June 29, 2016

Yelp Reviews Could Help Detect Food Poisoning Outbreaks

Consumer reviews of restaurants and other facilities on Yelp could help track and prevent food poisoning outbreaks, according to a new study published in Preventive Medicine. Researchers at Virginia Polytechnic Institute looked at reviews on Yelp of 5,824 food establishments from 2005 to 2012, screening customer reviews for relevant keywords, then analyzed every review. This information was compared to data from the CDC for the same time period. The scientists found that illnesses reported on Yelp matched the CDC stats. The Yelp reviews were of 13,262 businesses closest to 29 colleges in fifteen states. Those 5,824 businesses were categorized as Food or Restaurants. Researchers constructed a keyword list using common foodborne illness terms such as "diarrhea", "vomiting", and "puking". … [Read more...]

FDA Releases Four Food Safety Modernization Act Rule Revisions

The Food and Drug Administration published four revised provisions of the Food Safety Modernization Act today. The rules are for produce safety, preventive controls for human food, preventive controls for animal food, and Foreign Supplier Verification Programs. The produce safety rules is being revised for more flexible criteria for determining agricultural water safety along with a tiered approach to water testing. In addition, the government is deferring its decision on the correct time interval between applying raw manure to a crop and harvesting it, removing the original nine-month limit. On the preventive controls for human and animal foods, requirements that facilities test products is revised. Supplier controls will also be implemented. Good manufacturing practice requirements … [Read more...]

Environmental Working Group Releases Seafood Guide

Environmental Working Group has released a "Good Seafood Guide" that helps consumers consume fish and shellfish that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, low in mercury, and harvested from sustainable sources. The agency offers a calculator, a guide to seafood, and an FAQ on how much seafood people should eat. The calculator lets you input weight, age, gender, pregnancy status, and heart disease condition. A personalized list of which fish to eat will be generated which includes more than 80 species. The seafood is divided into five categories: Best Bets, which include wild salmon and sardines; Good Choices, which include Oysters and Pollock; Low Mercury but Low Omega-3s, which include Shrimp, Tilapia, and Scallops; Mercury Risks Add Up, which include Halibut and Lobster; and Avoid, which … [Read more...]

White House Releases Report on Combating Antibiotic Resistance

The President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) has released a report today about combating antibiotic resistance. The White House also released a National Strategy on Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria and a Presidential Executive Order which emphasizes the importance of tackling this challenge. Antibiotic resistant bacteria are evolving at an alarming rate and are growing faster than the development of new antibiotics. The cost of antibiotic infections in the United States every year is more than $20 billion. The cost of lost productivity due to antibiotic-resistant infections is $35 billion every year. PCAST recommends that there be measures put in place to strengthen antibiotic stewardship, boost surveillance of the growth and evolution of … [Read more...]

New Study Says Artificial Sweeteners May Induce Glucose Intolerance

A new study published in Nature and conducted by researchers in Israel states that while more study is needed, artificial sweeteners may induce glucose intolerance and promote diabetes. They say that the chemicals change the composition of bacteria in your gut, which changes how the body handles sugar.  Studies have shown that these artificial sweeteners do not aid in weight loss, and may actually contribute to weight gain. Non-caloric sweeteners (NAS), or artificial sweeteners such as aspartame are widely used. While they are considered generally safe, scientific data supporting that view is sparse. Obesity and diabetes are linked to changes in gut bacteria, so the scientists looked at the effect of these chemicals on the microbiome in intestines. The researchers added saccharin … [Read more...]

Harvard Developing Device to Filter Pathogens Out of Blood

Researchers at Harvard University are developing a medical device that replicates the function of the human spleen. The scientists say that it can filter pathogens from E. coli bacteria to the Ebola virus. The device, called a biospleen, is under development at Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. The device was primarily developed to treat sepsis, which is a blood infection. The biospleen filters out live and dead pathogens along with dangerous toxins that these pathogens sometimes create. The device removes the pathogens and toxins without having to identify them first. As drug-resistant bacteria continue to evolve and develop, creating a device that will remove these pathogens from the blood quickly without a diagnosis is becoming critical to … [Read more...]

Sunny Delight, Others Asked to Stop Marketing In-School Junk Food

Center for Science in the Public Interest has asked Sunny Delight, maker of Sunny D beverage, to stop a program that encourages parents, teachers, and students to collect 20 labels of the product in exchange for foods. CSPI said that Sunny D "encourages families to consume a drink that promotes diabetes, weight gain, and other health problems." The beverage only includes 5% juice; the remaining ingredients are sugar; artificial sweeteners sucralose, acesulfame potassium, and neotame; high fructose corn syrup; sodium benzoate; dyes Yellow 5 and Yellow 6; and water, along with vitamins and other ingredients such as xanthan gum and canola oil. A 16-ounce bottle of Sunny D Tangy Original has almost 7 teaspoons of sugar. CSPI nutrition policy director Margo G. Wootan said in a statement, … [Read more...]

U.N. Says Ebola Crisis Could Become Food Insecurity Crisis

The Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and other West African countries has made food expensive and hard to find. Labor shortages because of the outbreak are putting the harvest season at risk and trade is being disrupted, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. This has led to "panic buying" and food shortages. The harvest season in West Africa begins in September. There were positive crop production outlooks at the start of the season. Unfortunately, the areas with high incidences of the Ebola virus are among the most agriculturally productive areas of Liberia and Sierra Leone. The organization has issued a special alert on this situation. Bukar Tijana, FAO Regional Representative for Africa said in a statement, "Access to food … [Read more...]

Maggots in School Lunches in KY and TN

High school students in Kentucky and Tennessee found maggots in their school lunches this week. A student at Overton High School in Tennessee made an Instagram video of the maggot wiggling around on the plate, WMC Action News 5 reported. Other students also reported finding maggots in their food. Shelby County Schools sent a statement to the station that read; "It has been reported on some news outlets that multiple students are now claiming to have found maggots in their lunches this week at Overton High School. It is true that we have confirmation of one student finding an insect in a single meal. This is certainly regrettable; however, we do want to be very clear that there have been no maggots found in any meals this week. The temperatures at which our food is prepared and served … [Read more...]

FOIA Request Reveals Food Safety Violations at Foster Farms

A consumer advocacy group has made public 300 pages of USDA food safety violations at Foster Farms during the time the company was linked to a Salmonella outbreak that sickened 634 people. The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) obtained the reports through a Freedom of Information Act request. Among the findings in the heavily redacted reports were: fecal material, metal fragments and unidentified foreign matter on chicken carcasses and, in the plants, mold, cockroaches and pooling water due to a floor drain clogged with chicken skin. Most surprising, according to Jonathan Kaplan, director of NRDC’s food and agriculture program, was that violations continued after October 7, 2013, when USDA issued a Public Health Alert about Salmonella on the company's chicken and threatened … [Read more...]

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