By Dr. Stephanie Ostrowski, DVM

When cows fly: In the United States, we are fortunate to have a large dairy industry with milk surpluses, as well as an efficient distribution network. Taken together, these allow Americans to enjoy significant food security with regard to fluid milk and dairy products. Historically this has not always been the case, and many countries today struggle to assure adequate access to dairy products. Why are dairy products so important? In addition to being an important part of a balanced diet for adults, access to infant formula is essential in the modern era when most infants are raised on formula. And milk is an important source of digestible fat, protein, and calcium for growing children. The current boycott of the Sheikdom of Qatar by its neighbors and primary trading partners provides a timely illustration.

In June 2017, the Sheikdom of Qatar—facing a shipping boycott and blockage of its seaport and land routes by Saudi Arabia and other Arabian Gulf neighbors—had to scramble to establish alternate sources of supply for food and essential goods, including milk. The boycott that started on June 5, 2017, disrupted trade, split families, and threatens to alter long-standing geopolitical alliances. Until June 2017, most of the fresh milk and dairy products required to feed Qatar’s population of 2.7 million was imported from Saudi Arabia. The country is now importing Turkish dairy goods and has moved briskly to start up a planned 4,000-cow dairy development project to provide 30 percent of the nation’s milk and dairy requirements by September 2017.

Power International Holding (PIH) is the Qatari corporation responsible for construction of the dairy. The company is growing the irrigated crops required to feed the cows. As of July the project was well underway, with contracts for delivery of cows from Europe, Australia, and the U.S. scheduled during the second half of 2017. A total of 165 cows arrived in Qatar on  July 11; they were the first of 60 air shipments. The implementation of the boycott by the Saudis required that the date for receipt of the cows be moved up, and that the animals come by air, rather than by freighter, at a cost of $8 million (five times the planned cost if they had been shipped by sea). Read more HERE, HERE and HERE.

CYBER SECURITY

Is your refrigerator a security risk? The federal government is worried some refrigerators and coffee pots could pose a national security risk, and it’s taking action. Colorado’s U.S. Senator Cory Gardner among a bi-partisan group of senators who are sponsoring legislation to secure the so-called Internet of Things – everyday devices that are embedded with computer chips and sensors. Gardner says those devices can be used as weapons of mass disruption .READ MORE

Kaspersky ordered off federal computer systems: The federal government moved on Wednesday to wipe from its computer systems any software made by a prominent Russian cybersecurity firm, Kaspersky Lab, that is being investigated by the F.B.I. for possible links to Russian security services. The concerns surrounding Kaspersky, whose software is sold throughout the United States, are longstanding. READ MORE

FOOD SECURITY

Orange crop dealt a devastating blow: Hurricane Irma dealt Florida’s iconic orange crop a devastating blow, destroying nearly all the fruit in some Southwest Florida groves and seriously damaging groves in Central Florida. U.S. Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio toured groves in Lake Wales on Wednesday and heard from growers, who pleaded for federal assistance. In Lake Wales, the senators saw young fruit on the ground and trees split by wind. Growers talked of trees standing in three feet of water, a death sentence for a crop already under a decade-long siege by citrus greening disease. READ MORE

World’s hunger for chocolate fuels devastating deforestation: The world’s chocolate industry is driving deforestation on a devastating scale in West Africa, the UK’s Guardian newspaper has documented. Cocoa traders who sell to Mars, Nestlé, Mondelez and other big brands buy beans grown illegally inside protected areas in the Ivory Coast, where rainforest cover has been reduced by more than 80 percent since 1960. Illegal product is mixed in with “clean” beans in the supply chain, meaning that Mars bars, Ferrero Rocher chocolates and Milka bars could all be tainted with “dirty” cocoa. As much as 40 percent of the world’s cocoa comes from Ivory Coast. READ MORE

WATER SAFETY

Starkist will pay penalty for wastewater violations: Starkist, the world’s largest supplier of canned tuna, has agreed to pay a $6.3 million penalty for wastewater violations in American Samoa, the U.S. Department of Justice has announced. The Pittsburg-based company will also take steps to reduce environmental harm to the U.S. territory, where it is the largest private employer. In 2014, a discharge pipeline break at the facility spilled unpermitted wastewater into the inner Pago Pago Harbor, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began investigating. READ MORE

Microplastic fibers seem to be everywhere: The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has played down renewed fears that microplastic fibers, found in everything from sea salt and honey to tap water, pose a potential food safety risk. While researchers are building a case for the presence of plastics in the environment and the food chain, very little is known about the effect on humans of ingesting the plastic—mainly because it is difficult to find a control population that hasn’t been exposed to the tiny particles. READ MORE