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EWG News Roundup (6/29): Superbugs in Supermarket Meat, Senate Farm Bill Passes and More

In the News
Friday, June 29, 2018

This week EWG crunched federal testing data from the Food and Drug Administration, and found that more than three-fourths of American supermarket meat is tainted with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, or superbugs. The report was a follow up to a 2013 EWG report, but not much has changed in the past five years.

EWG also released a companion tool to the superbug report to help consumers understand claims and labels on meat packaging, such as “antibiotic free.” EWG’s Meat and Dairy Label Decoder allows users to select particular meat or dairy product to see what on-package labels are the most reliable.

Speaking of food packaging, rules for the genetically modified foods, or GMO, disclosure law are taking shape. Certain GMO foods, such as highly refined sugars and oils will be exempt from disclosure if the Trump administration gets its way. EWG assessed our Food Scores database and found that over 10,000 products that likely contain GMO ingredients would be exempt from the disclosure requirements with this loophole.

“These Trump administration loopholes will leave thousands of GMO foods hidden in plain sight on store shelves, and will continue to deny American consumers the right to know what’s in their food,” said EWG Legislative Director Colin O’Neil. “The hallmark of the Trump administration is hiding the truth from the public on any number of issues – now it’s plying that trade with the food we buy and feed our families.”

This week also marked 80 years since Congress last passed a cosmetics ingredient regulatory bill. The 1938 law only prohibited the use of “poisonous or deleterious substance,” or any “filthy, putrid, or decomposed substance.” Today, the use of cosmetics products are ubiquitous, with women using, on average, 12 products with 168 different ingredients every day. Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in both the House and Senate to break the 80-year streak. The bills would require the FDA to review the most dangerous chemicals in cosmetics, require companies to tell the FDA when contaminated products are in the marketplace, and give the FDA the power to act to keep Americans safe.

The Senate farm bill passed this week, and was a marked improvement from the House version. But both chambers failed to rein in wasteful farm subsidies. Earlier in the week, we applauded measures that would reform the crop insurance program – but those provisions didn’t make it into the final Senate bill.

Gearing up for the Fourth of July holiday, we provided folks with tips for picking healthier hot dogs and avoiding toxic algae blooms on their midsummer getaways. We also sounded the alarm on a recent study that shows the Environmental Protection Agency greatly underestimated methane leaks from oil and nuclear power plants.

For coverage on these developments and more, here’s some news you can use going into the weekend.

Antibiotics in Meat and Label Decoder

U.S. News: Got Meat? How to Buy, Cook and Eat It Safely

Consider, for example, a new analysis from the Environmental Working Group, which reports that nearly 80 percent of the government-tested bacteria on supermarket ground turkey, pork chops, ground beef and chicken were antibiotic-resistant in 2015, the most recent year from which data is available.

Yahoo: More than half of most meats contain harmful bacteria: 'A serious threat to public health'

But a disturbing new report from the Environmental Working Group has found that might not be the case.

Yahoo: The meat you eat contains a surprising amount of harmful bacteria, 'a serious threat to public health'

When you buy meat at the supermarket, you generally assume that what you’re getting is safe. But a disturbing new report from the Environmental Working Group has found that this might not be the case.

EcoWatch: Superbugs Found in Nearly 80 Percent of U.S. Supermarket Meat

The latest round of tests by federal scientists found antibiotic-resistant bacteria on nearly 80 percent of supermarket meat in 2015, according to a new analysis by the Environmental Working Group.

Health Day: 'Superbugs' Found in Vast Majority of U.S. Supermarket Meat

Nearly 80 percent of meat in U.S. supermarkets contains antibiotic-resistant bacteria, according to the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit environmental research organization. Reposted Medical Press and Doctors Lounge.

KDWN: Most of Our Meat has Superbugs on It. KDWN's Dr. Daliah Explains

A study from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that most of our meat purchased at the supermarket contains antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Organic Authority: Nearly 80% of Meat Samples Contain Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, Says New Report

Nearly 80 percent of meat samples taken from the nation’s leading supermarkets in 2015 contained antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

Politico: Farm bill ready for conference committee

HOW TO AVOID SUPERBUGGED MARKET MEAT: It’s not the most palatable data to chew over — especially as many MA readers plan their July Fourth barbecue menus. But more than three quarters of the meat sold in supermarkets contains antibiotic-resistant superbugs, a newly released Environmental Working Group report shows.

