Daily Archives: April 11, 2011

Arsenic and toxic metals found in baby foods

Researchers found feeding infants twice a day on the shop-bought baby foods such as rice porridge can increase their exposure to arsenic by up to fifty times when compared to breast feeding alone Photo: ALAMY

Baby foods used to wean infants off milk have been found to contain “alarming” levels of toxic contaminants including arsenic, lead and cadmium.

Telegraph | Apr 9, 2011

By Richard Gray, Science Correspondent and Alastair Jamieson

Last night there were calls for urgent new safety rules to control the presence of the poisons in foods intended for young children.

The findings come as officials at the Food Standards Agency and the European Commission are conducting an urgent review to establish new limits for the long term exposure of these contaminants in food.

The products tested by the researchers were made by major baby food manufacturers including Organix, Hipp, Nestle and Holle – some of which are available in British supermarkets.

Researchers found feeding infants twice a day on the shop-bought baby foods such as rice porridge can increase their exposure to arsenic by up to fifty times when compared to breast feeding alone.

Exposure to other toxic metals such as cadmium, which is known to cause neurological and kidney damage, increased by up to 150 times in some of the foods tested by Swedish scientists, while lead increased by up to eight times.

Although none of the levels of the toxic elements found in the foods exceeded official safety limits, scientists believe they are still of concern if fed to very young children and have demanded new guidelines to restrict their presence in food.

Young infants are thought to be particularly vulnerable to these substances because they are going through rapid development.

Writing in the journal of Food Chemistry, the scientists from the Unit of Metals and Health at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, where the research was carried out, said: “Alarmingly, these complementary foods may also introduce high amounts of toxic elements such as arsenic, cadmium, lead and uranium, mainly from their raw materials.

“These elements have to be kept at an absolute minimum in food products intended for infant consumption.

“In infant foods, the high concentrations of arsenic in the rice-based foods are of particular concern.”

Experts now believe there are no safe limits for arsenic and manufacturers should be making more efforts to remove it from their food.

Professor Andrew Meharg, a biogeochemist at Aberdeen University who has studied the presence of arsenic in rice, said the latest research highlighted the urgent need for new restrictions on arsenic and other toxic elements in food.

He said: “For an adult with an average consumption of rice every day, it makes little difference, but for young babies who are the most vulnerable receptors we should be doing everything we can to reduce that risk. You don’t want DNA damage during infant development.

“There are ways to decrease the toxic load in food. It is only recently that we have started using rice in baby foods and formulas. You can reduce the arsenic in infant foods very rapidly by sourcing the rice from different parts of the world. You can reduce it by four or five fold by carefully selecting the right rice.”

The researchers tested nine different brands of baby food, which were intended to be fed to children from the age of four months old, and nine baby milk formulas.

They found that when compared to breast milk, the baby foods had elevated levels of toxic contaminants measured in micrograms – a millionth of a gram, or 35 billionths of an ounce.

The daily safe intake limit for arsenic was set by the World Health Organisation as two micrograms for every kilogram of body weight, but this was suspended earlier this year amid growing evidence that arsenic can cause cancer even at low levels.

The limits for lead have also been suspended while those for cadmium are one microgram for every kilogram of body weight.

Arsenic and the other heavy metals found in the study are often found in food as they are absorbed from the soil by plants such as rice, wheat and oats.

Among the baby foods found to contain elevated levels of arsenic, cadmium and lead in the tests by the researchers was Organix First Organic Whole Grain Baby Rice, which they found contained two micrograms of arsenic per portion, along with 0.03 micrograms of cadmium and 0.09 micrograms of lead. This product is sold by Boots in the UK.

HiPP Organic Peach and Banana Breakfast porridge, which is sold by supermarkets in the UK including Tesco, contained 1.7 micrograms of arsenic, 0.13 micrograms of cadmium and 0.33 micrograms of lead.

Holle Organic Rice Porridge, which is sold by specialist retailers, was found to contain 7.3 micrograms of arsenic per portion – the highest found in the study – along with 0.38 micrograms of cadmium and 0.26 micrograms of lead.

The Swedish National Food Administration is now conducting its own review of toxic elements and metals in baby food and food for older children as a result of the research. The results will be reported to the European Food Safety Authority and the European Commission, which is responsible for setting food safety limits.

The Sunday Telegraph contacted each of the major manufacturers of leading brands of baby food sold in the UK but most refused to reveal the levels of toxic contaminants found in their products. Heinz, Cow & Gate, Nestle, and HiPP all insisted their foods contained levels that were within safety limits.

Dr Karin Ljung, who led the Swedish research, said: “The producers will say they are not above any guideline values and it is true – they are following all the rules.

“The trouble is that the guidelines are not based on infant exposure. As we are getting more information coming out, it is may be time to reconsider what these safety limits are.”

