Health Highlights: Aug. 15, 2012

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Tobacco Companies Dealt Blow in Australia

In a blow to the tobacco industry, Australia's High Court refused to strike down a law requiring disease-riddled body parts to appear on cigarette packaging instead of distinctive logos and designs, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

Starting in December, under new rules governing cigarette promotion -- said to be the world's strictest -- all cigarette packs will be the same drab olive shade and bear graphic illustrations of the harms of smoking. Sick children, sightless eyes, cancerous mouths are some examples.

Tobacco giants, including Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco, had challenged the rules, arguing they violate trade laws and intellectual property rights.

Nicola Roxon, Australia's Attorney-General, praised the ruling. "Many other countries around the world . . . will take heart from the success of this decision today," Roxon said, according to the AP. "Governments can take on big tobacco and win and it's worth countries looking again at what the next appropriate step is for them."

Philip Morris isn't throwing in the towel yet, though. "There is still a long way to go before all the legal questions about plain packaging are fully explored and answered," Chris Argent, a company spokesman, said in a statement.

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Johnson & Johnson Vows to Purge Toxins From Products for Adults

Johnson & Johnson intends to rid its adult cosmetics and toiletries of toxic and possibly cancer-causing agents by the end of 2015, the health care company said this week.

Pressured by a coalition of health and environmental activists, J&J last year pledged to remove harsh and toxic chemicals from its baby products by the end of 2013. This new promise addresses potentially troublesome ingredients in nearly all of its adult products worldwide, the Associated Press reported. Its personal care products include Neutrogena, Lubriderm and Aveeno labels.

"This is a good step in the right direction," Lisa Archer, national director of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, told the AP. "In terms of the cosmetic giants, Johnson & Johnson is going the furthest of any of them in removing chemicals of concern."

On Wednesday, J&J also launched a website for consumers -- safetyandcarecommitment.com -- outlining its procedures for maintaining safe and high-quality ingredients.

The reformulation plans call for phasing out two probable carcinogens -- formaldehyde and 1,4 dioxane -- plus triclosan (an antibacterial agent), phthalates (endocrine disruptors), parabens (preservatives), and unlabeled fragrance ingredients by late 2015, the news agency said. Already, these chemicals have been reduced or eliminated in some of its products, J&J said.

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Hershey's Chocolate Syrup Claims Unfounded, FDA Says

The Hershey Company's nutritional claims on its chocolate syrups do not meet regulatory guidelines, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Labels on Hershey's Syrup+Calcium and Syrup Sugar Free with Vitamin & Mineral Fortification violate federal law, the FDA said, because the words "plus" and "fortification" are not supported by the products' nutritional contents.

The agency issued the warning in a letter dated Feb. 14 that was made public Tuesday, Fox News said.

A spokesman for Hershey told Fox News that the company had settled the matter, and the label on one product now says Syrup With Calcium instead of Syrup+Calcium. The word "fortification" has been deleted from the other product.

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4 Million Baby Seats Recalled for Falling Hazard

Following reports of infants falling and fracturing their skulls, 4 million Bumbo Baby Seats are being voluntarily recalled by the U.S Consumer Product and Safety Commission and the South African-based maker of the floor seat.

In October 2007, 1 million of the molded foam seats were recalled so the company could place warning labels on the seats that said they should not be placed on tables or kitchen counters, because babies can wiggle out of the floor seat and possibly fall, the CPSC said in a statement issued Wednesday.

However, since that first recall, there have been at least 50 reported incidents where babies fell from the seats that were being used on raised surfaces; another 34 fell from the seat while it was being used on the floor or at an unspecified elevation. A total of 21 skull fractures resulted from these incidents, the CPSC said in its statement. The seat has no restraining strap.

The CPSC said consumers need to stop using the seats immediately and contact Bumbo International for a free repair kit that includes a restraint belt and instructions on safe usage of the seat. Call 866-898-4999 or visit BumboUSA.com to order a free kit. The floor seats were sold at Babies R Us, Target, Walmart and other retailers between August 2003 and August 2012.

"The restraint belt will help prevent children from getting out of or falling from the seat when it is used as intended: on the floor with adult supervision and never on raised surfaces," the company said in a statement. "The health and safety of children using the Bumbo Baby Seat are our top priorities."

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Posted: August 2012


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