Health Highlights: Aug. 4, 2007

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

Green Beans Recalled for Botulism Risk

Due to the possibility of botulism contamination, consumers should not eat certain brands of French cut green beans in 14.5-ounce cans made by Lakeside Foods Inc., of Manitowoc, Wis., the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Friday.

The agency said the canned beans may have not been processed adequately to eliminate the potential for botulism toxin, which can cause life-threatening illness. Symptoms of botulism -- such as double or blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth, and muscle weakness -- can begin from six hours to two weeks after eating food that contains botulism toxin.

There have been no reported cases of illness linked to the green beans, the FDA said. The beans were sold under a number of labels, including: Albertson's, Happy Harvest, Best Choice, Food Club, Bogopa, Valu Time, Hill Country Fare, HEB, Laura Lynn, Kroger, No Name, North Pride, Shop N Save, Shoppers Valu, Schnucks, Cub Foods, Dierbergs, Flavorite, IGA, Best Choice, and Thrifty Maid.

The products were distributed in portions of Canada and in the following 20 states: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Specific codes involved in the recall are: EAA5247, EAA5257, EAA5267, EAA5277, EAB5247, EAB5257, ECA5207, ECA5217, ECA5227, ECA5297, ECB5207, ECB5217, ECB5227, and ECB5307.

These products or any foods made with these products should be thrown out immediately, the FDA said. For more information, contact Lakeside Foods at 1-800-466-3834, ext. 4090.

This recall is not related to an earlier botulism-related recall of more than 90 products including canned chili, stew, hash, and pet food products made by Castleberry's Food Co.

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U.S. Develops Consumer Guide for Seafood Fans

Seafood lovers: Concerned about the quality of your favorite fish, or whether overfishing is taking a toll? Then head to the new U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Web site, FishWatch, for the latest information.

The Web site (www.fishwatch.noaa.gov) has detailed information on more than 30 of the most popular seafood species, with more species to be added shortly.

"Consumers are increasingly concerned about the safety, quality, and sustainability of the seafood they eat," said Dr. Bill Hogarth, NOAA Fisheries Service director. "This guide brings accurate fish information available to your seafood market, and it allows consumers to make informed decisions about purchasing seafood."

FishWatch gives information about a wide range of seafood, including king crab, red snapper, striped bass, swordfish and tuna. The Web site includes details on population strength and status, as well as consumer information, such as fat content and vitamins. It also provides economic information, such as where seafood comes from and how much money it brings to the economy.

Hogarth plans to unveil FishWatch on Aug. 4 at the fourth annual Great American Seafood Cook-off in New Orleans. NOAA said it co-sponsors the cook-off to celebrate the variety, quality and sustainability of domestically harvested seafood.

NOAA Fisheries Service is asking the public to visit the site and offer thoughts in the "comments" section within the next 60 days.

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Sony Warns of Cut Risk Posed by Digital Cameras

The Sony Corp. is offering to replace for free the bottom casing of 416,000 digital cameras because the plating on it can warp, creating a sharp edge that can lead to cuts or scratches.

The alert involves Cyber Shot DSC-T5 still cameras sold in Japan and overseas markets, including the United States, Europe and China, the Associated Press reported.

Sony learned of the problem about one month after the model first went on sale in September 2005. Some 30 customers in Japan and "several" others overseas have since reported the defect, with a number of them saying they had received small cuts and scratches, a company spokeswoman said.

Customers are advised to check the model and serial numbers of their cameras to see if they are among the affected products, the company said in a statement.

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Simple Cervical Cancer Test Could Save Millions of Lives

An inexpensive visual screening test that detects early signs of cervical cancer could save the lives of millions of women in the developing world, says a study published Friday in The Lancet medical journal.

For this test, a woman's cervix is held open with a speculum and washed with vinegar-soaked cotton gauze. After one minute, pre-cancerous lesions turn white and can be detected under a halogen lamp, the Associated Press reported.

Study authors used this method to screen nearly 50,000 women in India and found that it reduced the number of cervical cancer cases by 25 percent and the cervical cancer death rate by 35 percent.

Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women. Though largely preventable, it kills about 250,000 women worldwide each year. Nearly 80 percent of those deaths occur in developing nations, the AP reported.

One expert hailed this as a landmark study and others noted that it would be fairly easy to introduce the test to developing nations.

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Abstinence-Only Programs Ineffective: Study

Abstinence-only programs do not stop young people from engaging in risky sexual behavior or help prevent unwanted pregnancies, says a study by British researchers at Oxford University.

They analyzed data from 13 U.S. trials that included more than 15,000 people ages 10 to 21, finding that abstinence programs had no effect on rates of unprotected sex or sexually transmitted infections, BBC News reported.

The findings appear in the British Medical Journal.

One-third of U.S. President George W. Bush's HIV budget goes to abstinence programs, but the study authors said programs that promote the use of condoms are much more effective at reducing the risk of HIV infection, BBC News reported.

"Our analysis suggests that abstinence-only programs that aim to prevent HIV are not effective," said lead author Kristen Underhill. "This finding has key implications for policy and practice, especially in the U.S., where abstinence-only programs receive both federal and state funding."

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U.S. House Provision Would Permit Drug Imports

A provision to allow less-expensive prescription drugs from Canada and other nations to be imported into the United States was included in a bill passed Thursday by the U.S. House of Representatives.

The provision was included in a $91 billion spending measure for nutrition programs and farm subsidies for the budget year beginning Oct. 1, the Associated Press reported. The bill passed by a vote of 237-18.

The White House opposes the imported drug provision, which would permit individuals, pharmacists, and wholesalers to import lower-cost U.S.-made and FDA-approved prescription drugs from other countries.

Supporters of prescription drug imports say the provision would offer consumers considerable savings. Critics say there's no system in place to protect American consumers from counterfeit or unsafe drugs.

President Bush has said he will veto the bill because of its cost, which is about $1 billion more than he requested, the AP reported.

Posted: August 2007


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