Tox Tuesday: Dark web marketplace begins to ban fentanyl

You know a drug is bad when drug dealers won’t even supply it.

That’s the case with fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, which is now being delisted by major dark web drug suppliers because of the risks associated with it. Because fentanyl is so deadly, it’s more likely to trigger investigation from authorities. To keep the heat off, illegal online marketplaces are beginning to voluntarily ban the substance, particularly in the United Kingdom.

“If they’ve got people selling very high-risk commodities then it’s going to increase the risk to them,” said Vince O’Brien of the U.K.’s National Crime Agency. “There are marketplaces that will not accept listings for weapons and explosives — those are the ones that will not accept listings for fentanyl.” [ More … ]

Trash is the biggest factor in rat infestations, researchers say

Around the world, more than 35 diseases are known to be easily spread by rats and the ticks and fleas that live on them. The Black Plague, the most famous pandemic to strike mankind, was spread in part by rats stowing away on European merchant ships.

Naturally, we humans have a vested interest in keeping the little pests contained. That can be tough, though, as rats are persistent everywhere in the world, especially in urban areas.

In the city of Chicago, researchers noticed that nearly 46,000 rat complaints were lodged between April 2017 and April 2018, an increase from previous years. But do a lot of complaints really mean a bigger barrage of rats, or have people just decided to speak up more? They decided to dig deeper.

“Every city and urban property owner is required to manage rats, so our discoveries about rats in Chicagoland may be applicable to help wildlife managers and urban planners in other cities as well,” said Rebecca Fyffe of Landmark Pest Management, a firm involved in the research.

Joining Landmark were scientists from Lincoln Park Zoo’s Urban Wildlife Institute and the Davee Center for Epidemiology and Endocrinology.

The rat race

The research team trapped rats in 13 Chicago neighborhoods and compared the rate of rats caught with public data on rat complaints, incomes, rental properties and land cover. Researchers also measured the amount of garbage, clutter/harborage spots and structural integrity of buildings at each site. [ More … ]

Animals can track the passing of time, science says

Preparing your dog’s dinner in the kitchen, you get a text message. You stop, sit down, and type out a response. “Fido won’t mind waiting a minute,” you say to yourself as he watches from his empty bowl.

Science says that, actually, Fido might mind.

Researchers from Illinois’s Northwestern University looked at the medial entorhinal cortex — a part of the brain associated with memory, navigation and keeping track of time — in animals. They found a previously unknown set of nerve cells, or neurons, that activate when an animal is waiting.

“Does your dog know that it took you twice as long to get its food as it took yesterday? There wasn’t a good answer for that before,” said study lead Daniel Dombeck. “This is one of the most convincing experiments that animals really do have an explicit representation of time in their brains when they are challenged to measure a time interval.” [ More … ]

Elevated DON risks a problem for pig farms

Thanks to a period of wet and snowy weather parts of the U.S. and Canada, experts are advising operations that handle corn or feed ingredients to be cautious of mycotoxins going forward.

Of particular concern is deoxynivalenol, or DON. This mycotoxin is produced by a mold that flourishes in wet conditions and is a major health threat if consumed in animal feed. Pigs show an especially high sensitivity to DON — contamination in swine feed can lead to reduced growth, less nutrient intake from vomiting, a weakened immune system and reduced litter size.

Farms.com reports that 25% of samples tested by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs had DON levels greater than 5 parts per million (ppm), and 15% tested between 2 and 5 ppm. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency recommends that DON shouldn’t exceed 1 ppm in mixed feeds. These high numbers mean that contaminated loads are being rejected by elevators. [ More … ]

Food safety: How to start environmental monitoring in restaurants and food service venues

Looking for how to get started with your environmental monitoring program in a restaurant or other food service venue?

The first step can be a risk assessment to guide you to the areas of highest risk at your site. Neogen has developed a guide on which test method is right for you or your supplier to use, depending on whether you plan on monitoring for general cleanliness, pathogens or allergens.

Another resource as you begin or improve your plan are past reports issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration.

