This burger bot can create hamburgers from beginning to finish.

Photo credit: Creator/Aubrie Pick

About that burger bot: For the past nine years, Alex Vardakostas has been building a robot that can cook and assemble around 100 burgers an hour—keeping pace with a typical fast-food staff—with little human intervention. “Our device isn’t meant to make employees more efficient,” Vardakostas told a reporter in 2012. “It’s meant to totally obviate them.” But he says he isn’t heartless, adding, “As a society, if we’re pushing to keep people in a burger-flipping role, we’re doing something wrong.” READ MORE

FOOD SAFETY

Melon contamination likely occurred after harvest: A Salmonella Adelaide outbreak associated with pre-cut melons has sickened 70 people in seven states. Outbreaks associated with melons usually occur because melons such as watermelon and cantaloupe grow on the ground, where the rind can be contaminated. Infection occurs when someone cuts through the contaminated rind, contamination the edible interior. This outbreak involves more than one kind of melon, however, suggesting transfer of the pathogen to the edible part of the melon occurred after harvesting. READ MORE

Trump wants to consolidate federal food safety: President Donald J. Trump wants to consolidate federal food safety under a single agency housed in the U.S. Department of Agriculture President Barack Obama also wanted to consolidate food safety, only he preferred housing it in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the Food and Drug Administration. Obama failed because Congress would not extend him the power to reorganize government. Trump is picking up where Obama left off on that one, seeking executive reorganization authority under his “Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century” project. READ MORE

FOOD DEFENSE

Draft guidance on Intentional Adulteration Rule released: The  FDA has released the first of three installments of draft guidance on the Intentional Adulteration Rule, part of the Food Safety and Modernization Act. The rule is meant to guide the food industry on reducing the risk of exposing food facilities to IA, such as acts of terrorism. Unlike other FSMA rules that address specific foods or hazards, IA will require preventive measures for reducing vulnerabilities at all domestic and foreign companies that are required to register with the FDA as food facilities. READ MORE 

PUBLIC HEALTH

Do microbes trigger Alzheimer’s? The brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients have an abnormal build up of amyloid-β proteins and tau tangles, which, according to many researchers, drives the ultimately fatal cognitive disease. This theory is being amended to a newer one, which posits that microbes may trigger Alzheimer’s pathology. Two new studies, using different approaches, further bolster this pathogen theory. READ MORE

Children get sick at camp: More than 30 children at the Clover Leaf 4-H camp at Lake Placid in New York state have been released from the hospital after mysteriously falling ill. Three adults also got sick. The 33 victims, who were among 120 kids at the camp,  suffered a range of symptoms from fever to nausea and vomiting. READ MORE

ANIMAL HEALTH

Scientists call for transparency about animal research: In a letter published online this week, 592 members of the scientific community called for research institutions to be transparent about their animal studies. “We should proudly explain how animals are used for the advancement of science and medicine, in the interest of the wellbeing of humans and animals,” the signatories write, noting the work influences surgery, drug development, and basic research. READ MORE

TARIFFS

Kentucky governor downplays fears about whisky tariffs: In comments at odds with his home state’s whiskey distillers, Kentucky’s Republican governor is downplaying fears that the European Union’s retaliatory tariffs could disrupt the booming market for the Bluegrass state’s iconic bourbon industry. Bevin referred to Europe as a “small portion” of the bourbon market, but the Kentucky Distillers’ Association said EU countries accounted for nearly $200 million of the more than $450 million in total exports of Kentucky bourbon and other distilled spirits in 2017. The governor’s comments downplaying the effect of tariffs stood in stark contrast to the distillers’ group, which warned that duties on American whiskey would have a “significant impact” on investment and employment in the state’s $8.5 billion bourbon sector. READ MORE