Health Highlights: Feb. 11, 2009

Since Wakefield's original claims, the newspaper reported that vaccination rates in Great Britain have fallen from 92 percent to less than 80 percent. As a result, two children have died of measles, and 1,348 cases of the disease were reported in England and Wales in 2008, where only 56 were reported in 1998, when Wakefield's study was first released.


Peanut Plant Owner Had Tainted Products Shipped: Report

The owner of Peanut Corp. of America, the company suspected of causing the nationwide salmonella outbreak, told his employees to ship products tainted with the bacteria even after receiving test results identifying the presence of salmonella, according to company e-mails disclosed Wednesday by U.S. lawmakers, the Associated Press reported.

The e-mails, obtained by a House of Representatives' panel investigating the outbreak, revealed that company owner Stewart Parnell ordered the tainted products to be shipped anyway because he was worried about lost sales, the news service reported.

Parnell was subpoenaed to appear before Congress on Wednesday for questioning on the salmonella outbreak that has sickened more than 600 people, been linked to eight deaths, and prompted one of the largest recalls in U.S. history -- more than 1,800 products. His plant in Blakely, Ga., is blamed for the outbreak, the AP reported.

Parnell showed up for the Congressional hearinng, but refused to answer questions, invoking his constitutional right not to incriminate himself, the AP said.

Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., revealed the company e-mails during a House Energy and Commerce hearing.

In prepared testimony, a laboratory owner told the lawmakers that Peanut Corp.'s disregard for tests identifying salmonella was "virtually unheard of" in the nation's food industry and should prompt efforts to increase federal oversight of product safety.

Charles Deibel, president of Deibel Laboratories Inc., said his company was among those that tested Peanut Corp.'s products and notified the Georgia plant that salmonella was found in some of its peanut stock. Peanut Corp. sold the products anyway, according to an U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspection report, the AP said.

The company, which is now under investigation by the FBI, makes only about 1 percent of U.S. peanut products, but its ingredients are used by dozens of other food companies.

Federal law bans producing or shipping foods that could be harmful to consumers, the news service said.

On Tuesday, a peanut processing plant in Texas owned by Peanut Corp. was closed after state health officials reported that products there might be tainted with salmonella, according to CNN.


Smokers Likelier to Change Habits After Health Scare: Study

Health scares convince many smokers to kick the habit but do little to push overweight and obese people to lose weight, according to U.S. researchers.

Their analysis of data from 20,221 overweight or obese people under age 75 and about 7,764 smokers showed that smokers are three times more likely to quit if they suffer a heart attack or stroke or are diagnosed with lung disease or cancer, The New York Times reported.

But overweight and obese people diagnosed with a serious condition such as heart disease or diabetes lose only two to three pounds, said the study published Monday in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

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