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Health Highlights: Nov. 6, 2009

FDA Issues Warning Letters To Flavored Cigarette Sellers Pet Treats May Be Salmonella-Tainted: FDA Democrat Predicts Passage of House Health Reform Bill Immunity Claims Coming Off Cereal Boxes: Kellogg FDA Warns About Sexual Enhancement ProductDoctors' Deal With Coke Sparks Outrage

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

FDA Issues Warning Letters To Flavored Cigarette Sellers

Warning letters have been sent to companies using Web sites to sell illegal flavored cigarettes to U.S. consumers, the Food and Drug Administration said Friday.

A ban on the sale of candy- or fruit-flavored cigarettes that took effect Sept. 22 is meant to reduce the number of children and teens who start smoking.

The companies that received the letters were told to stop marketing and selling flavored cigarettes or to take other actions to make sure the products comply with the law. Failure to heed the warning could result in seizure or injunction. The companies were given 15 days to tell the FDA what measures they've taken.

"FDA takes the enforcement of this flavored cigarette ban seriously," Dr. Lawrence R. Deyton, director of FDA's Center for Tobacco Products, said in an agency news release. "These actions should send a clear message to those who continue to break the law that FDA will take necessary actions to protect our children from initiating tobacco use."


Pet Treats May Be Salmonella-Tainted: FDA

Pig ears and beef hooves pet treats made by California-based Pet Carousel may be contaminated with salmonella, warns the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The treats were produced under conditions that can cause cross-contamination between batches or lots. Consumers should not handle these products or feed them to their pets, the FDA said. No illnesses associated with the treats have been reported.

The pig ears and beef hooves were distributed across the United States in both bulk and retail packaging for sale in pet food and retail chain stores. The pig ears were packaged under the brand names Doggie Delight and Pet Carousel. The beef hooves were packaged under the brand names Choo Hooves, Dentley's, Doggie Delight, and Pet Carousel.

People who handle the pet treats can become infected with salmonella, especially if they don't thoroughly wash their hands after handling the treats or touching any surfaces exposed to these products. Consumers should dispose of the treats by putting them in a covered trash container, the FDA said.


Democrat Predicts Passage of House Health Reform Bill

A historic health-care bill that has the support of highly influential groups, such as the AARP and the American Medical Association, is expected to have the 218 votes needed to pass a House vote on Saturday, according to second-ranking House Democrat Steny Hoyer.

He acknowledged that the vote could be close, and success depends on working out a few remaining sticking points, including language on abortion and illegal immigrants, the Associated Press reported.

"I wouldn't refer to it as a squeaker, but I think it's going to be close," Hoyer said. "This is a huge undertaking."

The bill would extend health coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans and forbid insurers from refusing to provide coverage to people, the AP reported.

On Thursday, the bill received a major boost when the AARP, the powerful seniors' group, the American Medical Association and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network all announced their support.

"The bill does improve quality, and it improves access," AARP Senior Policy Adviser John Rother told the AP. "When people hear this message from us, it will have impact."

The time to make health system reform a reality is now, AMA President J. James Rohack said in a news release.

While the House may pass the bill this weekend, the Senate isn't expected to vote on a health reform bill until early next year.


Immunity Claims Coming Off Cereal Boxes: Kellogg

Immunity claims will be removed from boxes of Rice Krispies and Cocoa Krispies, says Kellogg Co., which faced a barrage of criticism for the new label claim as concerns grow about the threat of swine flu.

The company said it will take several months to phase out the cereal boxes that contain a large label that reads "Now helps support your child's immunity," the Associated Press reported.

The company said it will continue to add extra antioxidants to the cereals, a practice it began last year in a move intended to respond to consumer desire for improved nutrition, said Kellogg spokeswoman Susanne Norwitz.

The FDA monitors claims made by food makers and said manufacturers are responsible for the truth of those claims, the AP reported.


FDA Warns About Sexual Enhancement Product

The sexual enhancement dietary supplement Stiff Nights contains an illegal ingredient that can cause dangerously low blood pressure, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned Thursday.

Stiff Nights contains sulfoaildenafil, a chemical similar to sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra. The FDA said sulfoaildenafil may interact with prescription drugs known as nitrates, including nitroglycerin, and cause dangerously low blood pressure.

The product, sold in bottles containing 6, 12, or 30 red capsules or in blister packs containing 1 or 2 capsules, is distributed online and at retail stores by Impulsaria LLC of Grand Rapids, Mich.

"Because this product is labeled as an all natural dietary supplement, consumers may assume it is harmless and poses no health risk. In fact, this product is illegally marketed and can cause serious complications," Deborah M. Autor, director of the FDAs Center for Drug Evaluation and Research Office of Compliance, said in an agency news release.

Anyone who has experienced adverse events after using this or any other sexual enhancement product should consult a health professional, the FDA said.


Doctors' Deal with Coke Sparks Outrage

Almost two dozen doctors have quit the American Academy of Family Physicians after the group announced a deal with Coca-Cola Co. to fund educational materials about soft drinks on the academy's consumer health and wellness Web site.

"Coca-Cola, like other sodas, causes enormous suffering and premature death by increasing the risks of obesity, diabetes, heart attacks, gout and cavities," Dr. Walter Willett, a nutrition expert at Harvard University, said in an e-mail to the Associated Press.

The academy "should be a loud critic of these products and practices, but by signing a deal with Coke their voice has almost surely been muzzled," Willett said.

The six-figure alliance between the academy and Coke is similar to ads decades ago in which doctors said mild cigarettes are safe, Dr. William Walker, public health officer for Contra Costa County near San Francisco, told the AP.

He and 20 other doctors who work with his local medical practice have quit the American Academy of Family Physicians in protest.

Coke won't have any control over editorial content on the Web site, said academy CEO Dr. Douglas Henley. The new online information, to be posted in January, will note the link between soft drinks and obesity and focus on sugar-free alternatives.


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