Health Highlights: July 6, 2007
Counterfeit Toothpaste Has More Bacteria Than First Thought Penalty in China for Drug Agency Corruption: Death Great Lakes Fish Unfit to Eat: Report Burger King Banishing Trans Fats Contractors Returning From Iraq Have PTSD Symptoms
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:
Counterfeit Toothpaste Has More Bacteria Than First Thought
Early testing in Canada of recalled counterfeit Colgate toothpaste suggests it may harbor more harmful bacteria than first suspected, the government's Health Canada agency said Friday.
The products are labeled "Colgate Fluoride Toothpaste Herbal" and "Colgate Fluoride Toothpaste Maximum Cavity Protection," the CBC reported. In its initial announcement June 29, Health Canada said the products were believed to contain harmful bacteria, and that consumers should stop using the toothpaste immediately.
The packaging has several typographical errors including a statement that the phoney product came from "SOUTH AFRLCA" and had been sanctioned by the "South African Dental Assoxiation."
Separately, Health Canada also said the antifreeze chemical diethylene glycol had been found in three more brands of Chinese toothpaste imported into Canada, the CBC said.
Canadian officials said they've now confiscated 24 unapproved brands of Chinese toothpaste that contain the chemical, which experts say can be lethal if ingested.
U.S. officials have similarly confiscated thousands of tubes of toothpaste imported from China that contain the chemical, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned Americans not to use any brand of toothpaste that comes from China.
Penalty in China for Drug Agency Corruption: Death
A once high-ranking official in China's food and drug agency has been sentenced to death for allegedly approving counterfeit drugs and for accepting bribes, The New York Times reports.
Until two years ago, Cao Wenzhuang was in charge of drug registration approvals at the State Food and Drug Administration, the newspaper said. He's convicted of taking more than $300,000 in bribes from drug companies.
Less than two months ago, the agency's director was sentenced to death by the same Beijing court for accepting $850,000 in bribes. Four other senior agency officials have been sentenced to long prison terms, the newspaper said.
The harsh sentences have been handed down amid growing international criticism of China's lax food and drug policies. Recent scandals include a huge recall of Chinese-made pet food ingredients that were found to contain an industrial chemical, and a global recall of Chinese toothpaste that contained a chemical used to make antifreeze.
Great Lakes Fish Unfit to Eat: Report
Fish found in the Great Lakes are so contaminated by industrial pollution that they're unsafe to eat, the Toronto-based group Environmental Defense says.
The chemicals include dioxins, PCBs, and methyl mercury, the Globe and Mail reported.
Contamination is worst in Lake Ontario, but is worrisome even in Lake Superior, the least polluted body, the newspaper said.
Although PCBs, once a byproduct of electrical equipment, were banned in the 1970s, some fish including salmon, rainbow trout, walleye, pike and lake trout still harbor unsafe levels, the environmental group said.
Canada's Ministry of Environment rejected the report's conclusions, the newspaper said. An agency spokeswoman said contaminant levels in fish have been falling, noting that the ministry also has devised more rigorous standards for contaminant levels that are safe for people to eat.
Environmental Defense said its report wasn't meant to discourage people from eating fish entirely, but to promote the need to clean up the waterways.
Burger King Banishing Trans Fats
By the end of next year, the Burger King fast food chain says it will be using trans-fat-free cooking oil at all 7,100 restaurants in the United States.
The world's second-largest hamburger chain behind McDonald's, Burger King said it was already using the trans-fat-free oil at hundreds of U.S. restaurants, the Associated Press reported. The company said it would meet the trans fat ban sooner if adequate supplies of the alternative oil became available.
Trans fats, usually listed on food labels as partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, have been shown to clog arteries, raise so-called "bad" cholesterol, and promote heart disease.
In May, the Washington, DC-based Center for Science in the Public Interest sued Burger King, claiming it was taking too long to introduce a healthier oil, the wire service said. At the time, Burger King said it expected to begin a national rollout of its trans-fat-free oil by the end of the year.
Earlier this year, McDonald's announced it had selected a healthier alternative; Starbucks announced in May that it would end use of trans fats by the end of the year; Wendy's said it began using a trans-fat-free oil in August 2006; KFC in April said its fried chicken now contained zero grams of trans fats; and Taco Bell also said it had switched to a trans fat-free oil, the AP reported.
Contractors Returning From Iraq Have PTSD Symptoms
U.S. government contractors returning from Iraq show some of the same combat-related mental health problems as returning soldiers, The New York Times reports.
As many as 126,000 contractors work for the American government in Iraq. While many work alongside soldiers, most are on their own when it comes to accessing the civilian medical system when they return to the states, the newspaper said. They aren't eligible for care in the Department of Veteran's Affairs (VA) or military healthcare systems.
As a result, many contractors with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental illnesses aren't properly diagnosed, experts told the Times.
The federal government hasn't investigated the Iraq war's toll on private contractors, Pentagon and VA officials told the newspaper. "To my knowledge, it has not been looked at systematically," said Dr. Matthew Friedman, who directs the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
In addition to mental illness, there's also a physical toll on civilians who have served in Iraq. About 1,000 contractors have died since the Iraq war began and nearly 13,000 have been injured, the Times said.