Researchers find evidence in ancient remains: In 1545 disaster struck Mexico’s Aztec nation when people started coming down with high fevers, headaches and bleeding from the eyes, mouth and nose. Death generally followed in three or four days. Within five years possibly as many as 15 million people – an estimated 80 percent of the population – were wiped out in successive epidemics the locals named “cocoliztli.” Its cause has been questioned for nearly 500 years, but now researchers have used new scientific techniques to zero in on Salmonella, which didn’t exist in the New World before the arrival of the Conquistadors. Many Salmonella strains spread via infected food or water, and may have traveled to Mexico with domesticated animals brought by the Spanish, the research team said. This particular strain has been identified as a Paratyphi C variant, known to cause enteric fevers (typhoid is an example). The Mexican subtype rarely causes human infection today.Read more HERE, HERE and HERE.

FOOD SAFETY

Baby milk recall expanded: Fallout from a Salmonella outbreak traced to baby milk products from Lactalis is raining down on the French dairy company and retailers that continued selling the contaminated recalled products. Late last week, Lactalis officials expanded the recall to include 83 countries and more than 12 million boxes of infant milk products. It is the second expansion since the company’s initial recall in December 2017, when 30 countries were involved. READ MORE

Largest ever Listeria outbreak: South Africa is dealing with the largest ever Listeria outbreak, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). A total of 748 laboratory-confirmed listeriosis cases along with 67 deaths have been reported to South Africa’s National Institute of Communicable Diseases since January 2017. A WHO spokesman said about 40 percent of the cases were infants. The second largest outbreak occurred in the U.S. in 2011, with 147 cases. The source has not yet been identified. READ MORE

Ice cream bars recalled for Listeria: A Listeria-related ice cream bar recall that started Jan. 5 with less than 400 cases of frozen treats now includes additional flavors and brands, totaling close to 29,000 cases sent to more than 35 retail chains across the country. No illnesses have been confirmed in connection with the ice cream products. However finished samples tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes before the initial recall and more samples have tested positive since then, spurring Fieldbrook Foods Corp. to broaden its recall. READ MORE

FOOD SECURITY

Honeybees prefer taste of flowers laced with pesticides: All species evolve over time to have distinct preferences for survival. But with rapidly changing synthetic chemicals, sometimes animals don’t have a chance to develop a beneficial aversion to something harmful. New research from the University of Illinois indicates that honeybees—which are dying en masse—may actually prefer the taste of flowers laced with pesticides that are likely harmful. READ MORE

Avian influenza reported in Japan, England: Japanese authorities have culled 92,000 chickens following the discovery of the highly pathogenic H5 avian influenza strain in the west of the country. Authorities have taken swift action in the hope of preventing the virus spreading, imposing movement restrictions on eggs and poultry. The case is the first recorded in Japan since March, but the last outbreak, which began in November 2016, led to the culling of 1.67 million chickens. AI has also been identified in wild birds in South Dorset, England. Read more HERE and HERE.

Sugarcane damaged by snow and hard freezes: The bitter cold blast that recently hit the eastern half of the U.S. last week moved on, but not before damaging one of the few row crops still standing—sugarcane. With the snow and hard freezes, December was a real challenge for cane growers in Louisiana. SEE VIDEO

Another class-action lawsuit alleges price-fixing: Less than two months after a federal judge declined to dismiss a class-action lawsuit accusing 14 of the nation’s top poultry producers of price-fixing since 2008, another lawsuit was filed against several of the same poultry companies making similar allegations.  The lawsuit was filed in the U.S District Court in Chicago  by Winn-Dixie Stores and its sister grocery, Bi-Lo Holdings, against various divisions of Koch Foods, JCG Foods, Koch Meat Co., Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s Pride, Perdue Farms, Sanderson Farms, Wayne Farms, Mountaire Farms, Peco Foods, Foster Farms, House of Raeford, Simmons Foods, Fieldale Farms, George’s and O.K. Foods. READ MORE

Owls exposed to rat poison: At least two owl species are being exposed to rat poison that may have come from California’s illegal marijuana farms, according to a study published last week (January 11) in Avian Conservation and Ecology. Of nearly 100 owls collected in northwest California over a four-year period, a team led by researchers at the University of California, Davis (UCD) found that more than 40 were contaminated with toxic compounds collectively known as anticoagulant rodenticides. READ MORE

THE FUTURE

Is that C3PO? British supermarket chain Ocado is set to test a humanoid maintenance assistant in its warehouses, in the online grocery specialist’s latest move to reduce reliance on human workers. The SecondHands robot prototype, which resembles a cousin of Star Wars’ C3P0 with a wheeled platform instead of legs, is designed to assist engineers looking after the company’s handling systems. The aim is to use artificial intelligence to predict the technician’s needs and hand them tools or move ladders or bolts. READ MORE

MISCELLANEOUS

Dunkin’ without the Donuts? A new Dunkin’ Donuts store opening in the Boston suburb of Quincy is giving the idea a try, at least in name. Officials say the “next generation” store being unveiled this week will be the first in the nation to be billed simply as “Dunkin.” But the chain’s signature doughnuts aren’t going anywhere. The restaurant will still serve the fried treats that have been a mainstay for the company since its founding in Quincy in 1950. READ MORE