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Health Highlights: July 15, 2010

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

Packaging Chemicals Caused Cereal Recall: Kellogg

Higher-than-normal levels of chemicals in food package liners caused the unusual smells and flavors that led to a recall of 28 million boxes of Apple Jacks, Corn Pops, Froot Loops and Honey Snacks cereals in late June, Kellogg Co. said Wednesday.

The Michigan-based company received complaints from 20 people, including five who said they experienced nausea and vomiting, the Associated Press reported.

Kellogg said the problem was caused by elevated levels of hydrocarbon chemicals, including methyl naphthalene. Lower concentrations of these chemicals are found in the wax and film used for food packaging, the company said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is reviewing Kellogg's information and doing its own risk assessment, the AP reported.


Pottery Barn Kids Recalls 82,000 Cribs

About 82,000 drop-side cribs sold by Pottery Barn Kids have been recalled because they pose an entrapment or suffocation hazard to young children, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The recall covers all Pottery Barn Kids drop-side cribs, regardless of model number. Free kits to immobilize the drop-side rail of the cribs are being offered by the retailer, the Associated Press reported.

This is the latest in a long series of recalls of drop-side cribs, which have been sold for decades.

On Wednesday, the CPSC proposed a ban on the manufacture, sale and resale of drop-side cribs. The agency wants to make cribs with four fixed sides mandatory and has proposed tougher manufacturing standards for cribs. It would be the first change in crib rules in 28 years.

"We've seen a number of tragedies because we had such as weak crib standard," said CPSC chief Inez Tenenbaum, the AP reported.


Nestle Settles With FTC Over Children's Drink Health Claims

There will be no more ads claiming that Boost Kid Essentials probiotics drinks for children can prevent illness, boost immunity and reduce the number of missed school days, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission says.

The agency said Wednesday that it had reached a settlement with Nestle HealthCare Nutrition Inc., Associated Press reported.

"Nestle's claims that its probiotic product would prevent kids from getting sick or missing school just didn't stand up to scrutiny," said David Vladeck, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection.

This is the first time the FTC has challenged advertising for probiotics, which are live bacteria promoted as being able to help digestion and fight bad bacteria, the AP reported.


Early Detection of Cognitive Impairment Saves Money: Study

Early diagnosis of cognitive impairment in people with Alzheimer's disease can lead to long-term medical cost savings, a new study says.

U.S. researchers gave a standard memory test to more than 8,000 VA patients aged 70 and older. More than one-quarter failed the two-minute test and were referred for further evaluation, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Of the 700 who underwent more extensive evaluation, nearly all were found to have significant cognitive impairment.

In clinics where staff were trained to recognize dementia, the average cost of all medical care for patients identified with dementia was $1,700 less in the year after diagnosis than in the previous year, said the researchers. But those savings didn't include the $800 average cost of the memory test.

The study was presented at the International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease in Honolulu, which ends Thursday.


Common Waterborne Diseases Have High Health Costs: Study

Hospitalizations for three common waterborne diseases -- Legionnaires' disease, cryptosporidiosis and giardiasis -- cost the U.S. health care system as much as $539 million a year, according to a new study.

Researchers analyzed data on health insurance claims between 2004 and 2007 and calculated that the total estimated costs for the three diseases was between $154 million and $539 million, including $44 million to $147 million in direct government payments for Medicare and Medicaid.

Estimated annual costs for the individual diseases were: Legionnaires' disease, $101-$321 million; cryptosporidiosis, $37-$145 million; giardiasis, $16-$63 million. Inpatient hospitalization costs per case averaged more than $34,000 for Legionnaires' disease, more than $21,000 for cryptosporidiosis and about $9,000 for giardiasis.

The study was presented Wednesday at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases.

"These cost data highlight that water-related diseases pose not only a physical burden to the thousands of people sickened by them each year, but also a substantial burden in health care costs, including direct government payments through Medicare and Medicaid," study author Michael Beach, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a CDC news release.

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Posted: July 2010