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Health Highlights: Aug. 13, 2010

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

China Improving Food and Drug Safety: FDA

The safety of foods and drugs exported from China is improving, according to the head of U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The country has been strengthening oversight of exporters since a number of scandals involving companies selling fake or dangerous food and drug products including infant formula, vaccines and dog chow, the Associated Press reported.

Chinese officials are pursuing a "common agenda" to improve manufacturing practices and regulation of supply systems for the food and drug industries, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said Friday as she completed a visit to China.

"I leave feeling very encouraged by the partnership we've developed here. This is a priority for China as it is for the United States," she said, the AP reported.

Previous scandals involving Chinese-made products included dairy products that contained the industrial chemical melamine and tainted batches of the anti-clotting medicine heparin.


Frozen Fruit Pulp Linked To Typhoid Fever Outbreak: FDA

Frozen mamey fruit pulp has been linked to an outbreak of typhoid fever in the United States, say federal officials.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said seven cases have been confirmed (four in Nevada and three in California) and two more California cases are being investigated. Five people have been hospitalized, the Associated Press reported.

Five of the victims drank milkshakes or smoothies made with frozen mamey fruit pulp. In four of those cases, the pulp was made by Goya Foods Inc. of Secaucus, N.J. A sample from a package sold in Las Vegas tested positive for the bacteria that causes typoid, the FDA said.

Mamey, a reddish tropical fruit grown mainly in Central and South America, is also known as zapote or sapote, the AP reported.

Typhoid fever is a life-threatening illness that is rare in the U.S., with only about 400 cases a year. Most U.S. patients catch the disease while traveling abroad.


California Lawsuit Targets Bounce Houses With High Lead Levels

Nine companies that make children's inflatable "bounce houses" are being sued by the state of California because some of the structures have unsafe levels of lead.

Tests showed that the vinyl in the inflatable structures contain lead levels that exceed both state and federal standards, according to a suit filed Wednesday by California Attorney General Jerry Brown, the Associated Press reported.

One bounce house had lead levels more than 70 times above the federal limit.

The lawsuit seeks to stop the companies from selling the contaminated materials and Brown also wants rental companies to post warnings about lead levels in the bounce houses, the AP reported.


Seizure Drug Can Cause Aseptic Meningitis: FDA

The drug Lamictal (lamotrigine) -- used to treat seizures and bipolar disorder -- can cause aseptic meningitis, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Thursday.

Aseptic meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms include headache, fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, stiff neck and sensitivity to light. Many patients require hospitalization.

"Aseptic meningitis is a rare but serious side effect of Lamictal use," Dr. Russell Katz, director of the Division of Neurology Products in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in an agency news release. "Patients that experience symptoms should consult their health care professional immediately."

Between the time Lamictal received FDA approval, in December 1994, and through November 2009 there have been 40 cases of aseptic meningitis in patients taking the drug. Of those patients, 35 had to be hospitalized, the FDA said.

The FDA said it's working with drug maker GlaxoSmithKline to update Lamictal's prescribing information and patient medication guide to include the risk.


Fresh Express Recalls Mixed Salad Product

California-based Fresh Express is recalling a mixed salad product that may be contaminated with bacteria that causes listeriosis.

The recall includes 2,825 cases of Veggie Lovers Salad with the product code I208 and a use-by date of Aug. 10, the Associated Press reported.

The decision to take the product off the shelves came after one package tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes in a sample test by the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

The salad mix was originally distributed to 13 states but could have been redistributed to other states, said Fresh Express and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the AP reported.

No illnesses have been reported, the FDA said.


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Posted: August 2010