Volume 16. Number 3. 2011


According to a study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, some meat and poultry products in the United States are contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus that is resistant to antibiotics. Researchers at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) collected 136 samples of beef, pork, chicken, and turkey in 26 grocery stores in five U.S. cities. S. aureus contaminated 47% of samples, and multidrug resistance was common among isolates (52%). S. aureus genotypes and resistance profiles differed significantly among sample types, suggesting food animal-specific contamination.

"For the first time, we know how much of our meat and poultry is contaminated with antibiotic-resistant Staph, and it is substantial," said Lance B. Price, Ph.D., senior author of the study and Director of TGen's Center for Food Microbiology and Environmental Health. "The fact that drug-resistant S. aureus was so prevalent, and likely came from the food animals themselves, is troubling, and demands attention to how antibiotics are used in food-animal production today." IFT Weekly Newsletter. 20 April 2011.


Culturing living tissue is a routine lab procedure and an important part of research, but using the tools and techniques of tissue engineering as the basis for industrialized food production is an idea that some people may find unpalatable.

The first piece of in vitro meat grown for human consumption was not produced by science or industry, it was produced by art. More specifically, it was created by the artists Oron Catts, Ionat Zurr and Guy Ben Ary in 2003 as part of their ongoing Tissue Culture and Arts project. The meat was cultured from frog cells and was subsequently eaten by a group of invited guests at a gallery in France.

If we imagine that in vitro meat has become more cost effective, higher in quality and more humane than traditional livestock farming then what sort of meat would we be eating? What size would it be if it's no longer limited by the size of any animal? What shape would it have if it is no longer limited by anatomical constraints? How much would it cost and who would buy it?

Scientific American. March 23, 2011.


Japan's nuclear powerplants have performed magnificently in the face of a disaster hugely greater than they were designed to withstand, remaining entirely safe throughout and sustaining only minor damage. The unfolding Fukushima story has enormously strengthened the case for advanced nations - including Japan - to build more nuclear powerplants, in the knowledge that no imaginable disaster can result in serious problems.

Let's recap on what's happened so far. The earthquake which hit on Friday was terrifically powerful, shaking the entire planet on its axis and jolting the whole of Japan several feet sideways. At 8.9 on the Richter scale, it was some five times stronger than the older Fukushima plants had been designed to cope with.

If nuclear powerplants were merely as safe as they are advertised to be, there should have been a major failure right then. As the hot cores ceased to be cooled by the water which is used to extract power from them, control rods would have remained withdrawn and a runaway chain reaction could have ensued - probably resulting in the worst thing that can happen to a properly designed nuclear reactor: a core meltdown in which the superhot fuel rods actually melt and slag down the whole core into a blob of molten metal. In this case the only thing to do is seal up the containment and wait: no radiation disaster will take place, but the reactor is a total write-off and cooling the core off will be difficult and take a long time. Eventual cleanup will be protracted and expensive.

Original URL:

The Register. 14 March 2011


A study has examined the associations of sugar and artificially-sweetened beverages with incident type 2 diabetes in men and found that sugar-sweetened beverages are risk factors for type 2 diabetes but that artificially-sweetened beverages had no association after multivariable adjustments. RSSL Food e-news. Ed. 511. 23/3 - 6/4, 2011


A study to investigate the association between diet and lifestyle and cataract risk has found that vegetarians are less likely to develop cataracts than other dietary groups such as meat eaters. RSSL Food e-news. Ed. 511. 23/3 - 6/4, 2011


According to The New York Times, a U.S. government advisory panel voted on March 31 stating that there is no proof that foods with artificial colorings cause hyperactivity in most children and there is no need for these foods to carry special warning labels. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) convened the expert panel after agency scientists for the first time decided that while typical children may be unaffected by the dyes, those with behaviour problems may see their symptoms worsen by eating food with synthetic colour additives.

Once the agency conceded that some children might be negatively affected by the foods, it had to decide what to do. The Centre for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group, petitioned the agency to ban the dyes or, at the very least, mandate warnings that foods containing the dyes cause hyperactivity in children. Major food manufacturers staunchly defended the safety of artificial dyes and said no bans or warnings were needed.

The FDA did not ask the committee about a ban, and the committee voted 8 to 6 that even a warning was not needed.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association hailed the votes: "We agree with today's FDA's advisory committee finding which determined that there is insufficient evidence of a causal link between artificial colours and hyperactivity in children."

IFT Newsletter 6 April 2011

Snippets - contributions are welcome. Edited and produced by Dr. B Cole. / Fx 011 660 6444 with the help of the Northern Branch Committee.