Alabama emergency trainees exposed to ricin: Because of yet another mix-up with bioterror pathogens, a federal terrorism response training center in Alabama says it mistakenly exposed more than 9,600 firefighters, paramedics and other students to a deadly toxin over the past five years. The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Center for Domestic Preparedness blames an outside laboratory for a series of shipping errors since 2011 that resulted in the first-responder training center using in its classes a potentially lethal form of ricin powder. The poison, made from castor beans, is capable of killing at small doses. READ MORE


Zika guidance issued for Brownsville, Texas: Food sector executives with activities in Texas should be aware that on Dec. 14, 2016, the CDC issued guidance related to Zika for people living in or traveling to Brownsville in Cameron County, Texas. On Nov. 28, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported the state’s first case of local mosquito-borne Zika virus infection in Brownsville. Additional cases of mosquito-borne Zika have been identified in the area, suggesting that there is a risk of continued spread of Zika virus in Brownsville. As a result, CDC has designated Brownsville as a Zika cautionary area (yellow area). CDC designates areas for Zika virus transmission prevention in the continental United States and Hawaii as red or yellow. Yellow indicates a geographic area where local spread of Zika virus has been identified, but there is not yet any evidence of widespread, sustained local spread. Although the specific level of risk in yellow areas is unknown, there is still a risk to pregnant women. Brownsville is currently designated as a yellow area. READ MORE

China reports first case of avian influenza in a human: Officials in China reported that a Macau poultry trader developed H7N9 avian influenza and has been hospitalized under quarantine. The man and his wife didn’t have contact with any other people, according to health officials. READ MORE

The relationship between cow vaccination and girls’ education: Could vaccinating cattle get more girls into high school? That’s the intriguing prospect suggested by a new study of Kenyan cattle herding families in the journal Science Advances. But even more significant than the actual results of the study is the fact the researchers would even think to investigate whether there’s a link between cattle vaccination rates and girls’ high school attendance. READ MORE

Million-year-old ‘hero’ bug found in New Mexico cave: Bacteria are way smarter than we give them credit for. Scientists have found a superbug — hidden 1,000 feet underground in a cave — that is resistant to 70 percent of antibiotics and can totally inactivate many of them. But here’s the kicker. This bacterium has been isolated from people, society — and drugs — for four million years, scientists reported Thursday in the journal Nature CommunicationsREAD MORE

To stop Ebola, an epidemic of fear had to be stopped (audio) LISTEN


Blue Ridge Beef pet foods recalled: Some frozen pet foods made by Blue Ridge Beef for dogs and kittens have been recalled after they were linked to two feline illnesses and one canine death. FDA testing found Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes in one of the samples, meaning people and animals are at risk. READ MORE


Obama challenges China on trade practices: Amid new tensions with China, the Obama administration on Thursday launched its 15th challenge against Beijing at the Word Trade Organization, escalating a long-simmering debate over practices that U.S. officials say limit American farmers’ ability to export rice, wheat and corn to the Asian powerhouse. The administration says it is trying to hold China to its commitment to allow set quantities of grain and corn to enter the country subject to a lower tariff rate. China agreed to the terms when it joined the WTO, the administration said in a statement announcing new the complaint. READ MORE


Midnight move to update GIPSA: At midnight on Dec. 14, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) announced an update in regulations that “protect the rights of farmers,” according to the agency. The Farmer Fair Practices Rules falls under the Packers and Stockyards Act and seeks to level the playing field for farmers who have been retaliated against by meat packers. “Poultry growers in particular are vulnerable to market risks and concentration in the processor market. All too often, processors and packers wield the power, and farmers carry the risk,” says Tom Vilsack, secretary of agriculture. Some industry groups and policy makers have been vocal in their dissatisfaction with the move. READ MORE