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Health Headlines - May 25

Posted May 25 2011 12:01am

USDA Says Pork Can Cook Safely at Lower Temp
Experts at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service have tweaked longstanding guidelines and now say that pork can be safely cooked at the same temperature that's safe for beef, veal and lamb: 145 degrees.
Cooked pork should also be put aside and allowed to rest for 3 minutes after removal from the grill and before serving, giving high temperatures a little more time to kill pathogens, the USDA said Tuesday.
"With a single temperature for all whole cuts of meat and uniform 3-minute stand time, we feel it will be much easier for consumers to remember and result in safer food preparation," USDA Under Secretary Elisabeth Hagen said in a news release, the APreported.Ceci Snyder, vice president of marketing for the National Pork Board, based in Des Moines, Iowa, said pork producers first proposed the change back in 2008, citing improvements in feed and housing that had cut the risk for pathogens in pigs.Snyder told the AP that it's important that consumers use a digital thermometer placed in the thickest section of the meat to make certain it is being properly cooked, however.The drop in the USDA safe cooking temperature guideline does not extend to ground meats or poultry products, which should still be cooked at 160 and 165 degrees, respectively, the AP reported.-----U.S. Abortion Numbers Fall, Except Among Poor WomenThe number of American women having an abortion fell by 8 percent between 2000 and 2008, but among women in the lowest income bracket it rose by almost 18 percent, a new study finds.Experts attribute the seemingly contradictory findings to the nation's struggling economy."In the middle of a recession, it's possible women have reduced access to contraception and have more unintended pregnancies," study author Rachel Jones, senior research associate at New York City's Guttmacher Institute, told ABC News on Tuesday. "It's also possible that women confronted with unplanned pregnancies when they are out of work decide to have abortions, even though they might have carried it to term in more stable times."The study, published in the June issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology, was based on patient surveys. The Guttmacher team used the data to estimate the rate of abortion across the spectrum of race, ethnicity and income.According to ABC News, one 2006 study published in Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health found that about half of U.S. pregnancies are unintended and about half of those are terminated by abortion.-----Destruction of Last Smallpox Stocks Delayed for 3 YearsGlobal health officials on Tuesday decided to defer setting any deadline for the destruction of the last reserves of smallpox for at least three years, the Wall Street Journal reported.Experts at the World Health Assembly, the decision-making arm of the United Nation's World Health Organization (WHO), made the decision after two days of heated debate on the subject. Smallpox was eradicated over three decades ago, and a WHO panel in the early 1990s advocated destroying samples of the deadly virus kept in labs in the United States and Russia.However, those two countries, along with more than two dozen others, have lobbied to keep the samples for at least another five years. They argue that bioterrorists could use unknown stocks to spread the scourge, or re-create the virus via synthesis, the WSJreported."This was a good outcome," Nils Daulaire, director of the Office of Global Health Affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and head of the U.S. delegation at the World Health Assembly, told the WSJ. "It didn't go as far as we would have liked, but the result is the research program central to the reason for maintaining the virus continues and we'll be three years closer to having the countermeasures we're aiming for."-----Infant Deaths Spur FDA Warning Against Food Thickening GelThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning parents to avoid feeding a food-thickening agent, SimplyThick, to premature babies. The gel is typically given to babies born prematurely (before 37 weeks) to help them with problems swallowing.The warning comes after the product was linked to 15 cases of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a potentially lethal condition involving inflammation and death of intestinal tissue. Two of the babies in these cases died, the FDA said in a statement.The agency said it first learned of the potential problem with SimplyThick on May 13, with cases reported over the prior six months in premature infants treated at centers around the country. The babies were given SimplyThick to help with swallowing difficulties linked to prematurity. Some of the babies fell ill after using SimplyThick after discharge from the hospital, the FDA said.NEC typically has symptoms such as bloated abdominal area, trouble with feeding, green-colored vomiting (from bile), and bloody stools. Parents and caregivers with any concerns about the use of SimplyThick should contact their health-care provider, the FDA said.According to the agency, SimplyThick is sold at distributors and pharmacies across the United States in packets of individual servings or in 64-ounce dispenser bottles.-----Crossing Your Arms Might Ease Hand Pain: StudyThe simple act of crossing your arms in front of your body might help lessen pain occurring in the hands, British researchers report.According to the BBC, the scientists studied 20 people who were given a brief laser-delivered pin-prick of pain to their hands.Reporting in the journal Pain, the team from University College London said that rates of self-reported pain declined when the arms were crossed over the body's "midline," an imaginary division running down the center of the body. Results from electroencephalogram (EEG) also suggested a weaker pain response after arms were crossed.According to the authors, the act of crossing the arms seems to confuse the brain's "maps" that tell it where the pain has occurred, lessening the response. "When you cross your arms these maps are not activated together anymore, leading to less effective brain processing of sensory stimuli, including pain, being perceived as weaker," lead author Dr. Giandomenico Iannetti told the BBC.He said that his team, along with Australian researchers, is now testing out this novel pain-reduction technique on people with chronic pain conditions.
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