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Cattle grazing and clean water are compatible on public lands, study finds

June 28, 2013 — Cattle grazing and clean water can coexist on national forest lands, according to research by the University of California, Davis.

The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, is the most comprehensive examination of water quality on National Forest public grazing lands to date.

“There’s been a lot of concern about public lands and water quality, especially with cattle grazing,” said lead author Leslie Roche, a postdoctoral scholar in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences. “We’re able to show that livestock grazing, public recreation and the provisioning of clean water can be compatible goals.”

Roughly 1.8 million livestock graze on national forest lands in the western United States each year, the study said. In California, 500 active grazing allotments support 97,000 livestock across 8 million acres on 17 national forests.

“With an annual recreating population of over 26 million, California’s national forests are at the crossroad of a growing debate about the compatibility of livestock grazing with other activities dependent upon clean, safe water,” the study’s authors write.

“We often hear that livestock production isn’t compatible with environmental goals,” said principal investigator Kenneth Tate, a Cooperative Extension specialist in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences. “This helps to show that’s not absolutely true. There is no real evidence that we’re creating hot spots of human health risk with livestock grazing in these areas.”

The study was conducted in 2011, during the grazing and recreation season of June through November. Nearly 40 UC Davis researchers, ranchers, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service staff and environmental stakeholders went out by foot and on horseback, hiking across meadows, along campsites, and down ravines to collect 743 water samples from 155 sites across five national forests in northern California.

These areas stretched from Klamath National Forest to Plumas, Tahoe, Stanislaus, and Shasta-Trinity national forests. They included key cattle grazing areas, recreational lands and places where neither cattle nor humans tend to wander.

UC Davis researchers analyzed the water samples for microbial and nutrient pollution, including fecal indicator bacteria, fecal coliform, E. coli, nitrogen and phosphorus.

The scientists found that recreation sites were the cleanest, with the lowest levels of fecal indicator bacteria. They found no significant differences in fecal indicator bacteria between grazing lands and areas without recreation or grazing. Overall, 83 percent of all sample sites and 95 percent of all water samples collected were below U.S. Environmental Protection Agency benchmarks for human health.

The study noted that several regional regulatory programs use different water quality standards for fecal bacteria. For instance, most of the study’s sample sites would exceed levels set by a more restrictive standard based on fecal coliform concentrations. However, the U.S. EPA states that E. coli are better indicators of fecal contamination and provide the most accurate assessment of water quality conditions and human health risks.

The study also found that all nutrient concentrations were at or below background levels, and no samples exceeded concentrations of ecological or human health concern.

The study was funded by the USDA Forest Service, Region 5.

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News

Study: E. Coli From Feedlots Can Contaminate Produce by Air

New research finds that E. coli O157:H7 can spread more than a tenth of a mile downwind from a cattle feedlot onto nearby produce.

In the study, first author Elaine D. Berry of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s U.S. Meat Animal Research Center and her colleagues sampled leafy greens growing in nine plots (three each at 60, 120, and 180 meters downwind from the cattle feedlot at the research center) over a two-year period.

The rate of contamination with the pathogenic E. coli O157:H7 declined with distance. There was an average positive sample 3.5 percent of the time at 60 meters and 1.8 percent at 180 meters.

The findings suggest that current buffer-zone guidelines of 120 meters (400 feet) from a feedlot may be inadequate.

Transmission of the pathogens is thought to be airborne. The researchers found E. coli in air samples at 180 meters from the feedlot, though the instruments were not sensitive enough to pick up E. coli O157:H7.

The highest levels of contamination on the produce were in August and September of 2012 after several weeks of very little rainfall and several days of high temperatures, conditions that appear to aid airborne transport of bacteria.

The research was published ahead of print in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

Food Safety News

Study: Most Would Accept Nanotechnology, Genetic Modification in Food for Nutrition, Safety

New research suggests that most consumers will accept nanotechnology or genetic modification technology in their food if it will enhance nutrition or improve safety.

Researchers at North Carolina State University and the University of Minnesota conducted a nationally representative survey of 1,117 U.S. consumers. It asked about their willingness to purchase genetically modified (GM) food and foods containing nanotech and qualifiers such as price, enhanced nutrition, improved taste and improved safety, and whether the food’s production had environmental benefits.

The results, published in the Journal of Agricultural Economics, showed that consumers are generally willing to pay more to avoid these technologies in their food, but that they are more accepting of it if there are health and safety benefits.

The researchers divided participants into four groups. The first were the “price-oriented,” who tend to base their decisions in grocery store aisles on the food’s cost regardless of the presence of the technologies. This group made up 23 percent of those surveyed.

The “technology averse” would buy GM or nanotech foods only if those products conveyed food safety benefits. They made up 19 percent of the participants.

“New technology rejecters” wouldn’t buy GM or nanotech foods under any circumstances and encompassed 18 percent of survey participants.

Forty percent of participants fit into the “benefit-oriented” group, which would buy GM or nanotech foods if they had enhanced nutrition or were safer.