Treehugger: New meat, dairy + egg decoder explains deceptive labels

As the Environmental Working Group (EWG) puts it: "Some companies have committed to more responsible practices. Yet shoppers can find it difficult to tell which claims on labels represent truly responsible practices. In fact, so called “free range” chickens may have very little access to the outdoors and “natural” meat products may still be from animals fed antibiotics critical to human health."

ATSDR Study on PFAS Chemicals

Document Journal: Of course Scott Pruitt’s EPA tried to kill a study about toxic chemicals in our groundwater

The study “confirms that the EPA’s guidelines for PFAS levels in drinking water woefully underestimate risks to human health,” said Olga Naidenko, senior science advisor at the Environmental Working Group, which has pushed for stricter drinking water standards.

Greensboro News & Record: Greensboro works on its PFOS problem as evidence of harm grows

"As more research is done, we are finding that these substances are toxic at smaller and smaller doses," said Olga Naidenko, senior science adviser at the nonprofit Environmental Working Group in Washington.

The Farm Bill

Economics 21: Farm Bill Subsidizes Urban Elites

The Environment Working Group (EWG) recently determined that 17,836 people who live in America’s 50 largest cities received $63 million in farm subsidies in 2015 and 2016.

Indiana Public Media: Senate Hammers Out Farm Bill Amendments

The Environmental Working Group, which supports the amendment, said that farms which earn the top 10 percent in sales also get about 70 percent of all crop insurance subsidies.

Kansas City Star: Congress should cap subsidies for rich farmers, including Rep. Vicky Hartzler

Hartzler certainly understands dependency. Between 1995 and 2016, the Environmental Working Group says, Hartzler Farms Inc. received nearly $1 million in federal commodity subsidies. The congresswoman is part owner of the company, which is worth between $1 million and $5 million, according to her financial disclosure statement.

Las Vegas Review-Journal: EDITORIAL: The GOP’s farm bill mess

News of Congress’s plan to push through a regressive, bloated farm bill came mere days before a scathing new report from the Environmental Working Group showing that tens of thousands of Americans took home billions of dollars in annual farm subsidies (or other taxpayer-funded payments) for more than 30 years.

EPA and Scott Pruitt

Chemical Watch: TSCA two-year anniversary marked with rule, guidance

But NGO the Environmental Working Group marked the two-year anniversary with a blog post criticising the ways in which, under the Trump administration, the law's implementation has "failed to protect Americans".  

Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA

Dr. Weil: Are Flame Retardants Toxic?

As for effects on human health even when there is no fire, a 2014 study conducted by the nonprofit, Washington D.C.-based Environmental Working Group and researchers at Duke University found evidence of exposure to TDCIPP, a cancer-causing flame retardant, in the bodies of all 22 mothers and 26 children tested.

Children’s Health

MindBodyGreen: Get Your Body Ready For Pregnancy (Now Or Later In Life) With This Hormone-Expert-Approved Checklist

EWG a few years back shared a shocking statistic that babies are born with more chemicals circulating than ever before, and this is through maternal exposure.

Cleaning Products
PR Fire: Do Cleaning Products Really Cause Cancer?

The Environmental Working Group published a list of cleaning materials and air fresheners that have long-term negative impact on human and animal health. Improper or extensive use of some of those can even be fatal.

Express Digest: How cosmetics are killing you: The dangerous ingredients hiding in your makeup bag

Research conducted by Environmental Working Group in 2015 found that the average woman in the US applies 168 chemicals to their faces and bodies every day. 

Fashionista: The Beauty Industry Has a lot to Learn About Transparency, According to a New Survey

It also allows you to click on any ingredient in the product to find out exactly what it is, possible side effects, and its Environmental Working Group hazard score.

Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database

Experience Life: 6 Keys to a Happy and Healthy Life

Follow the Precautionary Principle. If something’s not fully proven safe, whether it’s a chemical in your shampoo or the habit of carrying your cell phone in your pocket, don’t take a chance with it. (Find safety ratings for personal-care and household products on the Environmental Working Group website: www.ewg.org.)

EWG’s Guide to Insect Repellents

The Arizona Republic: There are effective alternatives to DEET as insect repellent

Both Consumer Reports and the Environmental Working Group suggest that oil of lemon eucalyptus and picaridin each can serve as an alternative to DEET.

Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™

Experience Life: How to Cook With Summer Berries

Conventionally grown strawberries top the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Dirty Dozen list and are contaminated with some eight different pesticides on average.

Nature’s Fare: Dirty Dozen & Clean Fifteen

For the 2018 Dirty Dozen list, EWG singled out produce with the highest loads of pesticide residues.

Pahrump Valley Times: Patti Diamond: How to understand the labels on your food

The Clean 15 and the Dirty Dozen – Each year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) posts their findings about the "dirtiest" and "cleanest" fruits and vegetables available to consumers based on their levels of pesticide contamination. Those ingested pesticides are believed to accumulate in the body contributing to health ailments including cancer.

EWG’s Guide to Sunscreens

Harper’s Bazaar: Glitter Sunscreen Is Sparkly and Fun—But Is It Ruining the Environment?

“I hate to hate on glitter, since it seems like harmless fun, but some of it will inevitably wash or rub off and persist in the environment,” says Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst at Environmental Working Group.

Refinery29: Which SPF Should You Wear?

Oxybenzone is a UV filter that’s often in chemical SPFs and is one of the ingredients that tends to raise concern. In 2012, the Environmental Working Group in USA published a Sunscreen Guide recommending that people not use sunscreen containing oxybenzone as it “is linked to hormone disruption and potentially cell damage.” Reprinted by Yahoo UK.

Scientific American: 6 Ways to Be an Environmental Hero at the Beach

Second, choose coral-friendly sunscreen. Chemical sunscreens can be toxic to marine life, so choose a mineral sunscreen instead. Zinc can deflect harmful rays without costing more per ounce or messing with coral’s reproductive systems. Hawaii just banned sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate, and this may become the status quo soon, so get ahead of the game and find your favorite ocean-friendly, brand now. Environmental Working Group’s Healthy Living app can help you find a high-protection, low-toxicity option.

Live Love Fruit: 10 Most Dangerous Sunscreen Brands of 2018 (Plus 10 Safer Alternatives)

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recently released their new report on the most dangerous sunscreen brands of 2018.

Natural Health 365: Banana Boat sunscreen leaves 5 year old with first degree burns and terrible pain

According to the Environmental Working Group, which rates sunscreens for safety every year, oxybenzone – used in almost 65 percent of the non-mineral sunscreens in their database – has the highest potential for adverse effects.

Re:Sources: Top 5 July 4 holiday safety tips

Look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection, water resistance and an SPF of 30-50. Re-apply regularly, wear lightweight, long-sleeved clothing, sunglasses and hat protection. According the Environmental Working Group, in 2015 more than twice as many American men died from melanoma as women.

She Knows: The Best & Worst Sunscreens for Kids & Babies

While it may be true that any sunscreen is better than no sunscreen, it's also a fact that not all sunblock is created equal. Every year, the Environmental Working Group digs up all the details on commercial sunscreens for kids and gives them a rating based on safety. 

Chromium-6 in Drinking Water

West Virginia Public Broadcasting: Previously Blocked Federal Study Raises Alarm About Chemicals Like C8

Olga Naidenko, senior science advisor with the Environmental Working Group, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy organization, said the analysis especially highlights how these chemicals are toxic to developing fetuses, pregnant women and young children. 

PFAS in Drinking Water

HuffPost: The Military Drinking-Water Crisis The White House Tried To Hide

They’re in roughly 1 percent of the nation’s public water supply, according to the EPA; in roughly 1,500 drinking water systems across the country, according to the Environmental Working Group. People who drink from these systems, even if their exposure to PFAS is low, now have a potentially increased risk of cancer; of disruptions in hormones and the immune system; and of complications with fetal development during pregnancy.

The Columbian: Nonstick chemicals raise alarm

The Environmental Working Group thinks the number of people affected could be closer to 110 million. The advocacy group has a map of sites it says are contaminated.

The Spokesman-Review: Shawn Vestal: Airway Heights water worse than feared

The chemicals that befouled the water in Airway Heights have also done so all over the country. They’re in about 1,500 drinking water systems nationwide, according to the Environmental Working Group, and they’re a particular problem at and around military bases. The Department of Defense says that water supplies around 126 bases have the chemicals above EPA standard, and 36 bases have contamination on-site.

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