She added that breast feeding until babies were six months old appeared to be the best way to keep infants’ exposure to these toxic contaminants as low as possible as they seemed to be filtered out by the mothers’ body.

There are currently no EU-wide regulations for arsenic levels in food after the European Food Safety Authority ruled that previous safety limits were inadequate.

Jackie Schneider, from the Children’s Food Campaign, said: “We expect full transparency from baby food manufacturers and are disappointed that they are choosing to not share the relevant data.

“Parents aren’t stupid and they deserve to be given the facts so they can make an informed choice”

A spokesman for the Food Standards Agency said previous reviews of the levels of toxic elements in baby food found them to be present at low levels.

He added: “The Agency is actively engaging with the European Commission to review and establish long term limits for these environmental contaminants in food.”

A spokesman for the British Specialist Nutrition Association, the trade body for baby food producers in the UK, said: “BSNA members carefully select and control their ingredients as well as the baby food, to ensure they are safe for infants.

“That selection of suitable ingredients ensures the lowest possible occurrence of certain naturally-occurring substances. Ingredients that do not meet stringent specifications are not used in baby foods.”

A spokesman for HiPP insisted the levels of arsenic and cadmium in their Organic Peach and Banana Breakfast porridge were under the official daily intake limits and so were safe as part of a daily diet.

She said: “The levels of cadmium and arsenic in HiPP products are safe and all raw materials are routinely tested following the strictest quality criteria.”

A spokesman for Organix said: “Organix operates rigorous finished food testing to ensure food safety is monitored regularly. This includes testing for elements, microbiological, allergen and pesticide residues.

“Our further testing of finished foods and raw materials show ALL results conform to the current UK food standard. We continue to monitor both our own internal results together with those of our suppliers.

“Please rest assured that we fully assess both the Food Standards Agency’s guidelines and any new research and will continue to do so.”

A spokesman for Plum added: “Sampling of our recipe shows levels for arsenic are well below those in this latest study, and again these are well within the generally regarded safe and acceptable limits.”

Nestle said it did not recommend the use of it infant cereals before six months of age, but they carefully selected their raw materials to ensure substances absorbed from the soil were as low as possible.

Student ‘addiction’ to technology ‘similar to drug cravings’, study finds

Withdrawal symptoms experienced by young people deprived of gadgets and technology is compared to those felt by drug addicts or smokers going “cold turkey”, a study has concluded.

Telegraph | Apr 8, 2011

By Andrew Hough

Researchers found nearly four in five students had significant mental and physical distress, panic, confusion and extreme isolation when forced to unplug from technology for an entire day.

They found college students at campuses across the globe admitted being “addicted” to modern technology such as mobile phones, laptops and television as well as social networking such as Facebook and Twitter.

A “clear majority” of almost 1,000 university students, interviewed at 12 campuses in 10 countries, including Britain, America and China, were unable to voluntarily avoid their gadgets for one full day, they concluded.

The University of Maryland research described students’ thoughts in vivid detail, in which they admit to cravings, anxiety attacks and depression when forced to abstain from using media.

One unnamed American college student told of their overwhelming cravings, which they confessed was similar to “itching like a crackhead (crack cocaine addict)”.

The study, published by the university’s International Centre for Media & the Public Agenda (ICMPA) and the Salzburg Academy on Media & Global Change, concluded that “most students… failed to go the full 24 hours without media”.

The research, titled The world Unplugged, also found students’ used “virtually the same words to describe their reactions”.

These included emotions such as fretful, confused, anxious, irritable, insecure, nervous, restless, crazy, addicted, panicked, jealous, angry, lonely, dependent, depressed, jittery and paranoid.

Prof Susan Moeller, who led the research, said technology had changed the students’ relationships.

“Students talked about how scary it was, how addicted they were,” she said.

“They expected the frustration. But they didn’t expect to have the psychological effects, to be lonely, to be panicked, the anxiety, literally heart palpitations.

“Technology provides the social network for young people today and they have spent their entire lives being ‘plugged in’.”

The study interviewed young people, aged between 17 and 23, including about 150 students from Bournemouth University, who were asked to keep a diary of their thoughts.

They were told to give up their mobile phones, the internet, social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and they were not allowed to watch television.

They were, however, permitted to use landline telephones and read books.

The study found that one in five reported feelings of withdrawal akin to addiction while more than one in 10 admitted being left confused and feeling like a failure.

Just 21 per cent said they could feel the benefits of being unplugged.

One British participant reported: “I am an addict. I don’t need alcohol, cocaine or any other derailing form of social depravity… Media is my drug; without it I was lost.2

Another wrote: ‘I literally didn’t know what to do with myself. Going down to the kitchen to pointlessly look in the cupboards became regular routine, as did getting a drink.’

A third said: ‘I became bulimic with my media; I starved myself for a full 15 hours and then had a full-on binge.’

While a fourth student added: “I felt like a helpless man on a lonely deserted island in the big ocean”.