“This tells us that GM or nanotech food products have greater potential to be viable in the marketplace if companies focus on developing products that have safety and nutrition benefits,” said Dr. Jennifer Kuzma, senior author of the paper on the research and co-director of the Genetic Engineering in Society Center at NC State. “From a policy standpoint, it also argues that GM and nanotech foods should be labeled, so that the technology rejecters can avoid them.”

Food Safety News

Study: 70 Percent of Chickens in UK Stores Test Positive for Campylobacter

Seventy percent of supermarket chickens in the United Kingdom have tested positive for Campylobacter in the first half of a year-long study being conducted by the country’s Food Standards Agency (FSA).

In recent years, FSA has said its number-one food safety priority is to reduce contamination of Campylobacter, a foodborne bacteria largely associated with chicken that causes diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal cramping.

As part of that effort, the agency plans to test 4,000 supermarket chickens for Campylobacter over the course of a year. Now halfway through, they’ve tested 1,995 chickens and their packages.

Eighteen percent of chickens tested above the highest category of contamination levels (more than 1,000 colony-forming units per gram), while six percent of packages also tested positive for Campylobacter.

While the levels of contamination varied between retailers, no store has yet to meet targets for reducing Campylobacter levels.

According to FSA, Campylobacter is the most common form of food poisoning in the UK, sickening roughly 280,000 people a year. In the U.S., Campylobacter is estimated to cause 1.3 million illnesses each year.

Earlier this week, major U.K. retailer Marks & Spencer announced its “Campylobacter challenge,” a 5-point program intended to reduce levels of illnesses contracted from its chicken. Strategies outlined in the plan include rapidly chilling chickens as they’re processed and offering bonuses to farmers who produce chickens on Campylobacter-free farms.

In 2011, food safety law firm Marler Clark funded a bacterial survey of retail chicken sold in the Seattle area, finding that 65 percent was contaminated with Campylobacter. (Marler Clark underwrites Food Safety News.)

Additionally, 42 percent of chicken in that survey was contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus. In total, 80 percent of chicken samples were found to harbor some potentially harmful pathogen.

Food Safety News

Study: 70 Percent of Chickens in UK Stores Test Positive for Campylobacter

Seventy percent of supermarket chickens in the United Kingdom have tested positive for Campylobacter in the first half of a year-long study being conducted by the country’s Food Standards Agency (FSA).

In recent years, FSA has said its number-one food safety priority is to reduce contamination of Campylobacter, a foodborne bacteria largely associated with chicken that causes diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal cramping.

As part of that effort, the agency plans to test 4,000 supermarket chickens for Campylobacter over the course of a year. Now halfway through, they’ve tested 1,995 chickens and their packages.

Eighteen percent of chickens tested above the highest category of contamination levels (more than 1,000 colony-forming units per gram), while six percent of packages also tested positive for Campylobacter.

While the levels of contamination varied between retailers, no store has yet to meet targets for reducing Campylobacter levels.

According to FSA, Campylobacter is the most common form of food poisoning in the UK, sickening roughly 280,000 people a year. In the U.S., Campylobacter is estimated to cause 1.3 million illnesses each year.

Earlier this week, major U.K. retailer Marks & Spencer announced its “Campylobacter challenge,” a 5-point program intended to reduce levels of illnesses contracted from its chicken. Strategies outlined in the plan include rapidly chilling chickens as they’re processed and offering bonuses to farmers who produce chickens on Campylobacter-free farms.

In 2011, food safety law firm Marler Clark funded a bacterial survey of retail chicken sold in the Seattle area, finding that 65 percent was contaminated with Campylobacter. (Marler Clark underwrites Food Safety News.)

Additionally, 42 percent of chicken in that survey was contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus. In total, 80 percent of chicken samples were found to harbor some potentially harmful pathogen.

Food Safety News

Study: 70 Percent of Chickens in UK Stores Test Positive for Campylobacter

Seventy percent of supermarket chickens in the United Kingdom have tested positive for Campylobacter in the first half of a year-long study being conducted by the country’s Food Standards Agency (FSA).

In recent years, FSA has said its number-one food safety priority is to reduce contamination of Campylobacter, a foodborne bacteria largely associated with chicken that causes diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal cramping.

As part of that effort, the agency plans to test 4,000 supermarket chickens for Campylobacter over the course of a year. Now halfway through, they’ve tested 1,995 chickens and their packages.

Eighteen percent of chickens tested above the highest category of contamination levels (more than 1,000 colony-forming units per gram), while six percent of packages also tested positive for Campylobacter.

While the levels of contamination varied between retailers, no store has yet to meet targets for reducing Campylobacter levels.

According to FSA, Campylobacter is the most common form of food poisoning in the UK, sickening roughly 280,000 people a year. In the U.S., Campylobacter is estimated to cause 1.3 million illnesses each year.

Earlier this week, major U.K. retailer Marks & Spencer announced its “Campylobacter challenge,” a 5-point program intended to reduce levels of illnesses contracted from its chicken. Strategies outlined in the plan include rapidly chilling chickens as they’re processed and offering bonuses to farmers who produce chickens on Campylobacter-free farms.

