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Health Highlights: Sept. 25, 2012

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

Peanut, Almond Products Recalled Over Salmonella Fears

A recall of Trader Joe's peanut butter linked to 29 salmonella infections in 18 states has been expanded to include dozens of other peanut and almond products.

The voluntary recall by Sunland Inc. of New Mexico now includes three brands of Trader Joe's peanut butter and 73 other products that were manufactured on the same line as the Trader Joe's products, NBC News reported.

The recalled products include Trader Joe's Valencia Creamy Salted Peanut Butter, Trader Joe's Valencia Peanut Butter with Roasted Flaxseeds, Crunchy and Salted, and Trader Joe's Almond Butter with Roasted Flaxseeds, Crunchy and Salted.

Sunland is also recalling peanut and almond products sold under popular brand names such as Archer's, Earth Balance, Fresh & Easy, Heinen's, Natural Value, Naturally More, Open Nature, Serious Food, Silly Prices, Sprout's and Sprouts Farmers Market, NBC News reported.

The products were manufactured between May 1 and Sept. 24 and have best-by dates between May 1, 2013 and Sept. 24. 2013.

The 29 infections of the rare salmonella Bredeney linked to Trader Joe's peanut butter were reported between June 11 and Sept. 2, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. Four people have been hospitalized. The median age of those sickened is 7 and three-quarters are under age 18, NBC News reported.

Infections have been reported in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia and Washington state, the news network said.

It's especially important that young children, the elderly and people with weak immune systems avoid eating the potentially contaminated products, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said.

Health officials said consumers should throw out the peanut butter and almond products, while Trader Joe's advised shoppers to return the products for full refunds, NBC News reported.


Seniors May Face Large Medicare Drug Plan Premium Hikes

Many seniors could face double-digit premium hikes for their Medicare prescription drug plans next year if they don't look for a better deal, according to the private firm Avalere Health.

All of the 10 most popular plans will have premium increases next year, but the most popular plan -- AARP Medicare Rx Preferred -- is only rising 57 cents per month, from $39.85 to $40.42, the Associated Press reported.

Two other plans in the top 10 will also have single-digit increases: SilverScript Basic (8 percent) and WellCare Classic (3 percent), the AP said.

Seven plans will have double-digit increases, Avalere said. These are: the Humana Walmart-Preferred Rx Plan (23 percent); First Health Part D Premier (18 percent); First Health Part D Value Plus (17 percent); Cigna Medicare Rx Plan One (15 percent); Express Scripts Medicare-Value (13 percent); the HealthSpring Prescription Drug Plan (12 percent); and Humana Enhanced (11 percent).

"The average senior is going to benefit by carefully scrutinizing their situation, because every year the market changes," Avalere President Dan Mendelson said, the AP reported.


Healthy Foods Only in NYC Hospital Cafeterias

Fatty and sugary foods could soon disappear from cafeterias in New York City's public and private hospitals.

Under the Healthy Hospital Food Initiative, deep fryers will be removed from cafeterias, leafy green salads will be a mandatory option, only healthy snacks will be stocked near the cafeteria entrance and at cash registers, and at least half of all sandwiches and salads must be made or served with whole grains, the Associated Press reported.

The move is one of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's latest health campaigns.

"If there's any place that should not allow smoking or try to make you eat healthy, you would think it'd be the hospitals," Bloomberg told the AP. "We're doing what we should do and you'll see, I think, most of the private hospitals go along with it."

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Posted: September 2012