Health Highlights: Dec. 4, 2009

By on December 4, 2009

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

10 Million Slim-Fast Drinks Recalled

Possible bacterial contamination has prompted a recall of 10 million cans of Slim-Fast ready-to-drink meal replacements in the United States and Canada.

The products may be contaminated with Bacilus cereus, which can cause vomiting or diarrhea. But the likelihood of a serious reaction to the bacteria in the Slim-Fast drinks is remote, CBS News reported.

The recall includes cans sold individually or in cartons containing four, six or 12 cans that are 11 ounces each.

No other Slim-Fast products, such as meal and snack bars or powdered shakes, are involved in the recall, CBS News reported.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration spokeswoman Rita Chappelle said the recall affects 10 million cans distributed in the United States. Unilever, the maker of Slim-Fast, said Friday that it is still in the process of identifying and correcting the production problem that led to the possible contamination at the company’s production facility in Covington, Tenn., CNN reported.

For more on the recall, visit the FDA.

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Cattle Vaccines May Reduce E. coli Outbreaks in Humans

Vaccinating cattle against E. coli bacteria could significantly improve the safety of beef and reduce the number of people who become sick and die from tainted beef, according to scientists.

It’s believed that E. coli vaccines for cattle could reduce the number of animals carrying the dangerous bacteria by 65 to 75 percent, The New York Times reported.

Two vaccines have been developed commercially, including one made by Minnesota-based Epitopix that received preliminary approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in March. The approval means the vaccine can be sold while research continues. About 300,000 head of cattle will be given the vaccine in the coming months as part of a series of studies, said Epitopix general manager James. D. Sandstrom.

The second vaccine, made by a Canadian company, was approved for use in Canada last year and is awaiting approval in the United States, the Times reported.

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U.S. Needs More Minority Doctors: Surgeon General

More needs to be done to increase the number of minority physicians in the United States, Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin said Thursday in a speech at a health disparities conference in Atlanta.

She noted that minorities account for only 6 percent of U.S. physicians, the same percentage as a century ago, even though minorities make up 34 percent of the population, the Associated Press reported.

“There’s something wrong with that,” Benjamin said in her speech.

She said health leaders need to encourage young members of minorities to pursue careers in medicine, the AP reported.

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Toxic Chemicals Found in Many Popular Toys: Report

Arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury and other harmful chemicals were found in a third of the most popular children’s toys in the United States, says a new study by the Ecology Center consumer organization.

Of the 700 toys tested by the Michigan-based group, 32 percent contained one or more toxic chemicals, Agence France Presse reported.

Seven percent of the toys contained more than 40 parts per million (ppm) of lead, the highest level recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2007. Lead levels in 3 percent of the toys exceeded 300 ppm, the U.S.-mandated limit.

Toys with detectable lead levels included the Barbie Bike Flair Accessory Kit, the Dora the Explorer Activity Tote and the Kid’s Poncho sold by Wal-Mart, AFP reported.

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