In 2011, food safety law firm Marler Clark funded a bacterial survey of retail chicken sold in the Seattle area, finding that 65 percent was contaminated with Campylobacter. (Marler Clark underwrites Food Safety News.)

Additionally, 42 percent of chicken in that survey was contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus. In total, 80 percent of chicken samples were found to harbor some potentially harmful pathogen.

Food Safety News

Chicken ‘Juice’ Helps Campylobacter Thrive in Kitchens, Study Finds

The liquid that comes off of a defrosting chicken provides a safe harbor for Campylobacter, according to a new study.

Chicken “juice” from a defrosted bird turns a surface into a protein-rich environment in which Campylobacter can form a protective biofilm, reported a study from the Institute of Food Research. This biofilm helps bacteria attach to things and survive tough conditions.

The researchers used strains of Campylobacter jejuni, the form of the bacteria that causes 90 percent of Campylobacter foodborne illness infections, for the study.

While all Campylobacter usually has trouble living outside its natural environment, a chicken’s gut, chicken juice turns a formerly unfriendly surface into one that attracts Camplyobacter biofilm, found the researchers.

“This film…makes it much easier for the Campylobacter bacteria to attach to the surface, and it provides them with an additional rich food source,” said Helen Brown, a PhD student at IFR, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. Brown’s studentship is co-funded by Campden BRI, in a statement.

While other types of molecules from animals, such as bovine serum proteins or milk, either slow or inhibit biofilm formation, the liquid expelled by chicken enhances it, according to the paper.

“This study highlights the importance of thorough cleaning of food preparation surfaces to limit the potential of bacteria to form biofilms,” said Brown.

Researchers designed the experiment to imitate conditions in an industrial kitchen, putting chicken juice on stainless steel surfaces.

While the presence of chicken broth increased Campylobacter attachment and growth, the concentration of chicken broth didn’t make a difference. More concentrated broth did not help Campylobacter biofilm to attach and grow.

Chicken broth also evened the playing field for different strains of Campylobacter. Strains that have no flagella, or tail, usually attach to surfaces and form biofilms more easily, but chicken broth made it easier for strains without flagella to attach to surfaces too, according to the study.

The researchers said their findings point to a need for more research on animal juices and bacteria.

“This highlights the need for future studies to not only investigate the link between chicken or pork soil and surface conditioning but also assess the effect of other meat exudates on biofilm formation,” reads the paper’s conclusion.

The study was published ahead of print Sept. 5 in Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

Food Safety News

New UC-Davis study backs up earlier Canadian findings that RPC process could harbor contaminants

While the produce industry and the federal government have made great strides in protecting the nation’s food supply with steps like the Produce Traceability Initiative and the Food Safety Modernization Act, a new study from the University of California-Davis suggests reusable plastic containers may represent a backdoor for contamination.

Research led by Trevor V. Suslow of the UC-Davis Department of Plant Sciences shows that in some cases the sanitation cycle for RPCs is ineffective. Samples from a single, unnamed provider taken on six non-consecutive days over a 16-day period show that bacteria, fungus and even particulate matter can sometimes survive the cleaning process, representing possible sources of contamination.

“That has been a long-standing concern with RPCs,” Suslow said. “I’ve been involved with it on and off ever since they were brought from the European model over to the U.S. 15 years or so ago. One sort of accepted and had confidence in the fact that [RPCs] would go to a depot, they would be cleaned and they would be sanitized properly. Both from a visual standpoint – things you can see [like] excess water, residues of previous product, stickers and labeling – just the visual standpoint started raising questions, along with what you can’t see. With the food-safety expectations facing growers and shippers, we said, ‘OK, let’s take a look and see whether the process we believe should be working, is working.’

“I think the outcome is that it’s just not uniform,” Suslow continued. “There are some concerns for how that process control actually functions. It should be manageable, it should be controllable, it shouldn’t be something growers and shippers have to think about or consider within their own program. It’s identifying a need that’s not being adequately addressed.”

A 2013 study from Canada’s University of Guelph found visible organic residue, bacteria, mold and yeast in some recycled RPCs. A follow-up last month showed the same results; researchers from Guelph and the UC-Davis Center for Produce Safety examined 160 randomly selected crates from different lots of trays that had been delivered on pallets wrapped in plastic over a period of up to 10 weeks in Ontario and Quebec.

“The fact that Guelph had similar outcomes and we had a similar outcome in a very different region says that there’s a general issue to be brought to the forefront,” Suslow said.

The microbiological survey by Suslow’s team, which included researchers from the University of Florida Institute of Food & Agricultural Sciences and PrimusLabs, was designed only to test for indicator bacteria and did not include methods to detect or recover any pathogen or pathogen virulence_markers. The goal, according to the research summary, “was to indirectly assess the general sufficiency of cleaning and sanitizing procedures used by RPC providers without raising unreasonable or unnecessary fears regarding the potential for unintended adulteration on produce packed and shipped interstate.”

While Suslow notes there have been no foodborne illness outbreaks traced to RPCs, the study summary reads, “Although there is no direct evidence, at this time, for the transfer of microbiological hazards from RPC surfaces to their product or any direct role in documented foodborne illness, this confidence has been somewhat eroded by recent studies.”

