CDC apologizes for ruining muffins with tick awareness message

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made a social media splash recently with a tweet that went viral.

“Ticks can be the size of a poppy seed,” tweeted the agency, alongside two close-up photos of a poppy seed muffin. “Can you spot all five ticks in this photo?”

Suddenly, the muffin didn’t seem so appetizing. Close examiners of the picture found that, indeed, there were ticks camouflaged among the seeds. Both poppy seeds and ticks are small and dark in color.

The message grossed a lot of people out, but it allowed the CDC to get an important message out: We need to be aware of ticks to protect ourselves, our pets, and our farm animals. [ More … ]

NCIMS meets to discuss regulations for tetracycline screening in milk

Last week, the National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS) held its Western Region Meeting in Reno, Nevada to discuss all things dairy — especially the future of regulating the screening of antibiotics in milk.

The meeting, which relates to one of the three state cooperative programs supported by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), was held between state, local and tribal regulators, as well as industry partners. At the event, attendees covered many different topics, including foodborne illness surveillance, responses to outbreaks (which are now defined as two or more foodborne illness cases), and the regulation of Grade “A” dairy farms and milk processing plants.

First, some backstory. For over 70 years, NCIMS and the FDA have been working to ensure a safe milk supply across the U.S. One small part of their goal involves screening milk for common antibiotic residues, which are not suited for human consumption. In July 2017, the NCIMS started a pilot program to explore adding a new family of antibiotics to the list of drugs regulated for screening: tetracyclines. [ More … ]

Study: Gluten-free diets don’t entirely protect consumers from gluten

Gluten-free food products have skyrocketed in popularity during recent years, preferred in part by consumers seeking health benefits from gluten-free diets. But there’s also another very important component to the buyer base for gluten-free goods: people with gluten intolerances, wheat allergies and celiac disease.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder, and those who suffer from it have immune responses in their small intestine when they consume gluten, over time damaging the small intestine’s lining. People with the disease must be extremely careful not to let any gluten into their diets. Meanwhile, people without celiac disease generally consume between 5,000 and 15,000 milligrams of gluten daily. Two bites of bread contain about 500 milligrams of gluten.

In a study published earlier this year, a team of researchers investigated how effectively celiac patients were managing to avoid gluten in their diets. The team looked at data from two different clinical programs that estimated gluten consumption based on measuring undigested traces of gluten in urine and stool samples.

Their findings suggested that, despite best efforts, even the savviest gluten-avoiders were usually consuming more gluten than desired. [ More … ]

Tox Tuesday: As synthetic urine demand increases, lawmakers begin to tackle issue

With drug abuse rates rising in many parts of the world — and opioid usage rates well past crisis levels — the need for reliable drug testing is as potent as ever. Now, governments are responding to one challenge that has been rising in popularity lately: synthetic urine.

Urine testing is one of the most common ways to test for drugs in the body, and employers frequently use it to screen potential and existing employees. And since people are always trying to cheat the system, whatever that system may be, it’s not surprising that fake urine would hit the market. Buyers who know they won’t pass a drug test can covertly slip this product into the drug-testing facility, using the fake urine instead of their own, and get a free pass. The demand for these kinds of products has been increasing as of late.

“People can basically use it to avoid consequence with their employers and probation officers,” David Powell, executive director of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, told The Washington Post. “There’s just no other legitimate purpose for it.” [ More … ]

Egg facts for National Egg Month

May is National Egg Month, a month to celebrate these important sources of protein and the people who bring them to our breakfast plates.

Whether you use eggs for a sunny-side-up meal to kick off the day, to bake a cake, to poach in your instant ramen bowl or whatever you prefer, here are some food safety facts for eggs: [ More … ]

World’s tallest corn plant takes the world record at 45 feet

Imagine being lost in a corn maze, stalks of maize towering over your head at 12 feet tall. Now imagine the corn is about 45 feet tall.

While you can’t actually find a maze made from corn that tall, if you go to Costa Rica, you can find one stalk that stretches that high. There, plant breeder Jason Karl has set the record for tallest corn plant at 45 feet tall.

