Friday Briefing

Food and beverage industries beef up spending on lobbying and crush anti-obesity legislative efforts. A Reuters investigative report found that the industries more than doubled their spending in Washington during the past three years. Meanwhile, they largely dominated policymaking — pledging voluntary action while defeating government proposals to change the nation’s diet. In contrast, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, widely regarded as the lead lobbyists for healthier food, spent about $70,000 lobbying last year — roughly what those opposing  stricter guidelines spent every 13 hours. Outside of Washington, the results were similar. Each of the 24 states and five cities that considered “soda taxes” to discourage consumption has seen the efforts dropped or defeated.

Mine operators ordered to phase out faulty emergency breathing devices. The Mine Safety and Health Administration said about 66,000 of the potentially defective air packs, called self-contained self-rescuers, are in use. The agency said the devices have proven unreliable in tests and must be removed from all U.S. mines by the end of 2013. Miners on the front lines — conducting safety inspections and doing tasks that allow crews to start work — must get new gear within 30 days. The model of concern is the SR-100, once made by CSE Corp. of Monroeville, Pa., but no longer sold. The devices generate about an hour’s worth of breathable air to give miners time to seek refuge from a fire or explosion. The Associated Press

Research points to higher risk of extreme weather in coming decades. U.S. and Australian scientists, in a study released today, evaluated the saltiness of the surface of the world’s oceans and concluded that the cycle of evaporation and rainfall has intensified more than experts had expected. The pattern, the researchers said, points to the likelihood of more droughts and floods in the future. “This provides another piece of independent evidence that we need to start taking the problem of global warming seriously,” said Paul J. Durack, the lead author and a researcher at California’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The New York Times, The Sydney Morning Herald

Maker of Nutella paying more than $3 million to settle two class-action lawsuits over “healthy” claims. Ferrero, which sells the creamy spread, was sued by consumers over advertising that touted the spread’s “simple, quality ingredients like hazelnuts, skim milk and a hint of cocoa” as an ideal way to start the day. But, as The Consumerist put it, the plaintiffs argued that the ads “play up the healthiness of the breakfast those adorable kids are eating, while neglecting to mention that the few tablespoons of Nutella on their toast contains 200 calories, 11 grams of fat (3.5 grams saturated) and 21 grams of sugar. That’s comparable to a Three Musketeers candy bar.” Ferrero agreed to change its marketing campaign. New York Daily News

Food and Drug Administration devising a new system for detecting medical device malfunctions.  The system will tap billing records from hospitals and insurance companies by assigning a bar code-like identification number to medical devices. It is designed to catch malfunctioning devices like the St. Jude Medical Inc. heart defibrillator wires recently linked to at least 20 deaths. The FDA would know more precisely the rate at which a device is failing, and which patients have devices prone to malfunctions. The agency’s idea for the identification number, due to be more fully detailed soon, has been awaiting action for about 10 months by the White House Office of Management and Budget. The Wall Street Journal

Recalls: Kawasaki Teryx Recreational Off-Highway Vehicles, BMW s1000rr motorcycles, Nissan Titan and Armada vehicles, Springwater Sprouts, Café-Tasse chocolate

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

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