Doug Powell

About Doug Powell

A former professor of food safety and the publisher of barfblog.com, Powell is passionate about food, has five daughters, and is an OK goaltender in pickup hockey. Download Doug’s CV here. Download C.V. »

It’s the Montgomery Burns Award for outstanding achievement: USDA edition

The Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced the recipients of their excellence in agricultural research awards. The awards will be presented at the 132nd APLU Annual Meeting, Nov.10-12 in San Diego, California.

Who writes this shit.

The awards honor research excellence in three categories – National Excellence in Multistate Research, Excellence in Research Leadership, and National Experiment Station Section Diversity and Inclusion. APLU, NIFA, and the Experiment Station Section of APLU’s Board on Agriculture Assembly present the awards annually.

“Research efforts of our nation’s land-grant universities develop and harness 21st century science-based knowledge and solutions required to improve crop yield and quality, nutritional value, food safety, the environment, and other advances that will drive rural prosperity and economic development,” said NIFA Director J. Scott Angle. “NIFA is proud to be a contributor to these successful research endeavors through our agricultural investments. It gives me great honor to congratulate this year’s award recipients.”

Who talks like this? No one.

The National Excellence in Multistate Research Award recognizes experiment station scientists who are conducting exemplary research and outreach efforts across multiple states. The 2019 award goes to a multidisciplinary team of researchers and extension educators from 39 institutions from across the United States whose work focused on enhancing microbial food safety using risk analysis. The group tackled complex problems across the food production and processing systems like examining foodborne pathogens and food contamination processes and developing devices to help improve food pathogen prediction and detection. The group has helped improve food safety policy, developed novel irrigation water quality assessment tools, and implemented interventions to protect produce from pathogens. They’ve also developed learning materials for the food industry and consumers.

The Excellence in Research Leadership Award recognizes individuals who have served with exemplary distinction, enhancing regional and national research missions, as well as the land-grant ideal. Individuals must have multiple extraordinary service activities, contribute to systematic efforts to enhance diversity and inclusion, as well as significant accomplishments in the agricultural sciences.

The 2019 Leadership recipients are:

Joe P. Colletti, Senior Associate Dean in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State University, for tireless advocacy for team science and science with practice;

Cameron Faustman, former Associate Dean College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources and Associate Director of Storrs Agricultural Experiment Station at the University of Connecticut, for strong engagement and impact with the region’s research association;

Bret W. Hess, former Director of Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station and Associate Dean for research, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Wyoming for enthusiastic and visionary advancements with strategic initiatives;

Saied Mostaghimi, Director, Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station and Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University as an advocate for interdisciplinary research collaborations in agriculture and natural resources; and

Mortimer H. Neufville, President and Chief Executive Officer, 1890 Universities Foundation known for creating and implementing mission-aligned academic, research and Extension programs.

The National Experiment Station Section Diversity and Inclusion Award recognizes an individual’s work to empower groups and effectively enhance inclusion within organizations. The award recognizes efforts that aspire to achieve consistent, holistic and inclusive excellence. The 2019 award goes to Jeff Jacobsen, North Central Regional Association Executive Director, for his leadership and team management in crafting and implementing strategies that champion a long-term diversity and inclusion agenda for the 1862 Experiment Stations (ES) and 1890 research programs at Land-grant Institutions. A permanent Diversity Catalyst Committee was created and consistently catalyzes a long-term change in ES culture that promotes diversity and inclusion with research leaders and their research communities.
 
 

Don’t spread poop spread kindness

So to the couple of readers who took me to task recently. I’ll say the same thing I did in 1986; go publish your own paper and stop complaining.

You want food safety for free?

Amanda Woods of the New York Post  writes the Windy City has its own “Mad Pooper.”

Ke Hu, 46, was busted on Oct. 15 in Chicago’s south side neighborhood of Bridgeport after authorities identified him as a man “wanted for using feces and food to deface vehicles and storefronts” back in June, The Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Police say Hu wore white gloves and carried a brown paper bag as he traipsed through the neighborhood in the early morning hours, smearing dung all over people’s property, the paper reported. Video posted to YouTube by Book Club Chicago catches the crappy culprit in the act — targeting a parked SUV.

