Salmonella Fears Lead to Skippy Peanut Butter Recall

BananaStock/ThinkStock(QUINCY, Mass.) -- Unilever United States, Inc. has issued a recall order for Skippy peanut butter products for possible salmonella contamination.

The recall was issued in conjunction with the FDA, and applies to the following products: Skippy Reduced Fat Creamy Peanut Butter Spread and Skippy Reduced Fat Super Chunk Peanut Butter Spread. Both of the recalled products are packaged in 16.3 oz. containers.

In a release, the company says it has not received any reports about illness related to the consumption of the recalled products, but the company is urging customers who have purchased them to discard any unused portions or to call the company at 1-800-453-3432 for a replacement coupon.

Consumption of foods with salmonella can result in salmonellosis. Symptoms of salmonellosis include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 8 to 72 hours after the contaminated food was consumed.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Hazelnuts Linked to Three-State E. Coli Outbreak

Goodshoot/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Three states and the federal government are investigating an outbreak of E. coli linked to in-shell hazelnuts purchased from bulk food bins at grocery stores. Seven cases have been reported, according to the Minnesota Department of Health, one agency involved in the investigation. Minnesota and Wisconsin both had three cases and one case was reported in Michigan.

"Agriculture agencies in the three states and the California Department of Public Health traced hazelnuts consumed by cases to a common distributor in California, DeFranco and Sons," the Minnesota Department of Health said in a statement Friday. "This firm has recalled all hazelnut and mixed nut products distributed from November 2, 2010, to December 22, 2010. Recalled product was shipped to stores in Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.”

Consumers are advised to visit the Minnesota Department of Agriculture's website for a full list of stores that sold the nuts.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


HHS IG: 'Staggering Waste' as Insurers Overcharge Medicare, Patients

Dynamic Graphics/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A new government investigation finds insurance companies have been overcharging taxpayers and patients by overstating how much they’re paying for drugs. The cost to taxpayers is nearly $2 billion a year.

At issue is Medicare Part D, a program that helps consumers afford prescription drug coverage. Insurers negotiate rebates from drug companies and they are expected to pass savings on to consumers. In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General (HHS IG) found that some insurers failed to report all the rebates they received. They also did not pass savings onto beneficiaries. Insurers received more in rebates than they reported for about 23 million people -- on average about $7 more per beneficiary every month.

“As a result of this underreporting, the total excess rebate payments received by these plans is a staggering $1.98 billion per year, leading to increased drug costs for seniors and billions of American taxpayer dollars wasted,” said Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo.

The report said some of inaccuracies could be explained as honest mistakes.

“It is also possible, however,” the report continued, “that some sponsors may deliberately underestimate their rebates to increase profits.”

“When sponsors underestimate rebates in their bids, beneficiary premiums are higher than they otherwise would be and both the government and beneficiaries overpay for the benefit.”

Investigators say Medicare will get back some of the money it overpaid. Benificiaries, however, get nothing back.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


TED2011: Scientists Create Organ 'Copies' in Just Seven Hours

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(LONG BEACH, Calif.) -- Welcome to TED, where the world's great minds come to dream the impossible and show that it's happening. This week in Long Beach, Calif., the room gasped at the sight of something that could revolutionize medicine: organs created, in effect, as Xerox copies.

Dr. Anthony Atala, the director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, has spent 30 years studying the ability to grow and regenerate human tissue. Stepping onto the TED2011 stage Thursday for his 18-minute talk, he put out his hand and said, "And here it is, you can actually see the human kidney, as it was printed earlier today."

In just seven hours, Wake Forest scientists created a functioning human kidney, using cells regenerated from a sample of the patient's living cells. A machine separated out the cells that specialized into kidney cells, which then were grown in a lab and layered on top of one another until they were sculpted into a kidney.

The scientists call it "printing."

Dr. Atala was just one of the 50 or so speakers to present their great ideas over the four-day conference.

Five years ago, TED, a nonprofit organization devoted to "ideas worth spreading," started taking some of these great lectures and putting them online for free. No speaker is ever allowed to go more than 18 minutes -- just 18 minutes to share the next great idea.

Chris Anderson, the curator of the TED conference, said the time limit is "long enough to say something serious, but short enough not to lose your audience."

Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who spoke at TED this week, said "by forcing that speaker to boil it down, to capture the essence ... it's inspirational, it's educational."


How to Choose the Right Over-the-Counter Painkiller

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Consumer Reports Health has released its "Best Buy Drugs" -- a 22-page report that compares the effectiveness, safety and price of some of the top brands (and generics) for pain killing.

The report focuses on non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), which commonly are used to treat pain associated with arthritis.

But NSAIDs are only one type of painkiller. Depending on the ache, another type might be better. And depending on the sufferer, some drugs can be dangerous.

ABC News asked pain experts to weigh in on what drugs to take for various aches and pains, and when to avoid the drugs.

Acetylsalicylic Acid

The drug commonly referred to as aspirin has been around since 400 B.C., when people used salicin-containing willow tree bark to treat pain and inflammation.

