Health Highlights: Sept. 28, 2011

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

U.S. Lifts Restrictions on Imported Cantaloupes

Food-safety advocates are concerned about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's decision to lift import restrictions on cantaloupes from a Guatemala farm linked to a widespread U.S. salmonella outbreak last spring, The New York Times reported.

The melons -- which have no connection to the current outbreak of listeria tied to Colorado cantaloupes -- were imported by Del Monte Fresh Produce. A recall was announced last March. After import restrictions were enacted, the fruit importer filed a lawsuit against the FDA.

"We would certainly hope that F.D.A. has proof that the conditions that may have led to the outbreak have been cleaned up," said Caroline Smith DeWaal, director of food safety for the Center for Science in the Public Interest. De Waal told the Times that she knows of a previous case involving a recurrence of problems after the FDA lifted restrictions.

In an email announcement, the FDA said it was lifting the "import alert" on the basis of tests showing the cantaloupes were free of pathogens, and on an independent audit that found the growers were using sound practices.

Del Monte denied accusations that it was attempting to coerce the FDA into lifting the ban and said that the FDA's action showed mutual cooperation between the two parties, the newspaper said.

Before it ended in April, the 10-state salmonella outbreak sickened at least 20 people.

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Jewelry Industry Will Self-Regulate Toxin in Kids' Jewelry

U.S. jewelry manufacturers have voluntarily agreed to restrict levels of the toxic metal cadmium in children's necklaces, rings and other products, the Associated Press reported.

The heavy metal has been linked to cancer and other diseases, and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which last year recalled some 300,000 pieces of costume jewelry because of high cadmium content, intends to use the voluntary limits to determine if and when product recalls are needed, the AP said.

The agency said voluntary standards, rather than mandatory rules, should be enough to regulate cadmium content in children's baubles. Most of the recalled trinkets were made in China.

The guideline "limits potential exposure to cadmium in children's jewelry in a manner that assures safety without resulting in bans on safe products," said Brent Cleaveland, who helped draft the regulations for ASTM International, a group that sets standards for various consumer goods. Cleaveland told the AP that the new limits, which may take effect in November, are "way more conservative than necessary."

Magnets, lead and other potential jewelry problems are also addressed in the new standard. Experts worry that if kids lick or bite trinkets bearing the metals that high levels might enter their bodies.

Under the new policy, 0.03 percent cadmium would be the content limit for jewelry intended for children 12 years and younger. Products that exceeded the limit in testing would be rejected or referred for additional examination.

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Obese Now Outnumber Hungry Worldwide: Report

There are now more obese people than hungry people in the world, but a growing food crisis is increasing the hardship for those who don't have enough to eat, the International Federation of the Red Cross says.

In 2010, there were 1.5 billion obese people and 925 million undernourished people worldwide, the humanitarian group noted in its annual World Disasters Report released Thursday, Agence France-Presse reported.

The figures highlight the disparity between rich and poor, as well as problems caused by recent increases in food prices, according to the Geneva-based organization.

"If the free interplay of market forces has produced an outcome where 15 percent of humanity are hungry while 20 percent are overweight, something has gone wrong somewhere," IFRC secretary general Bekele Geleta said in a news release, AFP reported.

Posted: September 2011


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