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Misc. News : R.ecalls & A.lerts Last Updated: Nov 12th, 2006 - 20:38:00

FDA: Spinach is now safe for consumption
Sep 30, 2006, 14:58

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Editor's note: The Food and Drug Administration announced yesterday that the E. coli outbreak that involved 187 cases of illness including one death, 29 cases of Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS) and 97 hospitalizations was caused by tainted spinach produced by Natural Selection Foods LLC of San Juan Bautista, California. Natural Selection and other four companies that distribute spinach from Natural Selection have recalled the spinach tainted with E. coli. The FDA said spinach in stores is now safe to eat, news media reported.

Fresh Spinach Cleared for Consumption Again

U.S. health officials say all tainted products have been recalled, declare spinach 'safe'

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Sept. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Consumers got an all-clear from U.S. health officials Friday to buy and eat fresh spinach again.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials said late in the day that all the affected brands linked to a nationwide E. coli outbreak had been recalled.

"Spinach on the shelves is as safe as it was before this event," said Dr. David Acheson, chief medical officer for the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, in a teleconference, according to Bloomberg News.

Acheson said the tainted spinach all came from Natural Selection Foods, a San Juan Bautista, Calif., grower and processor that supplied many customers.

The company on Sept. 15 recalled all of its spinach products with use-by dates of Aug. 17 to Oct. 1. Four other distributors, all of whom got spinach from Natural Selection, have also recalled their products.

Health officials are still hoping to pinpoint the source of the contamination that has sickened at least 188 people in 26 states and Canada, killing one.

Acheson said they may never know the cause, Bloomberg reported.

As of late Thursday, 97 (52 percent) of the infected people had been hospitalized, 29 (16 percent) had developed a type of kidney failure called hemolytic-uremic syndrome, and a 77-year-old Wisconsin woman had died, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Thursday, Natural Selection said it was taking steps to improve its food-safety inspections. The company also said it was ready to pay the medical expenses of consumers sickened by contaminated spinach.

Natural Selection processes fresh spinach for more than two dozen brands, including Earthbound Farm, Dole and Ready Pac. It hasn't been determined whether the spinach was contaminated at the company's plant, or on farms where it was grown in California's Salinas Valley, The New York Times said.

Tainted bags of fresh spinach found in at least five states have all helped pinpoint the E. coli strain. And at least two of the bags tracked back to one specific batch of fresh spinach processed on Aug. 15 at Natural Selection Foods' plant.

FDA officials had said last week that produce other than spinach grown in the Salinas Valley region was not implicated in the E. coli outbreak. They also said processed spinach, either frozen or canned, was not suspect.

And late last week, the FDA had said consumers could resume eating fresh spinach, as long as agriculture industry officials came up with a way to label the products that didn't come from the Salinas Valley.

Friday's all-clear appeared to lift that restriction.

The 26 affected states are: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Wisconsin has the largest number of reported cases, and the one death. Two other deaths, in Idaho and Maryland, are still under investigation.

And the FDA announced earlier this week that Canada had confirmed its first case of E. coli O157:H7 in a person who ate bagged spinach.

In addition to the Natural Selection recall, the four other companies citing Natural Selection as their source of spinach, are: River Ranch Fresh Foods, which operates in Salinas and El Centro, Calif.; RLB Food Distributors, based in West Caldwell, N.J.; Pacific Coast Fruit Company, based in Portland, Ore., and Triple B Corp. in Seattle.

The primary symptom of E. coli contamination in humans is diarrhea, often with bloody stools. There are an estimated 73,000 cases of infection, including 61 deaths, each year in the United States, according to CDC statistics.

More information

For the latest E. coli updates, visit the CDC.

SOURCES: U.S. Food and Drug Administration; U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Bloomberg Neews; Associated Press; The New York Times

Last Updated: Sept. 29, 2006

Copyright 2006 ScoutNews, LLC. All rights reserved.

Health Highlights: Sept. 30, 2006

* Ordinary Flu Shot Might Help Fight Bird Flu
* FDA Warns of Botulism in Carrot Juice
* Gene Database Will Further Parkinson's Research
* FDA Issues Warning About Blood-Loss Drug
* Hotel Visitors Leave Behind Unwelcome Guests: Germs
* California Drug Program Can Be National Model, Group Says

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

Ordinary Flu Shot Might Help Fight Bird Flu

Experts say a shot of seasonal flu vaccine could help protect recipients against H5N1 bird flu should it ever start spreading among humans, the Associated Press reported Friday.

Speaking at an infectious diseases conference in San Francisco, Dr. Robert Webster, of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, said half of a group of mice given a component of the regular influenza vaccine survived infection with bird flu.

He and co-researcher Richard Webby noted that ordinary flu vaccine contains the same 'N' ingredient found in H5N1 bird flu virus, which "suggest there is some basic cross-protection," according to Webster. The vaccine wouldn't provide full protection, however, since the 'H' component is so different.

