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Health Headlines - October 21

Posted Oct 20 2009 10:01pm

FDA Cracks Down on Misleading Food Labels

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Tuesday that it plans to put an end to food labeling it believes makes consumers think foods have more nutritional value than they do.

The agency will target the front panels of packages bearing logos or language suggesting that the product is healthier than the actual ingredients indicate, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said in a news conference Tuesday afternoon, theChicago Tribunereported.

"There's a growing proliferation" of symbols that suggest healthfulness and "some nutritionists have questioned whether this information is more marketing-oriented than health-oriented. Judging from some of the labels we've seen, this is a valid concern," Hamburg said.

The front of packages often catch consumers' eyes, while shoppers are less likely to read the nutritional information boxes on the side or back of packages, Hamburg explained.

While not naming specific products, she said some that are labeled with the "check mark" logo under the industry-supported Smart Choices food rating program, "are almost 50 percent sugar."

Smart Choices has emerged as a lightning rod among some nutritionists, who say its ratings are too lax, theTribunereported. The program is under investigation by the Connecticut attorney general for its labeling practices.

Mike Hughes, chair of the Smart Choices Program, said it's unfair to focus on one ingredient in a single product. "I think you should look at the whole product and what it delivers," he said.


Medical Society Expels Octuplets Doctor

The doctor who gave fertility treatments to the California woman who had octuplets earlier this has been expelled from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

Dr. Michael Kamrava of Beverly Hills was removed last month because he repeatedly violated the group's standards, society spokesman Sean Tipton said Monday, theAssociated Pressreported. He added that Kamrava wasn't expelled because of his work with any single patient.

While the action may harm Kamrava's prestige, it won't stop him from practicing medicine because the association doesn't have that kind of legal authority.

Kamrava implanted six embryos in Nadya Suleman, far more than national guidelines specify, theAPreported. Suleman gave birth to octuplets in January.


Booster Seats Reduce Crash Injury Risk: Study

Car booster seats significantly reduce crash injuries among children ages 4 to 8, confirms a new analysis of nine years of data from 15 states and Washington, D.C.

Researchers found that children in belt-positioning booster seats were 45 percent less likely to suffer injuries in a crash than children using only standard seat belts. There was no notable difference in risk of injury between the use of backless and high-back booster seats,CBS Newsreported.

The study, which confirms earlier findings, also found that booster seats reduced the risk of injury by 68 percent for near-side impact crashes and 82 percent for far-side impacts.

The findings were published Tuesday in the journalPediatrics.

To prevent falls, car seats should be placed on a hard, flat floor, experts advise.


Botulism Fears Trigger Baby Food Recall

Concerns over possible botulism contamination have prompted a recall of some apple and carrot portable pouch baby food made by Plum Organics of California. Botulism is a serious and sometimes life-threatening condition.

The recalled product is in 4.22-ounce pouches, with a "best by" date of May 21, 2010, and UPC 890180001221, theAssociated Pressreported. The baby food pouches were sold nationwide at Toys-R-Us and Babies-R-Us stores.

The products should not be consumed, even if they appear normal. No illnesses have been reported in connection with the baby food. No other Plum Organics products are affected, according to the company.

For more information, consumers can call Plum Organics at 888-974-3555 or go to the company's Web site, theAPreported.


Turtle-Related Salmonella Outbreak Sickened 107 People: CDC

A new study says that 107 people became ill in the largest turtle-caused salmonella outbreak in the United States. The outbreak occurred in 2007-08. Of those patients, one-third had to be hospitalized.

The outbreak involved mostly children in 34 states, said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study, which noted that many parents didn't know that pet turtles can carry salmonella, theAssociated Pressreported.

The sale of small turtles as pets was banned in the United States in 1975, but millions continue to be sold illegally. The number of pet turtles nationwide increased from 950,000 in 1996 to almost two million in 2006, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

"It's very easy to think of turtles as being a very gentle and nice pet," but many are salmonella carriers and don't show any signs, said study lead author Julie Harris, theAPreported. Salmonella on turtles' shells and body can spread to people who handle them.

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