Wednesday Briefing

Food and Drug Administration calls for voluntary steps to limit antibiotics given to farm animals. Under the guidelines announced today, the agency recommends antibiotics be used only when needed to keep animals healthy. The FDA also wants to require a veterinarian to prescribe the drugs. Antibiotics for decades have been mixed into animal feed to help livestock put on weight and stay healthy in crowded barns. But scientists warned that the indiscriminate dosing is contributing to a surge in dangerous, drug-resistant bacteria that can be passed to humans. Some public health advocates were skeptical of the FDA move, saying they do not trust the drug industry to voluntarily restrict its products. The Associated Press

Medical journal rejects device maker’s call to retract article blaming its flawed wires for at least 20 deaths. The editor of Heart Rhythm Journal rebuffed St. Jude Medical Inc., which claimed that an article posted online last month about faulty wires on its implantable defibrillators was biased. St Jude complained that the article under-counted the number of deaths linked to a similar problem in a device made by a competitor, Medtronic. In defending the article, the journal editor said the manuscript had been extensively peer-reviewed before it was accepted for publication. The article linked five deaths to the flaw in the Medtronic device, but St. Jude said there were 377 fatalities. (Minneapolis) Star Tribune, The Wall Street Journal

Chinese environmental advocates say major clothing companies and retailers get supplies from illegal polluters. A report by five environmental groups accuses 46 businesses — including such internationally known names as Walmart, Armani, Calvin Klein, Adidas and Nike — of buying from operations that make illegal discharges into Chinese waterways. The report said the suppliers’ violations included building secret discharge channels, discharging untreated sewage and improperly operating sewage disposal facilities. Although letters were sent to all of the companies urging them to push suppliers to comply with environmental laws, only 16 replied, according to the report. China Daily USA

Warnings being added to the labels of Yaz and other relatively new birth control pills. Federal regulators called for the action to emphasize that some studies have found that the drugs are more likely to cause blood clots than older contraceptive pills, although the risk remains slight. The labeling will apply to Bayer’s Yaz, its predecessor Yasmin and similar drugs containing the manmade hormone called drospirenone. The drugs are among the best-selling contraceptives in the U.S., partly due to marketing emphasizing their ability to clear up acne and other hormone-related issues. The Associated Press, Reuters

Workplace safety regulators propose $191,700 in fines against farm cooperative. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration accused  Alabama Farmers Cooperative of 17 violations, including two willful violations, the agency’s most serious offense. OSHA officials said the farm organization exposed workers at its Decatur, Ala., operation to combustible dust, a fire and explosion hazard. “Although this employer’s management is familiar with the safety issues associated with combustible dust, it still was allowed to accumulate throughout the facility,” an OSHA official said. OSHA

Nevada air race pilot probably blacked out before fatal crash, investigators say. National Transportation Safety Board investigators, in an interim report, said the pilot of the 1940s-vintage fighter that went down at the Reno National Championship Air Races in September probably was incapacitated by powerful gravitational forces. The pilot, and 10 spectators, were killed, and dozens were injured. The board issued seven safety recommendations, including enhanced oversight of modified aircraft and flight tests of such planes. Investigators also called on federal regulators and race organizers to consider stepped-up training for race pilots to cope with extreme gravitational forces. The Wall Street Journal, Reuters

Recalls: Achilles Desert Hawk and Radar Radial RLT-9 tiresPacific Isles dried mackerel and dried round scad

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

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