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Health Highlights: Feb. 23, 2009

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

Potato Items Pulled From Store Shelves

Several potato products that may be contaminated with listeria monocytogenes have been pulled from the shelves of Giant Food and Stop & Shop supermarkets, the Associated Press reported.

The products are 20 oz. bags of Simply Potatoes Shredded Hash Browns, Simply Potatoes Homestyle Slices and Simply Potatoes Red Potato Wedges. The products, which have "use by" dates ranging from March 29 to April 3, 2009, were recalled by Northern Star Co., a subsidiary of food processor Michael Foods Inc.

Listeria monocytogenes bacteria can cause flu-like symptoms and can be especially dangerous for pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems.

No reports of illness or injuries related to the recalled potato products have been received by Quincy, Mass.-based Stop & Shop or by Landover, Md.-based Giant Food, the AP reported.

Customers who bought the products should throw out any unused portions and bring the receipts to their stores for a full refund, the companies said.


Peanut Company Recalls All Products in Salmonella Outbreak

The peanut company at the heart of the nationwide salmonella outbreak has now recalled all products made at its Georgia and Texas production plants.

In a statement posted on the Web site of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Peanut Corp., of Lynchburg, Va., said all customers should "not distribute or further use" any food products received from its now-closed Blakely, Ga., and Plainview, Texas, production facilities.

The recall notice expands greatly the company's voluntary actions last month, which covered peanut butter and peanut paste products processed since Jan. 1, 2007.

More than 2,100 products in 17 categories have so far been recalled by more than 200 companies, according to the FDA's Web site. The breadth of the recall -- covering everything from cookies, candies and ice cream to snack bars, prepared meals and dog treats -- makes this one of the largest recalls in U.S. history.

Meanwhile, the outbreak is continuing. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of last Thursday, 654 people in 44 states had been sickened by Salmonella Typhimurium, with the most recent reported illness on Feb. 3. There have also been nine deaths in five states linked to the outbreak.

The new statement by Peanut Corp., which declared bankruptcy two weeks ago, also said the company can no longer take action on recalled products and customers should now contact the FDA on all matters related to the recall.


Job Affects Obesity Risk

Obesity rates are higher among blue- collar workers and those who work shifts and long hours than among white collar workers and those with regular hours and shorter hours, according to a Statistics Canada study.

The analysis of data from two national surveys conducted in 2005 found that men working more than 40 hours a week were more likely to be obese than those who worked 30 to 40 hours a week, and that male and female shift workers were more likely to be obese than those with regularly scheduled work hours, CBC News reported.

Stress caused by long and irregular work hours may be one cause of the higher obesity levels, said study author Jungwee Park, who added that irregular work schedules may also make it more difficult for people to eat a healthy diet.

Park also found a significant link between low education levels and increased risk of obesity in workers ages 35 to 54. Those with less than a high school diploma were 1.6 times more likely to be obese than those with a post-secondary education. However, this kind of association between education and obesity wasn't seen in workers ages 18 to 34, CBC News reported.

The study also found that overall rates of obesity are increasing.

"In 2005, 15.7 percent of employed Canadians aged 18 to 64, or more than two million people, were obese, up from 12.5 percent in the mid-1990s," Park said.

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Posted: February 2009