California winery direction sign

A very complex agricultural landscape: It’s hard to understate California’s agricultural significance: On just 1.2 percent of U.S. farmland, California produces more than a third of the country’s vegetables and about two-thirds of its fruits and nuts. The Golden State is also the nation’s top producer of avocados, grapes, strawberries, and lemons, among other fruit. A new study from researchers at the University of California’s Davis and Merced campuses takes a broad look at how climate change will affect the country’s most important agricultural state, and the results are alarming. READ MORE

FOOD SECURITY

‘Regenerative farming practices’ touted on macaroni and cheese box: On a box of macaroni and cheese that will launch this month, the name of the farmer who grew the wheat used to make the pasta–Nate Powell-Palm, who has a farm outside Bozeman, Montana–is printed on the front. The manufacturer, Annie’s, Inc., wanted to highlight the fact that Powell-Palm is using regenerative farming practices, a series of steps that go farther than what’s required for an organic label–and that could help fight climate change by sequestering carbon in the soil. READ MORE

Australian beekeepers warned about American disease: Australian beekeepers are warned to be on the lookout for American foulbrood (AFB), which has been found in hives pollinating lucerne in the Tintinara area. A notifiable disease, AFB is a bacterial disease that kills honeybee brood, resulting in the weakening and eventual killing of affected hives. The disease is spread via contaminated honeybees, honeybee products, and equipment, potentially not only within an affected beekeepers apiary, but also to surrounding disease-free apiaries belonging to other beekeepers. READ MORE

FOOD INDUSTRY TECHNOLOGY

New technology inspects fruits, vegetables: Walmart is developing a technology that inspects fruits and vegetables for defects and can accurately predict the exact date when it will spoil. The company says the technology will save Walmart $2 billion over the next five years, mostly through a reduction in food waste. It has already saved Walmart $86 million since it was deployed to its 43 food-distribution centers in January of last year. READ MORE

The brave new world of meat: Where’s the beef? The cell-cultured variety is still “meat,” says attorney Rebecca Cross, in response to a petition to USDA from cattlemen asking that the terms “meat” and “beef” be used only for products born, raised, and harvested in the “traditional” manner. Producing ‘clean’ meat by culturing cells—instead of raising or slaughtering animals—is a new frontier in food production that will require consumer education and transparent labeling. Cross argues that meat is still meat, whether it is grown in vivo (inside the animal) or in vitro (outside the animal). READ MORE

ANIMAL HEALTH

Nonantibiotic option for treating liver abcesses: A new divisional patent issued to researchers at K-State’s College of Veterinary Medicine could provide a nonantibiotic option for preventing beef cattle liver infections. The vaccine-based technology circumvents antibiotic use and the potential public health concerns associated with antibiotic resistance when treating cattle and sheep for liver abscesses caused by Fusobacterium, a significant economic concern to the feedlot industry. READ MORE

Avian flu outbreaks reported: By last week, highly pathogenic avian flu outbreaks have had been reported in Europe, Asia and Africa. Countries hit are the Netherlands, India, South Africa and Saudi Arabia. READ MORE

TERRORISM

Nerve agent used to attack former Russian spy: A nerve agent was used to try to murder a former Russian spy and his daughter, police have said. Sergei and Yulia Skripal were found unconscious in Salisbury on Sunday afternoon and remain critically ill, and a police officer who was the first to attend the scene is now in a serious condition in the hospital. Nerve agents normally enter the body through the mouth or nose, but can also be absorbed through the eyes or skin. Government scientists have identified the agent used, but are not yet making that information public. A nerve agent is not normally something criminal gangs or terrorist groups can make, but instead is usually manufactured by specialist laboratories under the control of governments. A nerve agent was also used to assassinate North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un’s half brother.  READ MORE

ISIS plots chemical attacks on U.S. shores, officials say: U.S. officials are working to protect the continental U.S. from possible chemical attack by ISIS followers, who are plotting to bring chlorine or other “simple” weapons of mass destruction from the Mideast to America’s shores, according to U.S. officials. The U.S. has intercepted “chatter” by ISIS followers discussing how to engineer deadly chemical weapons attacks in the United States, using substances like chlorine that are easier to come by than nerve agents like sarin, according to one official. There was no specific plot, but rather an aspiration that U.S. counterterrorism officials are working to block. READ MORE

Utah teen claims ISIS allegiance, brings explosives to school: St. George, Utah, police continue to investigate why a student allegedly left a backpack with explosive materials in a high school and has been posting ISIS propaganda. The student, whose name and age have not been released, was arrested Monday after a backpack with explosives was found in the commons area of Pine View High School, the area where students eat lunch. Alert students spotted the backpack was “smoking” and immediately contacted school administrators and the school resource officer, according to police. READ MORE

FOOD SAFETY

Boxer blames contaminated meat: The middleweight boxer Canelo Alvarez has tested positive for a banned drug, and his promoters blame contaminated meat. A voluntary test showed Alvarez had traces of clenbuterol. A statement from Golden Boy Promotions said the amount was consistent with meat contamination that has impacted athletes in Mexico and China. Clenbuterol, often used by asthmatics, has fat burning properties and athletes have been known to use it to help them drop body fat and weight quickly. READ MORE

Farm water troughs spread E. coli: A study led by Cornell researchers has shown that water troughs on farms are a conduit for the spread of toxic E. coli in cattle, which can then spread the pathogen to people through bacteria in feces. The study was published Feb. 7 in the journal PLOS ONE. People commonly acquire infections from shiga toxin-producing E. coli through cow feces-contaminated beef and salad greens. The main shiga toxin-producing strain, E. coli 0157:H7, causes more than 63,000 illnesses per year and about 20 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control. READ MORE

PUBLIC HEALTH

Yellow fever spreading to Brazil’s cities: Brazil is fighting to stay ahead of one of its worst epidemics of yellow fever, a sometimes-fatal virus transmitted by Haemagogus and Sabethes mosquitoes and named for the yellowing of the skin and eyes of those infected. Though the surge has largely been in rural areas, there is increasing concern that if people don’t get the vaccine, the virus could spread into the country’s biggest cities. READ MORE

MISCELLANEOUS

Quarter Pounder gets a makeover: The Quarter Pounder is getting a fresh makeover. McDonald’s said Tuesday that it is serving Quarter Pounders with fresh beef rather than frozen patties at about a quarter of its U.S. restaurants, a switch first announced about a year ago as the company works to appeal to customers who want fresher foods. It will roll out fresh beef Quarter Pounders to most of its 14,000 U.S. restaurants by May. READ MORE

Coke plans to launch ‘alcopop’: With its iconic red label and secret recipe, it’s been one of the world’s most famous soft drinks for more than a century. Now, however, Coca-Cola is on the brink of a new chapter – with plans to launch its first alcoholic drink. The company is currently experimenting with the creation of a popular type of Japanese alcopop known as Chu-Hi, containing distilled shochu alcohol mixed with flavoured carbonate water. READ MORE