The Guelph studies and Suslow’s research led to another question: Is there something inherently flawed in RPC technology or is it the process involved in sanitizing those containers that creates avenues for contamination?

“There are some inherent issues with any multiple use container, it doesn’t matter what it’s made of, and we certainly highlight and try to bring visibility to that in terms of potential for cross-contamination,” Suslow said.

With RPCs, having “access to the process, to the validation data, how those studies were done as to base time and temperature of washing cycles and the chemistries used to deal with the actual challenges that RPCs may be exposed to in their multiple uses, that’s one part,” Suslow continued. “My own personal experience working in and around any kind of packing facility or operation where you have repetitive work, you may have a well-designed process and validated process controls, but making that work day in day out, every day, with the labor force you can assign to something like that, is tough.”

Suslow continued, “The other part, from having worked with RPCs in a variety of ways and having been around them a lot, because they’re folded, unfolded, they’ve got hinges, contact points, and the way they’re used, the way they’re handled, there are many opportunities for things to get entrapped and adhere and be exposed to a variety of things that would make cleaning very difficult if it’s not adequately done. There are numerous challenges to make the process work the way it should.”

According to the summary, the aim of the UC-Davis research “is to develop for produce suppliers, which choose to or are required by customer specifications to pack produce into RPCs, a science_based and data_based informed view of the microbiological status of their multiple_use packing supplies.”

“As the FDA’s preventive controls rules get established and become regulation and become enforceable, [we are] trying to help the industry figure out for themselves what sort of cleaning and sanitizers will work best for their own internal cycle and close those loopholes,” Suslow said.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

New UC-Davis study backs up earlier Canadian findings that RPC process could harbor contaminants

While the produce industry and the federal government have made great strides in protecting the nation’s food supply with steps like the Produce Traceability Initiative and the Food Safety Modernization Act, a new study from the University of California-Davis suggests reusable plastic containers may represent a backdoor for contamination.

Research led by Trevor V. Suslow of the UC-Davis Department of Plant Sciences shows that in some cases the sanitation cycle for RPCs is ineffective. Samples from a single, unnamed provider taken on six non-consecutive days over a 16-day period show that bacteria, fungus and even particulate matter can sometimes survive the cleaning process, representing possible sources of contamination.

“That has been a long-standing concern with RPCs,” Suslow said. “I’ve been involved with it on and off ever since they were brought from the European model over to the U.S. 15 years or so ago. One sort of accepted and had confidence in the fact that [RPCs] would go to a depot, they would be cleaned and they would be sanitized properly. Both from a visual standpoint – things you can see [like] excess water, residues of previous product, stickers and labeling – just the visual standpoint started raising questions, along with what you can’t see. With the food-safety expectations facing growers and shippers, we said, ‘OK, let’s take a look and see whether the process we believe should be working, is working.’

“I think the outcome is that it’s just not uniform,” Suslow continued. “There are some concerns for how that process control actually functions. It should be manageable, it should be controllable, it shouldn’t be something growers and shippers have to think about or consider within their own program. It’s identifying a need that’s not being adequately addressed.”

A 2013 study from Canada’s University of Guelph found visible organic residue, bacteria, mold and yeast in some recycled RPCs. A follow-up last month showed the same results; researchers from Guelph and the UC-Davis Center for Produce Safety examined 160 randomly selected crates from different lots of trays that had been delivered on pallets wrapped in plastic over a period of up to 10 weeks in Ontario and Quebec.

“The fact that Guelph had similar outcomes and we had a similar outcome in a very different region says that there’s a general issue to be brought to the forefront,” Suslow said.

The microbiological survey by Suslow’s team, which included researchers from the University of Florida Institute of Food & Agricultural Sciences and PrimusLabs, was designed only to test for indicator bacteria and did not include methods to detect or recover any pathogen or pathogen virulence_markers. The goal, according to the research summary, “was to indirectly assess the general sufficiency of cleaning and sanitizing procedures used by RPC providers without raising unreasonable or unnecessary fears regarding the potential for unintended adulteration on produce packed and shipped interstate.”

While Suslow notes there have been no foodborne illness outbreaks traced to RPCs, the study summary reads, “Although there is no direct evidence, at this time, for the transfer of microbiological hazards from RPC surfaces to their product or any direct role in documented foodborne illness, this confidence has been somewhat eroded by recent studies.”

The Guelph studies and Suslow’s research led to another question: Is there something inherently flawed in RPC technology or is it the process involved in sanitizing those containers that creates avenues for contamination?

“There are some inherent issues with any multiple use container, it doesn’t matter what it’s made of, and we certainly highlight and try to bring visibility to that in terms of potential for cross-contamination,” Suslow said.

With RPCs, having “access to the process, to the validation data, how those studies were done as to base time and temperature of washing cycles and the chemistries used to deal with the actual challenges that RPCs may be exposed to in their multiple uses, that’s one part,” Suslow continued. “My own personal experience working in and around any kind of packing facility or operation where you have repetitive work, you may have a well-designed process and validated process controls, but making that work day in day out, every day, with the labor force you can assign to something like that, is tough.”

