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Health Highlights: Nov. 27 2012

Disease-Causing Bacteria Common in Pork: Study Nobel Prize-Winning Transplant Pioneer Dies Operations Halted At Peanut Butter Plant: FDA Appeals Court Must Re-Examine Key Part of Health Care Law: Supreme Court

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

Disease-Causing Bacteria Common in Pork: Study

New questions about the safety of pork are raised in a study by Consumer Reports, an independent, nonprofit organization.

The group tested nearly 200 pork chop and ground pork samples and found that many tested positive for potentially disease-causing bacteria such as salmonella, listeria, staph, and yersinia, CBS News reported.

More than 90 percent of the bacteria found in the pork samples were antibiotic-resistant.

"All of these things paint a very concerning picture about this indiscriminate use of antibiotics in meat production in this country, and what we believe are the resulting consequences of that," said Urvashi Rangan, director of consumer safety and sustainability at Consumer Reports.

"You always expect to find some bacteria in any meat product. But those are usually harmless. I think the real surprise here was to find so many potentially disease-causing bacteria," Stephen Morse, of the Columbia University School of Public Health, told CBS News.

Pork is safe to eat, according to Scott Hurd of the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine. He's a former top U.S. food safety official who has done consulting work for the pork industry.

He said germs are found in nearly everything we eat and that consumers should always be careful when handling meat, including washing your hands and cooking meat thoroughly, CBS News reported.


Nobel Prize-Winning Transplant Pioneer Dies

A Nobel Prize-winning American surgeon who conducted the first successful human organ transplant died Monday.

Dr. Joseph E. Murray, 93, died from complications caused by a stroke he suffered Nov. 22, The New York Times reported.

Murray died at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital, where he performed his first transplant, said hospital spokesman Tom Langford. In the groundbreaking surgical procedure, conducted in 1954, Murray transplanted a healthy kidney from a 23-year-old man into the man's ailing identical twin.

Throughout his career, Murray pioneered techniques that benefited tens of thousands of patients who received new kidneys, lungs, hearts, livers or other organs, The Times reported.

In 1990, Murray was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.


Operations Halted At Peanut Butter Plant: FDA

The Food and Drug Administration has used new powers to halt operations at a New Mexico peanut butter plant linked to a salmonella outbreak that sickened 41 people in 20 states.

Sunland Inc., the nation's largest organic peanut butter processor, voluntarily shut down operations at its plant in Portales, N.M. earlier this fall and had announced that it would reopen the facility on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.

However, the FDA on Monday suspended Sunland's registration. This was done under new powers given to the FDA to stop production at facilities that may be producing unsafe food.

The Sunland plant has had repeated food safety violations over several years, the AP reported.

It's the first time the FDA has used its new authority to suspend a company's registration. That power was given to the agency in food safety law enacted in early 2011.

Prior to the new law, the FDA would have had to go to court to suspend a company's registration, explained Michael Taylor, the FDA's deputy commissioner for foods.

"We would have had to go to court and build a case," Taylor told the AP. Now, the onus is on the company to prove that its food is safe.


Appeals Court Must Re-Examine Key Part of Health Care Law: Supreme Court

A U.S. federal appeals court must take another look at whether a key requirement in the health care reform law violates religious freedoms, the Supreme Court says.

In June, the Supreme Court upheld the overall law but left room for legal challenges to certain aspects of the law's application, CNN reported. On Monday, the high court told a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to revisit its unanimous 2011 decision that a lawsuit by Liberty University in Virginia should be blocked on jurisdictional grounds.

The lawsuit by the private Christian evangelical college claimed that the new federal law would lead to taxpayer dollars funding abortions and contraception. The Obama administration says that's not true.

The school, which re-filed its lawsuit after the Supreme Court's June ruling, says people shouldn't be required to buy health insurance, and employers shouldn't be forced to provide it, if they have legitimate moral and religious objections to some parts of the health care law.

There is no indication when the appeals court will revisit the matter, CNN reported.


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