Monday links

assorted allergy food

What’s the latest in the fields of agriculture, food safety, animal science and toxicology? Check it out here.

Animal Science:

Backyard chickens need more regulation — University of California – Davis
A growing number of chickens today are raised in backyards. Many people prefer to raise their own food because they think it will be safer than commercially raised food. Yet, a new study suggests that local ordinances aren’t adequately addressing human and animal health when it comes to backyard poultry.

Number of people killed by animals each year in the U.S. remains unchanged — Elsevier
Injuries inflicted by farm animals, bees, wasps, hornets and dogs continue to represent the most danger to humans, according to a new study. Horses and cattle account for 90% of farm accidents. “Preventing potentially fatal farm animal encounters should be a better promoted and supported public health initiative,” said one researcher.

Food Safety:

Meat safety: More than just E. coli Food Safety Magazine
When a recall occurs due to a food safety issue, the first thing that enters most people’s minds is pathogenic bacteria. Second would be extraneous material such as metal or plastic. Although these are serious issues, in recent years most food safety-related recalls have actually been due to the undeclared presence of foodborne allergens. [ More … ]

Largest recorded Listeria outbreak attributed to ready-to-eat meat

After months of investigation, the likely cause of the world’s largest-ever recorded Listeria outbreak has been narrowed down: ready-to-eat processed meat.

The South African outbreak has been ongoing since early 2017, with nearly 1,000 reported cases of listeriosis — 183 resulting in the deaths of infected persons, 79 of which were just babies.

This week, South Africa’s Minister of Health announced the culprit was a ready-to-eat, bologna-based product called “polony.” The implicated products were processed by the country’s largest consumer food manufacturer. About 93% of listeriosis patients interviewed by outbreak investigators said they had recently consumed the ready-to-eat meat.

What’s next? Consumers have been advised to avoid all ready-to-eat meat products. Recalls have also been issued for polony, as well as a variety of other meat products, like sausages and deli meats, due to the possibility of cross-contamination. [ More … ]

Time, cost-saving advice for commercial microbiology labs

Since the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act, food manufacturers have drastically increased the amount of testing they do to comply with the more stringent rules and regulations. It’s no surprise that manufacturers have increased testing, since it’s one way to keep consumers safe from unintended allergen and foodborne pathogen contamination.

What often goes unnoticed, however, are the unsung heroes who help ease the burden for manufacturers: commercial testing labs.

“When a company just doesn’t have the capability or expertise to perform its own testing, commercial labs handle testing for them,” said Neogen’s Andrew Ciavattone.  “A company just has to box up a frozen sample, ship it out overnight, and the lab can start processing it the very next morning.” [ More … ]

How climate change affects agriculture

Since the creation of our Earth, its climate has seen many changes. Temperatures and humidity have been in flux over millennia; as these change, so do the growing conditions of our crops and the mycotoxin-producing fungi that grow on them.

These changes have significant implications to today’s growers. In the past century, a combination of elevated climatic temperatures and more frequent extremes in precipitation and drought have led to plant stress, and in turn, increased mycotoxin contamination.

As these climate extremes persist, they may threaten food security, as well as jeopardize animal and human health. Growers experience economic loss when their harvest is downgraded, rejected, or discarded due to the level of mycotoxin contamination. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), U.S. growers experience losses exceeding one billion dollars annually due to high mycotoxin levels.

Growers may also experience economic loss due to decreased harvest yield as companies struggle to adapt to rapidly evolving growing conditions and changing climates, including higher temperatures. Bernhart Schauberger, a researcher at Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research says that, “as soon as temperatures go beyond 30 degrees (Celsius, 86°F), it’s very negative for yield.” [ More … ]

Tox Tuesday: Kratom linked to opioids, Salmonella poisoning

Kratom, a plant-based drug commonly taken in an attempt to treat pain and addiction withdrawal, has been in the news a lot lately as authorities try to outline the health risks of the loosely regulated substance.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued two separate warnings about kratom in recent weeks. First, the FDA published a statement describing evidence that certain chemical compounds in kratom bind to the same brain receptors that highly addictive opioids (like oxycodone and hydrocodone) affect, suggesting that kratom could be abused in the same way opioids are.

“The model shows us that kratom compounds are predicted to affect the body just like opioids,” the FDA said. “Based on the scientific information in the literature and further supported by our computational modeling and the reports of its adverse effects in humans, we feel confident in calling compounds found in kratom, opioids.” [ More … ]

Monday links

What’s the latest in the fields of agriculture, food safety, animal science and toxicology? Check it out here.