Prof Moeller added: “Some said they wanted to go without technology for a while but they could not as they could be ostracised by their friends.’

“When the students did not have their mobile phones and other gadgets, they did report that they did get into more in-depth conversations.

“Quite a number reported quite a difference in conversation in terms of quality and depth as a result.”

Craigslist Ripper “may be a cop”

Target: Atlantic City’s famous Boardwalk, where the four dead prostitutes would have worked

‘He is a guy aware of how we utilise technology. Frankly, people are thinking maybe he could be a cop – either one still in law enforcement or one who has moved on.

‘We think the Craigslist Ripper may be a cop’: Investigators’ chilling new theory on ‘smart’ Long Island serial killer

Daily Mail | Apr 10, 2011

The serial killer dubbed the Craigslist Ripper has a sophisticated understanding of police investigation techniques and ‘may be a cop’, it was claimed today.

The startling new theory emerged as it was revealed the last man to see suspected victim Shannan Gilbert believes the prostitute is still alive.

Officers in Long Island where four bodies of vice girls have been dug up, are convinced the killer  could be in law enforcement because:

  • He used disposable and untraceable cell phones to contact the four victims – all in their twenties – who advertised their services on Craigslist.
  • When he made six taunting calls to the sister of victim Melissa Barthelemy they lasted under three minutes each thwarting officers racing to find his exact location.
  • The calls were made in New York City, including Times Square and Madison Garden, allowing him to blend in with the crowds unseen, ensuring if his cell was pinpointed surveillance cameras would not be able to pick him out.

Some investigators now believe the killer’s behaviour points to a man who has a deep knowledge of how police investigate serious crimes.

One told the New York Times: ‘He is a guy aware of how we utilise technology. Frankly, people are thinking maybe he could be a cop – either one still in law enforcement or one who has moved on.

‘Without question this guy is smart, this guy is not a dope. it’s a guy who thinks about things.’

Ms Barthelemy’s body was found in deep undergrowth along Ocean parkway near Gligo Beach last December along with three others. All were covered in burlap. She had been missing for nearly two years.

Last month the remains of four more bodies were discovered a mile from where the others were found. They have yet to be linked with the investigation.

Meanwhile, the last man to see suspected victim Shannan Gilbert, 24, before she disappeared sparking the Craigslist manhunt, believes the prostitute is still alive.

She vanished from the Long Island home of businessman Joseph Brewer who said:’ I really do believe she’s alive. What did she do? Just drop dead walking down the road?’

He spoke out as it was claimed that Gilbert partied with another man at the house that night.

Brewer, a former financial adviser, was cleared of being a suspect after being questioned by police and his rented house in Oak Beach searched.

Gilbert disappeared last May after she ran from his house in a drug-fuelled frenzy, knocking on neighbours’ doors for help screaming: ‘They are trying to kill me.’

She spent 23 minutes on the phone with a 911 operator before vanishing into the night.The tapes have never been released. The driver who brought Gilbert to Brewer’s house was also questioned and eliminated from the inquiry.

Suffolk county police said this week that they had finished searching Oak Beach and Gilgo Beach, and are expanding their search for Gilbert to Tobay Beach in Nassau County.

Another man was staying in Brewer’s home that night and partied with Gilbert, according to the New York Post.

He has been identified as a 48-year-old drifter who likes strippers. Police would not say if he has been questioned.

The new revelations emerged after police now fear the body count could be as high as 13 – and possibly more – as investigators believe he may have also killed four prostitutes in Atlantic City in 2006

According to the Post, investigators believe the killer changed his habits during his killing spree, altering the way he dumped his bodies.

But they said there were enough similarities in the Long Island murders and the grisly slayings in Atlantic City, which have so far remained unsolved.

Kimberly Raffo, Barbra Breidor, Tracy Ann Roberts and Molly Jean Dilts were all prostitutes murdered  in 2006 and their bodies were found in a marsh area off a New Jersey road in West Atlantic City.

The new bodies may pre-date the others. Police Commissioner Richard Dormer told the Post: ‘We don’t know their sex, we don’t know their age, we don’t know anything about them.’

Commissioner Dormer said they would be back in case they missed something and issued a warning to people in the area: ‘We tell people they should be careful with any contact they make with strangers, especially women involved in the escort business.’

Police believe his killing spree may have taken in a larger area and could have spanned more than four years.

They will use ladder trucks from area fire departments and officers on horseback to search the dense brush in Nassau County as it gives them a better view.

Investigators were quickly able to determine Shannan Gilbert’s body was not among the new remains because she had a metal implant in her upper body that would be easily identifiable.

Speaking to the paper, Ms Gilbert’s sister Sherre said: ‘My heart sank when I got the call from the detective.

‘We have to find my sister, she’s out there somewhere. Out of all the bodies we all thought one had to be her. He was shocked as well. Now I’m left with more questions that are unanswered.’