He mostly defaced parked cars, but once sullied a storefront, according to the report. It was not immediately clear if the poop was Hu’s own.

Oh and most people in Brisbabe think that Canada ends in Banff.

Pete Townsend’s solo career was so much more interesting.

Australia: 15 people stricken with Salmonella after Core Powerfoods recall

Emily Olle of 7 News reports 15 people have been struck with salmonella following a national recall of frozen meals sold at Coles and IGA supermarkets.

Core Powerfoods issued a recall of their frozen meals, including the 310g or 350g Going Nuts, Deep South Chilli, Muay Thai Meatballs, Holy Meatballs, Naked

SA Health’s Dr Fay Jenkins said South Australians should throw out their products, with three South Australians among those affected.

 “There have been 15 cases of Salmonella Weltevreden in people who ate these products nationally and we are urging anyone with these meals in their freezers to throw them away or return them to where they bought them,” Jenkins said.

“While this particular type of Salmonella is unusual, any kind of Salmonella poses serious health risks and symptoms of infection can begin anywhere between six and 72 hours after exposure and last for three to seven days.”

So hard done by: Not

I built this electronic community originally as the Food Safety Network beginning in Jan. 1993. I consider it one big food safety family.

I provided a health update, not because I sought sympathy, but because I thought I should let the family know what was going on and why my writing had declined.

Australia is currently burning, and every time someone who has just lost everything is interviewed, they talk about how grateful they are for what they have and how they will plunge ahead.

It’s the Australian way, and I am very much of that attitude.

I am not wallowing, I am grateful that Deb will be here in a few minutes for the next four hours (not sure we can go for a walk, there is so much smoke in Brisbane from the fires 100km away that health warnings have been issued).

I’ll continue to teach her about hockey (in Australia you have to call it ice hockey).

And look at these two. They have arrived in Paris, where it’s 5C, and they have no winter clothes, because we are spoiled in Brisbane.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They’ll figure it out and have a great time.

How blessed am I to have so much family?

 

Somehow I lost my way

Maybe it was Kansas.

A couple of weeks ago, my wife was helping me into a diaper.

The next day I was trying out a walker so I don’t fall so much.

That’s fairly humbling.

I haven’t been able to write as much as I used to, and don’t know if I ever will, because as my doctor told me recently, you’re a smart guy, you know what’s going on, and I do – most of the time.

Last Monday I was writing at home and developed a full-on seizure and could only speak gobbylgook. Amy asked me what’s her name and all I could mutter was, Bo.

I never call her Bo.

My capacity to speak returned after a couple of minutes, but I soon announced, I feel another one coming on. This time I lost consciousness, stopped breathing and woke up in the hospital. Spent the week there.

Amy and Sorenne are off to France in a few hours – she is a French professor – but somehow, we now live in this country (that would be Australia) that awarded my family support to pay for caregivers who make sure I don’t fall over when we walk to get groceries.

It’s cheaper to keep me in the home rather than an institution.

None of the money goes to us, but it means we get a weekly cleaner (who has the most fabulous tools) and I get about 3 hours of assisted care daily from these nice people. I’m getting extra hours while the family is in France.

Amy said, what kind of country do we live in?

A compassionate one.

 

 

I hate facebook

I still can’t believe I get quoted on average once a day in the weirdest places.

Guess we did some neat work over the years.

The introduction of a new technology, such as a human enhancement technology, may induce apprehension and concern among the general public. Social media enable individuals to find information and share their insights and concerns regarding new technologies. This results in an abundance of viewpoints that guides the individual’s acceptance and decision-making. A relevant question for this special issue is to what extent attitudes toward human enhancement technologies are influenced by online cues that signal the views of other people without obvious relevant expertise, such as online comments (social proof). An online experiment focusing on the enhancement of human health and the functioning of the human body through the application of nanotechnology in food was conducted. The study investigated to what extent social proof impacted views on the application of nanotechnology in food.