Suslow continued, “The other part, from having worked with RPCs in a variety of ways and having been around them a lot, because they’re folded, unfolded, they’ve got hinges, contact points, and the way they’re used, the way they’re handled, there are many opportunities for things to get entrapped and adhere and be exposed to a variety of things that would make cleaning very difficult if it’s not adequately done. There are numerous challenges to make the process work the way it should.”

According to the summary, the aim of the UC-Davis research “is to develop for produce suppliers, which choose to or are required by customer specifications to pack produce into RPCs, a science_based and data_based informed view of the microbiological status of their multiple_use packing supplies.”

“As the FDA’s preventive controls rules get established and become regulation and become enforceable, [we are] trying to help the industry figure out for themselves what sort of cleaning and sanitizers will work best for their own internal cycle and close those loopholes,” Suslow said.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

Restoring wetlands can lessen soil sinkage, greenhouse gas emissions, study finds

Restoring wetlands can help reduce or reverse soil subsidence and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to research in California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta by Dartmouth College researchers and their colleagues.

The study, which is one of the first to continually measure the fluctuations of both carbon and methane as they cycle through wetlands, appears in the journal by Global Change Biology.

Worldwide, agricultural drainage of organic soils has resulted in vast soil subsidence and contributed to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. The California Delta was drained more than a century ago for agriculture and human settlement and has since experienced subsidence rates that are among the highest in the world. It is recognized that drained agriculture in the Delta is unsustainable in the long-term. To help reverse subsidence and capture carbon, there is interest in restoring drained agricultural land-use types to flooded conditions, but flooding may increase methane emissions. Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas emitted through human activities, but pound for pound, methane’s impact on climate change is more than 20 times greater than carbon dioxide.

Researchers at Dartmouth, UC-Berkeley and UC-Davis installed monitoring equipment on three moveable four-meter towers, measuring carbon dioxide and methane concentrations above a pasture and a cornfield that had been drained and a flooded rice paddy, a newly restored wetland and a wetland that underwent restoration in 1997. They found that the drained sites were net carbon and greenhouse gas sources. Conversely, the restored wetlands were net sinks of atmospheric carbon dioxide, but they were large sources of methane emissions, says co-author Jaclyn Hatala Matthes, an assistant professor an assistant professor in Dartmouth’s Department of Geography. “However, we do expect that the methane emissions will stabilize over time,” she says. “We’ve seen that emissions tend to increase for the first few years, and that this increase is correlated with the increase in wetland plant growth and spread during this time.”

In another recent paper published in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences, Matthes and her co-authors analyzed the correlation between wetland methane emissions and vegetation around the towers, where more plants resulted in an increase in the methane emissions. Where the vegetation patches had more “edges” — convoluted borders — the methane emissions were lower. “We are looking at the structure of vegetation patterns that might help to inform management goals for a restored wetland, how big do you want the vegetation patches to be, how much edge they should have,” Matthes says. “It’s a little bit tricky in ecosystem engineering, but we are hoping to learn some things about how people might plan wetland vegetation in order to maximize carbon dioxide uptake but to minimize methane release.”

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Dartmouth College. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Study: Antibiotics May Help Spread Salmonella Between Animals

An estimated 80 percent of all antibiotics in the U.S. are given to livestock, which raises concerns among some scientists about the fostering of antibiotic-resistant pathogens. But a study on antibiotics just published by researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine might introduce a whole new concern to the equation.

Mice given antibiotics to treat Salmonella infections have been found to grow even sicker and start shedding more pathogens afterward. In fact, they begin to shed the same levels of bacteria as so-called “superspreaders,” the small minority of infected mice in the population who exhibit no signs of illness but spread large amounts of bacteria.

“We’ve shown that the immune state of an infected mouse given antibiotics can dictate how sick that mouse gets and also carries implications for disease transmission,” said Denise Monack, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology and immunology at Stanford and the study’s senior author. “If this holds true for livestock as well — and I think it will — it would have obvious public health implications. We need to think about the possibility that we’re not only selecting for antibiotic-resistant microbes, but also impairing the health of our livestock and increasing the spread of contagious pathogens among them and us.”

It’s not entirely clear why some animals — and humans — are superspreaders while others are not. Approximately 10-30 percent of mice are superspreaders who will shed large amounts of Salmonella while exhibiting no signs of illness, while the remaining 70-90 percent shed only small amounts and sometimes develop symptoms.

In the Stanford study, mice given antibiotics went from shedding small amounts to much higher levels of Salmonella. Within days, they also became very ill and several died. But, when given the same antibiotics, the superspreaders continued shedding large amounts of bacteria without any ill effects.

The researchers found that, compared to the normal mice, the superspreaders had dampened immune responses, which explained why they didn’t get sick. Instead of fighting off the infection, their immune systems tolerated it.

“Their immune cells have been rewired and aren’t responding to the inflammatory signals in the intestines the same way,” said Smita Gopinath, Ph.D., the study’s lead author.

