TIME Diet/Nutrition

Genetically Engineered Apples and Potatoes Are Safe, FDA Says

FDA Potatoes and Apples
Simplot Corporation/AP Genetically modified potatoes from the Simplot Corporation. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the genetically engineered foods as safe, saying they are as nutritious as their conventional counterparts.

The produce is modified so that it doesn't brown

Genetically modified apples and potatoes that are engineered not to brown or bruise are safe to eat, federal officials announced Friday.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) evaluated the safety and nutrition of two varieties of apples genetically engineered by the company Okanagan Specialty Fruits, Inc. and six varieties of potatoes from J. R. Simplot Company and concluded that they are no different from traditional apples and potatoes

Scientists had lowered enzymes in the produce, engineering the “Arctic Apples” to not brown and the “Innate” potatoes to not produce black spot bruises.

“The FDA has no additional food safety questions at this time concerning food from these plant varieties,” the FDA wrote in its announcement.

The agency says it reviewed information provided by the companies about the changes made and the nutrition of the apples and potatoes compared to traditional varieties. “This case-by-case safety evaluation ensures that food safety issues are resolved prior to commercial distribution,” said Dennis Keefe, director of the FDA’s Office of Food Additive Safety in a statement.

The FDA says it encourages the companies to consult with the FDA about labeling.

TIME public health

Scathing Report Calls Lab Safety at CDC ‘Insufficient’

The Centers for Disease Control Buildings in Atlanta on June 20, 2014.
Tami Chappell – Reuters The Centers for Disease Control Buildings in Atlanta on June 20, 2014.

A new public report from outside experts assessing laboratory safety at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) comes down severely on the government agency.

In 2014 and early 2015, the CDC was the site of a series of mishaps, from a lab technician the agency thought was potentially exposed to live Ebola virus through an accidental tube swap to the possible release of anthrax. In response, the agency formed an external laboratory safety workgroup to assess the CDC’s internal protocols and provide advice and recommendations. The CDC just publically posted the report, which describes the CDC’s commitment to safety as “inconsistent and insufficient at multiple levels,” to its website.

“Safety is not integrated into strategic planning and is not currently part of the CDC culture, enterprise-wide,” the report says. “Interviews and surveys demonstrated that many employees neither understand the agency’s response to accidents nor how that information is communicated to the larger agency community outside immediately affected labs.”

The authors write that “disturbingly” many of these responses were among people who work in the CDC’s highest biosafety level labs. “Laboratory safety training is inadequate,” the report authors write, adding that across the CDC, workers say they fear negative repercussions for reporting instances where there may have been an exposure to hazardous material. Staff at the CDC view the Environment, Safety, and Health Compliance Office (ESHCO)—the office meant to protect CDC workers and create a safe working environment—as having “inadequate expertise” in lab safety, the report says.

The report makes recommendations, like “staffing [ESHCO] with scientists with professional qualifications in research and/or laboratory safety” and establishing consistent safety practices across the agency.

“CDC concurs with these recommendations, has made progress towards implementing them, and will soon report on that progress,” the CDC says in a statement on its website. “CDC’s aim is to improve the culture of laboratory safety across the agency and minimize the risks associated with laboratory work.”

“It should be noted that although the [workgroup] presented its findings to the full committee in January, it began its review of CDC’s laboratories last August and did the bulk of its assessment at CDC in August and September,” CDC spokesman Tom Skinner told TIME. “So the said report reflects observations of the workgroup made several months ago.”

Skinner the CDC has made progress, and is implementing actions to “address the root causes of recent incidents and to provide redundant safeguards across the agency.” Some of these changes include establishing new positions for lab safety oversight and implementing new training procedures and safety protocols.

TIME ebola

U.N. Health Agency Resisted Calling Ebola an Emergency

The World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters building in Geneva, Switzerland on Wednesday, March 11, 2015 .
Raphael Satter — AP The World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters building in Geneva, Switzerland on Wednesday, March 11, 2015 .

Internal documents reveal top WHO officials stalled on calling Ebola an emergency

Top officials at the World Health Organization (WHO) dragged their feet in declaring the Ebola outbreak an emergency, according to a report by the Associated Press.

