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Health Highlights: July 12, 2013

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

FDA Sets New Limit on Arsenic in Apple Juice

A new limit on the level of arsenic allowed in apple juice has been announced by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration after more than a year of pressure from consumer groups concerned about the contaminant's effect on children.

The new standard limits the amount of arsenic in apple juice to the same maximum level permitted in drinking water, 10 parts per billon. Apple juice containing higher levels of arsenic could be removed from the market and companies could face legal action, the Associated Press reported.

An FDA analysis of dozens of apple juice samples last year found that 95 percent were below the new limit. The agency has monitored arsenic in apple juice for decades and has long said the levels pose no threat to consumers, including small children.

"Overall the supply of apple juice is very safe and does not represent a threat to public health," FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg told the AP. "We decided to put forward this proposed action level to give guidance to industry and to assure ongoing safety and quality."

Arsenic is a cancer-causing chemical found in everything from soil to water to pesticides.

In 2008, the FDA set a "level of concern" for arsenic at 23 parts per billion in apple juice. However, agency officials played down the significance of the older figure this week, describing it as a "back of the envelope" calculation that was used to assess one juice shipment detained at the border, the AP reported.

"It was not a full blown, science-based number," said Michael Taylor, FDA's deputy commissioner for foods.

The FDA will accept comments on the draft regulation for 60 days before making the new limit official. A limit as low as 3 parts per billion had been called for by Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports. While the FDA didn't implement that low a limit, the group still praised the agency for taking action.

"While we had proposed a lower limit, we think this is a perfectly good first step to bring apple juice in line with the current drinking water limits," Urvashi Rangan, the group's director for consumer safety, told the AP.

New limits on arsenic in rice are also being considered by the FDA. Rice is believed to have higher levels of arsenic than most foods because it is grown in water on the ground, ideal conditions for absorbing the chemical.

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Salmonella Outbreak That Sickened 134 in 13 States Is Over: CDC

A total of 134 people in 13 states were sickened in a salmonella outbreak linked to chicken produced by Foster Farms of Livingstone, Calif., according to a final investigation released Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Thirty-one percent of the infected people were hospitalized, but no deaths were reported. Most of the illnesses occurred in two states, Oregon (40) and Washington (57).

The outbreak appears to be over, the CDC said.

However, the agency noted that raw poultry from any producer can have salmonella. That's why it's important for consumers to follow proper food safety steps when handling raw poultry to help protect themselves and others from food-borne illness.

Copyright © 2013 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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