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Checkup Medical Column for Jan 6

AAP logoAAP 6/01/2017 Sarah McPhee

A weekly round-up of news affecting your health.

BE WARY OF BERRY BENEFITS: STUDY

Eating well is a popular New Year's resolution but legal experts warn some superfoods are too good to be true.

Product marketing gets particularly creative and misleading when it comes to the acai berry, according to a paper by University of Melbourne legal expert Professor Christine Parker and Monash University's Janine Curll.

The study found up to a third of acai berry products on sale in Australia carry unproven claims about anti-ageing properties and serious conditions like cancer and heart disease.

Prof Parker says the claims, often linked to the berry's Amazonian origins or its antioxidant content, highlight flaws to rules within the country's food regulation system that were designed to protect against "food fraud".

She said unlike in the European Union, where government agencies pre-authorise all health claims used in food promotion, Australia only regulates a specific list under the revised Standard 1.2.7 of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code.

"In Australia, industry is essentially able to self-regulate general health claims, relying on food businesses to do the right thing, or state food authorities to investigate or respond to any complaints after products land on our shelves," the paper, published in the Federal Law Review, reads.

"This puts consumers at risk of making unnecessary or expensive food choices, while also adding to confusion about healthy eating and nutrition."

SALMONELLA FROM EGGS IN SUMMER NOT LINKED TO FARMS, WEATHER

Hot weather and free range egg farms are not to blame for a spike in salmonella poisoning from eggs and egg products during summer, Australian researchers have found.

The University of Adelaide study analysed four commercial free range egg farms to determine whether the particular process - not as easily controlled as cage egg production - and hot weather were factors in an increase of salmonella cases between December and February.

"Because the use of free range eggs by consumers is on the rise, we felt it was important to better understand the risk factors at the production stage," lead author, Associate Professor Kapil Chousalkar, said.

"However, we found that there was no direct association between hot weather and increased prevalence of salmonella at the production stage, even when data was collected in the hottest month of February."

The findings, published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology journal, serve as a reminder to wash your hands before and after handling eggs along the supply chain, in restaurant kitchens and at home.

Assoc Prof Chousalkar said the types and levels of salmonella found at the farms, and on the eggs, are highly variable and often dependent on management practices employed by each farm.

He called for a national standard to monitor salmonella contamination given its implications on public health.

DELAYED DIAGNOSIS OF BREAST CANCER IN REGIONAL QLD

Lack of symptom awareness and full-time work commitments are behind a delay in breast cancer diagnosis for women in regional Queensland, a study has found.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in Australian women, with around 3300 new cases diagnosed each year in Queensland alone.

The Cancer Council Queensland study found women in outer regional locations and areas of disadvantage were 40 to 60 per cent more likely to experience delays in the diagnosis of breast cancer - detected both symptomatically and through mammograms - than those in major cities.

Chief executive Jeff Dunn says geographic location and area-level disadvantage led to delays of more than 30 days between the first medical consultation and a diagnosis of breast cancer.

He said the most common reason women delayed seeking medical attention was a lack of symptom awareness, while a heavy workload could also hinder "making, and keeping, medical appointments".

Women should see a doctor immediately if they notice any of the following breast changes:

* A persistent lump, lumpiness or thickening

* Changes to the nipple, including discharge

* Any change of the shape, feel, size or colour of the breast

* Dimpling or puckering of the skin

* Unusual breast pain not associated with menstrual cycle.

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