Health Highlights: Oct. 17, 2019

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

Many Baby Foods Contain Brain-Harming Heavy Metals: Study

Many baby foods contain toxic heavy metals that can harm brain development, according to test results released Thursday by a group called Healthy Babies Bright Futures.

Analyses of 168 baby foods from major U.S. manufacturers showed that 95% contained lead, 73% contained arsenic, 75% contained cadmium and 32% contained mercury, while one-fourth contained all four heavy metals, CNN reported.

One in five had over 10 times the 1-ppb limit of lead endorsed by public health advocates, but no level of lead is considered safe.

Baby foods that posed the greatest risk to brain development were rice-based products, sweet potatoes and fruit juices, CNN reported.

"Even in the trace amounts found in food, these contaminants can alter the developing brain and erode a child's IQ. The impacts add up with each meal or snack a baby eats," according to the group of scientists, nonprofits and donors trying to reduce neurotoxic chemical exposure early in life.

A previous U.S. Food and Drug Administration study detected one or more of the same metals in 33 of 39 types of baby food tested, CNN reported.

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Nearly 1 Million Kids Could Lose Automatic Free Lunch Under Trump Plan

A Trump administration plan to reduce the number of people who get food stamps could result in nearly a million children losing their automatic access to free school lunches.

Children whose families receive food stamps automatically qualify for free school lunches, but the Trump administration has proposed tightening eligibility for food stamps, the Associated Press reported.

As many as 982,000 children could be affected by the change, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture analysis.

About half those children would have to pay a reduced price of 40 cents for school lunch and 30 cents for breakfast, about 40,000 would have to pay full price, and 445,000 would still be able to get free meals, but their families would have to apply to qualify, the AP reported.

But even the application to qualify could be a barrier, according to Lisa Davis of the advocacy group, No Kid Hungry.

"We hear from schools all the time about the challenge they have with getting families to understand the paperwork or to get it back," Davis told the AP.

The National School Lunch Program serves about 30 million students and provides about 20 million free meals each day.

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Opioid Makers, Distributors in $50 Billion Settlement Talks

A settlement of about $50 billion is on the table as the United States' three largest opioid distributors and two opioid makers try to settle more than 2,000 lawsuits against them, insiders say.

The companies are being sued for their alleged role in the nation's opioid crisis.

Two people familiar with the talks say the possible deal with McKesson, Cardinal Health, Amerisource Bergen Corp, Johnson and Johnson and Teva Pharmaceutical could include $22 billion in cash and $29 billion in drugs and distribution, NBC News reported.

On the plaintiffs' side, negotiations are being led by four state attorneys general from North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas.

The talks are being held just before a "bellwether" trial against opioid manufacturers, distributors and retail pharmacies is scheduled to begin Monday in Cleveland, Ohio.

People familiar with the negotiations say the companies were becoming increasingly concerned as the trial neared, NBC News reported.

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Metal Pieces Found in Taco Bell Beef

About 2.3 million pounds of seasoned beef taco and burrito filling was removed from Taco Bell outlets in 21 states after metal pieces were found in the beef, the company said Tuesday.

The problem came to the attention of federal regulators on Saturday, after three consumers complained about metal pieces in Taco Bell beef, NBC News reported.

The beef was produced by Kenosha Beef in Columbus, Ohio, between Sept. 20 and Oct. 4 and distributed to Taco Bell restaurants in 21 states across the eastern Midwest, northern Southeast and Northeast regions, according to Taco Bell.

There were reports that Taco Bell restaurants in some states were suggesting chicken or steak to customers as a beef substitute before the recall was publicly announced, which led to criticism by some people on social media, according to NBC News.

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