Consumer Health Digest #12-05

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
February 2, 2012


Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., with help from William M. London, Ed.D., M.P.H. It summarizes scientific reports; legislative developments; enforcement actions; news reports; Web site evaluations; recommended and nonrecommended books; and other information relevant to consumer protection and consumer decision-making.


User of quack device loses license. Enrique Vela-Lopez, who used an Asyra device to diagnose and treat patients has had his Florida massage therapy license revoked. In 2009, after visits by undercover inspectors, he was arrested for practicing medicine without a license by using this device for diagnosis and treatment. He settled the criminal charge by entering a pre-trial intervention program, but in January 2011, the Florida Board of Massage Therapy charged him with:

In October 2011, the board voted to revoke his massage therapy license and assess a $1,500 fine plus $3,899.96 for costs. The Asyra device, which has FDA clearance for measuring galvanic skin resistance, is falsely claimed to (a) provide information on hormonal status, emotional stressors, circulatory disturbances, digestive maladies, nutritional status, immune disorders, weight problems, food sensitivity , environmental sensitivity, metabolic status, and sleep disturbances, (b) evaluate "over 5,000 items such as bacteria, cell salts, chemical toxins, dental disturbances, digestive disturbances, fungi, heavy metals, mycoplasma, neurotransmitters, parasites, and protozoa, to name a few," and (c) indicate what remedies will be "useful for restoring homeostasis and balance." [Barrett S. Quack device operators for practicing medicine without a license. Quackwatch, Jan 28, 2012]


Another raw milk disease outbreak noted. The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) has reported Campylobacter infections associated with consumption of raw (unpasteurized) milk produced by The Family Cow farm in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. The Maryland DHMH recommends that consumers discard any raw milk product purchased from this farm in 2012. [DHMH confirms presence of Campylobacter in raw milk from Pennsylvania farm. News release, Feb 1, 2012] So far, 38 cases have been reported in Pennsylvania and three other states. [More Campylobacter cases expected in Family Cow milk outbreak PA MD WV NJ. Food Poisoning Law Blog, Feb 4, 2012] Campylobacter bacteria can cause diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, and can progress to more serious illness, such as a bloodstream infection and other complications. The Family Cow dairy sells directly to consumers at its on-farm retail store and at multiple drop-off locations and retail stores in seven counties in Pennsylvania. Raw milk and products made from raw milk (including certain cheeses, ice cream, and yogurt) can pose severe health risks. The implicated milk was labeled "raw milk" and sold under "The Family Cow" label in plastic containers. Pasteurization is performed by briefly heating raw milk to kill any disease-causing germs (e.g., Salmonella, Escherichia coli O157, Campylobacter) that can be found in raw milk. In 1987, the FDA banned the interstate distribution of unpasteurized milk and milk products in final package form for human consumption, but some states still permit it to be produced and sold within their borders. Although many farms that produce raw milk conduct safety tests, this cannot ensure that the milk is safe. [Barrett S. Why raw milk should be avoided. Quackwatch, Dec 22, 2003]


British universities stop "alternative medicine" degree programs. Starting this year, publicly-funded British universities will no longer offer degree programs in Chinese medicine, acupuncture, homeopathy, naturopathy, or reflexology. A few years ago, there were 45 such programs. Last year the British government called for a halt to public funding of homeopathic treatment. [UK universities drop alternative medicine degree programs. Deutsche Welle, Jan 18, 2012]


Unique pain-management guide published. Deborah Barrett, Ph.D., MSW, LCSW, has produced a compendium of practical tips for living well despite chronic pain. The book—titled PAINTRACKING—includes strategies for exercising effectively, using medications sensibly, communicating with professionals, approaching social relationships, coping with negative emotions, navigating parenthood, optimal self-pacing, and how to figure out what works and what does not. Barrett, who is Dr. Stephen Barrett's daughter, developed her strategies based mainly on her personal experience with severe fibromyalgia, but her approach is valid for other painful conditions as well.


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