Health Highlights: Oct. 7, 2007

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

Sam's Club Orders Nationwide Recall of Beef Patties

Just as one meat producer announced that it is closing down because of a massive beef patty recall (see next item), the Wal-Mart chain's Sam's Club stores have announced a nationwide recall of beef patties that are believed to be responsible for four cases of E. coli bacteria poisoning in Minnesota.

The Associated Press reports the ground beef patties were produced by Cargill Inc., whose U.S. offices are based in Wayzata, Minn. Sam's Club identified the suspect meat as having an expiration date of Feb. 12, 2008 and were coded UPC 0002874907056 Item #700141.

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Cargill announced a voluntary nationwide recall of more than 840,000 lbs. of the frozen beef patties Saturday. A company spokesman told the wire service that the packages carried the dates Aug. 9, 10, 15, 16 and 17, and that every package had the number "Est.924A" inside the USDA mark of inspection.

The children became sick between Sept. 10 and Sept. 20, the wire service reports. Two were hospitalized, and one remained in the hospital Saturday, the A.P. reports.

The beef patties were frozen and sold under the name American Chef's Selection Angus Beef Patties in three Minneapolis-area stores, but they may be in other Sam's Club outlets as well, health officials told the wire service.

"We can't be certain that meat from other stores is not involved, since the brand... was likely sold at other Sam's Club locations," Heidi Kassenborg, acting director of the dairy and food inspection division of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, is quoted as saying.

The E. coli bacterium causes diarrhea and abdominal cramping, usually two-to-five days after the tainted food is consumed. Left untreated, it can cause more serious complications, including kidney failure.


U.S. Meat Company Folds After Massive Recall

Topps Meat Co., a leading U.S. supplier of frozen hamburgers, announced Friday that it was going out of business after a massive recall in September of 21.7 million pounds of frozen beef, The New York Times reported.

The recall was linked to beef patties tainted with the E.coli 0157:H7 strain of bacteria. The burgers were made at the company's Elizabeth, N.J. plant, the Times said.

Health officials first reported a case of illness linked to the meat on July 5, when an 18-year-old girl in Pennsylvania was sickened. On July 8, another case surfaced in New Jersey.

"This is a tragedy for all concerned," Topps CEO Anthony D'Urso said in a statement. "In one week we have gone from the largest U.S. manufacturer of frozen hamburgers to a company that cannot overcome the economic reality of a recall this large."


Medicare Drug Program has Marketing and Distribution Abuses, Newspaper Probe Finds

The new drug benefit program for U.S. Medicare recipients has a lot of problems, the New York Times reports, including deceptive sales tactics on the part of some private insurers, claims being improperly denied, and lack of response to consumers' questions and complaints.

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