The valence of comments on a fake Facebook image with four comments was manipulated (positive, negative, mixed). A representative sample of Dutch Internet users (n = 289) completed the study. Perceptions, feelings, behavior, and information need were measured. Results showed that comment valence had a significant effect on risk perception, benefit perception and attitude: the more positive the comments read by the participants, the lower risk perception, the higher benefit perception and the more positive the attitude toward nanodesigned food. Significant interaction effects of initial feelings of dread and comment valence were further found for risk perception and willingness to buy. In contrast, there were no significant interactions of initial feelings of optimism and comment valence. Implications for risk communication regarding human enhancement technologies are discussed.

Risk and benefit perceptions of human enhancement technologies: The effects of Facebook comments on the acceptance of nanodesigned food

Human Behavior and Emerging Technologies

Margot Kuttschreuter and Femke Hilverda

DOI: 10.1002/hbe2.177

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/hbe2.177

Couple of good Brantford,Ontario (that’s in Canada) boys in The Band.

Keeping with the geneticts theme, 50,000-year-old gene reveals how deadliest malaria parasite jumped from gorillas to humans

Molly Campbell of Technology Networks writes in a study published last week  in PLOS Biolgy, researchers from the Wellcome Sanger Institute and the University of Montpellier have reconstructed a ~50,000-year-old gene sequence acquired by the ancestor of Plasmodium falciparum. The acquisition of the gene sequence enabled the parasite to infect human red blood cells.
The gene, known as Rh5, enabled the parasite to infect both gorillas and humans for a limited period of time. The study provides insight in the molecular mechanisms behind this jump.

Malaria causes 435,000 deaths per year on average, with ~61% occurring in children <5 years of age. P. falciparum is the of seven species of parasite that can cause malaria in a family known as the Laverania and causes the deadliest form of the infectious disease; in 2017, this parasite accounted for 99.7% of cases in Africa.

The Laverania parasites originated in African great apes; however, they are now restricted to their own specific host species. Three parasite species are confined to chimpanzees, and three are combined to gorillas. What about the seventh, you ask?

Pfalciparum only infects humans now, as it switched host from gorillas. This process whereby a disease is transmitted to humans from an animal is known as zoonosis. But how exactly did the switching of the parasite from gorillas to humans occur at the molecular level?

Gavin Wright, lead author of the study and Senior Group Leader at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said: “In the history of mankind, Plasmodium falciparum malaria has arguably been responsible for more human deaths than any other disease. So, it is both important and fascinating to understand the molecular pathways that enabled this deadly parasite to infect humans.”
The evolution of P. falciparum and malaria

The scientists conducted genome sequencing of all seven Laverania parasite species, and uncovered a section of DNA that had been transferred from a gorilla parasite, Plasmodium adleri,  to the ancestor of P. falciparum. The gene sequence included Rh5, a gene that produces the protein reticulocyte binding-like protein 5, which binds to a protein receptor in human red blood cells known as basigin. The interaction of this protein and its receptor is critical for the P. falciparum parasite to infect humans, and thus Rh5 is showing promise as a potential malaria vaccine target. If scientists can disrupt the interaction, the parasite cannot enter the red blood cell and cause disease.

The research team at the University of Montpellier wanted to understand further the ancestral origins of P. falciparum. They therefore adopted ancestral sequence reconstruction to effectively “reconstruct” the Rh5 DNA sequence that had been transferred to the ancestor of P. falciparum all those 50,000 years ago. The scientists at the Wellcome Sanger Institute then created synthetic copies of the Rh5 gene in the laboratory, enabling the molecular interactions of the encoded Rh5 protein to be explored.
Interestingly, the study findings demonstrate that the transferred Rh5 protein possessed dual binding ability for the red blood cell receptor in both humans and gorillas – thus demonstrating how P. falciparum was able to switch hosts.

Francis Galaway, first author of the study and Staff Scientist at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said: “The fact that this ancestral RH5 protein was able to bind to the red blood cell receptor basigin from both humans and gorillas, immediately provided a molecular explanation for how P. falciparum evolved to infect humans.”

