Health Highlights: May 20, 2015
ConAgra to Pay $11 Million to Settle Charges Over Salmonella-Tainted Peanut Butter New Rabies Strain Found in New Mexico Bird Flu Outbreak Triggers Egg Price Rise FDA Wants More Detailed Data on Antibiotic Use in Livestock $200 Million Meningitis Outbreak Compensation Fund OK'd by Judge Sandra Lee Recovering After Double Mastectomy
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
ConAgra to Pay $11 Million to Settle Charges Over Salmonella-Tainted Peanut Butter
ConAgra Foods will pay $11.2 million to settle a federal criminal charge over a salmonella outbreak more than eight years ago.
The 2007 salmonella outbreak that sickened at least 625 people in 47 states was linked to a plant in Sylvester, Georgia where ConAgra made Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter, the Associated Press reported.
Federal prosecutors charged the company with one count of shipping adulterated food. No company executives were charged. Under the settlement reached in U.S. District Court in Georgia on Wednesday, ConAgra agreed to pay $8 million in criminal fines and $3.2 million in forfeitures to the federal government.
The case "should sound the alarm" to food producers that authorities are watching, said U.S. Attorney Michael Moore of Georgia's middle district, who handled the prosecution against ConAgra, the AP reported.
"A lot of people got very sick because of the conduct in this case and we are committed to doing all we can to make sure that does not happen again," Moore said.
ConAgra didn't know the peanut butter was contaminated with salmonella before it was shipped from the plant, according to Al Bolles, the company's chief operations officer, the AP reported.
New Rabies Strain Found in New Mexico
A new strain of rabies discovered in New Mexico is the first new type of the potentially fatal disease to be found in the United States in several years.
Federal and state health officials said the strain does not pose a greater public health threat than other strains, but it is generating interest among scientists, the Associated Press reported.
The new strain was identified in a 78-year-old Lincoln County woman after she was bitten by a rabid fox in April. The fox likely came into contact with an infected bat that was carrying the strain.
"It has probably been out there for some time. We just haven't looked that hard for it and by chance we found it," state public health veterinarian Paul Ettestad told the AP.
Bird Flu Outbreak Triggers Egg Price Rise
Egg prices in the United States have jumped as supplies tighten due to a bird flu outbreak that has led to the deaths of millions of laying hens.
In the Midwest, the price of a dozen large eggs rose to $1.88, a 58 percent increase from a month ago when bird flu first appeared on Iowa chicken farms, the Associated Press reported.
For the past week, egg prices have been rising about 5 percent a day.
About 10 percent of chickens that lay eggs for food are dead or dying, egg industry analyst Rick Brown told the AP.
FDA Wants More Detailed Data on Antibiotic Use in Livestock
In an effort to reduce antibiotic-resistant diseases in people, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration wants to gather more information about antibiotic use in animals raised for meat.
In a proposal released Tuesday, the FDA would require drug makers to gather data about the use of antibiotics in specific types of livestock. Currently, drug companies must report the overall amount of antibiotics they sell each year for use in food-producing animals, the Associated Press reported.
The FDA said having data on specific livestock species that are receiving the drugs could help in its efforts to reduce levels of antibiotics in meat.
The proposal is part of the Obama administration's overall effort to reduce unnecessary use of antibiotics, which can cause germs to become resistant to the drugs, the AP reported.
$200 Million Meningitis Outbreak Compensation Fund OK'd by Judge
A $200 million compensation fund that will be available to victims of a 2012 meningitis outbreak was approved Tuesday by a federal bankruptcy judge.
The 2012 outbreak was caused by the now-closed New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts. The fund will be used to compensate creditors and people who became ill or the families of those who died after receiving tainted steroid injections made by the compounding center, the Associated Press reported.
More than 750 people were sickened and 64 died in the fungal meningitis outbreak that affected 20 states.
About 3,300 victims are qualified to seek compensation from the fund, according to David Molton, a New York lawyer representing creditors, the AP reported.
He said the judge is expected to finalize the plan within the next few days and victims should start receiving payments before the end of the year.
Sandra Lee Recovering After Double Mastectomy
TV cooking show host Sandra Lee, 48, had a double mastectomy on Tuesday and is "doing as well as can be expected," according to her longtime companion Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York.
In a statement, Cuomo said Lee's operation lasted nearly five hours. Neither his office or Lee's representatives revealed where the surgery was performed, The New York Times reported.
Lee, who hosts cooking shows on the Food Network, announced last week that she had breast cancer. In updates posted Tuesday afternoon on her Facebook page, Lee's representatives said she was "a little groggy, but grateful the surgery is completed."
Another Facebook posting said Lee was up before dawn to prepare for the operation, and was driven to the hospital by Cuomo, who stayed with her until she was anesthetized, The Times reported.