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Health Highlights: Aug. 7, 2007

'Healthy' Restaurant Foods Cause Most Illness U.S. Beach Closings Reached Record High in 2006 Green Tea Helps Mice Beat Psoriasis Tests Confirm Second Foot and Mouth Outbreak in Britain U.S. Panel Reviews Safety of Chemical Used in Plastics China Bans Crude Population Control Slogans

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

'Healthy' Restaurant Foods Cause Most Illness

Restaurant foods considered to be healthy -- lettuce, uncooked vegetables, seafood, and ethnic food -- actually cause the most outbreaks of restaurant-related foodborne illness, according to an analysis of data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The analysis by revealed that lettuce-based salads, tomatoes, and vegetables were the leading cause of food poisoning outbreaks in U.S. restaurants in 2005. Seafood and ethnic foods were the second-leading cause.

Lettuce-based salads, tomatoes and vegetables served in restaurants caused 49 outbreaks of foodborne illness in the U.S. in 2005, according to the Web site, which said that these foods are easily contaminated if a food worker's hands are not clean.

Restaurant seafood and ethnic food each caused 43 outbreaks of foodborne illness in 2005.


U.S. Beach Closings Reached Record High in 2006

In 2006, pollution at 3,500 ocean, lake and bay beaches in the United States caused more than 25,000 closing or swimming advisory days, a 28 percent increase from 2005, says the annual "Testing the Waters" report released Tuesday by the National Resources Defense Council.

The number of closing/advisory days in 2006 was the highest in the 17 years of record keeping. Storm water runoff, which carries pollutants into the water, accounted for more than 10,000 of the days,MSNBC reported.

Sewage spills and overflows accounted for 1,300 of the days, while the remainder of closings/advisory days were caused by fecal contamination of undetermined source.

The report said that as many as seven million Americans get sick every year from drinking or swimming in water contaminated with bacteria, viruses or parasites, which can cause a wide range of health problems including; eye, ear, and nose infections; hepatitis; gastroenteritis; skin rashes, encephalitis; and respiratory illness, MSNBC reported.

The "Testing the Waters" report listed 13 beaches that met public health standards more than 90 percent of the time in 2006:

  • California: Laguna Beach
  • Maine: Libby Cove, Mother's, Middle, Cape Neddick, Short Sands and York Harbor beaches
  • Michigan: Grand Haven City Beach and Grand Haven State Park beaches
  • North Carolina: Kure Beach and Kill Devil Hills Beach
  • Wisconsin: Sister Bay Beach and North Beach.

Beaches that failed to meet federal standards more than half the time were:

  • California: Avalon Beach (north of Green Pleasure Peir) and Venice State Beach
  • Illinois: Jackson Park Beach
  • Maryland: Hacks Point and Bay Country Campground and Beach
  • New Jersey: Beachwood Beach West.


Green Tea Helps Mice Beat Psoriasis

Green tea may help treat inflammatory skin diseases such as psoriasis, dandruff, and lupus-induced lesions, concludes a Medical College of Georgia study to be published in the Aug. 18 issue of the journal Experimental Dermatology.

The researchers found that a bath of green tea extract mixed with water slowed the development and severity of psoriasis symptoms in mice genetically predisposed to develop the condition, CBC News reported.

Green tea slows the production of skin cells by regulating the activity of the enzyme caspase 14, the researchers concluded. Caspase 14 is involved in regulating the life cycle of skin cells.

In psoriasis and similar kinds of skin diseases, skin cells multiply out of control, which causes the skin to be thicker and flake off, CBC News reported. Immune cells are also activated, which leads to inflammation.

The study authors noted that this research is still in the early stages.


Tests Confirm Second Foot and Mouth Outbreak in Britain

A second outbreak of foot and mouth disease has been confirmed on a British farm close to the farm where the first outbreak was detected, Britain's Environment Secretary Hilary Benn told BBC television Tuesday.

Agence France-Presse reported that the second farm is located within a two-mile protection zone established around the farm south of London where the first outbreak was confirmed Friday.

About 120 cattle were slaughtered at the first farm, near the village of Normandy in Surrey, and tests have confirmed foot and mouth disease in three of those animals. Officials have ordered the slaughter of 50 cattle at the second farm, AFP reported.

The outbreaks on the two farms have farmers and officials worried about a possible repeat of the 2001 foot and mouth epidemic that devastated Britain's farming industry, AFP reported.


U.S. Panel Reviews Safety of Chemical Used in Plastics

An independent panel of scientists appointed by the U.S. National Institutes of Health has started a review of the controversial chemical bisphenol A, which is used to make a wide range of plastic products, including food and beverage containers.

Trace amounts of the synthetic estrogen leak from containers into food and drinks and are absorbed by the body, CBC News reported.

In rodents, bisphenol A has been linked to a number of health problems, including cancer, insulin resistance and obesity. There is growing concern that the chemical may harm human health.

The panel will review available scientific evidence and is expected to make a recommendation on whether bisphenol A poses a threat to human development or reproduction, CBC News reported.


China Bans Crude Population Control Slogans

Crude and insensitive slogans used by rural Chinese officials to support the country's strict population control laws have been banned by China's top family planning bureau, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Sunday.

Examples of outlawed slogans include: "One more baby means one more tomb," "Raise fewer babies and more piggies," and "Houses toppled, cows confiscated, if abortion demand rejected."

To replace these and other similar messages, Xinhua said the National Population and Family Planning Commission issued a list of 190 acceptable sayings, the Associated Press reported.

Among the kinder, gentler new slogans: "Mother earth is too tired to sustain more children" and "Both boys and girls are parents' hearts."

Under Chinese law, most urban couples are limited to one child, while some rural couples are allowed to have a second child if their firstborn is a girl, the AP reported.


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