Is it safe to eat (white) snow?

Jeff S. Gaffney, a professor of chemistry at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, told NPR that if we were to package snow and put it on grocery store shelves, the ingredient list would be, “Primarily water,” but also “various and sundry things depending on where it [comes from]” — things like sulphates, nitrates, formaldehyde or mercury.

Dont-eat-yellow-snow4As it falls through the sky, snow, with its intricate latticework, forms a sort of net for catching pollutants that may be in the atmosphere. The most common is black carbon, or soot, released by coal-fired plants and wood-burning stoves.

That’s why John Pomeroy, a researcher who studies water resources and climate change at the University of Saskatchewan, suggests it’s better to wait until a few hours into the snowfall to gather your fresh catch. Snow acts like a kind of atmospheric “scrubbing brush,” he explains. The longer the snow falls, the lower the pollution levels in the air, and thus in the snow.

But even if you start to collect as soon as it begins to flurry, Gaffney reassures me that contaminants in snow are “all at levels well below toxic.”

Don’t you eat that yellow snow — or wild mushrooms

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland is advising people not to eat mushrooms they find growing in the wild as the foraging season begins.

Dont-eat-yellow-snow4Last year, 19 cases of poisoning relating to wild mushrooms were notified to the National Poisons Information Centre. 18 have already been notified this year, involving seven adults and 11 children.

Mushroom foraging can be done safely, but requires expertise in distinguishing poisonous varieties from edible ones.

Cooking poisonous mushrooms does not kill off toxic chemicals contained in the fungus itself, and the results can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and even liver failure.

“The high number of cases involving children in particular points to the need for parents and guardians to be vigilant and to teach children not to eat wild mushrooms,” said Ray Ellard of the FSAI.

“In our opinion, websites and books showing visuals of mushrooms are not sufficient to identify safe mushrooms and we would not recommend people to solely rely on these to determine the safety of a wild mushroom.”

Bobby Brown urinates on Taco Bell food and brags about it

I never understood the whole golden shower thing. I don’t want to drink urine, don’t want someone to pee on me, don’t want it in my food.

But, who can explain people.

According to the The Daily Dot, Cameron Jankowski allegedly posted a photo of himself taking a leak on a Taco Bell order.

Hacktivist collective Anonymous tweeted a link to a YouTube video that reportedly lists Janowski’s personal details. He was identified as an employee at a Taco Bell restaurant in Fort Wayne, Ind. The video also includes screenshots of tweets that Jankowski posted and retweeted.

Though his account appears to have been deleted, Topsy archived Jankowski’s tweeted photo, which appears to have been posted early Thursday. He directed the tweet to Hunter Moore, the man behind shuttered revenge porn site Is Anyone Up?

Jankowski claimed that the order he urinated on was one that was already messed up. It was thrown away and not served to customers. But some Twitter users suggested his action was a felony.

Janowski apparently claimed he didn’t care that other users were directing his tweet to Taco Bell, claiming he had a new job lined up anyway.

In response, Taco Bell provided the following statement to the Daily Dot:

“Nothing is more important than the safety of our customers and team members. We have strict food handling procedures and zero tolerance for any violations. As soon as we learned of the situation, we immediately investigated and found the photo was an ill-conceived prank and the food was never served to customers. We find this prank absolutely unacceptable, and we plan to terminate anyone involved and work with authorities to pursue legal action.”

Frank Zappa: Why does it hurt when I pee? Cranberry juice overrated

Bobby Brown’s got nothing on this.

Current clinical evidence for using cranberry juice to combat urinary tract infections is ‘unsatisfactory and inconclusive’, according to Raul Raz.

Dr Raz, Director of Infectious Diseases at the Technion School of Medicine in Israel, and his associate Faculty Member, Hana Edelstein, advise the medical community that "cranberry should no longer be considered as an effective [preventative] for recurrent UTIs".

Cranberry contains hundreds of compounds, and it has been difficult to determine which might be responsible for any therapeutic effect, hindering its adoption. Raz and Edelstein point to differences in clinical trial design and the lack of standardization for doses and formulation. There is a range of potential side-effects including stomach upsets and weight gain. Cranberry can also interact badly with other medicines such as Warfarin, commonly used to treat heart disease.