Internal documents from the U.N’s health agency revealed that officials at its Geneva headquarters were aware of how serious the Ebola outbreak was, but continued to put off calling it an emergency due to a number of concerns, including the effect on the economies of the affected countries, and the impact on the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.

By the time the WHO did call the outbreak an emergency nearly 1,000 people had already died, the AP reports. The WHO is the only group that can declare a health emergency of international concern.

Declaring the epidemic an emergency might have spurred international attention and resources much earlier, possibly saving lives. In an emailed comment to the Associated Press, the WHO said: “People often confuse the declaration of a Public Health Emergency of International Concern with our operational response. It is very different. WHO mounted a strong operational response a year ago when we were notified the outbreak was Ebola.”

Read the entire report at the Associated Press.

TIME public health

WHO Urges Mass Measles Vaccinations in Ebola Regions

Guinea Ebola Vaccine
Youssouf Bah—AP A health worker, right, cleans a man's arm before injecting him with a Ebola vaccine in Conakry, Guinea, March 7, 2015.

The risk for diseases like measles has risen amid Ebola

The World Health Organization (WHO) is urging mass vaccination for preventable diseases like measles and whooping cough in Ebola-affected countries.

The organization says the risk for additional outbreaks is high due to interrupted immunization practices in the area. The agency is calling for an “intensification” in routine vaccinations, and a measles vaccination push in countries that no longer have Ebola cases.

In Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia resources and personnel shifted away from usual immunizations to tackling the Ebola outbreak which has infected more than 24,700 people and killed more than 10,190.

MORE: Why West Africa Might Soon Have 100,000 More Measles Cases

“Any disruption of immunization services, even for short periods, will result in an increase in the number of susceptible individuals, and will increase the likelihood of vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks,” the WHO said in a recent letter to officials in susceptible West African countries.

The announcement comes after researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health published a study earlier in March in the journal Science predicting that there could be an outbreak of up to 100,000 measles cases over the next 18 months in Ebola-affected areas if nothing is done to amend disrupted vaccine programs.

“When there’s a disruption of medical services, measles is always one of the first ones in the door,” study author Justin Lessler told TIME.

Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone are rolling out immunizations for several preventable diseases in regions of the countries that are Ebola-free. Liberia and Guinea have targeted children under the age of five for measles vaccinations since they are at a high risk for infection.

Read more about the risk for measles amid Ebola here.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

6 Foods Not to Eat This Week

Cadbury Accepts Kraft's Raised 11.9 ($19.7) Billion Pound Offer
Tim Boyle—Bloomberg/Getty Images

It's not every day you find out your favorite dinner might contain metal

Every week, you stock your fridge and pantry with the best of intentions: to cook more food at home. But every week, many foods are yanked off supermarket shelves—sometimes after you’ve already brought them home. This was a big week in headline-making food recalls but since not every recall reported by the Food and Drug Administration catches consumers’ attention, we decided to list them.

Company: Frontier Co-op
Product: Frontier/Simply Organic products manufactured with garlic powder.
Reason: Salmonella.

Frontier Co-op voluntarily pulled its products made with an organic garlic powder due to possible Salmonella contamination. The 39 affected product lines, like Ranch Mix Dressing and Fish Taco Seasoning, are sold under Frontier and Simply Organic brands. Though no illnesses have been reported yet, some of the product tested positive for the bacteria. Here’s the full report.

Company: Kraft Foods Group
Product: Original flavor of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Dinner.
Reason: Small pieces of metal.

Kraft announced a voluntary recall of around 242,000 cases of its mac and cheese dinners due to the possibility that the packages have small pieces of metal inside. Ouch. The company has received eight complaints from consumers. Here’s the full report.

Company: Trader Joe’s Company
Product: Raw walnuts.
Reason: Salmonella.

Trader Joe’s announced Tuesday that it is voluntarily recalling several of its brand-name raw walnuts due to potential Salmonella contamination. Here’s the full report.

Company: Vitamin Cottage Natural Food Markets, Inc.
Product: Natural Grocers brand Organic Garlic Powder.
Reason: Salmonella.

Some of the company’s organic garlic powder was recalled after product from a supplier tested positive for the bacteria. The recall was expanded on Thursday. Here’s the most recent report.

