Health Highlights: July 30, 2010

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

USDA Reviewing Chicken Labeling Rules

New proposed rules about whether chicken injected with salt, water and other ingredients can be labeled as "natural" are expected to be issued this fall by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service.

The agency decided to review labeling guidelines because of a disagreement among poultry producers about when the word "natural" can be used on a label, the Associated Press reported.

Some poultry producers, politicians and health advocates say that about one-third of chicken sold in the U.S. is injected with ingredients that can account for up to 15 percent of the meat's weight and double or triple its sodium content.

The injections are done to make the poultry more tender and tasty.

Among those pushing for changes to labeling rules is Perdue, the nation's third largest poultry producer.

"Our labels say natural or all natural only if there is nothing added," Perdue spokesman Luis Luna told the AP. "Under no circumstances is it acceptable to label poultry that has been enhanced with water or broth or solutions as natural, or all natural."


Frozen Mice Used As Snake Food Linked To Salmonella Oubreak

Millions of frozen mice used as food for pet snakes have been recalled after being linked to more than 400 of cases of salmonella in people in the United States and Britain.

Most of the illnesses occurred in snake owners or their children. Salmonella can be contracted by handling the mice when they're frozen or thawed, handling snakes who've become infected with salmonella from the mice, or cleaning feces from an infected snake's enclosure, The New York Times reported.

The mice were sold over the Internet by a Georgia-based company called MiceDirect, which said it would begin irradiating future shipments to kill infectious bacteria.

The company also recalled frozen rats and baby chickens used to feed pet reptiles, even though those products haven't been linked to the salmonella outbreak, The Times reported.


Disciplinary Lapses Tied To High Rate Of Army Suicides: Report

Lax discipline and risky behavior are to blame for the record high number of U.S. Army suicides, according to an internal investigation released Thursday.

Last year, 160 active-duty soldiers committed suicide and there were 1,713 attempted suicides. There were also 146 deaths caused by risky activity or behavior such as drug overdoses, USA Today reported.

The 300-page document said that Army leadership away from combat settings has "atrophied."

"Soldiers who ultimately take their lives have typically been engaging in high-risk behavior long before their tragic end," the report said. "Ultimately it poses the question: Where has the Army's leadership in garrison gone?"

It also said that the rush to repeatedly prepare and deploy into war zones "has eroded the technical skills and experiential knowledge needed to lead and managed effectively in the garrison environment," USA Today reported.

Among the findings:

  • More than one-third of Army personnel are using prescription drugs, including 14 percent taking some form of narcotic pain relief medication.
  • In 2009, about 216,000 soldiers were assessed or in therapy for behavioral problems, another 109,000 used prescription drugs, and more than 9,000 were hospitalized for mental health problems.
  • Since 2001, 25,283 soldiers who committed violations that normally would have resulted in a discharge were allowed to remain in the Army.
  • From 2004 to 2009, commanders failed to complete paperwork in 36 percent of disciplinary cases (78,410 cases), making it impossible to track those soldiers' misconduct in criminal databases.
  • Between 2001 and 2009, 30 to 40 percent of cases involving drunken driving or failed urinalysis tests were not referred, as required, to the Army substance abuse counseling offices.


Cubicin Antibiotic Linked To Pneumonia: FDA

The intravenous antibiotic Cubicin (daptomycin) can cause a life-threatening type of pneumonia, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned Thursday.

The agency said it has identified seven confirmed cases of eosinophilic pneumonia and an additional 36 possible cases that occurred between 2004 and 2010 in patients who received Cubicin, which is sold by Cubist Pharmaceutical Inc., the Los Angeles Times reported.

Eosinophilic pneumonia is characterized by the accumulation of white blood cells called eosinophils in the lungs. Fever, cough, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing are among the symptoms.

The FDA has told Cubist to revise the labeling on Cubicin to reflect the newly-recognized threat, the Times reported.


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