Anyone can criticize Wal-Mart; can you provide microbiologically safe food? Food, Inc. version

I have a lot of respect for my friend Frank.

Anyone can be a poser and critic; Frank actually tries to make change.

Frank’s the head of food safety at Wal-Mart. He used to be head of food safety at Walt Disney in Orlando, and when I visited with Frank and his staff in Bentonville, Arkansas a couple of months ago, he was enthusiastically telling me about the challenges of providing safe food – that’s food that doesn’t make people barf – to millions of people on a daily basis.

“Disney was a challenge. This is a lot bigger.”

Frank’s even put his thoughts on paper, in a book called, Food Safety Culture, published last year.

Unlike Food, Inc., the movie version won’t be opening at theatres any time soon.

As far as I can tell, because I haven’t seen the movie and won’t until it comes on my cable movie channels, Food, Inc. is a little about food safety, and only because Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser figured out that if you mention food safety a bunch of times, it sells more books or movies (see the Colbert clip below). The rest is about all things perceived to be bad about food, like genetic engineering, animal welfare, and whatever else.

Frank has to provide safe food to millions of people every day … or he gets sued.

Some people, like Michael Pollan,  are journalism professors at Berkeley and can reiterate bullshit like grass-fed cattle have lower levels of E. coli O157:H7.

Dude, just cause it’s written a bunch of times on the Internet doesn’t make it true.

Some people are biology professors, like Dave Renter at Kansas State, who doesn’t make movies but does know that E. coli O157:H7 and friends are complicated, and show up in lots of places. Oh, and it was a grass-fed cow-calf operation that was responsible for the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in transitional organic spinach in 2006 that sickened 200 and killed four. There are many more outbreaks linked to biology rather than the politically convenient factory farming. Some people, like Frank, are actually responsible for delivering safe food.

Frank writes in his book, Food Safety Culture: Creating a Behavior-based Food Safety Management System, that an organization’s food safety systems need to be an integral part of its culture.

Consumers at the local market, the stop-n-shop or the supermarket, can ask someone, how do I know this food won’t make me barf? While such talk may be socially frowned upon, it’s time to put aside the niceties and bureau-speak and talk directly about safe food.  Ask at Wal-Mart; ask at your local market. I know if Frank were there, he’d be able to answer.

Schlosser comers across as an idiot.

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I might be movin’ to Montana soon …

Just to raise me up a crop of Dental Floss.

Frank Zappa (right, exactly as shown) came to mind as I read this morning why children shouldn’t eat snow. I ate lots of Ontario snow, Amy ate lots of Montana snow, but we both avoided that yellow snow.

Julie Deardorff writes in the Chicago Tribune that,
"University of Toronto environmental chemist Frank Wania reports that the atmosphere is exceedingly efficient at transporting pollutants—so efficient, in fact, that industrial pollutants released into the atmosphere in India could be found in snow in northern Canada only five days later.

"Argonne National Laboratory’s Dr. Jeff Gaffney is more specific. He says snowflakes can contain anything that floats in the air: the chemicals that fall in acid rain, bacteria, sulfates, nitrates and even lead from areas in the world that still burn leaded gasoline."


Watch out where the huskies go, and don’t you eat that yellow snow

Frank Zappa (right) would be proud.

And parents who warn their kids not to eat dirty snow (especially the yellow variety) are left wondering whether to stop them from tasting the new-fallen stuff, too, because of Pseudomonas syringae, bacteria that can cause diseases in bean and tomato plants.

A paper published last week in the journal, Science, found that snow — even in relatively pristine spots like Montana and the Yukon — contains large amounts of bacteria.

Dr. Penelope Dennehy, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ committee on infectious diseases, said,

"It’s a very ubiquitous bacteria that’s everywhere. Basically, none of the food we eat is sterile. We eat bacteria all the time.”

Dr. Joel Forman, a member of the pediatric academy’s committee on environmental health, said,

"We eat stuff that’s covered with bacteria all the time, and for the most part it’s killed in the stomach. Your stomach is a fantastic barrier against invasive bacteria because it’s a very acidic environment. … I can say that I’m not aware of any clinical reports of children becoming ill from eating snow. And I looked,” Forman says.