Health Buzz: Salmonella in Chicken and Other Health News

Palin's stance on women's issues, flexitarianism and weight loss, and new concerns about an asthma drug

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Salmonella Sickens 32 People in 12 States

The Department of Agriculture on Friday urged people to thoroughly cook frozen chicken dishes, after 32 people in 12 states were sickened by salmonella that may be tied to microwaving raw chicken that has been pre-browned or breaded to give it a cooked appearance, the Associated Press reports. Affected types of chicken include “chicken Kiev,” “chicken cordon bleu,” and chicken breasts stuffed with vegetables, cheese, or other kinds of food. Many of those who fell ill didn’t follow instructions for cooking the chicken and instead put the dishes in the microwave, which doesn’t necessarily heat chicken enough to kill salmonella. Chicken products should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the AP.

In September, U.S. News's Kent Garber explained food safety's dirty little secret. Last year, Nancy Shute reported on how to protect your family by keeping your food safe. In June, she described how to foil salmonella.

Where Does Palin Stand on Women’s Health Issues?

Would a John McCain-Sarah Palin administration make efforts to limit a woman's access to abortion and emergency contraception? Palin told Katie Couric that she is against abortion and the morning-after pill because she firmly believes that life begins at conception, Deborah Kotz reports. Much has been made, too, of another women's health issue concerning Palin: A law requiring rape victims to pay for the "rape kit" used to collect forensic evidence was on the books in Wasilla, Alaska, when Palin was mayor there. In a written response she provided this week to an Alaska newspaper, Palin didn't explain why the law was still in effect under her watch—it was overturned by state legislation before she became governor—though she did clearly state her views.

Last month, Michelle Andrews described Sarah Palin and the rape kit question. Earlier this year, Andrews offered a comparison of the presidential candidates' plans.

Is Flexitarianism the Weight-Loss Tool for You?

Being a “flexitarian” is an option for people who would like to move closer to a vegetarian diet without adhering to it absolutely. The question is how to do it, particularly if you're new to a plant-based diet, Katherine Hobson reports. Dawn Jackson Blatner, a Chicago-based nutritionist, has written a book, The Flexitarian Diet, on the subject. Her goal: to help assuage the fear that eating less meat means being consigned to alternating meals of tofu and raw sprouts with veggie burgers from the freezer section. Blatner encourages people to think about other types of protein that are already in the cupboard and fridge—black beans, garbanzo beans, lentils, nuts, and eggs, to name a few.

In April, U.S. News's Katherine Hobson reported on diets that promote health. She described the Mediterranean diet, Asian diet, Latin American diet, and vegetarian diets.

A Second Look at an Asthma Medication

A class of asthma medications called long-acting beta agonists, linked three years ago to worsening asthma and even death, is back on the agenda at the Food and Drug Administration. There was a burst of coverage after the FDA issued a public health advisory in 2005 saying that these medications were tied to a possible heightened risk of worsening wheezing, but then the issue faded. The agency plans to hold another meeting on the safety of LABAs this fall or winter. The affected drugs include salmeterol xinafoate (Serevent Diskus), formoterol fumarate (Foradil), and formoterol fumarate (Perforomist Inhalation Solution), fluticasone propionate/salmeterol xinafoate (Advair), and budesonide/formoterol fumarate dihydrate (Symbicort).

Nancy Shute offered a word of warning to asthma suffers in 2006. Marianne Lavelle reported on the rising cost of albuterol, a common asthma medication.

—January W. Payne