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Dialysis patients at risk from 'enhanced' meats

July 26, 2009 |  9:59 am

Although lawmakers and consumer advocates have been fussing about publication of nutrient contents for fast foods and restaurant meals, a potentially bigger threat to health may lie in poorly labeled meats and poultry in the local supermarket. Many such products that are "enhanced" with water and other additives -- think the "plumped" chickens so disparaged in the clever Foster Farms ads -- contain levels of phosphorus and potassium that can be hazardous to dialysis patients and others with kidney disease, researchers reported online in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

The healthy kidney regulates blood levels of phosphorus and potassium, but the diseased kidney is typically unable to do so. High levels of either can lead to death. Dialysis removes them, but consuming extra quantities of them can make the process more difficult.

Dr. Richard A. Sherman and Dr. Ojas Mehta of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey randomly purchased uncooked meat and poultry from supermarkets, then tested them blindly for potassium and phosphorus concentrations. They found that that products labeled as "enhanced" had an average phosphate concentration 28% higher than that of additive-free products, and some had 100% more. Additive-free products all contained less than 387 milligrams of potassium per 100 grams of protein, and five of the 25 products with additives contained at least 692 mg per 100 grams. Though many of the enhanced products reported the presence of the additives on the labeling, eight of the 25 did not. The authors called for full labeling of the products, which is not required under federal rules.

The study was funded by grants from Dialysis Clinics Inc. and Genzyme.

-- Thomas H. Maugh II

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