Health Highlights: April 25, 2014

Health Highlights: April 25, 2014

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

Businesses Await Calorie Labeling Rules

Many groups are keeping close tabs on which businesses serving food will be included in calorie labeling rules expected to be released this year by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Chain restaurants will be required to include calories on their menus, but non-restaurant businesses such as grocery and convenience stores, movie theaters, and airlines lobbied hard to be excluded, leading to a delay in the release of the new rules, the Associated Press reported.

Earlier this month, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg told Congress that finalizing the rules — which were first proposed in 2011 — has been “much more challenging than expected.”

The rules have been sent to the White House, which means they could be released soon, the AP reported.

For restaurants, the calorie labeling rules will apply to companies with 20 or more outlets. This includes coffee shops, ice cream parlors and bakeries if they have enough stores to qualify. Restaurants won’t have to provide calorie counts for alcohol.

The FDA’s initial proposal suggested that grocery and convenience stores be required to label calories for prepared foods on menu boards and displays. But those industries lobbied against their inclusion.

Movie theater chains also protested and were left out of the proposed rules released in 2011. However, nutrition groups have urged the FDA to include movie theaters in the final rules.

Many movie goers don’t realize that they get a day’s worth of calories when they get a large popcorn and extra-large soda at a theater’s snack bar, according to Margo Wootan, a nutrition lobbyist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the AP reported.

“If a company is going to serve you 2,000 calories and call it a snack, the least they can do is tell people how many calories are in it,” Wootan said.

Vending machines will have to provide calorie labeling, but the industry has asked the FDA for flexibility in how the labels are posted.

Businesses likely to be excluded from the new rules include airlines, passenger train services, amusement parks, hotels and sports stadiums, the AP reported.


Fewer U.S. Military Suicides in 2013

There was a 15 percent decline in suicides among members of the U.S. military last year, but an increase in the number of Army National Guard and Reserve soldiers who committed suicide.

Suicides among active duty troops in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps fell from 343 in 2012 to 289 in 2013. The declines were 185 to 151 in the Army, 59 to 44 in the Navy, 48 to 45 in the Marines, and 51 to 49 in the Air Force, the Associated Press reported.

However, the number of Army National Guard and Reserve members who took their own lives rose from 140 in 2012 to 152 in 2013.

The declines among Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps troops suggest that prevention programs and a greater push to identify those at risk may be having an effect after several years of rising suicide rates, the AP reported.

However, the growing number of suicides among Army National Guard and Reserve troops may indicate that the military’s suicide prevention programs are not reaching citizen soldiers.


Bearded Dragons Source of Large Salmonella Outbreak: CDC

Pet lizards called bearded dragons caused a salmonella outbreak that’s sickened at least 132 people in 31 states over the last two years, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Of the people who came down with Salmonella Cotham since Feb. 21, 2012, 28 had to be hospitalized. The CDC said most of the illnesses occurred in children aged 5 or younger whose parents likely bought the lizards from pet stores, NBC News reported.

Salmonella Cotham is a rare strain of bacteria that can cause serious illness in young children, seniors and people with weakened immune systems. These groups of people should not handle or touch bearded dragons, or anything in the area where the live and roam, the CDC said.

A previous salmonella outbreak linked to bearded dragons occurred in 2011 when a person who had pet lizards made turkey gravy that sickened 19 people at a Thanksgiving dinner, NBC News reported.