Friday, January 28, 2011

Brewery Lobby in Full Force

The big brewery lobby has managed to find a friend in the National Post.

Recently, regulations would require the beer industry to include allergens on their beer labels [National Post, Beer makers protest proposed allergy warning labels]:
Industry opposition is brewing over proposed health regulations that would require labels to warn that beer contains barley or wheat — a statement Canadian brewers liken to saying ketchup contains tomatoes.
Well, that is kind of silly when it's put that way. Anybody that knows what goes into producing beer knows that beer contains those ingredients. And, you know it must be silly because of the claims of "nanny statism" in the comments - the right wingers are out with their pitchforks to protect MolsonCoors and InBev.

But, what is the real regulation [The Canadian Celiac Association, Health And Safety Of Millions Of Canadians At Stake Over A Beer? Celiac Association Urges Government To Pass Labelling Regulations]?

The beer industry has had ample time to plan for labelling changes. These new regulations will not require a warning statement, as they have stated, and beer will still retain its exemption from complete ingredient labelling, an exemption that the alcoholic beverage industry has enjoyed for decades. The only information they will be required to include on the beer label is the presence of sulphites (if over 10 ppm) and the gluten sources, wheat, barley and rye.
The presence of sulphites? There might be sulphites in the beer? Hold up there. Sulphites are food preservatives used to extend the shelf-life of products. I, as a brewer, wouldn't want that information getting out that I add a food preservative to my clean, cold, spring-fed brew.
What can sulphites do to someone who is sulphite-sensitive [Health Canada, Sulphites - One of the nine most common food products causing severe adverse reactions]?

Although sulphites do not cause a true allergic reaction, sulphite-sensitive people may experience similar reactions as those with food allergies. Those who have asthma are most at risk to sulphite sensitivity and other forms of sulphite reactions.

When someone comes in contact with an allergen or sulphite, the symptoms of a reaction may develop quickly and rapidly progress from mild to severe. The most severe form of an allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis. Symptoms can include breathing difficulties, a drop in blood pressure or shock, which may result in loss of consciousness and even death. A person experiencing an allergic reaction may have any of the following symptoms:
  • Flushed face, hives or a rash, red and itchy skin
  • Swelling of the eyes, face, lips, throat and tongue
  • Trouble breathing, speaking or swallowing
  • Anxiety, distress, faintness, paleness, sense of doom, weakness
  • Cramps, diarrhea, vomiting
  • A drop in blood pressure, rapid heart beat, loss of consciousness
People sensitive to sulphites would like to have that information disclosed, but no brewery wants to admit that they add an unnatural ingredient to their brew. Australia and New Zealand have regulations requiring food packagers put that information on the labels, so there is already precedent.

It would be interesting to see if the brewery lobby would disclose whether or not they add sulphites to their beer.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Portugal -- Drug Experiment

Portugal must be a social conservative's worst nightmare.

For one, they decriminalized possession of narcotics ten years ago, increased treatment for addiction and targeted their criminal prosecution efforts solely on distribution and trafficking. [Drug Experiment, Boston.com]:
Faced with both a public health crisis and a public relations disaster, Portugal’s elected officials took a bold step. They decided to decriminalize the possession of all illicit drugs — from marijuana to heroin — but continue to impose criminal sanctions on distribution and trafficking. The goal: easing the burden on the nation’s criminal justice system and improving the people’s overall health by treating addiction as an illness, not a crime.
For two, the data suggests it may have worked.

But nearly a decade later, there’s evidence that Portugal’s great drug experiment not only didn’t blow up in its face; it may have actually worked. More addicts are in treatment. Drug use among youths has declined in recent years. Life in Casal Ventoso, Lisbon’s troubled neighborhood, has improved. And new research, published in the British Journal of Criminology, documents just how much things have changed in Portugal. Coauthors Caitlin Elizabeth Hughes and Alex Stevens report a 63 percent increase in the number of Portuguese drug users in treatment and, shortly after the reforms took hold, a 499 percent increase in the amount of drugs seized — indications, the authors argue, that police officers, freed up from focusing on small-time possession, have been able to target big-time traffickers while drug addicts, no longer in danger of going to prison, have been able to get the help they need.
It's time we treat drug addiction as a health problem, not a criminal one.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Blogging Tories in their Own Words

When it's become clear that it's time to review our words and avoid demonizing our political opponents, I am thankful for sites like Blogging Tories in their Own Words to shine the light on this distastful practice.