"Aspirin was the 'original' headache medication," said Dr. Timothy Collins, assistant professor of medicine and neurology at Duke University Medical Center's Pain and Palliative Care Clinic.

But ASA's anti-inflammatory properties make it good for other types of pain, too, including muscle pain, joint pain from arthritis and toothaches. It's also relatively cheap. The drug is an NSAID that works by suppressing the production of prostaglandins -- hormone-like molecules that play an important role in inflammation. Unfortunately, the same molecules help to protect the stomach lining.


Another NSAID, ibuprofen, has pain relieving effects similar to those of acetylsalicylic acid. But it tends to work better even at a lower dose and have milder side effects.

"It is a very good anti-inflammatory medication, originally developed to treat arthritis," said Duke's Collins. "It also lowers fever, and helps with symptoms from the common cold."

The brand name version of ibuprofen is Advil. But only the generic form of ibuprofen was named a "best buy" NSAID by Consumer Reports Health.


A relative newcomer to the pharmacy shelves, naproxen (Aleve) only was approved by the Food and Drug Administration for over-the-counter use in 1994.

Naproxen is an NSAID with a pain-killing mechanism similar to that of ibuprofen. The drugs have comparable effects and side effects, so the choice comes down to personal preference.

"The anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen and naproxen are very good for the common muscle aches from 'overdoing it' (like at the gym or working in the yard) and also help with common arthritis pain," said Collins.


The drug known by most people as Tylenol is another mild pain reliever. It is not an NSAID, so it won't quell inflammation. However, it won't irritate the stomach, either.

"Acetaminophen is better for people who have stomach troubles," said Dr. Mike Schmitz, director of pediatric pain medicine at Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock. "It has been a good drug for children as well."

The drug is good for treating aches and pains not related to injury or inflammation. But because it's metabolized in the liver, it can have serious side effects if taken at high doses or with alcohol.

Acetaminophen use should be avoided in people who have consumed alcohol or are dehydrated, or who have kidney or liver problems.

Combination Drugs

Over-the-counter medications designed to treat multiple symptoms often contain painkillers in combination with other drugs. Cold and flu medications often contain painkillers as well as decongestants. And menstrual pain relievers often provide diuretics, too.

When in doubt, ask a doctor or pharmacist for a recommendation or an explanation of a particular drug's ingredients. And during pregnancy, it's important to talk to a doctor before taking any over-the-counter medication.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


FDA: Topamax Increases Risk of Babies Being Born with Oral Clefts

BananaStock/Thinkstock(SILVER SPRING, Md.) -- On Friday, The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning that using the drug Topamax (topiramate) can increase the risk of babies being born with cleft lip and cleft palate.

The drug is used for the treatment of seizures in people who have epilepsy and also to prevent migraine headaches from occurring.

The FDA warning, which also extends to the generic versions of the drug, says that the increased risk applies to women who use the drug during pregnancy. The FDA is urging health care professionals to warn their patients who are of childbearing age about the potential hazard topiramate poses to the fetus if women use the drug while pregnant. Health professionals are also being urged to use alternative drugs that have a lower risk of birth defects.

According to a release by the FDA, oral clefts are birth defects that occur when parts of the lip or palate don't completely fuse together in the first trimester of pregnancy.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Wheelchair-Bound Bride Determined to Walk Down the Aisle

Michael Blann/Thinkstock(ONTARIO, Canada) -- When Jennifer Darmon and Mike Belawetz get married next month, the ceremony will be especially emotional because Jen plans to get out of her wheelchair and walk down the aisle.

"It was Mike's idea," says Jen, 28, who was paralyzed in a 2008 car crash. "I was thinking there's no way I'm going to roll down the aisle. Mike said, why don't you walk with two people on both arms. They will be your crutches."

Jen travels three times a week from her home in Ontario, Canada, to the Detroit Medical Center's Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan for aggressive therapy designed to treat people with devastating spinal-cord injuries.

She and Mike, who has stood by her despite her paralysis, are recording her progress in a video diary, "Walk for Love," on the institute's website. There have been two episodes so far, with a third due to be posted on Tuesday.

They are making the videos to inspire other paralysis victims. "Somebody else might see it and it might motivate them to achieve their goals. Nothing is impossible," Jen says.

On July 27, 2008, Jen, Mike and five other friends were headed to the beach in Grand Bend, Ontario, when their minivan was struck head-on. The other passengers got out of the van without serious injuries, but she was trapped, and Mike and his friends had to get her out.

She was airlifted to London Hospital where she was in intensive care for a week and learned that she would spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair.

When Jen was told soon after the crash that she would never walk again, "it kind of crossed my mind that he might not stay," she says in the video about Mike. "Right away he reassured me that he wasn't going anywhere."

"The situation's changed, but she's still the same person, " says Mike.

Last June, on the fourth anniversary of their romance, he proposed, and Jen began her fight to walk down the aisle, wearing braces on her legs.

She is practicing at the rehabilitation facility where she has been treated since the fall of 2008, wearing an old wedding dress belonging to a therapist there. "She said, 'I just got married, and you're more than welcome to borrow my dress to practice in,'" says Jen.

