Health Highlights: Dec. 24, 2008

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

FDA Repeats Caution on Chicken Jerky Treats for Dogs

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued another cautionary warning Wednesday to dog owners to be on the alert for an association between pet illnesses and consumption of chicken jerky products imported from China.

Since the agency first issued its first warning to consumers in September 2007, the FDA has continued to receive complaints from dog owners and veterinarians of sick canines who had eaten these products, which are also labeled as chicken tenders, strips, or treats, the agency said in its advisory. At least one firm in Australia, as well, has recalled their Chinese-manufactured chicken jerky products.

FDA scientists have so far been unable to determine a cause for the reported illnesses, and chemical and microbial analyses have yet to identify any contaminant.

Pet owners should be on the lookout for decreased appetite and activity, vomiting, diarrhea, sometimes with blood, or increased water drinking or increased urination in their dogs, the FDA advisory said. If signs are severe or last for more than 24 hours, the FDA urges pet owners to call their veterinarian.

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L.A. Liposuction Doc Investigated for Alleged Use of Patients' Fat to Fuel SUV

A Beverly Hills doctor specializing in liposuction is under investigation by California officials who say he converted his patients' unwanted body fat into biodiesel to power his and his girlfriend's SUVs.

Dr. Alan Bittner, who had advertised nationally for patients to travel to Beverly Hills for liposuction, faces an investigation by the state's public health department because of several lawsuits that allege he allowed his assistant and his girlfriend to perform liposuction without a medical license, removing too much fat and leaving patients disfigured, Forbes reported Wednesday.

And while it all might seem environmentally friendly, Forbes noted that it is also illegal in California to use human medical waste to power vehicles.

It's unclear when Bittner started and stopped making fat fuel or how he made it, but Forbes reported that the science was valid. Animal or vegetable fat contains triglycerides that can be extracted and turned into diesel. Some poultry companies are looking into powering their trucks on chicken schmaltz, and biofuel start-ups are mixing beef tallow and pig lard with other sources like soybean oil to brew biodiesel, Forbes reported.

For the record, a gallon of grease can be converted into about a gallon of fuel. Drivers get about the same amount of mileage from fat fuel as they do from regular diesel, Jenna Higgins, of the National Biodiesel Board, told Forbes.

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FDA Says Diet Coke Plus Claims Violate Regulations

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned Coca-Cola Co., the world's largest soft-drink maker, that its claims that Diet Coke Plus contains vitamins and minerals violate federal regulations, Bloomberg reported Tuesday.

The agency said the company product is misbranded, because it includes the content claim "plus," and it urged Coca-Cola to "take prompt action to correct these violations," according to the FDAs Web site. Coca-Cola disputed the finding, saying the complaint doesn't involve health or safety issues, according to the news agency.

The FDA letter said it was not appropriate to fortify snack foods such as carbonated beverages. Diet Coke Plus has vitamins and minerals, including 10 percent of the recommended daily value for magnesium and 15 percent for vitamin B12.

A company spokesman said the label on Diet Coke Plus complies with FDA policies and regulations and that it plans to reply in detail to the complaint in early January, Bloomberg reported.

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