Company: First Source, LLC
Product: Wegmans Organic Walnut Halves & Pieces
Reason: Salmonella.

No illnesses have been reported, but the company recalled the walnuts after salmonella was identified in specific grower lots. The walnut tubs were distributed in Wegmans’ 85 locations in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, and Massachusetts. They were sold between January 27 and March 17, 2015. Here’s the full report.

Company: Giant Eagle
Product: Seasonal Cut Out Cookies
Undeclared milk content.

The company recalled lots of its Giant Eagle brand seasonal cut-out cookies (holiday themed) due to the presence of undeclared milk—an allergen—in the cookies. The cookies pose a serious risk for people who have milk-related allergies. Giant Eagle discovered the problem after customers complained about getting sick after eating the cookies. Here’s the full report.

TIME Aging

Why NYC Wants to Put Old People to Work

'Many of the older adults that we speak with want and need to work'

A skilled-labor shortage has left small businesses across the country scrambling to fill positions and New York City health organizations say there’s a simple solution: hire older workers.

“Hiring, retaining and using older workers strategically can solve a variety of pressing problems that employers in our city face,” said Shauneequa Owusu, a health policy expert at the New York Academy of Medicine, which co-produced a new report with the Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center at Columbia University and the Mayor’s office’s Age-Friendly New York City.

Read more: The New Age of Much Older Age

The report, published Wednesday, suggests that workers 55 or older can bring skill and expertise while only requiring minimal adjustment on the part of small businesses (technology training can get older workers up to speed quickly, the report found). At the same time, research suggests the workplace can benefit from age diversity, too. “There is evidence that mixed age teams in the workplace are more productive than teams of workers of the same age,” the authors write.

“Many of the older adults that we speak with want and need to work. Furthermore, there’s growing evidence that it’s helpful to their healthy aging and wellbeing to continue working,” said report author Ruth Finkelstein at Columbia’s aging center. Recent research points to a clear association between being employed and improved mental, physical and emotional health, she said.

The finding comes as more and more Americans want to avoid a traditional work-free retirement. According to the new research, 700,000 workers are older than 55 in New York City alone, and many say they do not plan to retire conventionally.

TIME Gadgets

Fitbit CEO: Wearables Aren’t a Cancer Concern

Fitbit Inc.'s Fitbit Flex wireless activity and sleep wristband sit on display at the Wearable Expo in Tokyo, Japan, on Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015.
Bloomberg/Getty Images Fitbit Inc.'s Fitbit Flex wireless activity and sleep wristband sit on display at the Wearable Expo in Tokyo, Japan, on Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015.

Fitbit's CEO pushes back against a controversial new story

Fitbit CEO James Park is rebuking a recent high-profit report raising health concerns in the use of wearable technology.

“In general, cell phones are definitely a very different beast than the low powered wearables,” Park told TIME. “The transmit energies are orders of magnitude higher. So if people are comfortable wearing Bluetooth headsets, I think wearables are even less of a concern because Bluetooth headsets are also close to your head. Wearables are not, unless you happen to sleep right on top of your wrists. For us we feel, again, whatever the studies might show, the overall health benefits of fitness trackers probably vastly overweighs the risks of any type of RF [radio frequency] issues.”

Earlier this week, The New York Times published an article—originally titled online as “Could Wearable Computers Be as Harmful as Cigarettes?”—that discussed the potential links between cellphone radiation, cancer and modern wearable devices. While the report noted that wearables like the Apple Watch or Fitbit’s fitness trackers should be fine since they don’t have a cellular connection, the overall carcinogenic concerns raised and sources used were widely derided. While the author stands by his Times report, the Times’ public editor Margaret Sullivan wrote that the article “clearly needed much more vetting” and that a careful interpretation of the facts was “lacking.”

Park said he had not “thoroughly researched” the Times’ claims, but took particular issue with comparing cell phones to wrist wearable devices. Fitbit, whose ubiquitous digital consumer fitness trackers now even claim the wrists of fitness fanatic President Barack Obama, has a 72% market share in its category, according to Park.


