What is Cyclospora, anyway?

If you’ve looked at the news at all in recent weeks, you’ve most likely seen headlines about an outbreak of the parasite Cyclospora. Over 400 people have gotten sick due to an outbreak associated with pre-made salad mixes.

But what is Cyclospora? What does it mean to have eaten a pathogenic parasite? Unlike some of the most well-known foodborne pathogens, like Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria, Cyclospora isn’t a bacterium — it’s a parasite.

Cyclospora cayetanensis is the full name of the single-cell parasite involved in the recent outbreak. A parasite is an organism that lives on or in a host, which gets sustenance at the expense of said host. Malaria is another major disease caused by a parasite.

Symptoms appear about a week or two after Cyclospora infects the small intestine. Fatigue, bloating, diarrhea, loss of appetite and cramps are all common symptoms. Most people recover under an antibiotic in a few days, though symptoms are sometimes reported to come and go, and some people never report any symptoms at all. As with any foodborne illness, very young children, elderly people and those with weakened immune systems face a higher risk of serious infection. [ More … ]

Why do horses snort?

Overall, horses are pretty vocal animals. They neigh, they whinny, they nicker and they snort. Equine experts have spent a long time figuring out what these social animals are trying to convey when they vocalize, but one sound has been a little hard to translate: the snort.

Humans snort when they have stuffy noses, or when they laugh way too hard at the joke you just told them. And some researchers, based on a recent French study, believe that a snorting horse is similarly expressing a positive emotion.

The study involved recording over 500 horse snorts from nearly 50 horses. The researchers conducting the study found that snorts were most common during calm and relaxing activities, and that the horse usually exhibited other positive signs while snorting, like forward-pointing ears. Overall, snorting horses showed low levels of stress.

Not everyone agrees, though. Other horse behavior experts say that snorting doesn’t mean anything — the horses are just clearing their noses or responding to itchiness and discomfort, just like we humans do. [ More … ]

Monday Mycotoxin and Crop Report: August 13, 2018

This week in our Monday Mycotoxin and Crop Report, we cover new fumonisin reports in corn, quality risks ahead, and special guest Dr. Gwendolyn Jones discusses mycotoxin effects on dairy cows. Watch it here.

Neogen Corporation takes great care to ensure the integrity of the data we collect from many sources across the country. As these data can vary widely, they should NOT be considered typical of all grain harvested. The mycotoxin levels we report are intended to assist our industry partners in developing their risk assessment programs. Detecting problems before commingling or processing can help avoid quality issues and financial losses.

To subscribe to get these reports straight to your email inbox, click here.

Safe selling at the farmers market

Though National Farmers Market Week is coming to a close, the farmers market season is still well underway. In fact, as farmers markets become an increasingly popular way to get fresh farm goodies, some continue year-round.

And just like commercial kitchens, home kitchens, food production and processing plants and anywhere else where food can be found, food safety is key. With farmers markets often taking place outdoors, and a wide variety of products sold there, consumers and vendors need to keep many food safety conventions in mind. Here are some tips from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). [ More … ]

Florida horse and unborn colt lost to equine botulism

When it comes to equine botulism, most people associate the disease with northeastern and Appalachian U.S. states. However, the toxin-producing bacteria that causes equine botulism, Clostridium botulinum, can be found anywhere.

Ashley Godwin was living in Florida when she lost her seven-year-old Thoroughbred mare, and her unborn colt, to equine botulism on Christmas Eve. She had owned Penny since the mare was a yearling, and was hoping to race her baby. Godwin writes about Penny and her experience over at TheHorse.

Godwin’s and Penny’s equine botulism story is like what many horse owners go through when the disease strikes. Initial symptoms looked to Godwin like colic or pregnancy discomfort.

“When I approached her, I saw she was also shaking her head in a side-to-side motion,” Godwin said. “I knew that wasn’t good.” [ More … ]

Scottish authorities detect ‘red alert’ levels of shellfish toxins

Reports of shellfish toxins have been increasing in and around Scotland recently — in particular, the toxins that cause diarrhetic shellfish poisoning (DSP) and paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP).

