Fields were ablaze in Bangladesh, Scientific American reported last April, as farmers struggled to contain Asia’s first outbreak of a fungal disease—wheat blast—that periodically devastates crops in South America. Plant pathologists warned that wheat blast could spread to other parts of south and southeast Asia, and now they believe the disease came from Brazil. Bangladesh is one of the largest Asian importers of wheat, and Brazil is one of the major suppliers of wheat to Bangladesh. Many fungal diseases can be transmitted via grains, and previous research has indicated that wheat blast can be seed-transmitted.

Promedmail.org warns that wheat blast (first identified in 1985) is now considered an emerging disease and a threat to global food security, and said other Asian countries that received wheat from Brazil, including Thailand, the Philippines, and Viet Nam, should increase surveillance efforts to learn if wheat blast has entered into their wheat fields. “These recent findings stress again the importance of strict quarantine measures and biosecurity protocols for the international movement of any kind of plant material,” Promed said.

The disease is explosive and devastating. Yield losses seem to average 40 to 50 per cent, but cases of 100 per cent losses have also been reported, and wheat production in some affected areas has ceased. Wheat blast was spotted in Kentucky in 2011, but vigorous surveillance helped to stop it spreading in the United States. Resistance breeding is difficult because the fungus is highly variable, which favors the emergence of new strains with increased virulence. In Bolivia, a new strain of wheat blast is emerging which has broken resistance of wheat cultivars currently used in that country. Read more HERE, HERE and HERE.

PROCESS SECURITY

Children in hospital after drinking restaurant’s apple juice: Two children remain in a critical condition after drinking apple juice in a restaurant in Lancaster, Pa., which left them coughing up blood. Richie Zaragoza, 10, and his 4-year-old half-sister Ginaya Mendoza are believed to have ingested a chemical substance that left them with serious burns to the mouth and throat. The all-you-can-eat restaurant manager said the apple juice had been bought from a local supermarket. Initial testing found traces of methanol. READ MORE

Beef recalled, contained strands of plastic: After receiving complaints from a retailer, Boston’s F.B. Packing Co. Inc. recalled 8,430 pounds of shaved beef products that may be contaminated with plastic, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) reported Monday. READ MORE

E. coli case results in first lawsuit: The first civil action filed against the SoyNut Butter Co. in relation to an ongoing E. coli outbreak seeks compensation for a 25-day hospital stay and what will likely be life-long health consequences for an 8-year-old boy, Food Safety News reports. The boy is one of 12 victims in five states confirmed with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7, which was not among the isolates on file in the PulseNet data base before this outbreak, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of the nine victims interviewed so far, all nine reported eating I.M. Healthy brand soy nut butter before becoming sick. READ MORE

CYBERSECURITY

The IoT and food manufacturers: Like a new pair of shoes that pinch until broken in, food manufacturers are slowly getting comfortable with the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), says Food Processing magazine. Two years ago, mention of IIoT provoked blank stares or rolled eyes from the people who manage and run America’s food and beverage production facilities. Today, they are warming up to the concept. Data security, however, is still a big concern for IT and, to some extent, executive management. READ MORE