Animal Science:

Surprising new study redraws family tree of domesticated and ‘wild’ horses — University of Kansas
There are no such things as wild horses anymore, researchers are saying after publishing a study that says the last wild horse species on earth, which lives in the Eurasian steppes, isn’t quite wild after all.

A growing ‘teacup’ pig problem — Farm Journal’s Pork
As teacup pigs become increasingly popular pets, animal shelters are taking in more and more of these animals as owners struggle with natural pig behaviors.

Food Safety:

How brands sabotage themselves where food safety is concerned — Food Quality & Safety
The food industry has defined expectations for today’s brands that reach beyond what was once expected by consumers and third-party organizations. Food safety must be at the forefront of each brand’s priorities, but it must also be demonstrated in more ways than might be expected. [ More … ]

As permafrost thaws, could ‘zombie pathogens’ make a comeback?

Photo courtesy the U.S. National Parks Service

Undead beings from an ancient era, frozen in time and released upon a modern society that has forgotten them — sounds like a horror movie premise, right?

Scientists have been discussing whether this scenario will become reality, but don’t worry about fighting off a hoard of zombies anytime soon. We’re talking about bacteria and viruses that have remained frozen for centuries in the permafrost of the earth’s coldest regions. Today, as global temperatures rise, and permafrost begins to thaw more frequently and for longer periods of time, scientists are talking about the possibility of these pathogens making a reappearance.

To see if such a thing would be possible, a pair of microbiologists warmed up a sample of Russian permafrost suspected to contain viruses. The researchers added an amoeba to the sample, and watched as a 30,000-year-old virus, Pithovirus sibericum, showed up to attack the virus-bait.

This virus, along with most others found in permafrost, is harmless to humans (but not amoebae). Researchers aren’t sure if anything more dangerous could reappear as temperatures warm. There are reportedly tens of thousands of bodies left in permafrost regions of the world, and the likelihood that some may contain old illnesses, like smallpox, is high. [ More … ]

Foot-and-mouth disease a worldwide concern for livestock producers

Photo by Raluca Mateescu

Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD): it’s a serious concern in many parts of the world, and can spread rapidly through a herd of livestock, resulting in huge economic losses for producers.

In some areas, like much of North and Central America, Australia, New Zealand, Chile and parts of Europe, FMD hasn’t been a big problem for livestock producers for decades. For example, the U.S. eradicated the disease in 1929, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Preventing the reentry of FMD remains on the radar for many health officials, however.

In parts of Europe, Africa, South America and Asia, the highly contagious viral disease is still worrisome. Affected animals suffer with painful blisters in and around the mouth that eventually pop and turn into red areas called erosions. The pain from erosions can lead to other symptoms like depression, anorexia, lameness and reluctance to move around, as well as excess drooling. Fever is typical in FMD-affected animals, also.

FMD isn’t deadly to most animals, but affects the production of meat and milk. Typically cows, pigs, sheep, goats, deer and other cloven-hoofed animals are affected. Human infection is rare. [ More … ]

Crickets in dog food could benefit your pup and the environment

Dog owners looking to provide their furry companions with an alternative protein sources will be interested to learn of the benefits that one unconventional option has to offer: crickets.

While the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has yet to define crickets as a viable option for pet food, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has minimal concern regarding human consumption of the insect. The FDA only advises that manufacturers ensure that the insects are cleaned and processed properly.

According to Petfood Industry, Chris Mahlberg, co-founder of EntoBento cricket-based dog treats, claims that, “the biggest challenge [to overcoming the ick-factor of crickets] is perception.” This is because you can often see some of the ingredients in the product — seeing bug legs and bodies turns some consumers off. Pet food providers try to help consumers overcome their perception of crickets by making their products smell and look appealing. Consumers might also be won over after learning of the protein source’s animal welfare benefits, nutrition aspects, and sustainability factors.

Animal welfare

It has been found that dogs are most often allergic to beef, chicken, lamb, soy, and fish. Crickets have proven to be a substitute for dogs who have allergies to provide them the protein and nutrients they need to stay healthy. [ More … ]

Against all odds, roping horse survives botulism, resumes competing

John the horse, courtesy of UC Davis

Equine botulism isn’t commonly associated with happily-ever-afters. That said, one roping horse slated to appear in the World Series of Team Roping before he contracted botulism has made a comeback thanks to treatment from the University of California, Davis veterinary hospital.

John is an 11-year-old American Quarter Horse gelding. He was set to compete at the 2016 World Series in Las Vegas, Nevada — at least, until botulism struck. Not feeling optimistic, owner/rider Doug Parker took John to UC Davis. He had just lost another horse to botulism, and another had been sick too.

“After what happened to our other horses just two weeks earlier, we got him to Davis as fast as we could,” he said. [ More … ]