Health Highlights: Oct. 3, 2012

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

Illegal Labeling Common on Dietary Supplements: Report

Many weight loss and immune system supplements sold in the United States are illegally labeled and do not have the recommended scientific evidence to support their health claims, a federal government report says.

Twenty percent of the 127 weight loss and immune-boosting supplements examined by investigators had labels that made illegal claims about curing or treating disease, according to the Department of Health and Human Services' inspector general, the Associated Press reported.

Some of the labels even claimed that the products could cure or prevent diabetes or cancer, or could help treat people with HIV or AIDS. Such claims are prohibited under federal law.

The investigators also found that many of the supplements did not have scientific studies to back up their suggested uses, the AP reported.

Under federal law, dietary supplements don't have to be subjected to rigorous testing to prove that they're effective or safe. The Food and Drug Administration can take action only after consumers get sick or a safety issue arises.


U.S. Births Down for Fourth Straight Year

The weak economy is a major reason why the U.S. birth rate fell for the fourth year in a row in 2011, according to experts.

The federal government said Wednesday that there were fewer than four million births last year, which is the lowest number since 1998. But that 1 percent decline in births in 2011 was less steep than the drops of 2 to 3 percent that occurred in other recent years, the Associated Press reported.

Many experts believe that the struggling economy is the main cause of declining births. They explain that people who are unemployed, underemployed or have other money problems can't afford to have children.

The government said there was a new low in teen births and steep declines in Hispanic birth rates in 2011. Teen birth rates have been falling for 20 years and experts say that Hispanics have been disproportionately affected by the economic downturn, the AP reported.


Unclean Conditions at Cantaloupe Farm Tied to Salmonella

Unclean conditions and two strains of salmonella were found at the packing plant of an Indiana cantaloupe farm during inspections that followed a deadly outbreak due to tainted melons from the farm, the Associated Press reported.

The findings from a federal inspector's mid-August visits to Chamberlain Farm Produce Inc. are detailed in a report on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's website, the Associated Press reported.

There was improperly cleaned equipment and algae growing in standing water beneath conveyor belts in the plant, according to the document. One of the two salmonella strains found at the plant was discovered on cantaloupes that had been processed and boxed.

The farm was the source of at least some of the salmonella in the summer outbreak that sickened 270 people in 26 states, the FDA said. Of those victims, 101 were hospitalized and three died, the AP reported.

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