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20 Years of Data Show Poultry, Fish, Beef Have Remained Leading Sources of Food-Related Outbreaks

Between 1998 and 2008, poultry, fish and beef were consistently responsible for the greatest proportion of foodborne illness outbreaks, according to a new government analysis.

Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed the 13,405 food-related outbreaks reported during this time period, identifying 3,264 outbreaks that could be attributed to a specific food category. Fish and poultry remained responsible for the greatest share of these outbreaks over these 20 years — accounting for about 17 percent of outbreaks each — followed closely by beef, which was responsible for 14 percent of outbreaks.

Eggs, on the other hand, played an increasingly smaller role as outbreak sources – accounting for 6 percent of outbreaks in 1998-1999 and for just 2 percent in 2006-2008. This trend was largely due to a decrease in the amount of Salmonella outbreaks linked to eggs, according to the report authors.

Leafy greens became a more common outbreak source, responsible for 6 percent of outbreaks in 1998-1999 and 11 percent by 2008-2009. Dairy also grew as an outbreak source, rising from 4 percent in the beginning of the period studied to 6 percent by 2006-2008.

The researchers also looked at the leading pathogen-food combinations that caused outbreaks during the 20-year window, finding that histamine in fish was the most common outbreak source, followed by ciguatoxin in fish, Salmonella in poultry and norovirus in leafy vegetables.

“You see the same combinations of pathogens and foods repeatedly,” said Hannah Gould, epidemiologist in the Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases at CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases and lead author of the report. “It’s good to keep tracking that and now to have a method to continue to look at changes over time,” Gould commented in an interview with Food Safety News.

The authors note that the number of outbreaks linked to these commodities should not be confused with the number of illnesses caused by these foods, as outbreaks result in varying numbers of illnesses.

While poultry was responsible for the largest share of illnesses (17 percent) between 1998 and 2008, leafy greens were the next greatest cause of illness, accounting for 13 percent of the 67,752 illnesses attributed to an outbreak food source.

The pathogen/commodity pairs responsible for the most outbreak-related illnesses were norovirus and leafy vegetables, which led to 4,011 illnesses of the 67,752 linked to a designated commodity category.

The team also looked at food preparation, finding that restaurants and delis accounted for the vast majority (68 percent) of the places where outbreak-linked foods were prepared. Private homes were the next most common place of preparation, at 9 percent, followed by catering or banquet facilities (7 percent).

“That’s something interesting that we talk about here more than we usually do,” said Gould, referring to the location data, which CDC doesn’t often report in its reviews of foodborne illness data.

Outbreaks after 2008

What about outbreaks that have occurred since 2008? Have these trends continued or have they changed in the past few years?

“Leafy greens and norovirus continues to be a problem and norovirus has been the number one cause of outbreaks in our data for years and years and years and has remained that way,” said Gould.

Gould also led an analysis of foodborne illness outbreaks that occurred between 2009 and 2010 — published in January of this year — which found that during that period, beef, dairy, fish, and poultry were associated with the largest number of foodborne disease outbreaks.

That report also showed that unpasteurized dairy products are the leading cause of dairy-related outbreaks, accounting for 81 percent of the outbreaks linked to dairy during that time period. Gould said the 1998-2008 report shows that the incidence of raw dairy-related outbreaks has been growing over this time.

“Outbreaks caused by dairy went up as well, and that seems to be caused by an increasing number of outbreaks due to unpasteurized milk,” she said.

The data used for this report comes from CDC’s Foodborne Disease Outbreak Surveillance System, which was started by CDC in 1973 and went online in 1998. The authors chose 1998-2008 as their reporting period because the format of the database changed starting in 2008, when it became the National Outbreak Reporting System.

Although this new report may appear similar to one CDC released in January titled “Attribution of Foodborne Illnesses, Hospitalizations, and Deaths to Food Commodities by Using Outbreak Data, United States, 1998-2008,” the two are very different. The January report offers an estimation of total U.S. illnesses linked to various food sources. Though it is based on data from the Foodborne Disease Outbreak Surveillance System, the figures in that report are extrapolated based on national foodborne illness estimates, while this June report looked only at outbreaks reported to CDC.