These reports have strong implications for the shellfish industry in the area. Harvesters are limited in where they operate, and much of the industry is increasing testing in order detect toxins in its product.

According to the most recent results from the biotoxin monitoring program of Food Standards Scotland (FSS), 77 instances have been noted where DSP is at a red alert level, meaning the toxin is above regulatory limits — and the associated harvesting site will be closed.

DSP was detected at an amber alert level — below regulatory limits, but still present — in 80 results. For PSP, this number was 41. In these situations, FSS guidelines say that shellfish toxin testing should be increased. [ More … ]

Tox Tuesday: How drug-contaminated breast milk can harm infants

Infant health experts are increasingly extolling the benefits of breast milk for newborns and older babies alike, with many medical studies showing benefits that last long after infancy. Mothers are advised to breastfeed if possible, and human milk banks have sprung up to help deliver breast milk where enough isn’t naturally available.

Sadly, unhealthy substances can be transferred from mother to baby through breast milk. Take for example one Pennsylvania case in which a mother killed her 11-week-old child after breastfeeding him with a combination of methadone, amphetamine and methamphetamine in her system.

Even in cases where it’s not deadly, some substances can still harm a developing child. A recent study found that alcohol in breast milk may lead to lower cognitive abilities in kids.

How drugs get into human milk

Not all drugs work the same way in every breastfeeding person. How much of a substance actually reaches the milk depends on factors like its lipid solubility, molecule size and, most importantly, how much of a substance is in the mother’s bloodstream. That said, most drugs (prescription or otherwise) pass into human milk, and the more enters the blood, the more enters the milk. [ More … ]

Monday Mycotoxin and Crop Report: August 6, 2018

The headlines for this week’s Monday Mycotoxin and Crop Report: New mycotoxin reports in wheat and corn, drought persists, and Tony answers the question, “What is the difference between total aflatoxin and aflatoxin B1?” Watch the video here.

Neogen Corporation takes great care to ensure the integrity of the data we collect from many sources across the country. As these data can vary widely, they should NOT be considered typical of all grain harvested. The mycotoxin levels we report are intended to assist our industry partners in developing their risk assessment programs. Detecting problems before commingling or processing can help avoid quality issues and financial losses.

To subscribe to get these reports straight to your email inbox, click here.

Is aromatherapy good for horses?

Maybe you have a favorite scent that helps you relax: something like eucalyptus, or lilac, or jasmine, or cinnamon. Well, according to a recent study, horses do as well — and it’s lavender.

Researchers from the University of Arizona found significant signs of stress reduction in horses after the horses inhaled the scent of lavender. They exposed nine dressage horses to the scent without provoking stress first, in order to determine how the aromatherapy would affect a horse in its natural state (a previous study had shown lavender to help stressed-out horses when the stress was induced by an airhorn). The horses’ ages and breeds varied.

“We wanted to test regular horses that aren’t stressed out by external forces,” said university professor and dressage rider Ann Baldwin. “Some horses and some breeds, it’s just in their nature that they are more stressed. So, we wanted to use horses that were not being scared deliberately to see what effect, if any, the aromatherapy had on them.”

In the study, horses were separated individually into a small paddock while a volunteer held a diffuser containing lavender essential oil near their noses. A monitor tracked the horses’ heart rates and heart rate variability for 21 minutes — seven minutes before lavender exposure, seven minutes during exposure, and seven minutes afterwards. [ More … ]

Outbreak alert: Listeria in frozen vegetables in Australia and New Zealand

First it happened in Europe, and then in the land down under.

Like the United Kingdom did last month, Australia and New Zealand have recalled a wide amount of frozen vegetable products due to concerns of Listeria contamination — specifically Listeria monocytogenes.

The recall involves the same supplier as the overseas recall, and encompasses nine products that include frozen corn, carrots, peas and broccoli. The products originate from the United Kingdom, Belgium and Hungary.

“The products affected contain a particularly dangerous strain of Listeria and are being recalled as a precautionary measure to ensure consumers are protected,” said Peter May of Food Standards Australia New Zealand when the recall was first announced. [ More … ]