And with the mice who do experience symptoms of illness, the antibiotics do exactly the opposite of what they’re intended to do.

These same conditions have not been observed in humans, but it’s an area worth studying, the researchers said.

Food Safety News

Fish tale: New study evaluates antibiotic content in farm-raised fish

Antibiotics — one of modernity’s great success stories — are charms that come with a curse. Their overuse in human and animal populations can lead to the development of resistant microbial strains, posing a dire threat to global health.

In a new study, Hansa Done, PhD candidate, and Rolf Halden, PhD, researchers at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute, examine antibiotic use in the rapidly expanding world of global aquaculture.

Done and Halden measured the presence of antibiotics in shrimp, salmon, catfish, trout, tilapia and swai, originating from 11 countries. Data showed traces of 5 of the 47 antibiotics evaluated.

The research findings and a discussion of their implications appear in the current issue of the Journal of Hazardous Materials.

Charting resistance

The menace of germs bearing resistance to our best medical defenses is reaching crisis proportions. Each year, resistant microbes sicken some 2 million people in the U.S. alone and kill about 23, 000, according to the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

On September 18, President Obama proposed the first governmental steps to address the problem, establishing a task force to be co-chaired by the secretaries of Health and Human Services, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Agriculture.

The new initiative to reign in antibiotic overuse has been welcomed in the medical community, though many believe that much more needs to be done to safeguard society. The chief complaint is that the proposed measures largely ignore the largest consumers of antibiotics — animals farmed for human consumption, including fish.

“The threat of living in a post-antibiotic era cannot be avoided without revising current practices in the use of antibiotics in animal husbandry, including in aquaculture,” says Halden.

Halden, who directs the Biodesign Institute’s Center for Environmental Security, is a leading authority on the human and environmental impact of chemicals, (particularly their fate once their useful life has ended). In previous research, he has explored the intricate pathways from production to postconsumption fate of antimicrobials and the risks posed.

The new study examines the persistence of antibiotics in seafood raised by modern aquaculture. The research area is largely unexplored, as the primary focus of studies of antibiotics has been on drugs used in human medicine. The current research is the first to evaluate previously unmonitored antibiotics; it represents the largest reconnaissance conducted to date on antibiotics present in seafood.

Farming lifestyle

Aquaculture has undergone rapid growth to meet the burgeoning global demand, nearly tripling over the past 20 years to an estimated 83 million metric tons in 2013. The large increase has led to widespread antibiotic use, applied both to prevent and treat pathogens known to infect fish. The broad effects on health and the environment associated with these practices remain speculative.

Several natural mechanisms exist to help pathogenic microbes evade immune responses or develop drug resistance over time. The overuse of antibiotics, whether for human ingestion in hospitals or for agricultural or aquacultural use, can seriously exacerbate this problem, enriching microbes that bear particular genetic mutations, rendering them antibiotic resistant. In a biological arms race, antibiotics applied to combat disease run the risk of producing multi-drug resistant organisms that are increasingly difficult to kill.

In the new study, 27 seafood samples were examined for the presence of antibiotics. The samples represent five of the top 10 most consumed seafood varieties in the U.S.: shrimp, tilapia, catfish, swai, and Atlantic salmon. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) acquired the samples from stores in Arizona and California.

Five antibiotics were present in detectable amounts: oxytetracycline in wild shrimp, farmed tilapia, farmed salmon and farmed trout; 4-epioxytetracycline in farmed salmon, sulfadimethoxine in farmed shrimp, ormetoprim in farmed salmon, and virginiamycin in farmed salmon that had been marketed as antibiotic-free.

Oxytetracycline, the most commonly used antibiotic in aquaculture, was the most prevalent in the study samples. Surprisingly, the study also detected this antibiotic in wild-caught shrimp imported from Mexico, which the authors suggest may be due to mislabeling, coastal pollution from sewage contamination, or cross-contamination during handling and processing.

On the bright side, all seafood analyzed was found to be in compliance with U.S. FDA regulations; however, the authors note that sub-regulatory antibiotic levels can promote resistance development, according to their extensive meta-analysis of existing literature. (Publications linking aquaculture with antibiotic resistance have increased more than 8-fold from 1991-2013.)

Antibiotics also have the potential to affect the animals themselves, producing alterations in how genes are turned on or off and physiological anomalies. (The latter may include malformations of the spine in trout exposed to the antibiotic oxytetracycline, though more work will be needed to clarify this association.)

Proper monitoring of antibiotic residues in seafood is particularly critical, due to the fact that many antibiotics used in aquaculture are also used in human medicine, for example amoxicillin and ampicillin — common therapeutics for the treatment of bacterial infections, including pneumonia and gastroenteritis.

The future of fish

The use of antibiotics in aquaculture can produce a variety of unintended consequences in addition to antibiotic resistance, including antibiotic dissemination into the surrounding environment, residual concentrations remaining in seafood, and high antibiotic exposure for personnel working in aquaculture facilities.

Changes in aquaculture are needed to ensure the practice can be carried out on a large scale in a sustainable manner. Currently, massive aquaculture operations threaten the health of seas, due to large volumes of fish waste emitted, containing excess nutrients, large amounts of pathogens, and drug resistance genes.

