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Health Headlines - June 11

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:23pm

5.7 Million Pounds of Meat Suspected of Having E.Coli Recalled

A California meat supplier has recalled almost 6 million pounds of ground beef in 11 Western states because of the possibility it may contain the E. coli bacterium, which causes stomach cramps and diarrhea.

The Associated Press reports that 14 cases of E. coli reported last April are linked to the fresh and frozen ground beef distributed by United Food Group, LLC. The acting administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection service told the wire service Saturday that some of the 5.7 million pounds of recalled meat may have found its way into consumers' homes.

"It is important for consumers to look in their freezers," David Goldman said, adding that none of the meat is in stores because it was distributed between Apr. 6 and Apr. 20, and its expiration date has long passed.

All the patients who reported having the E.coli infection have recovered, according to the A.P.. The states where the meat was carried are Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. It was sold under the brand names Moran's All Natural, Miller Meat Company, Stater Bros., Trader Joes Butcher Shop,Inter-American Products, Inc., and Basha's.

United Food Group's hot line is 1-800-325-4164. The A.P. reports that the USDA said consumers should either throw away the meat or return it to the store where they bought it for a refund.

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Hypertension Drug Shows Paromise as Parkinson's Treatment

A drug that treats high blood pressure may be able to slow or halt the progression of Parkinson's disease.

Scientists at Northwestern University report that he drug isradipine appears to rejuvenate older dopamine cells in the brain. It is the death of these cells and their transmission of neurons that is believed to cause Parkinson's, which produces tremors and ultimately, lack of a person's ability to control his or her movements.

According to a university press release, lead researcher Dr. D. James Surmeier and his team of scientists found that isradipine restores dying dopamine neurons. In the laboratory experiment performed on animals, isradipine (commercial name DynaCirc) protected dopamine neurons from toxins that would normally kill them by restoring the neurons to a younger state in which they are less vulnerable.

"Our hope is that this drug will protect dopamine neurons, so that if you began taking it early enough, you won't get Parkinson s disease, even if you were at risk," Surmeier said in the news release. "It would be like taking a baby aspirin every day to protect your heart."

About one million Americans suffer from Parkinson's disease. The Northwestern study is published in the online edition of the international journal Nature.

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Excessive Use of Anti-Pain Cream Caused Teen Runner's Death, M.E. Says

One of the most widely used over-the-counter anti-pain creams caused the death of a 17-year-old runner from the New York City borough of Staten Island, according to reports in the Staten Island Advance and the Associated Press.

Arielle Newman, a cross-country runner, used too much methyl salicylate -- more commonly known as oil of wintergreen -- to ease pain in her legs, the New York City Medical Examiner's office concluded Friday, the wire service reports. Methyl salicylate is found in a variety of anti-pain creams such as Bengay and Icy Hot.

Newman attended Notre Dame Academy on Staten Island and had won many track awards. She died Apr. 13, and the reason for her death had remained a mystery until Friday. The medical examiner's spokeswoman, Ellen Borakove, told the A.P. that this was the first time her office had ever reported a death caused by excessive anti-pain cream use. Borakove told the wire service that Newman used "topical medication to excess."

Alice Newman, Arielle's mother, told the Advance she couldn't believe what caused her daughter's death. "I am scrupulous about my children's health," she told the newspaper. "I did not think an over-the-counter product could be unsafe."

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Malnourishment Still Evident in the United Kingdom

Being overweight doesn't necessarily protect a person from being malnourished.

In fact, the Associated Press reports, at least 2 million Britons residents are malnourished, even if many of them don't look like they are. A recent survey revealed that a typical British diet -- high in fat, salt and calorie content -- doesn't contain the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other substances required to maintain a nutritious balance.

"People may be eating too much food, but they may not be eating enough fruits and vegetables," the wire service quotes Dr. Marinos Elia, a professor of clinical nutrition and metabolism at Southampton University, as saying.

In fact, the A.P. cites some medical experts praising the rationing system the British used during World War II, when food wasn't so plentiful. "Rationing was a huge success because it ensured that if you got your allotted amounts, you got a nutritionally reasonable diet," Dr. Colin Waine, chairman of the National Obesity Forum, told the wire service. "I'm not advocating a return to rationing, but it was a more balanced diet back then."

Fewer than 20 percent of adults in the United Kingdom eat the recommended daily portions of fruits and vegetables, the A.P. reports.

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China Orders Companies to Stop Producing, Selling Zelnorm

Officials with China's State Food and Drug Administration on Friday ordered companies in China to halt production and sales of the irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) drug Zelnorm, and told patients to stop taking the medication.

The Novartis drug was being made by three companies in China and a fourth company was preparing to produce it, the Associated Press reported.

In a statement posted on its Web site, the Chinese drug watchdog warned the "risks of Zelnorm outweigh the possible benefits for some patients based on analyses from home and abroad."

There have been 98 incidents of adverse reactions among users of Zelnorm reported to China's Center for Adverse Drug Reaction Monitoring since the drug went on sale in the country in 2003. Diarrhea and nausea were the most commonly reported problems. There was one reported case of low blood pressure and one of abnormally fast heartbeat.

In March, Novartis complied with a U.S. Food and Drug Adminstration request to withdraw Zelnorm from the American market after the drug was linked with increased risk of heart attack, stroke and chest pain that can become a heart attack, the AP reported.

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G8 Leaders Pledge $60 Billion to Fight Disease/Poverty in Africa

G8 leaders promised Friday to provide $60 billion to combat disease and poverty in Africa, CBC News reported.

The money from the world's richest nations would be targeted to fight illnesses such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, said Germany's development minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, who announced the agreement on Berlin television.

She said the United States pledged to donate half the money aimed at increasing African patients' access to drugs and treatment, CBC News reported.

At their 2005 summit, G8 members promised to increase aid to Africa by $50 billion by 2010. That pledge is set to miss its target by $30 billion, according to international aid organizations.

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