Flu Shots, Salmonella-Tainted Snacks and Bilingual Kids: News for Canadian Parents

Filed under: Health & Safety: Babies, In The News, Alerts & Recalls

This week's Canadian parenting news bites include a major Ontario child porn bust, a recall of salmonella-tainted snack foods, a study that says kids should be at the front of the queue for flu shots and a way to help your child be bilingual even before they're born. Here's the news that Canadian parents want to know about:

Want your child to speak two languages? A new study says babies who hear two languages in the womb are more open to being bilingual. Scientists from the University of British Columbia and a researcher from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in France tested two groups of newborn infants. One group heard only English in utero, and the other group heard English and Tagalog, a language spoken in the Philippines.

After the infants were born, they were tested to see how they would respond to the two languages. Each group heard ten minutes of speech, with every minute alternating between English and Tagalog. The researchers studied the babies' sucking reflex while they were listening to the speech, which indicates interest in a stimulus.

Babies who heard only English in the womb "exhibited increased sucking behaviour" only when they heard English spoken. But babies who had been exposed to English and Tagalog in the womb expressed interest when both languages were spoken. This suggested to the researchers that prenatal bilingual exposure prepares infants to listen to and learn about both of their native languages.

So if you want a bilingual baby, be sure to spend some good quality time chatting en francais. And if it's been a while since you've gabbed in a second language, maybe you'll improve your own rusty French in the process.

More news after the jump

A major child porn bust in Ontario has resulted in 122 charges being laid against 35 people across the province. The charges were the culmination of a co-ordinated investigation involving 18 different police services, and included sexual assault and making, possessing and distributing child pornography.

As well, two child victims were rescued in the course of the investigation, one in Ontario, and one out of the country. The accused range from teens to a man in his 60s, and none appeared to have any prior arrests for child porn.

Kid's Internet Safety Alliance, an organization that helps child victims of abuse, applauded the bust, although they noted that the arrests were only a "drop in the bucket".

"The traffic in images of abuse is an international problem involving over a million pictures of more than 50,000 different children from around the world," they said in a statement. "Only about 1,300 of these children have been rescued."

One accused individual had more than six million images stored on his computer, although Staff-Sergeant Frank Goldschmidt said that was not "uncommon".

The safety of some popular snack foods came into question this week when a U.S. food company announced that a widely-used food additive could be tainted by salmonella.

The contaminated products, which include President's Choice pretzels, Quaker Crispy Minis Rice Cakes, Hawaiian Kettle Style potato chips and Selection-brand roasted BBQ peanuts, all have hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP) as an ingredient. In the U.S., over 150 food products have been recalled, while 12 food products have been recalled here in Canada.The move was initiated by the Basic Food Flavors of Las Vegas after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration conducted a test and found traces of salmonella tennessee in the HVP.

The FDA is saying it could become the largest recall in North American history because the additive is used in thousands of foods. Salmonella can cause high fever, vomiting and diarrhea, and can even be life-threatening in children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems. As yet, no one has reported illness to the tainted foods.

You can find a list of the tainted products on the Canada Food Inspection Agency's website.

A new Canadian study is suggesting that vaccinating children against the seasonal flu could protect entire communities. Scientists have long theorized that immunizing young people would result in protection for those who are not immunized, a concept that is known as herd immunity. But that concept had not been demonstrated in a randomized trial, until now.

The McMaster University study was conducted in 49 Hutterite colonies in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Researchers chose the Hutterite communities because they are tightly-knit communities and have limited contact with outsiders. In communities where four out of five children got flu shots, 39 unvaccinated people (3.1% of the population) became sick during the 2008-2009 flu season. In communities where children didn't get the shot, 80 residents (7.6% of the population) became ill with the flu.

The researchers concluded that children and teens should be targeted for flu shots to reduce community transmission, even during vaccine shortages, and that they should be placed in higher priority during pandemic planning.



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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.