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

E. coli Notification Lag Prompts USDA to Change Policy

In response to an E. coli outbreak that made 18 people ill, the US Department of Agriculture has announced a new policy of immediately notifying meat processors when it suspects beef may be contaminated.

In the recent outbreak, the department's Food Safety and Inspection Service has acknowledged that it took 12 days from the day it suspected ground beef was contaminated with E. coli until it to notified the beef's producer, ConAgra Beef Company, in Greely, Colo., and a recall was issued.

Tests first indicated contamination in meat on June 12 at Galligan's Wholesale Meat Co., in Denver. But followup tests weren't performed until June 24, and it wasn't until June 29th that ConAgra was notified its meat was contaminated. The company recalled 354,200 pounds the following day, reports the Associated Press.

Under the new USDA policy, meat producers will now be notified orally and in writing as soon as a positive E. coli sample in meat sent to a retailer or grinder is detected.

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Critics Frown on Johns Hopkins Botox Party

So-called Botox parties have been strongly condemned by dermatological and plastic surgery associations alike, so when invitations went out to just such an event at the prestigious Johns Hopkins Medical School, more than a few eyebrows were raised.

Among those least amused was Dr. Edward Miller, dean of the medical faculty and CEO of the Baltimore school, who sent a letter prohibiting Botox treatments from taking place at the event just hours before it was scheduled, reports the Washington Post.

The event, organized by Patrick Byrne, the director of the hospital's division of facial plastic and reconstructive surgery, was promoted with festive invitations for a "Botox Night," complete with a live demonstration and on-the-spot treatments with the wrinkle-smoothing toxin.

But when critics said the event was beneath the integrity of the highly regarded institution, and consumer advocate group Public Citizen called for the party's cancellation, Miller pulled the plug on the treatments.

The "Botox Night" nevertheless reportedly attracted about 40 people, despite the nixed live demo and instant injections.

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No-Carb Flour Created for Dieters in Need of Dough

On the ever-popular low- and no-carbohydrate diets, nearly all foods containing flour are the enemy, but in the same vein as concepts like sugar-free candy, there's now the inevitable proposition of a carb-free flour.

The idea is coming from the carb capitol itself - - Italy - - where an obesity clinic scientist has been perfecting the concept of "Ros 95," a carbohydrate-free flour that is meant to replace wheat carbohydrates with vegetable proteins and fiber, reports CNN.

So how does it taste? A CNN reporter said a taste test came up with mixed results, but that the flour reportedly got rave reviews from one woman who had been denying herself carbs.

Americans will apparently get a chance to try the product for themselves in August, when the flour becomes available at www.liteflour.com.

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FDA: Chemical in Medical Plastics Poses Danger to Boys

A chemical used to soften plastic medical devices, including blood bags and I.V. tubes, could pose a health hazard to young boys, warns the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The agency says the chemical DEHP can make its way from the plastic material into the bloodstream. Studies on animals show the chemical affects testicle development and sperm production, reports the Associated Press.

While there is no proof yet that the chemical affects humans, the FDA says the theoretical risk is enough to warn doctors to try to use other materials in patients at highest risk. They include newborn boys who need transfusions or I.V. feeding, pubescent boys who need kidney dialysis, and pregnant women carrying a male fetus or nursing a male infant.

The FDA says that doctors should not curtail treating these patients if the physicians can't find alternate devices, saying the need for medical care would almost always outweigh any theoretical DEHP risk.

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65 Tons of Beef Recalled for E. coli

Carneco Foods, LLC, of Columbus, Neb., is recalling 131,000 pounds of frozen ground beef patties that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 bacteria, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) says.

Products being recalled are:

  • 6-lb. bags of "Northern Plains Beef Sirloin and Beef Patties 85/15." Each bag bears a code of  "0205321P."
  • 6-lb. bags of "Northern Plains Ground Beef Patties 80/20" with a code of "02053A1P" or "0205321P."
  • 10-lb. boxes of "Northern Plains Gourmet Beef Patties" with a code between "20020531317" and "20020530500."
  • 7-lb. boxes of "Seasoned Beef Patties (Misformed)" with a code between "20020531317" and "20020530500."

Each bag or box also has "EST. 245P" inside the USDA seal of inspection. The beef was produced Feb. 22, 2002, and distributed to retail establishments nationwide. FSIS has received no reports of illness.

E. coli O157:H7 is a potentially deadly bacteria that can cause bloody diarrhea and dehydration. The very young, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems are most susceptible to foodborne illness.

For more information, contact the Carneco Foods Customer Hotline at 1-866-824-6243.

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Shampoo Sinks Could Pose Stroke Risk

Elderly people who get dizzy while using beauty salon shampoo sinks may be at increased risk of stroke, reports the Washington Post.

Researcher Patrick Foye of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey measured pain, dizziness and blood flow among 25 men and women with an average age of 72. Nearly half experienced dizziness and diminished blood flow from a part of the brain involved in so-called "beauty parlor strokes," the newspaper reports.

Foye says a simple neck support under development could minimize symptoms and stroke risk. Until then, he advises, older people with a history of stroke or neck problems should consider avoiding salon sink shampoos.

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