The complete results of the 2998-2008 data analysis can be found in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Food Safety News

Tops Sources Coffee to Benefit Nearby Zoo

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Tops Friendly Markets has brought in locally roasted Polar Bear Brew Coffee to support the Buffalo Zoo’s new Arctic Edge polar bear exhibit.

For every bag purchased, $ 1 will be donated to the Buffalo Zoo’s 60,000-square-foot polar bear exhibit designed to replicate the snowy, frozen climate of the Arctic Circle.


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The exclusive brew from McCullagh Coffee launched in 50 locations Sunday and will be available throughout Western New York through Aug. 4. Made with 100% Rainforest Alliance Certified Colombian beans, the coffee is available in Breakfast Blend, Donut Shop and Decaffeinated.

“As a long-standing sponsor of the Buffalo Zoo, the opportunity to support the Buffalo Zoo by offering Polar Bear Brew, a premium locally roasted coffee is a win-win situation,” said Cathy Shifflett, Tops’ vice president of Center Store Sales and Marketing, in a statement.

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Sources: WTO Ruled Against U.S. on Country-of-Origin Labeling

The World Trade Organization has ruled against the U.S. in a trade dispute with Canada and Mexico over country-of-origin labeling for meat products, according to anonymous sources who spoke to the Wall Street Journal.

The final ruling has been released to the governments involved with the dispute, but has not yet been officially released to the public.

The sources say that the WTO determined that the U.S. rules to place mandatory labels on meat packages identifying where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered were unfair, reinforcing a previous ruling from 2012 that prompted the U.S. to revise its rules.

Canada and Mexico have argued that the labeling rule put their meat exports at a disadvantage on the market. Canada has said that since 2009, exports of pigs and cattle to the U.S. have declined.

Earlier this month, members of Congress advised the U.S. Department of Agriculture to drop the labeling law if the WTO ruled against it.

Food Safety News

Russian importers need to look for other sources

Russian importers need to look for other sources

Today Russia announced it will ban all fruit and vegetables from the United States, the European Union, Australia, Canada and Norway for one year. This ban is a reaction on the sanctions imposed on Russia by these countries.

Now the question is what will be the affects on all parties? Larissa Khachikyan from Russian importer Friend Fruits said they are hoping it will be only for a short time. “We now have to look for imports from South Africa, Latin America and China.” The difficulties to source for example apples out of China, is that they have different products. “We will stay in contact with our good relations in Western Europe and hope it will be solved very soon.”

Europe
According to IHS, Russia is the largest export market for fruit and vegetables from the EU, at €2billion a year. Belgium exported last year €490 million in food exports, primarily fruit, to Russia. The Netherlands export approximately €600 million a year to Russia.

United States
Russia is a big market for U.S. specialty crops. In 2013, Russia imported $ 138 million in almonds, $ 31 million in pistachios, $ 13 million in fresh apples, $ 12 million in pears and $ 2.7 million in grapes, reported the Packer. The total amount of Russian food imports are $ 1.6 billion out of the United States.

Countries that benefit
China, South Africa, Serbia, Azerbeijan, Turkey and Latin American countries have to fill the gaps in the local market in Russia. Whether consumer prices in Russia will go up is something that only time will tell, but Medvedev warned against possible attempts to use the situation to drive up prices.

Click here to read more about Russia

Publication date: 8/7/2014
Author: Sander Bruins Slot
Copyright: www.freshplaza.com


FreshPlaza.com

Gallery: Whole Foods Market sources produce from above

In addition to other eco-friendly attributes such as solar power and windmills, Whole Foods Market‘s Brooklyn store includes a rooftop greenhouse run by local grower Gotham Greens. The greenhouse, which supplies both Whole Foods and local restaurants, grows a variety of herbs, greens and tomatoes.  

