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Health Highlights: March 16, 2012

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

Schools' Use of 'Pink Slime' Beef to Become Optional: USDA

Starting in the fall, schools in the national school lunch program will be able to refuse ammonia-treated ground beef filler that some refer to as "pink slime."

The announcement Thursday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture comes amid growing social media outrage over the so-called "lean finely textured beef," the Associated Press reported.

The product is made from fatty pieces of meat left over from other cuts. The pieces are heated and spun to remove most of the fat, and compressed into blocks for use in ground meat. The product is exposed to ammonium hydroxide gas to kill bacteria.

The change is USDA policy means that schools will be allowed to choose between 95 percent lean beef patties made with the low-cost lean beef product or less lean bulk ground beef without it, the AP reported.


3 Brands of Pet Treats Possibly Linked to Dog Illnesses

Some specific brands of jerky pet treats possibly linked to kidney failure and other serious illnesses reported in at least 600 dogs in the United States are cited in internal Food and Drug Administration documents.

Of 22 "Priority 1" cases listed in a log of complaints from pet owners and veterinarians, 13 cited Waggin' Train or Canyon Creek Ranch jerky treats or tenders, both produced by Nestle Purina PetCare Co., according to the documents obtained by

Three other cases listed Milo's Kitchen Home-style Dog Treats, produced by the Del Monte Corp. The rest of the cases listed single brands or no brand.

An FDA spokeswoman said Priority 1 cases involve animals aged 11 or younger for which medical records that document illness are available, reported.

Officials at Nestle Purina and Del Monte officials said their pet treats are safe. FDA officials said repeated tests have found no solid link between the dog illnesses and any jerky treat brand or manufacturer.


Doctors Repair Airway Disorder in Fetus

In what they say was a world-first surgery, Spanish doctors fixed a blocked bronchial tube in a 26-week-old fetus while she was still in her mother's womb.

The fetus had bronchial atresia, a condition in which the air tubes (bronchi) leading from the trachea to the lungs do not connect properly with the central airways. The condition results in the death of the fetus in 90 percent of cases, Agence France-Presse reported.

The surgery, which lasted 30 minutes, was performed in late 2010. The doctors used an endoscope to go through the fetus' mouth and connect the right bronchi with the central airways.

Eleven weeks after the procedure, the mother gave birth to a 5.5-pound girl named Alaitz, which means "joy" in the Basque language. The baby is now 16 months old and healthy.

"It is the first time in the world that this has been achieved. It is the first time that it has been tried and it turned out well," Eduard Gratacos, the head of the maternal-fetal medicine department at Hospital Clinic in Barcelona, said at a news conference Tuesday, AFP reported.

"It is an extremely delicate operation since it is carried out near the heart on tissues as thin as cigarette paper. But without this fetal therapy, the baby would not have survived," Gratacos explained.

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Posted: March 2012