Additionally, many types of farmed fish rely on fishmeal produced from by-catch caught in fishing nets. Several pounds of fishmeal are often required to raise a single pound of farmed fish, thereby contributing to the overfishing of the seas and depletion of ocean diversity.

The current study offers a warning that antibiotics present at levels well below regulatory limits can still promote the development of drug-resistant microorganisms. The dramatic increase in resistant and multi-drug resistant bacterial strains documented over the past three decades indicates that much more thorough monitoring of seafood supplies is needed and a better scientific understanding of the nexus of global aquaculture, antibiotic use, drug resistance emergence, and regulatory measures.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Food labels can reduce livestock environmental impacts, study shows

With global food demand expected to outpace the availability of water by the year 2050, consumers can make a big difference in reducing the water used in livestock production.

“It’s important to know that small changes on the consumer side can help, and in fact may be necessary, to achieve big results in a production system,” said Robin White, lead researcher of a Washington State University study appearing in the journal Food Policy.

White and WSU economist Mike Brady demonstrated that the willingness of consumers to pay a little more for meat products labeled to reflect a single, environmentally friendly production practice, such as water conservation, can add up to real change.

But such single-focus labels don’t yet exist, and labels that are available can be confusing and misleading.

Saving billions of gallons of water

The study shows that meat packers and retailers can play a key role in creating incentives for water-saving livestock production with labels that appeal to consumer values, White said.

White and Brady found that by paying 10 percent more for environmentally labeled meat products, consumers could bring about huge water savings in livestock production. In 2013, the U.S. produced 26 billion pounds of beef. Based on this number, White estimated that 76 to 129 billion gallons of water could be saved annually.

On the upper end, this equals the water used annually by 3.5 million people, roughly the population of the greater Seattle metropolitan area.

White, a postdoctoral scholar with the National Animal Nutrition Program, conducted the research as part of her doctoral studies in the Department of Animal Sciences at WSU.

Single vs. multiple label claims

“It is difficult to tease out a product’s true environmental impact from currently available labels,” said White. “Consumers may believe a label represents an environmental, health or animal welfare benefit but it’s difficult for them to really know.”

White and Brady were able to distinguish and compare consumers’ willingness to pay for meat products with labels that reflect a single attribute of reducing environmental impact and labels that represent a suite of attributes. Among the purely environmental labels, they evaluated different price premiums to find the sweet spot — where the lowest premium that consumers found palatable would also cover the costs to the producer of reducing water use.

The study also demonstrated that moderate price premiums for all cuts of meat that are acceptable to the average consumer will have a greater impact on water conservation than high premiums for a few niche products.

Growing greener grass

White explained that cow/calf operations represent an opportunity to significantly reduce water use in beef production. Feeding pregnant cows and suckling calves typically requires pasture or rangeland and represents a substantial maintenance cost. Yet, in the U.S., intensive, more efficient pasture management is not what it could be, White said.

Growing grass more efficiently through strategic irrigation, fertilization and grazing strategies can significantly improve yield and save water but adds to producer cost. However, the price premiums associated with environmental labels can offset those costs.

The livestock industry wants to demonstrate improvements in sustainability, White said. To do so, growers need consumer cooperation and willingness to pay a little more for products produced with a reduced environmental impact.

“This study demonstrated that consumers are willing,” White said. “Now we just need to connect the dots to accurately represent a product’s environmental impact in a way that is meaningful, understandable and attractive to consumers.”

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Washington State University. The original article was written by Sylvia Kantor. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Food labels can reduce livestock environmental impacts, study shows

With global food demand expected to outpace the availability of water by the year 2050, consumers can make a big difference in reducing the water used in livestock production.

“It’s important to know that small changes on the consumer side can help, and in fact may be necessary, to achieve big results in a production system,” said Robin White, lead researcher of a Washington State University study appearing in the journal Food Policy.

White and WSU economist Mike Brady demonstrated that the willingness of consumers to pay a little more for meat products labeled to reflect a single, environmentally friendly production practice, such as water conservation, can add up to real change.

But such single-focus labels don’t yet exist, and labels that are available can be confusing and misleading.

Saving billions of gallons of water

The study shows that meat packers and retailers can play a key role in creating incentives for water-saving livestock production with labels that appeal to consumer values, White said.

White and Brady found that by paying 10 percent more for environmentally labeled meat products, consumers could bring about huge water savings in livestock production. In 2013, the U.S. produced 26 billion pounds of beef. Based on this number, White estimated that 76 to 129 billion gallons of water could be saved annually.

On the upper end, this equals the water used annually by 3.5 million people, roughly the population of the greater Seattle metropolitan area.

White, a postdoctoral scholar with the National Animal Nutrition Program, conducted the research as part of her doctoral studies in the Department of Animal Sciences at WSU.

Single vs. multiple label claims

“It is difficult to tease out a product’s true environmental impact from currently available labels,” said White. “Consumers may believe a label represents an environmental, health or animal welfare benefit but it’s difficult for them to really know.”