Read more: Whole Foods sources produce from store roof greenhouse

Captions and photos by Jenna Telesca

Supermarket News

Gallery: Whole Foods Market sources produce from above

In addition to other eco-friendly attributes such as solar power and windmills, Whole Foods Market‘s Brooklyn store includes a rooftop greenhouse run by local grower Gotham Greens. The greenhouse, which supplies both Whole Foods and local restaurants, grows a variety of herbs, greens and tomatoes.  

Read more: Whole Foods sources produce from store roof greenhouse

Captions and photos by Jenna Telesca

Supermarket News

Gallery: Whole Foods Market sources produce from above

In addition to other eco-friendly attributes such as solar power and windmills, Whole Foods Market‘s Brooklyn store includes a rooftop greenhouse run by local grower Gotham Greens. The greenhouse, which supplies both Whole Foods and local restaurants, grows a variety of herbs, greens and tomatoes.  

Read more: Whole Foods sources produce from store roof greenhouse

Captions and photos by Jenna Telesca

Supermarket News

Gallery: Whole Foods Market sources produce from above

In addition to other eco-friendly attributes such as solar power and windmills, Whole Foods Market‘s Brooklyn store includes a rooftop greenhouse run by local grower Gotham Greens. The greenhouse, which supplies both Whole Foods and local restaurants, grows a variety of herbs, greens and tomatoes.  

Read more: Whole Foods sources produce from store roof greenhouse

Captions and photos by Jenna Telesca

Supermarket News

Imports and Exports: How Safe is Seafood From Foreign Sources?

There may be as many opinions about the safety of imported seafood as there are types of imported seafood. The American palate is currently limited to about 10 favored species, yet in other countries, edible kinds of seafood number in the dozens or perhaps hundreds.

Compared with our taste for meat and poultry, American consumers don’t eat that many seafood-based meals. Statistics from 2012 show that we consumed 14.6 pounds of seafood per capita in this country, compared to 80.4 pounds of chicken, 57.5 pounds of beef and 45.5 pounds of pork, and all those numbers have declined in recent years.

When we do eat seafood, occupying our plates most often will be, in order of popularity, shrimp, canned tuna, salmon, tilapia, Alaska pollock, Pangasius (a type of imported catfish), crab, cod, catfish and clams.

According to NOAA Fisheries FishWatch.gov, shrimp is the number-one seafood import to the U.S. market, with most of that product coming from Asia and Ecuador. Our imported salmon mainly comes from Canada, Norway and Chile; imported tilapia (often found in fish tacos) comes from China, Indonesia, Ecuador and Honduras; scallops come from China, Canada, Mexico, Japan, Argentina and Honduras; mussels from Canada, New Zealand and Chile; clams from Asia and Canada, and oysters from China, South Korea and Canada.

The dollar value of approximately 1,500 imported seafood products is more than $ 10.4 billion and constitutes a “large and growing annual seafood trade deficit,” FishWatch notes.

Perceived risks of imported seafood

Because 80-90 percent of the seafood we consume is imported (with about half of that farm-raised), those who eat it are exposed to whatever level of safety practices exist in the exporting country and onward. A chain of potential risk follows from the catch to the processing facility, to the ships, trains or trucks bringing the seafood here, and to subsequent handling of the product at stores, fish markets, restaurants and in-home kitchens.

Recent recalls of imported seafood and associated foodborne illness outbreaks have combined to raise concerns about how safe it is to consume. There are bacterial hazards such as Vibrio in raw oysters, as well as mercury in fish and adulterants in feed and other contamination tied to industrial pollution.

Recent imported seafood recalls have involved processed products such as smoked salmon, herring and other fish products from Asia and Africa for potential Listeria and Clostridium botulinum contamination and for inadequate processing.

Contaminants are a growing concern. A recent North Carolina study revealed that one-quarter of the seafood imported from Asia and available at retail outlets in that state had detectable levels of formaldehyde.

In China, several antibiotics have been found in farm-raised fish such as tilapia, including leuco-malachite green, which FDA banned for aquaculture use in 1983 because of “serious toxicity.” Three-quarters of the tilapia we eat in this country comes from China.

