Health Highlights: July 15, 2007

Gerber Recalls Rice and Oatmeal CerealsFaulty Defibrillator Class Action Lawsuit Settled China Rejects U.S. Meat, Poultry Imports $35 Billion Cigarette Tax Increase Approved By Senate Committee Big Increase in Reports of Avandia-Related Side Effects Dairy May Lower Men's Risk of Diabetes and Heart Disease

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

Gerber Recalls Two Rice and Oatmeal Cereals

Baby food maker Gerber has issued a national recall for two of its popular 8 ounce cereals, ORGANIC Rice and Gerber ORGANIC Oatmeal because of a possible chocking hazard.

The company announced the recall on its Web site and said there had been complaints of choking by product users, but there had been no reported injuries.

The company says the problem may be that some of the cereal remains lumpy and won't dissolve in milk or other liquids. The products with all UPC codes, 15000 12504 for Gerber ORANIC Rice UPC Code, and 15000 12502 for Gerber ORAGNIC Oatmeal are subject to the recall.

Consumers also can call the Gerber Parents Resources Center at 18004437237 or 1-231-928-3000 to return the product and get a full refund.


Faulty Defibrillator Class Action Lawsuit Settled

The lawsuit against the maker of the Guidant defibrillator has been settled, the New York Times reports.

Boston Scientific Corporation, which owns Guidant, has agreed to pay $195 million to settle claims brought by about 4,000 patients who claimed they weren't alerted to possible flaws in one of the company's most widely-used defibrillators, even though the Guidant Corporation had known about the defect for at least three years, the newspaper said.

The device in question is the the Ventak Prizm 2 Model 1861, an implantable defibrillator. The defibrillator works by monitoring a patient's heart rhythm and delivering electrical pulses to the heart when it beats abnormally to bring it back into correct rhythm.

The Times reported in 2005 that the Ventak Prizm 2 Model 1861 failed to work because of faulty insulation. Guidant was aware of the problem as early as 2002 but didn't alert the medical community until the newspaper article was published, the Times said.

Boston Scientific spokesman Paul Donovan told the newspaper that the settlement will resolve all civil claims. But, he added, the U.S. Justice Department's investigation into possible criminal activity is continuing.


China Rejects U.S. Meat, Poultry Imports

In an act of apparent retaliation to the United States' cracking down on imports of many of its food products, China has suspended importing a number of U.S. meat products, including poultry from the world's largest producer, Tyson Foods of Arkansas.

The Associated Press reports that that the Chinese government, following months of U.S.-rejected imports ranging from pet food additives to toothpaste, announced late last week that many U.S. meat products contained substandard materials, including Tyson frozen poultry, which the Chinese agency known as the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) said contained salmonella bacteria.

Other banned meat products contained residue of an anti-parasite drug in pork and a leanness-enhancing food additive, the AQSIQ said. Representatives from Tyson Foods had not responded to the A.P. late Saturday.

In a statement, Li Yuanping, director of the AQSIQ's import and export bureau, said that China had always been diligent in controlling the quality of its exported food. "There is no such thing as zero risk. China-made products should not be labeled as substandard just because of a few bad producers," the wire service quotes him as saying.

There is little doubt that China wants to show it meets international exporting product standards. Its former top food and drug regulator was executed Tuesday after being found guilty of taking bribes to approve untested medicine.


$35 Billion Cigarette Tax Increase Approved By Senate Committee

A hike in the U.S. cigarette tax has moved closer to becoming a reality, although how large the increase will be remains a question.

The New York Times reports that leaders of the Senate Finance Committee have agreed that the increase, which will be used to broaden a federal program to provide health insurance for millions of low income children, will be $35 billion over a five year period.

This amount is far greater than the $5 billion proposed by President Bush, the newspaper reports, and the difference may prompt a confrontation if the bill is passed.

The children's health insurance program expires Sept. 30. The $35 billion tax hike would take place immediately and increase the federal cigarette tax by 61 cents a pack to $1 a pack, the Times reports.

Other tobacco products would also have proportionate tax increases, the Times reports.


Big Increase in Reports of Avandia-Related Side Effects

In the month after the New England Journal of Medicine published an analysis that showed a possible connection between the popular diabetes drug Avandia and heart problems, there was a large increase in the number of suspected Avandia-related side effects reported to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Associated Press reported.

The analysis appeared online May 21. In the 35 days before the release of the analysis, five heart attacks believed to be linked to Avandia were reported to the FDA, compared with 90 such reports in the following 35 days. Reports of heart-related hospitalization among Avandia patients increased from 11 to 126, said the AP, which obtained the data through a Freedom of Information Act request to the FDA.

A number of experts said the analysis likely increased doctors' awareness about the drug's possible role in patients' heart problems, which resulted in the large increase in reported cases of side effects.

Avandia is made by GlaxoSmithKline PLC, which insists the drug is safe and effective. The FDA has scheduled hearings on July 30 to look into safety concerns about the drug, the AP reported.

Diabetes experts said patients taking Avandia should talk to their doctors and shouldn't immediately stop taking the drug.


Dairy May Lower Men's Risk of Diabetes and Heart Disease

Men who consume milk and other dairy products may have a lower risk of diabetes and heart disease, concludes a 20-year British study that included 2,375 men, ages 45 to 59.

The University of Cardiff team found that men who drank a pint or more of milk a day were 62 percent less likely to develop metabolic syndrome, BBC News reported.

People with metabolic syndrome have two or more health conditions -- such as high blood glucose, high blood fats, high blood pressure, and high body fat -- that increase the risk of diabetes and coronary artery disease.

The study appears in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

But people shouldn't consume large amounts of full-fat dairy products in an attempt to prevent diabetes, Jemma Edwards, care advisor at Diabetes UK, told BBC News. Edwards recommended two to three daily servings of low-fat dairy products as part of a balanced diet.


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