You might be asking yourself, “What’s the big deal? Why should I monitor the environment in my food operation?” According to the CDC, more than 50% of foodborne illness outbreaks come from restaurant food. An environmental monitoring plan helps you achieve your goal of keeping your consumers safe from these outbreaks. [ More … ]

Australian outbreak data shows Salmonella typhimurium is the biggest offender

The latest foodborne illness outbreak data is in from OzFoodNet, a tracking network organized by Australia’s Department of Health.

The report shows that in 2012, 2,117 people in Australia were affected by foodborne illness outbreaks, resulting in nine deaths and 183 hospitalizations. Exactly 144 outbreaks led to these numbers, 47 of them recorded in the state New South Wales.

The biggest offender: Salmonella typhimurium, involved in a fifth of the outbreaks. Other major culprits were norovirus, other Salmonella serotypes, Campylobacter, Clostridium perfringens and histamine, a toxin produced by certain kinds of fish as they decay, which causes scombroid poisoning.

Restaurants were linked to 71 of the outbreaks, by far the most frequently reported origin point. Private residences followed with 18 outbreaks. In 60 of the outbreaks, just one food item was determined to be responsible. Of these outbreaks, 28 were linked to raw or undercooked eggs. [ More … ]

Who’s buying organic foods?

The year 2017 marked continued strength in the organic food market. According to the Organic Trade Association (OTA), U.S. sales surpassed $45 billion over the course of the year, more than doubling in size from a decade ago. OTA notes that the 2017 figures represent a 6.4% increase from the previous year — significant, considering the 1% increase in total food market sales. Organic now accounts for 5.5% of the food sold by U.S. retailers.

“Organic has arrived. And everyone is paying attention. Consumers love organic, and now we’re able to choose organic in practically every aisle in the store,” said Laura Batcha, OTA’s CEO, in a statement.

Consumers report that they’re finding it more convenient than ever before to buy organic. According to market research publisher Packaged Facts, most people say they’re buying more natural and organic foods, and almost half are visiting their local supermarket’s organic section to do so.

The organic market is maturing. Which consumers are helping it grow? [ More … ]

Knickers the Australian steer and other massive cattle

You may have heard about Knickers, an enormous Australian steer who made headlines this week after it was reported that he was simply too big for the butcher shop. But did you know Knickers isn’t the largest steer in the world?

Standing at 6 feet, 4 inches tall and weighing about 1.4 tons, Knickers is a Holstein Friesian who lives with a herd of much smaller wagyu cattle in Western Australia. His owner, Geoff Pearson, tried to sell him, but he was too hefty for the abattoir.

“He’s too big for the chain, he’s out of spec,” Pearson told The Guardian. “He’d be too heavy for the machines and he’d probably actually be hanging on the floor, so there would be contamination issues, and his cuts of meat would be too large.”

Other large cows

While Knickers might be unusually big, he’s not necessarily a freak of nature. [ More … ]

Snow stalls corn harvest in some U.S. states

Neogen’s regular Monday Mycotoxin and Crop Reports may have wrapped up for the year (except for our Capstone Report — stay tuned), but we wanted to sneak in another update for the 2018 harvest season.

Overall corn harvest in the U.S. and Canada is about 94% complete, just two points behind the five-year average. States buried under the snow are still behind, however, leaving grain cold and wet.

North Dakota has 80% of its corn harvested, 13 points below its five-year average of 93%. South Dakota sits at 90% completion, seven points behind its five-year average. Pennsylvania is 82% finished with harvest, with a five-year average of 89%, and Ohio is at 86% with a five-year average of 93%. [ More … ]

The latest on the big E. coli outbreak

It’s now safe to eat some romaine lettuce, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says after last week’s recall of the product due to potential contamination with E. coli O157:H7.

As the investigation has continued, the FDA has found that the contaminated romaine comes from parts of California that grow romaine over the summer months — specifically the central and northern regions of the state.

“The outbreak appears to be related to ‘end of season’ romaine lettuce harvested from the areas,” the FDA said in a statement.

Initially, authorities requested a recall of all romaine products and advised consumers to throw out any they had purchased. With many Americans planning Thanksgiving Day feasts the week of the recalls, it was imperative to spread the news quickly, so that romaine could be taken off the menu. [ More … ]