“When we do our outbreak alerts, seafood has the highest level of illness per consumption of any of the food that we track. We don’t eat that much seafood, and that’s the difference,” says David Plunkett, senior staff attorney for the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s food safety program.

Concerns over seafood safety are overblown and can usually be tied to a hidden agenda, says Gavin Gibbons, director of media relations for the National Fisheries Institute, whose membership includes foreign and domestic producers operating businesses “from water to table,” as he puts it.

He says that environmental activists have used mercury as the “poster child for their own agenda” to shut down coal-fired power plants. The result, in his view, is that consumers aren’t taking sufficient advantage of a healthy dietary choice.

“The up-to-date science even from [the World Health Organization] says the real concern is that we’re warning people away from a healthy protein,” Gibbons says. “There’s a Harvard University study that shows 85,000 preventable deaths a year come from low Omega 3 intake, so we’re talking about something that can prevent heart disease and strokes and things like that, but it’s wrapped up in a number of different agendas.”

However, a 2010 survey reported by SeaFood Business Magazine showed that, for American consumers, seafood safety was the most important factor and trumped other concerns about sustainability (wild-caught vs. farm-raised), type of seafood or even price.

“The mindset of most consumers is not sustainability of a certain species – it’s farmed or wild, or imported or domestic,” said Steve Lutz, executive vice president of the Perishables Group, which conducted the study.

The continuing rise of aquaculture

Aquaculture, or farm-raising seafood, appears to be the future of the industry, particularly when the ocean catch may be at its limit and the cultural tradition of fishing is declining in some countries.

Foreign countries have embraced aquaculture to a much greater extent than the U.S., which has been ranked 13th in total such production. China, India and Vietnam are the top three aquaculture producers in the world today.

As aquaculture production has grown around the world, safety questions have grown along with it. For example, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is tasked with regulating imported seafood safety, issued a country-wide Import Alert in August on five species of aquaculture fish imported from China because of illegal drugs and additives.

Dr. Steven M. Solomon, FDA’s associate director for global operations and policy, told Congress in May of this year that FDA has 13 officers stationed in three Chinese cities to “strengthen the safety, quality, and effectiveness of FDA-regulated products produced in China for export to the U.S.”

Among other overseas activities, Solomon stated that FDA officials have arranged workshops for members of the Chinese aquaculture industry to share information on best practices and provide a “clearer understanding” of the agency’s requirements.

The regulatory arena

The seafood industry got out ahead of pending Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA) rules back in 1997 by voluntarily operating under a set of FDA preventive controls known as Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) regulations.

“FSMA expands seafood HAACP to other programs,” says Gibbons of NFI. “We have food safety scientists and regulators, not activists, who looked at the available food safety systems and said, ‘Yes, seafood HAACP works and should be expanded.’”

HACCP helps manage risk in the industry by, as FDA explains it, “analyzing and controlling biological, chemical and physical hazards from raw material production, procurement and handling, to manufacturing, distribution and consumption of the finished product.”

In the case of imported seafood, this means inspecting foreign processing facilities, sampling seafood destined for U.S. markets, sampling imported product once in this country, inspecting seafood importers, evaluating those who want to import seafood, and assessing a foreign country’s programs and information.

Along with all this activity, FDA has implemented a screening system for imports called PREDICT (for Predictive Risk-based Evaluation for Dynamic Import Compliance Targeting). The agency uses PREDICT to target higher-risk products for examination and sampling to help reduce delays in shipping lower-risk products.

Plunkett of CSPI notes that FDA is responsible for regulating 80 percent of our food supply but has inadequate resources to do such a huge job. FDA may inspect 2 percent of food imports to the U.S. each year and, as a result, has a tough time catching problems with seafood or any other food product, he says.

“There’s an increasing rate of what they have to look at each year,” Plunkett says. “You’ve got to consider that food comes in 300 or whatever number of ports that we’ve got. There are no rules on where it enters. Food comes in by ship, by air and by truck, so where do you place the resources?”

