. (www.morningnewsbeat.com)

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