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Health Highlights: May 14, 2010

Schools to Serve Safer Beef Heinz Cooks Up a Less Salty Ketchup 2.5 Million Step2 Toy Buggies Recalled E. Coli Outbreak Expands to Tennessee Changes Seen in Substance Abuse Treatment Admissions

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

Schools to Serve Safer Beef

When students return to school after summer vacation, they'll be served better-quality beef in the school cafeteria, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Friday.

Under new standards starting in July, producers will have to test the beef for contamination more often, and they will not be able to sell beef produced on the same day that E. coli O157 or salmonella is found through testing at a plant, the Associated Press reported.

The new standards will also bar the use of certain trimmings.

The agriculture department directs the school lunch program and coordinates schools' food purchases. In February, it said that the National Academy of Sciences will review the government's beef purchases, the AP said.


Heinz Cooks Up a Less Salty Ketchup

In a nod to America's growing interest in healthy eating, Heinz is reducing the salt in its ketchup.

The new version -- with a 15 percent cut in sodium -- represents the first significant formula change in 40 years, the condiment maker said, the Associated Press reported. It will appear on store shelves this summer.

The altered recipe was tested in cities throughout the United States, said Jessica Jackson, spokeswoman for the Pittsburgh-based company.

Jackson added that the change will be reflected in the nutrition panel, but said consumers wont see a dramatic label change announcing the recipe's alteration, the AP said.


2.5 Million Step2 Toy Buggies Recalled

A problem with handles has led Step2 Co. to recall 2.5 million ride-on toys that pose a "serious risk of injury to young children," the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said Thursday.

Two children needed "professional medical treatment" after the handle detached from the car-like buggies, and 26 children got scraped and scratched in other incidents, the agency said in a statement, Bloomberg reported.

A pin with a yellow head on Step2's "Push Around and Whisper Ride" buggies can come loose, enabling the buggy to roll way, the agency said.

The recall applies to buggies sold from August 1999 through March 2010 for $29 to $59, the CPSC said.

Consumers are advised to stop using the buggies and contact Step2 for a free repair kit, by calling 1-866-860-1887 or visiting the company's website,, the agency said.


E. Coli Outbreak Expands to Tennessee

An E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce grown in Arizona has expanded, said federal officials who reported on Wednesday that another person became ill in Tennessee.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it knows of 23 confirmed cases and seven probable cases, but because this is a rare and hard-to-detect strain, there may be other unreported cases, the Associated Press reported.

Earlier this week, the CDC reported 19 cases, all confined to Michigan, Ohio and New York. All were stricken before late April, and many were students who ate in school cafeterias, the AP reported.

So far, two recalls of romaine lettuce have been announced by distributors who bought lettuce from the same as-yet-unidentified Yuma, Ariz., farm. Vaughn Foods of Moore, Okla., publicized a recall of romaine lettuce Monday, and last week Freshway Foods of Ohio announced a 23-state recall.

The recalled lettuce was primarily sold to food service establishments. Bagged lettuce in grocery stores was not included in the recalls, the AP said.

Because the lettuce passed through several facilities before being eaten, the Food and Drug Administration is still trying to determine precisely where the contamination occurred. Suppliers buy bulk lettuce directly from farms and sell it to distributors, which then sell it to food service establishments or retail customers, the AP said.


Changes Seen in Substance Abuse Treatment Admissions

Patterns of substance abuse treatment in the United States have changed over the past decade, with a larger percentage of people 12 and older now treated for drug use alone, a new U.S. report shows.

Treatment admissions attributed to drug abuse alone rose from 26 percent in 1998 to 37 percent in 2008, says a study released Wednesday by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The study also found that admissions involving alcohol abuse alone dropped from 27 percent in 1998 to 23 percent in 2008.

The percentage of patients treated for co-abusing drugs and alcohol declined gradually -- from 44 percent to 38 percent -- during the 10-year period, the report noted.

Other trends noted in the study:

  • Five substances were involved in 96 percent of treatment admissions: alcohol, marijuana, opiates, cocaine and stimulants (mainly methamphetamine).
  • Opiate admissions increased from 16 percent of admissions in 1998 to 20 percent in 2008.
  • Cocaine admissions decreased from 15 percent in 1998 to 11 percent in 2008.
  • Admissions for marijuana use rose from 13 percent in 1998 to 17 percent in 2008.
  • Stimulant admissions grew from 4 percent in 1998 to 6 percent in 2008.
  • Marijuana was a primary or secondary substance in 79 percent of adolescent treatment admissions.

"This survey provides valuable insight into the changing nature and source of substance abuse treatment admissions," SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde said in a news release. The findings can help lead to more effective treatment programs, she said.

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