PREDICT and implementation of FSMA rules may help with the situation, he and others say, although only time will tell. Under FSMA, FDA must inspect at least 600 foreign facilities and double that number every year for the next five years, which could prove difficult, if not impossible, without additional funding.

‘Fish fraud’ and consumer trends

Imported seafood is sometimes mislabeled and sold under another name, a practice known as “species substitution” or “fish fraud.” Food Safety News reported earlier this year that an estimated one-third of seafood sold by retailers and restaurants in the U.S. is mislabeled.

This can become a serious food-safety issue when someone consumes puffer fish when it’s labeled as monkfish and then develops a potentially life-threatening illness. It happened in 2007 in Chicago when two people became ill after eating homemade soup containing puffer fish, and one was hospitalized with severe illness.

U.S. consumers may become wary as headlines periodically warn them about safety issues connected with imported seafood, but chances are they will continue to order it in restaurants and buy it for preparation at home.

A lot of the concern is overblown, NFI’s Gibbons asserts. “There’s a lot of noise associated with imported seafood, but the rhetoric does not match the reality,” he says.

Plunkett says he eats shrimp and fish sticks, not really knowing where they come from. Gibbons says he probably eats four seafood meals per week at least.

They’re certainly not alone. Trends among U.S. consumers include more mild whitefish and farm-raised seafood, from both domestic and overseas sources, and seafood imports are likely to increase. In 2009, we imported more seafood than we did beer and wine or coffee, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Whether the food we eat is domestic- or foreign-sourced, we all have to take responsibility for our own food safety, Plunkett points out.

“It doesn’t really matter if [what you eat] came from overseas or the farmer next door or the patch in your backyard, it’s got the same problem,” he says. “Be sure you cook it appropriately, watch out for cross-contamination, and be sure to wash your food, particularly if you’re going to eat it raw. Do some things to protect yourself.”

Food Safety News

Fear of predators drives honey bees away from good food sources

Oct. 2, 2013 — Most of us think of honey bees as having a bucolic, pastoral existence — flying from flower to flower to collect the nectar they then turn into honey. But while they’re capable of defending themselves with their painful stings, honey bees live in a world filled with danger in which predators seize them from the sky and wait to ambush them on flowers.

Such fear drives bees to avoid food sources closely associated with predators and, interestingly, makes colonies of bees less risk-tolerant than individual bees, according to a study published in this week’s issue of the open-access journal PLOS ONE.

“This strategy of colonies collectively exhibiting significantly more caution than the riskier individual foragers may help honey bees exploit all of the available food sources, with some intrepid foragers visiting more dangerous food while the colony judiciously decides how to best allocate its foraging,” says James Nieh, a professor of biology at UC San Diego.

Nieh worked with scientists at Yunnan Agricultural University in China to study the impact on foraging Asian honey bees of the monstrous-looking Asian Giant hornet, Vespa tropica, and a smaller hornet species known as Vespa velutina, which has invaded Europe and now poses a threat to European honey bees.

“The Asian Giant hornets are dangerous, heavily armored predators,” says Ken Tan, the first author of the paper, who also works at the Chinese Academy of Science’s Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden. “Bee colonies respond by forming balls of defending bees, encasing the hornet and, in some cases, cooking it to death with heat generated by the bees.”

The researchers found that bees treated the bigger hornet species, which is four times more massive than the smaller species, as more dangerous. In a series of experiments, they presented bees with different combinations of safe and dangerous feeders — depending on their association with the larger or smaller hornets — containing varying concentrations of sucrose.

“Bees avoided the dangerous feeders and preferred feeders that provided sweeter nectar,” says Nieh. “However, predators are clever and can focus on sweeter food, ones which bees prefer. So we also tested how bees would respond when sweeter food was also more dangerous. What we found was that the individual bees were more risk-tolerant. They avoided the giant hornet at the best food, but continued to visit the lower quality food with the smaller hornet.”

Other scientists involved in the research were Zongwen Hu, Weiwen Chen, Zhengwei Wang and Yuchong Wang, all of the Eastern Bee Research Institute of Yunnan Agricultural University.

