Food supply chain safety

  • Extreme weatherWarm ocean hot spots caused mid-1930s U.S. Dust Bowl

    The unusually hot summers of 1934 and 1936 broke heat records that still stand today. They were part of the devastating dust bowl decade in the United States when massive dust storms traveled as far as New York, Boston, and Atlanta, covering the decks of ships with silt 450 km off the east coast. Two ocean hot spots have been found to be the potential drivers of these hot 1934 and 1936 summers in the central United States, knowledge that may help predict future calamities.

  • Food safetyDeveloping a car wash to protect the food supply

    Whether it is a bacon cheeseburger that comes through a drive-thru window or a steak dinner at a five-star restaurant, food safety is universally important, and it starts long before a meal is on the table. This is a prime concern for the agricultural industry as they transport cattle, swine, and other livestock across the country in the hundreds of millions each year. One of the key elements to decreasing the effects of an outbreak is to decontaminate areas where animals have been located. This is no small feat, however.

  • Food securityCoffee production starting to decline as a result of warming

    Coffee is the world’s most valuable tropical export crop and the industry supports an estimated 100 million people worldwide. Scientists have provided the first on-the-ground evidence that climate change has already had a substantial impact on coffee production in the East African Highlands region. The study, using data from the northern Tanzanian highlands, verifies for the first time the increasing night time (minimum) temperature as the most significant climatic variable being responsible for diminishing Coffea arabica coffee yields between 1961 and 2012 and proves that climate change is an ongoing reality.

  • WaterWater shortage grows, and so does the need for technological solutions

    The value of freshwater is becoming more apparent, as more and more areas around the world are suffering from dwindling supply as a result of climate change. The World Bank estimates that water is $1 trillion privatized commodity. Last week, California imposed mandatory restrictions on water use for the first time in its history. California’s unprecedented move is just one example of the political and social issues which will accompany a growing water shortage moving forward.

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  • Food safetyImplementing new food safety measure hampered by lack of funding

    Roughly forty-eight million Americans have food-borne illness each year, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 128,000 of them are hospitalized, and 3,000 die. The cost of treatment and lost income is $15 billion a year or more, according to data from the Agriculture Department.When Congress passed the 2010 Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) to give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) new powers to prevent food outbreaks, however, it failed adequately to fund the agency, thereby diminishing its ability to implement new regulations and inspection powers on food producers and foreign suppliers.

  • Food safetyFood safety specialists hope new tracking approach will lead to better intervention

    Estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show these four pathogens cause 1.9 million cases of foodborne illness in the United States each year. A new partnership to improve food safety and better track foodborne illness is an approach that food safety specialists say will lead to better intervention strategies.

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  • SuperbugsIncreasing use of antibiotics in livestock undermines effectiveness of antimicrobials in humans

    Antibiotic consumption in livestock worldwide could rise by 67 percent between 2010 and 2030, and possibly endanger the effectiveness of antimicrobials in humans, according to researchers. Five countries — Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa — will experience a growth of 99 percent in antibiotic consumption, compared with an expected 13 percent growth in their human populations over the same period. In the United States, antibiotic consumption in animals currently represents up to 80 percent of total antimicrobial sales. “The discovery and development of antibiotics was a major public health revolution of the twentieth century,” says one of the researchers. “Their effectiveness — and the lives of millions of people around the world — are now in danger due to the increasing global problem of antibiotic resistance, which is being driven by antibiotic consumption.”

  • Food safetyNew detection method for bacterial toxin

    The Bacillus cereus bacterium is one of the potential causes of food poisoning. A recent study in Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry shows that this versatile pathogen produces nineteen different variants of a poison that causes nausea and vomiting in human beings. This variety could explain why some cases are relatively benign and others can result in death. Across Europe, the number of food poisoning cases caused by the Bacillus species is on the rise.

  • Food securityFor soybean growers, hidden cost of climate change exceeds $11 billion

    Even during a good year, soybean farmers nationwide are, in essence, taking a loss. This is because changes in weather patterns have been eating into their profits and taking quite a bite: $11 billion over the past twenty years. This massive loss has been hidden, in effect, by the impressive annual growth seen in soybean yields thanks to other factors. That growth, however, could have been 30 percent higher if weather variations resulting from climate change had not occurred, according to a new study.

  • WaterCalifornia exploring water purification, imports, and conservation as water situation worsens

    California officials are calling on residents better to manage their water usage as the state enters its fourth consecutive year of drought. An average American uses 100 gallons of water each day, and reservoirs in California only have enough water to supply this level of consumption until the end of 2015. In 2014 alone, the state’s agriculture sector lost $2.2 billion in revenue as a result of the drought. State officials acknowledge that a heavy rainfall alone will not be sufficient to restore the groundwater the state needs, so water districts are investing in water recycling plants and exploring strategies ranging from importing water to encouraging greater conservation.

  • Radiation risksProtecting crops from radiation-contaminated soil

    Almost four years after the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan, farmland remains contaminated with higher-than-natural levels of radiocesium in some regions of Japan, with cesium-134 and cesium-137 being the most troublesome because of the slow rate at which they decay. In a just-published study, scientists have identified a chemical compound that prevents plants from taking up cesium, thus protecting them — and us — from its harmful effects.

  • Food securityAluminum poses a threat to food security

    One third of the world’s food-producing land has been lost in the past forty years as a result of soil degradation, putting global food security at risk. Researchers have discovered how aluminum, a toxic result of soil acidification, acts to reduce plant growth. The researchers discovered that aluminum in soils could reduce the growth of roots within five to thirty minutes of exposure.

  • Immigration & agricultureAgriculture groups say bill would disrupt farming operations, decrease food production

    The Legal Workforce Act(LWAH.R. 1147), introduced by U.S. Representative Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and approved this week by the House Judiciary Committee, could disrupt farming operations if it passes Congress. LWA requires employers in the United States, within three years, to use E-Verifyto verify whether employees are legally allowed to work in the country. Ag industry groups say that passing LWA without some sort of immigration reform for agricultural workers could lead to a $30 billion to $60 billion decrease in food production. The ag industry also notes that each of the two million hired farm employees supports two to three fulltime American jobs in the food processing, transportation, farm equipment, marketing, retail, and other sectors.

  • DroughtsWarming temperatures cause of recent California droughts

    California has experienced more frequent drought years in the last two decades than it has in the past several centuries. That observed uptick is primarily the result of rising temperatures in the region, which have climbed to record highs as a result of climate change, Stanford scientists say. Researchers have examined the role that temperature has played in California droughts over the past 120 years. They also examined the effect that human emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are having on temperature and precipitation, focusing on the influence of global warming upon California’s past, present, and future drought risk. The team found that the worst droughts in California have historically occurred when conditions were both dry and warm, and that global warming is increasing the probability that dry and warm years will coincide. The findings suggest that California could be entering an era when nearly every year that has low precipitation also has temperatures similar to or higher than 2013-14, when the statewide average annual temperature was the warmest on record.

  • Food securityOcean acidification threatens U.S. coastal communities

    Coastal communities in fifteen states that depend on the $1 billion shelled mollusk industry (primarily oysters and clams) are at long-term economic risk from the increasing threat of ocean acidification, a new report concludes. The Pacific Northwest has been the most frequently cited region with vulnerable shellfish populations, the authors say, but the report notes that newly identified areas of risk from acidification range from Maine to the Chesapeake Bay, to the bayous of Louisiana.