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Health Highlights: May 3, 2018

FDA Delays New Food Labeling Rules Scientists Develop Blood Test for Peanut Allergy Raw Oysters From British Columbia Linked to Norovirus Outbreaks

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

FDA Delays New Food Labeling Rules

Food makers have received an extension on meeting requirements for updated nutrition and serving size information on product labels, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says.

The compliance dates have been extended from July 26, 2018 to Jan. 1, 2020 for manufacturers with $10 million or more in annual food sales, and from July 26, 2019 to Jan. 1, 2021 for manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales.

The final rules for the new labeling requirements were published on May 27, 2016.

"This extension on the Nutrition Facts label regulation will help ensure that we provide the food industry with guidance to help them modernize their Nutrition Facts labels and that industry has sufficient time to complete and print updated Nutrition Facts labels," FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said in an agency news release.

"It's crucial that we provide clear expectations so that industry can meet them. It's just as important for consumers to be able to effectively use the updated food labels, and we're launching a major educational campaign for consumers to help them better understand the new nutrition information that they'll be seeing in the marketplace," Gottlieb said.

The new nutrition information is meant to reflect current scientific knowledge, including the link between diet and chronic diseases such as obesity and heart disease, according to the FDA.

It's also meant to make it easier for consumers to be better-informed when choosing foods. For example, the new rule requires that "added sugars" be declared and updates the list of important vitamins and minerals.

The serving size final rule will more accurately reflect what people actually eat and drink and include new labeling requirements for certain size packages, according to the FDA.


Scientists Develop Blood Test for Peanut Allergy

A new blood test for peanut allergy is more accurate and less risky than current tests, according to U.K. researchers.

The current skin-prick test can lead to people being diagnosed with an allergy when they do not have one. Another test involves feeding increasingly large amounts of peanuts to a person in a controlled setting in hospital to try to confirm the allergy, but that carries of risk of severe allergic reaction, BBC News reported.

The blood test was assessed in 174 children (73 with peanut allergy), ages six months to 17 years. The results appear in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

"The current tests are not ideal," said study lead author Alexandra Santos, King's College London, BBC News reported.

"If we relied on them alone, we'd be over-diagnosing food allergies -- only 22 percent of school-aged children in the U.K. with a positive test to peanuts are actually allergic when they're fed the food in a monitored setting," she said.

"The new test is specific in confirming the diagnosis. So when it's positive, we can be very sure it means allergy," Santos told BBC News.

"We would reduce by two-thirds the number of expensive, stressful oral food challenges conducted, as well as saving children from experiencing allergic reactions," she said.

"Before it can be used clinically, it needs to be running routinely in a diagnostic laboratory," Santos noted.

The researchers said the new blood test could be adapted to check for other food allergies, BBC News reported.


Raw Oysters From British Columbia Linked to Norovirus Outbreaks

Raw oysters from British Columbia, Canada have been linked to norovirus outbreaks in California and Canada.

As of April 27, about 100 people in California have become ill after eating the oysters sold in restaurants and stores, state health officials say. In Canada, there have been 172 illnesses linked to the oysters. No deaths have been reported, according to CBS News.

Potentially contaminated raw oysters from British Columbia were also shipped to Illinois, Massachusetts and Washington, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says.

The agency says retailers should not sell raw oysters harvested from the following harvest locations (or landfiles) within Baynes Sound: #1402060, #1411206, #1400483, and #278757, CBS News reported.

Consumers should not eat any raw oysters from these locations and should throw away any they have.

Norovirus-contaminated food can look, smell and taste normal but can cause diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, fever, and stomach pain. These symptoms can develop 12 to 48 hours after infection, CBS News reported.

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