But how did P. falciparum become restricted to humans? The researchers identified six differences between the ancestral Rh5 gene sequence, and the current sequence observed in P. falciparum. Surprisingly, one specific mutation resulted in the complete loss of ability to bind the gorilla form of basigin, depicting how the parasite became restricted to humans.

Franck Prugnolle, from the University of Montpellier, said: “It’s fascinating to be able to ‘resurrect’ ancestral genes such as the one which allowed Plasmodium falciparum to jump from gorillas to humans. We’ve discovered not only how a species host switch has occurred, but the individual mutation which has then restricted P. falciparum to a single host species.”

The scientists hypothesize that the genetic transfer of the Rh5 gene occurred when a gorilla cell was infected with two species of the Plasmodium parasite in parallel – known as introgression.

This form of introgression is extremely rare. Of the seven Laverania species, genomic analyses have revealed only a few instances of this occurring over a span of approximately one million years.

UK doctor, 47, is struck off after he made £72,000 signing more than 400 bogus sick notes for holidaymakers

Henry Martin of the Daily Mail reports a UK doctor who made £72,000 signing more than 400 bogus sick notes for his wife’s legal firm has been struck off the medical register.

Dr Zuber Bux, 47, filled in false illness reports from holidaymakers claiming compensation from travel firms through his solicitor wife Sehana’s law business.

Over four years Dr Bux, a GP from Blackburn, Lancashire, made about £72,000 writing more than 400 reports but did not inform holiday companies or the courts that his wife worked for AMS, the law firm that instructed him.

Koala chlamydia: A virus in koala DNA shows evolution in action

University was sorta dull, and after watching my first 3-of-4 Canadian daughters rack up huge student deficits because their mother was an asshole and kept the child support for herself rather than pass it on, I had no issue with Canadian daughter 4-of-4 taking a pass on uni and living the good life.

II’d been putting in time back in the day, to avoid jail, but it was a fouth-year virology course where my neurons started to fire and I was turned on by all things small.

We’re all just hosts on a viral planet.

So allow a viral indulgence.

And koalas are so cute and Australian.

Koalas, according to James Gorman of the New York Times, have been running into hard times. They have suffered for years from habitat destruction, dog attacks, automobile accidents. But that’s only the beginning.

They are also plagued by chlamydia and cancers like leukemia and lymphoma, and in researching those problems, scientists have found a natural laboratory in which to study one of the hottest topics in biology: how viruses can insert themselves into an animal’s DNA and sometimes change the course of evolution.

The target of this research is Koala retrovirus, or KoRV, a bit of protein and genetic material in the same family as H.I.V. that began inserting itself into the koala genome about 40,000 years ago and is now passed on from generation to generation, like genes. It is also still passed from animal, as a typical viral infection.

In recent years, scientists have found that the insertion of viruses into the genomes of animals has occurred over and over again. An estimated 8 percent of the human genome is made up of viruses left over from ancient infections, ancient as in millions of years ago, many of them in primate ancestors before human beings existed.

The koala retrovirus is unusual because 40,000 years is the blink of an eye in evolutionary time, and because the process appears to be continuing. A group of scientists reported in Cell on Thursday that they observed a genome immune system fighting to render the virus inactive now that it has established itself in the koala DNA. They also reported that koala retrovirus may have activated other ancient viral DNA. All of this activity stirs the pot of mutation and variation that is the raw material for natural selection.

Koala genetics are a gold mine, said William Theurkauf, a professor in molecular medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and one of the authors of the report. “What they are going through is the process of what’s driven the evolution of every animal on the planet.”

Past viral infections have led to major evolutionary changes, he said. For example: “A gene that is absolutely essential for the placenta was derived from the shell of a virus millions of years ago.” Humans would not exist without that ancient retroviral infection.

Retroviruses are made of RNA, a single strand of genetic information. When they infect a cell, they translate themselves into DNA, the two-stranded molecule that carries all the information for making humans, koalas and other animals. The retroviruses take over the DNA machinery to make more of themselves, which keeps the process going.