During the practice, Jen balances herself by holding onto to parallel bars, explains Cheryl Angelelli, a spokeswoman for the institute. "Her goal on her wedding day is to walk with her dad holding her on one side and her brother on the other," she said.

Doctors believe Jen will be able to walk short distances in the future using crutches, Angelelli said. "She's a very, very determined young woman. She has the best attendance out of any client in our program. She's very committed."

"Once I want to achieve something, I always give it 100%," Jen says. "I was like that before the injuries."

She has always been organized, too, and says she is nearly all ready for the wedding. Her dress is strapless and A-line. "When I walk, you can't see my braces under my dress," she explains. "I have everything booked, bought--I just need to get a pair of shoes."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


'Heart Attack Grill' Spokesman Dies at 29

ABC News/HeartAttackGrill [dot] com(PHOENIX) -- Blair River, the 575-pound spokesman for the Heart Attack Grill, an Arizona restaurant that serves shamelessly high-calorie burgers and fries, died Tuesday at the age of 29, following a bout of the flu.

At 6 feet 8 inches tall, River garnered celebrity as the grill's "Gentle Giant" when he became the face and advertising star of the medically themed restaurant -- famous for its triple-bypass burgers, flatliner lard fries and server "nurses" donning uniforms fit for adult films.

River came down with the flu last week, and after four days in the hospital, he succumbed to pneumonia, says Jon Rosso, owner of the grill and close friend of River. Rosso described River's death as "tragic," because he was a "young creative genius, a promising man whose life got cut short because he carried extra weight. Had he been thin, he would have had a tenfold opportunity to survive the pneumonia."

Though Rosso goes by "Dr. Jon," in line with the restaurant's medical theme, he is not medically trained and so can't speak to the role obesity might have played in River's illness. The official cause of death for the hamburger model is still unknown.

"Obesity increases your risk for just about every condition, and it can make nearly every acute health problem worse," says Keith Ayoob, director of the nutrition clinic at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.

Those who are morbidly obese have an increased risk for sudden cardiac death and heart attacks at a younger age, says Dr. Carl Lavie, medical director of cardiac rehabilitation and prevention at the Ochsner Heart and Vascular Institute. "All of this could be worsened with a flu or other respiratory illness.

And research during the H1N1 swine flue epidemic of 2009 suggested that extreme obesity did complicate recovery in flu patients. One study, published in the journal PloS One, found that among those requiring inpatient care for the flu, those with a body mass index of 40 or higher were almost three times more likely to die than those of normal body mass index.

It is impossible to say whether River's weight was a factor in his death from pneumonia, but Ayoob says that it's a matter of adjusting the risk when dealing with obese patients.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


What Killed a High School Basketball Star Following Big Win?

Thomas Northcut/Thinkstock(FENNVILLE, Mich.) -- Celebration turned to tragedy Thursday night at a Michigan high school when 16-year-old Wes Leonard collapsed on the basketball court after scoring the game-winning shot in overtime, helping his team clinch a perfect season.

Paramedics took Leonard to a defibrillator on the Fennville High School court. Soon after he was rushed by ambulance to nearby Holland Hospital, where he died two hours later at 10:40 p.m., the Holland Sentinel reported.

The cause of death remains unclear. Hospital spokesman Tim Breed said an autopsy will likely be conducted.

Sudden death in young athletes is relatively rare, but a major concern among schools and professional organizations. It gained significant attention in 1990 with the death of 23-year-old Hank Gathers, a basketball star at Loyola Marymount University. Gathers died after collapsing on the court during a game against the University of California, Santa Barbara. A medical examiner determined that Gathers suffered from hypertophic cardiomyopathy -- an enlarged heart.

Efforts to develop more sensitive screening tests that could detect risk factors for sudden death, such as cardiomyopathy, are under way. In a study published in the March issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, recording the heart's electrical activity during exercise by electrocardiography had no effect on predicting young athletes' risk for cardiac arrest.

"A variety of cardiac disorders can result in sudden death during sport activity," wrote Dr. Alfred Bove, professor emeritus at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia in an accompanying editorial in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. "These include hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, long QT syndrome, and Brugada syndrome."

In an interview last week, Fennville coach Ryan Klinger told the Sentinel Leonard was recovering from the flu. Klingler told the Sentinel that Leonard took care of his body "better than probably anybody I've ever coached," adding that the teen spent "a lot of time on his own in the weight room."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study: Breast Cancer Survivors at Higher Risk for Falls

BananaStock/Thinkstock(PORTLAND, Ore.) -- Women who suffered from breast cancer have a higher risk of falling than woman who never had the disease, according to a new study published in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Researchers at Oregon Health Science University looked at muscle and balance in 59 post-menopausal breast cancer survivors whose average age was 58.  They first asked the women if they fell in the past year and then followed them for six months.

The study found that 58 percent of the women reported a fall in the past year and almost half fell within six months after joining the study.  In all, the breast cancer patients had a 15 percent higher rate of falls than women who do not have breast cancer.

Fractures, which can result from falls, are of particular concern for breast cancer survivors as a combination of early menopause due to breast cancer treatment and common drugs used to treat breast cancer could lead to the weakening of bones.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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