Another expert, Dr. Frederick Hayden of the University of Virginia, stressed that "we need a lot more data from humans" before confirming that regular vaccine might protect people from bird flu.

At the same conference, Webster also noted that ducks are increasingly the "Trojan horse of influenza," according to the AP. That's because ducks now often survive bird flu infection, leaving it more likely that they will spread the disease to humans, who may breathe in virus in live poultry markets and other locales.


FDA Warns of Botulism in Carrot Juice

Certain lots of Bolthouse Farms Carrot Juice been linked to four cases of botulism, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday warned consumers to avoid the products.

The products include all Bolthouse Farms Carrot Juice sold in 450 ml and 1-liter plastic bottles, with "best if used by" dates of Nov. 11, 2006, or earlier, the Associated Press reported.

The botulism cases were linked to poor refrigeration of the product once consumers brought it home. Carrot juice, even if pasteurized, should always be refrigerated until use, the FDA said.

In the latest case a Florida woman suffered paralysis, a symptom of botulism poisoning. Other symptoms include double vision, droopy eyelids and trouble speaking and swallowing.


Gene Database Will Further Parkinson's Research

Two new studies of the genetics of Parkinson's disease haven't uncovered major culprits triggering the neurological illness, but they have left a rich database invaluable for further research, experts say.

Both studies are published in the October Lancet Neurology. One effort was funded by the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research and is the largest genetics study of its kind so far for Parkinson's disease. However, the researchers say they were unable to confirm that 13 gene variants previously linked to Parksinson's did, in fact, increase risks for the disease.

A second study, led this time by Andrew Singleton of the U.S. National Institute on Aging, focused on the role of common genetic variance in Parkinson's patients. The team did not turn up any one gene variant exerting a large risk for the disease. However, the team say they have "generated publicly available genotype data ... these data can be mined and augmented by other researchers to identify common genetic variability" linked to Parkinson's risk.


FDA Issues Warning About Blood-Loss Drug

A drug designed to prevent blood loss during certain types of heart surgeries appears to increase users' risks of kidney failure, heart failure and stroke, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Friday. The agency advised doctors to carefully monitor patients given the Bayer Pharmaceuticals drug, Trasylol (aprotinin injection).

The drug, made from the lung tissue of cattle, is used to slow or prevent bleeding, avoiding the need for a blood transfusion. On Sept. 27, Bayer informed the FDA of new study data about Trasylol showing the drug could increase a user's chances of death, serious kidney damage, congestive heart failure and stroke, the agency said in a statement. The study involved 67,000 patients who had undergone coronary artery bypass graft surgery.

The FDA said it was unaware of this new information when its advisors met last week to discuss the drug's safety. The agency said further study was needed since many of the people who were given Trasylol were already at greater-than-average risk of serious complications.

Until the agency is able to review the latest data, it advises doctors to carefully monitor Trasylol patients for damage to the kidneys, heart, or brain, and to promptly report any adverse reactions to Bayer or to the FDA. The agency also says doctors should limit the drug's use to cases where Trasylol's use is "essential to medical management of the patient and outweighs the potential risks."


Hotel Guests Leave Behind Cold Germs

Hotel guests with colds leave behind germs on surfaces like door handles, pens, light switches, and TV remotes after they check out of a room, researchers said Friday at a meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.

The scientists studied 15 people with colds who spent a night in individual rooms at a hotel. After the guests checked out the next morning, researchers tested 10 items in each room that were touched by the sick volunteers. About one third of the items were contaminated with cold viruses, the Associated Press reported.

Cold germs were found on 7 of 14 door handles, 6 of 14 pens, 6 of 15 light switches, TV remotes and faucets, and 5 of 15 phones. Viruses were also detected on alarm clocks, coffee makers, and shower curtains.

However, the germ testing was done before the room was cleaned by hotel staff, the AP reported.


California Drug Program Can Be National Model: Group

A new California bill requiring drugmakers to significantly discount prescription medicines for low-income and uninsured people should send a message to the U.S. Congress that it can do the same for Medicare beneficiaries, says the nonprofit group Consumers Union.

The California bill was to be signed Friday by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The discount program is expected to offer savings of up to 40 percent on brand name drugs and up to 60 percent on generic drugs to millions of people.

"If California can use its purchasing power to negotiate lower drug prices for the needy and uninsured, why shouldn't Medicare do the same for seniors and the disabled," Earl Lui, senior attorney for Consumers Union, said in a statement.

"California's leaders on both sides of the political aisle agree that drug price negotiation makes sense, not only for patients, but for taxpayers, as well. Congress should do the same and remove the roadblock it specifically put in the Medicare program against price negotiation," Lui said.

In passing the new Medicare Part D drug benefit, Congress prohibited Medicare from negotiating with drug companies for lower drug prices for seniors and the disabled, Consumers Union said.


Last Updated: Sept. 30, 2006

Copyright 2006 ScoutNews LLC. All rights reserved.

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