That process makes us and other animals sick. AIDS is probably the best known retroviral disease. But when the insertion of a retrovirus occurs in a sperm or an egg cell, the change can become permanent, passed on forever. When retroviruses become part of an animal’s inherited DNA, they are called endogenous and eventually they no longer cause the kind of original infection they once did. But they can still be used by the animal’s genetic machinery for other purposes, like making a placenta.

“It was long thought they were just junk DNA,” said Shawn L. Chavez, a molecular biologist at the Oregon Health and Science University School of Medicine in Portland, who wrote a review of research on endogenous retroviruses in mammals. Now it is clear that some of them have changed the course of evolution. Exactly how is what scientists are trying to find out. “It seems like there’s a new publication every day,” she said.

Consequently, koalas are drawing a lot of attention from scientists who did not start out with an interest in the animal or its conservation. “I’m a fruit fly guy,” Dr. Theurkauf said. He became interested after a report in 2006 by Rachael Tarlinton of the University of Nottingham and other scientists about the invasion of the koala genome by the retrovirus.

Dr. Tarlinton began her career in Australia as a veterinarian with an interest in infectious diseases in wildlife. She became involved in the study of koala genetics because of the problem of chlamydia and because Jon Hanger, an independent researcher, had noticed very high death rates from leukemia and other cancers in koalas kept in zoos. Their research led to the discovery that koala retrovirus was causing some of the cancers and that it was not only infecting the animals but part of their genome.

Dr. Tarlinton and her colleagues established the presence of the retrovirus in koalas in Queensland, but there is another, more southern population of koalas that at first seemed not to have the virus. These koalas also had fewer chlamydia infections. The genetics of the southern population are different because most koalas in that region had been killed for the fur trade by the 1920s. A small number survived by being moved to small islands in the early 20th century.

“From that population, they’ve been reintroduced,” Dr. Tarlinton said. And those koalas have done extraordinarily well, even though they have some genetic problems. There are tens of thousands of them. In some areas they have been killed to keep the population down.

The researchers expected the southern koalas to be less healthy than the northern ones, she said. But the opposite was true.

Still, a deeper look at the southerners’ DNA showed that they weren’t free from the inherited retrovirus as initially thought. The virus was there but it was damaged. The beginning and end of its genetic code were present, but the middle was missing. A report on this work is now in bioRxiv (pronounced bio-archive), an online database for papers that have been written but not yet accepted by peer-reviewed journals.

Dr. Tarlinton and the other researchers plan to submit the research soon. The missing middle could be the key to the health of the southern koalas.

“I think there’s a pretty good chance that having this defective version can be protective,” she said.

Seek and ye shall find

I have so many Larry stories that I’d probably get sued now that he’s a big shot.

But when I was teaching him and Kevin, about 1995 (I may have noticed Chapman joined my lab about 1999, it’s all a purple haze, but I got those 70 peer-reviewed papers out and made full-professor) so here’s Larry, now that he’s returned to Guelph (that’s in Ontario, Canada) and maybe you have a chat with Malcolm, see about getting my $750,000 returned and we can do some fun research.

And I won’t ever tell anyone about Atlanta.

Despite appearances, experts say a recent rise in major recalls is not a sign of food supply problems, but the result of a more active investigative body and better testing tools — though they add more can be done.

“This is proof that the system is working well,” said Lawrence Goodridge, a professor focusing on food safety at The University of Guelph, speaking about the recent meat recall.

Yet, he believes that “in Canada, we have to get to a place where we can actually stop the food from going to retail in the first place.”

Since Sept. 20, a investigation by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency into possible E. coli 0157:H7 contamination in some beef and veal products sold by Ryding-Regency Meat Packers Ltd. and St. Ann’s Foods Inc. has led to the recall of nearly 700 products.

The CFIA suspended the Canadian food safety license for St. Ann’s meat-processing plant, as well as Ryding-Regency’s slaughter and processing plant, both in Toronto, in late September.

No illnesses have been reported in association with the products, according to the CFIA, but symptoms of sickness can include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps.
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