Lettuce Investigated for Possible Link to Michigan E. Coli Outbreak
The Michigan Department of Community Health recently issued a public health alert in response to an outbreak of illnesses caused by E. coli and thought to be spread through industrial-size packages of iceberg lettuce. The alert names Detroit-based Aunt Mid's Produce Co., which distributes lettuce directly to restaurants and institutions, as the common thread among some of the 26 people who have been sickened since September 8. Of those affected, 10 people have been hospitalized. Aunt Mid's has voluntarily suspended production of the lettuce until the investigation into the outbreak is complete. Some students at Michigan State University and the University of Michigan have gotten sick during the statewide outbreak.
Earlier this month, U.S. News's Kent Garber described food safety's dirty little secret. Also, Adam Voiland discussed how irradiation might help kill microorganisms like E. coli. Last year, Nancy Shute's cover story on food safety explained how to protect your family. More recently, she described how to foil salmonella.
Energy Drinks and Caffeine Content
Some energy drinks contain as much caffeine as 14 cans of Coca-Cola, but you wouldn't know that by reading the labels, the Los Angeles Times reports. A study published last week in Drug and Alcohol Dependence says that energy drinks may cause "caffeine intoxication," which involves anxiety, nervousness, insomnia, restlessness, stomach upset, rapid heartbeat, tremors, pacing, and restlessness. The study's authors say that energy drinks should be clearly labeled with caffeine content, especially since the amount of caffeine contained in such drinks can vary widely, according to the Times. The Food and Drug Administration sets a limit of 71 milligram of caffeine per 12 fluid ounces for cola soft drinks, but it does not have similar requirements for energy drinks, WebMD reports.
Knowing When It's Time to Bench Yourself
Chronic injuries or general boredom can lead some people to want to take a break from their exercise routine, Katherine Hobson reports. But before throwing in the towel, diagnose the problem. If you are constantly battling a string of injuries, it's probably a good idea to try something else for a few weeks or months. Overuse injuries like tennis elbow, runner's knee, swimmer's shoulder, and Little League elbow are so named because they're associated with repetitive motion involved in those sports.
Switching to some other activity that uses different muscle groups can give you a chance to recover without losing your aerobic fitness. When you return, you'll probably want to reassess your technique and the intensity with which you've been training. "If you're 45 and playing with college students, maybe it's time to play with 45-year-olds," says William Roberts, past president of the American College of Sports Medicine.
Last year, Hobson explained how to return to the sport you love.
Flu Vaccines and Thimerosal
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged about 85 percent of Americans to get vaccinated against the flu. The agency expanded its recommendations to include yearly shots for all children 6 months and older and also calls for pregnant women to be vaccinated, along with healthcare workers and those over 50. But there may be reason to be concerned about the fact that flu shots usually contain thimerosal, a mercury-containing compound that was banished from other childhood vaccines several years ago, Deborah Kotz reports.
Of particular concern, she says, is giving flu shots to pregnant women because no one has identified the threshold dose at which thimerosal can become problematic for fetuses. Certainly, the amount of mercury in a single flu shot is very small and most likely harmless. "It's equivalent to the amount in a small can of tuna fish," says Tom Clarkson, a mercury researcher at the University of Rochester. "Still, we know that high levels of mercury can affect cell division in the developing brain of a fetus, and no one can say with absolute certainty that there's no risk."
Last week, U.S. News's Nancy Shute described how to decide whether to vaccinate your child against the flu.
—January W. Payne