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News

Fear of predators drives honey bees away from good food sources

Oct. 2, 2013 — Most of us think of honey bees as having a bucolic, pastoral existence — flying from flower to flower to collect the nectar they then turn into honey. But while they’re capable of defending themselves with their painful stings, honey bees live in a world filled with danger in which predators seize them from the sky and wait to ambush them on flowers.

Such fear drives bees to avoid food sources closely associated with predators and, interestingly, makes colonies of bees less risk-tolerant than individual bees, according to a study published in this week’s issue of the open-access journal PLOS ONE.

“This strategy of colonies collectively exhibiting significantly more caution than the riskier individual foragers may help honey bees exploit all of the available food sources, with some intrepid foragers visiting more dangerous food while the colony judiciously decides how to best allocate its foraging,” says James Nieh, a professor of biology at UC San Diego.

Nieh worked with scientists at Yunnan Agricultural University in China to study the impact on foraging Asian honey bees of the monstrous-looking Asian Giant hornet, Vespa tropica, and a smaller hornet species known as Vespa velutina, which has invaded Europe and now poses a threat to European honey bees.

“The Asian Giant hornets are dangerous, heavily armored predators,” says Ken Tan, the first author of the paper, who also works at the Chinese Academy of Science’s Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden. “Bee colonies respond by forming balls of defending bees, encasing the hornet and, in some cases, cooking it to death with heat generated by the bees.”

The researchers found that bees treated the bigger hornet species, which is four times more massive than the smaller species, as more dangerous. In a series of experiments, they presented bees with different combinations of safe and dangerous feeders — depending on their association with the larger or smaller hornets — containing varying concentrations of sucrose.

“Bees avoided the dangerous feeders and preferred feeders that provided sweeter nectar,” says Nieh. “However, predators are clever and can focus on sweeter food, ones which bees prefer. So we also tested how bees would respond when sweeter food was also more dangerous. What we found was that the individual bees were more risk-tolerant. They avoided the giant hornet at the best food, but continued to visit the lower quality food with the smaller hornet.”

Other scientists involved in the research were Zongwen Hu, Weiwen Chen, Zhengwei Wang and Yuchong Wang, all of the Eastern Bee Research Institute of Yunnan Agricultural University.

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News

Fear of predators drives honey bees away from good food sources

Oct. 2, 2013 — Most of us think of honey bees as having a bucolic, pastoral existence — flying from flower to flower to collect the nectar they then turn into honey. But while they’re capable of defending themselves with their painful stings, honey bees live in a world filled with danger in which predators seize them from the sky and wait to ambush them on flowers.

Such fear drives bees to avoid food sources closely associated with predators and, interestingly, makes colonies of bees less risk-tolerant than individual bees, according to a study published in this week’s issue of the open-access journal PLOS ONE.

“This strategy of colonies collectively exhibiting significantly more caution than the riskier individual foragers may help honey bees exploit all of the available food sources, with some intrepid foragers visiting more dangerous food while the colony judiciously decides how to best allocate its foraging,” says James Nieh, a professor of biology at UC San Diego.

Nieh worked with scientists at Yunnan Agricultural University in China to study the impact on foraging Asian honey bees of the monstrous-looking Asian Giant hornet, Vespa tropica, and a smaller hornet species known as Vespa velutina, which has invaded Europe and now poses a threat to European honey bees.

“The Asian Giant hornets are dangerous, heavily armored predators,” says Ken Tan, the first author of the paper, who also works at the Chinese Academy of Science’s Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden. “Bee colonies respond by forming balls of defending bees, encasing the hornet and, in some cases, cooking it to death with heat generated by the bees.”

The researchers found that bees treated the bigger hornet species, which is four times more massive than the smaller species, as more dangerous. In a series of experiments, they presented bees with different combinations of safe and dangerous feeders — depending on their association with the larger or smaller hornets — containing varying concentrations of sucrose.