TIME Mental Health/Psychology

Why Certain Noises Drive Some People Totally Nuts

Getty Images

The condition, misophonia, means "hatred of sound"

A primary care physician recently made an unusual confession in the New York Times: Barron H. Lerner, MD, admitted that some of the sounds his patients make, like loud yawns and sniffling, bug him. A lot.

He has misophonia—the “hatred of sound”—a condition that causes people to feel irritated, or even enraged or disgusted when they hear specific noises. The most common culprits are eating sounds (think lip smacking), hand sounds (such as pen clicking), and breathing sounds (including any activity in the nostrils).

Scientists don’t fully understand why these noises cause angst for misophonia sufferers, but early research suggests a hyperconnectivity between the auditory system and the limbic system, a part of the brain that deals with emotions, explains Dr. Lerner, a professor of medicine and population health at the NYU Langone Medical Center.

Read more: 10 Things You Should Never Do When You’re Angry

He writes that “one of the most frustrating aspects of misophonia is what I call the ‘incredulity factor.’ For years, I could not believe that my friends and relatives were not getting as upset at what I considered rude behaviors. They were getting frustrated with me for focusing on sounds they did not really hear.”

I imagine noise-sensitive folks around the country were nodding in relief as they read Dr. Lerner’s essay and discovered they weren’t alone. In the comments section, hundreds shared their own misophonic grievances, from the crinkling of a bag of chips to the grating scrape of a fork against a plate.

The response led the Times to poll its readers on the most cringe-worthy sounds of all. The top five are:

5. Kunckle cracking (8% of the vote)
4. Nail clipping (10% of the vote)
3. Nose sniffling (17% of the vote)
2. Gum chewing (18%) of the vote)
1. Soup slurping (25% of the vote)

Think you might have misophonia? Dr. Lerner says the website misophonia.com has a sample letter about the condition you can bring to your doctor, and it also has a self-test.

Read more: 12 Worst Habits for Your Mental Health

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Research

Men Are Totally Hardwired by Evolution to Prefer Curvy Women, Study Finds

Human Spine
Getty Images

And it's one curve in particular

A new University of Texas study has found that men express a clear preference for women who have a pronounced back-to-buttock curve.

After asking around 100 men to rank the attractiveness of images of various females, researchers found that men strongly preferred women with a back-to-buttock curve of 45.5 degrees, which they described as the “theoretically optimal angle of lumbar curvature.”

They theorized that, in ancient times, such an angle meant that women were more likely to carry out successful pregnancies.

“This spinal structure would have enabled pregnant women to balance their weight over the hips,” said researcher David Lewis.

“These women would have been more effective at foraging during pregnancy and less likely to suffer spinal injuries. In turn, men who preferred these women would have had mates who were better able to provide for fetus and offspring, and who would have been able to carry out multiple pregnancies without injury.”

Researchers conducted a second study to rule out if the spinal curvature preference was due to the buttock size rather than the spinal curvature angle itself. But they discovered that men repeatedly exhibited a preference for women with spinal-curvature angles closer to the optimum, even if the women had smaller buttocks.

“Beauty is not entirely arbitrary, or ‘in the eyes of the beholder’ as many in mainstream social science believed, but rather has a coherent adaptive logic,” Lewis added.

Read next: This App Alerts You When You’re Near a Spot Where a Woman Made History

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Research

Women Who Sleep More Also Have More Sex, a New Study Finds

Each additional hour of sleep is found to increase the next day's possibility of sex by 14%

Women who get more shut-eye generally have more sex, according to researchers from the University of Michigan, who spent over two weeks tracking the sleep and sexual patterns of 171 young women.

The study discovered that not only did more sleep for women lead to more sex, it often led to better sex. Good sleep hygiene, which refreshes a person’s mood, energy and concentration, is linked to increased sexual desire and arousal. In the study, women reported higher physical arousal after a longer average period of sleep, with the average sleep duration clocking in at seven hours, 22 minutes. More impressively, each additional hour of sleep increased the next day’s possibility of sex by 14%.

“If there’s anything women or their partners can do to help promote good sleep for one another, whether it’s helping out around the house to reduce workload, planning romantic getaways, or just practicing good sleep hygiene, it could help protect against having problems in the bedroom,” the study’s author David Kalmbach told CBS.

Read next: 8 Ways Sex Affects Your Brain

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

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