It’s not the first time he’s set the world record — he first managed the feat in 2011, with a 35-foot-tall plant grown on his family’s farm. He’d been experimenting with growing corn as tall as possible since his teenaged years.

“It’s never been done before,” he told The Scientist. “No one would try it because it makes corn tall — too tall. People are not interested in super-tall corn. However, it’s interesting for basic research.” [ More … ]

Study shows airway disease more common in racehorses than originally thought

Horses are powerful runners; on average, a galloping horse easily reaches 25 to 30 miles per hour. (The fastest recorded horse speed? Nearly 44 miles per hour, by a horse named Winning Brew in 2008.)

To achieve such high speeds, horses don’t need much beyond their own powerful muscles and plenty of air. Unfortunately, new research shows that a common airway disease that limits racehorses’ ability to win is even more common than originally thought.

“We looked microscopically at the lung tissue of horses that died during or just after races, and quantified the inflammatory cells within their airways,” said Luis Arroyo, a researcher at the University of Guelph. “We expected to find that the majority of the animals would have normal airways, with only a small number actually affected with the disease, but that was not the case.”

The research team found that in fact, the majority of the 95 horses they examined had inflammatory airway disease (IAD), whereas, in the past, researched suggested that just half of all racehorses were affected. Not all cases were severe, as many horses had only mild airway changes. IAD is a treatable condition, and wasn’t necessarily responsible for the horses’ deaths.

“The findings suggest that IAD does not result from unique exposure of an affected horse to t [ More … ]

Is your pet fearful of storms? Here’s how to help.

Most of us don’t love storms. Sure, it can be nice to sit on the porch and watch the lightning roll in, but for the most part, these weather hazards are loud, inconvenient and at times, dangerous.

Animals especially don’t enjoy stormy weather, which is why responsible owners need to be aware of the signs of anxiety in their animals, the causes, and most importantly, how to help.

The signs

Signs of anxiousness in dogs are “ears back, tails down, eyes wide, panting, lip-licking and yawning,” said veterinarian and clinical behaviorist Terry Curtis to National Geographic. Dogs who struggle with storms (and other loud situations, like fireworks) have been known to have extreme responses at times, jumping through windows, running away or otherwise putting themselves at risk.

Cats are a bit different. They’re likely to hide, be aggressive when approached, meow or cry excessively, groom compulsively, be lethargic, or even vomit when a storm is approaching. Oftentimes, they sit in one safe place to wait out the storm. [ More … ]

Is the number of foodborne illness outbreaks actually increasing?

It seems that every week, as you surf the internet, you see more and more people sharing articles about the latest food that’s garnering fear at the supermarket. Foodborne illness outbreaks, and food recalls related to them, have been big news in recent years.

Part of the increased coverage is, of course, due to increased education and awareness as experts and officials strive to spread the word and keep people safe from foodborne illnesses, which can range from inconvenient to deadly. But have they actually increased in number, or do they just seem ubiquitous thanks to all the media coverage?

What’s going on?

It seems that in the U.S. at least, foodborne illnesses have not been rising.

Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that in the past 20 years, cases of the top six foodborne pathogens (including Salmonella and Listeria) have decreased by about 25%. [ More … ]

Understanding risks leads to a more successful calving season

It’s a wonderful time of year when baby farm animals take the stage (or, well, pasture), but it’s not a time without its risks. Fortunately, biosecurity and animal safety steps taken by farmers and ranchers every day go a long way in making sure each calving season is a success.

Experts at the North Dakota State University (NDSU) Extension Service define three types of pregnancy losses in cattle: early embryonic death (within 42 days of gestation), abortion (a miscarriage happening less than 270 days into gestation) and stillbirth, which is when calves pass away just before or just after birth.

“Although pregnancy losses in cattle are a fact of life, late-term losses are likely the most difficult pill for producers to swallow,” says Gerald Stokka, veterinarian and livestock stewardship specialist. “There are often more questions than answers, and trying to find a reason for the loss can be a complex and frustrating process.” [ More … ]