“Bees avoided the dangerous feeders and preferred feeders that provided sweeter nectar,” says Nieh. “However, predators are clever and can focus on sweeter food, ones which bees prefer. So we also tested how bees would respond when sweeter food was also more dangerous. What we found was that the individual bees were more risk-tolerant. They avoided the giant hornet at the best food, but continued to visit the lower quality food with the smaller hornet.”

Other scientists involved in the research were Zongwen Hu, Weiwen Chen, Zhengwei Wang and Yuchong Wang, all of the Eastern Bee Research Institute of Yunnan Agricultural University.

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News

Fear of predators drives honey bees away from good food sources

Oct. 2, 2013 — Most of us think of honey bees as having a bucolic, pastoral existence — flying from flower to flower to collect the nectar they then turn into honey. But while they’re capable of defending themselves with their painful stings, honey bees live in a world filled with danger in which predators seize them from the sky and wait to ambush them on flowers.

Such fear drives bees to avoid food sources closely associated with predators and, interestingly, makes colonies of bees less risk-tolerant than individual bees, according to a study published in this week’s issue of the open-access journal PLOS ONE.

“This strategy of colonies collectively exhibiting significantly more caution than the riskier individual foragers may help honey bees exploit all of the available food sources, with some intrepid foragers visiting more dangerous food while the colony judiciously decides how to best allocate its foraging,” says James Nieh, a professor of biology at UC San Diego.

Nieh worked with scientists at Yunnan Agricultural University in China to study the impact on foraging Asian honey bees of the monstrous-looking Asian Giant hornet, Vespa tropica, and a smaller hornet species known as Vespa velutina, which has invaded Europe and now poses a threat to European honey bees.

“The Asian Giant hornets are dangerous, heavily armored predators,” says Ken Tan, the first author of the paper, who also works at the Chinese Academy of Science’s Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden. “Bee colonies respond by forming balls of defending bees, encasing the hornet and, in some cases, cooking it to death with heat generated by the bees.”

The researchers found that bees treated the bigger hornet species, which is four times more massive than the smaller species, as more dangerous. In a series of experiments, they presented bees with different combinations of safe and dangerous feeders — depending on their association with the larger or smaller hornets — containing varying concentrations of sucrose.

“Bees avoided the dangerous feeders and preferred feeders that provided sweeter nectar,” says Nieh. “However, predators are clever and can focus on sweeter food, ones which bees prefer. So we also tested how bees would respond when sweeter food was also more dangerous. What we found was that the individual bees were more risk-tolerant. They avoided the giant hornet at the best food, but continued to visit the lower quality food with the smaller hornet.”

Other scientists involved in the research were Zongwen Hu, Weiwen Chen, Zhengwei Wang and Yuchong Wang, all of the Eastern Bee Research Institute of Yunnan Agricultural University.

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News

Fresh & Easy Eyes Bankruptcy to Exit Leases: Sources

LOS ANGELES — Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market here has reportedly been negotiating with landlords to reach settlements with as many as possible prior to filing for bankruptcy protection this coming week, possibly as early as Monday, real-estate sources told SN.

Representatives of Fresh & Easy could not be reached for comment.

The chain, the U.S.-based division of Tesco, Cheshunt, England, announced earlier this month it intends to sell most of its 200 stores in California, Arizona and Nevada to Yucaipa Cos., the locally based investment firm.

Real-estate sources told SN Fresh & Easy has reportedly hired executives from the San Francisco office of Alvarez & Marsal — a New York-based global financial specialist —  to work out deals with several Fresh & Easy’s landlords. According to A&M’s website, its Real Estate Advisory Services division “designs and implements value-enhancing real estate solutions.”  

A&M representatives could not be reached for comment.

The sources said Fresh & Easy is offering to pay up to six months of rent on leases that are scheduled to run between eight and 18 years.  

“That’s an extraordinarily short amount of time to pay for,” one industry consultant said. “It’s really a huge travesty for a company like Tesco, which told these people when it started opening stores how much money it had.”

While Fresh & Easy is offering settlements to some landlords, the observer said it intends to walk away from others by filing for bankruptcy protection and avoiding further lease payments.

Supermarket News