Monday, February 23, 2009

Health Headlines - February 23

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.


Unhealthy Lifestyle Boosts Stroke Risk

The risk of stroke is more than doubled by an unhealthy lifestyle that includes smoking, drinking too much alcohol, lack of exercise, and poor eating habits, according to a British study that included 20,000 adults, ages 40 to 79.

The participants were given one point for each of the following healthy habits: not smoking, limiting alcohol consumption to one to 14 units per week, consuming five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, and being physically active. More women than men achieved the maximum four points, BBC News reported.

Participants who scored zero points were 2.3 times more likely to have a stroke in the 11 years of follow-up than those who scored four points. For every point decrease in participants' scores, there was an increased risk of stroke, according to the study, published in the British Medical Journal.

Fifteen (5.8 percent) of the 259 people who didn't score any points suffered a stroke, compared to 186 (2.4 percent) of the 7,822 who achieved a score of three, and 1.7 percent of the 5,000 who had a score of four, BBC News reported.

"Together with the substantial existing body of evidence about modifiable behaviors and stroke risk, this may provide further encouragement to make entirely feasible changes which have the potential to have a major impact on stroke," said study leader Dr. Phyo Myint of the University of East Anglia.


Allergic Children Able to Build-Up Tolerance to Peanuts: Study

British scientists say they've successfully built up tolerance in children with severe peanut allergies.

The study included four children who were given small daily doses of peanut flour mixed into yogurt. Over six months, the doses were increased to the equivalent of five whole peanuts. By the end of the trial, the children could eat at least 10 peanuts without suffering any allergic reaction, Agence France Presse reported.

The findings appear in the journal Allergy.

The researchers at Addenbroke's Hospital in Cambridge are continuing the trial, which now includes 20 children ages seven to 17. Some of them can now eat 12 peanuts a day, AFP reported.

"At the moment we know that if they continue to eat five peanuts a day, their tolerance is maintained. If they were to stop, then there is some evidence that tolerance would be lost and they may have a reaction," said research leader Andrew Clark, a consultant in pediatric allergy.

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