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Health Highlights: Dec. 31, 2010

Flu Now Widespread in 5 States, CDC Says Ground Beef, Chicken Wings Recalled Nutrition Labels Coming to Meats in 2012

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

Flu Now Widespread in 5 States, CDC Says

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control on Thursday said that influenza is becoming more active, with reports of widespread activity jumping from zero states last week to five states this week.

Four of the affected states are in the South -- Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Virginia, the Associated Press reported. The fifth state was New York. The CDC notes that virus samples taken so far show that this year's vaccine is a good match for circulating strains.

Over 23,600 Americans die each year from flu-related causes, the CDC notes.


Ground Beef, Chicken Wings Recalled

Over 34,000 pounds of organic ground beef is being recalled by a California company after concerns it may be contaminated with E. coli, federal officials announced Thursday.

The packages of ground beef are made by First Class Foods Inc. of Hawthorne and bear establishment number "EST. 18895," the Associated Press reported. The product was shipped Dec. 7 and Dec. 16 to retail outlets in California, New Jersey, New York, California, Wisconsin and Washington state.

According to the AP, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service has so far received no reports of illness linked to the meat.

In a separate recall, Pilgrim's Pride is voluntarily recalling about 180,000 pounds of Pierce Hot & Spicy Breaded Chicken Wings and Sweet Georgia Brand Hot & Spicy Breaded Chicken Wings because they contain egg, an allergen, USDA said. Egg does not appear on the products' labeling.

The products under recall were produced between January and October of 2010. They carry item codes 1703 and 95122 and were sold to food service distributors in 20-pound and 10-pound cases, respectively, CNN reported. The uncooked products carry the designation "P-413" printed next to a coded date, as well as coded designations of "0001," "0007," "0029," "0044," "0056," "0058," "0063," "0075," "0098," "0109," "0119," "0135," "0188," "0215," "0230," "0244," or "0279."

No adverse reactions linked to the wings have yet been reported, according to Pilgrim's Pride and the USDA.


Nutrition Labels Coming to Meats in 2012

Starting Jan. 1, 2012, many meats will be required to come with nutrition labels that include information such as the number of calories, so consumers can be better informed about what they eat, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday.

The rule applies to 40 of the most popular cuts of meat and poultry products, including pork, beef, lamb, and ground meat such as hamburger or turkey, according to published reports.

"More and more, busy American families want nutrition information that they can quickly and easily understand," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a news release. "We need to do all we can to provide nutrition labels that will help consumers make informed decisions."

The rule will require meat producers to reveal the total number of calories, the number of calories that come from fat, and the total grams of fat and saturated fat. The labels must also provide information about protein, cholesterol, sodium and vitamins in the product, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Calorie consumption is a worrisome issue in the United States, with an estimated two-thirds of Americans either overweight or obese, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Nutrition facts" labels have existed for several decades, and became mandatory on virtually all processed foods by 1994. But cuts of raw meat generally were left out of the labeling system -- until now, the Times reported.

The American Meat Institute, a trade group, said the new requirements would give the industry a chance to highlight some of its more healthful offerings.


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