White and Brady were able to distinguish and compare consumers’ willingness to pay for meat products with labels that reflect a single attribute of reducing environmental impact and labels that represent a suite of attributes. Among the purely environmental labels, they evaluated different price premiums to find the sweet spot — where the lowest premium that consumers found palatable would also cover the costs to the producer of reducing water use.

The study also demonstrated that moderate price premiums for all cuts of meat that are acceptable to the average consumer will have a greater impact on water conservation than high premiums for a few niche products.

Growing greener grass

White explained that cow/calf operations represent an opportunity to significantly reduce water use in beef production. Feeding pregnant cows and suckling calves typically requires pasture or rangeland and represents a substantial maintenance cost. Yet, in the U.S., intensive, more efficient pasture management is not what it could be, White said.

Growing grass more efficiently through strategic irrigation, fertilization and grazing strategies can significantly improve yield and save water but adds to producer cost. However, the price premiums associated with environmental labels can offset those costs.

The livestock industry wants to demonstrate improvements in sustainability, White said. To do so, growers need consumer cooperation and willingness to pay a little more for products produced with a reduced environmental impact.

“This study demonstrated that consumers are willing,” White said. “Now we just need to connect the dots to accurately represent a product’s environmental impact in a way that is meaningful, understandable and attractive to consumers.”

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Washington State University. The original article was written by Sylvia Kantor. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Food labels can reduce livestock environmental impacts, study shows

With global food demand expected to outpace the availability of water by the year 2050, consumers can make a big difference in reducing the water used in livestock production.

“It’s important to know that small changes on the consumer side can help, and in fact may be necessary, to achieve big results in a production system,” said Robin White, lead researcher of a Washington State University study appearing in the journal Food Policy.

White and WSU economist Mike Brady demonstrated that the willingness of consumers to pay a little more for meat products labeled to reflect a single, environmentally friendly production practice, such as water conservation, can add up to real change.

But such single-focus labels don’t yet exist, and labels that are available can be confusing and misleading.

Saving billions of gallons of water

The study shows that meat packers and retailers can play a key role in creating incentives for water-saving livestock production with labels that appeal to consumer values, White said.

White and Brady found that by paying 10 percent more for environmentally labeled meat products, consumers could bring about huge water savings in livestock production. In 2013, the U.S. produced 26 billion pounds of beef. Based on this number, White estimated that 76 to 129 billion gallons of water could be saved annually.

On the upper end, this equals the water used annually by 3.5 million people, roughly the population of the greater Seattle metropolitan area.

White, a postdoctoral scholar with the National Animal Nutrition Program, conducted the research as part of her doctoral studies in the Department of Animal Sciences at WSU.

Single vs. multiple label claims

“It is difficult to tease out a product’s true environmental impact from currently available labels,” said White. “Consumers may believe a label represents an environmental, health or animal welfare benefit but it’s difficult for them to really know.”

White and Brady were able to distinguish and compare consumers’ willingness to pay for meat products with labels that reflect a single attribute of reducing environmental impact and labels that represent a suite of attributes. Among the purely environmental labels, they evaluated different price premiums to find the sweet spot — where the lowest premium that consumers found palatable would also cover the costs to the producer of reducing water use.

The study also demonstrated that moderate price premiums for all cuts of meat that are acceptable to the average consumer will have a greater impact on water conservation than high premiums for a few niche products.

Growing greener grass

White explained that cow/calf operations represent an opportunity to significantly reduce water use in beef production. Feeding pregnant cows and suckling calves typically requires pasture or rangeland and represents a substantial maintenance cost. Yet, in the U.S., intensive, more efficient pasture management is not what it could be, White said.

Growing grass more efficiently through strategic irrigation, fertilization and grazing strategies can significantly improve yield and save water but adds to producer cost. However, the price premiums associated with environmental labels can offset those costs.

The livestock industry wants to demonstrate improvements in sustainability, White said. To do so, growers need consumer cooperation and willingness to pay a little more for products produced with a reduced environmental impact.

“This study demonstrated that consumers are willing,” White said. “Now we just need to connect the dots to accurately represent a product’s environmental impact in a way that is meaningful, understandable and attractive to consumers.”

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Washington State University. The original article was written by Sylvia Kantor. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Shoppers like interacting with store associates: Study

Consumers enjoy interacting with store personnel when they shop, according to the seventh annual “U.S. Supermarket Experience Study” by the Retail Feedback Group, Lake Success, N.Y.

“The findings of our study show that a people-first culture is an essential element in winning the grocery war, especially when combining in-store engagement with technology to bring the personal touch back to retail,” RFG principal Doug Madenberg said. “Creating engagement between shoppers and their supermarket is key to trip satisfaction, store shopping enjoyment and willingness to recommend.”

The study said supermarkets continue to generate high satisfaction among shoppers, scoring an average of 4.46 on a 5-point scale.

Other findings included the following, according to RFG:

• 65% of shoppers indicated cashiers have a positive impact on the trip experience, “underscoring the importance of cashier-assisted lanes.”

• Pleasant interactions with store associates in the aisles create an immediate payoff in terms of larger basket size as well as a longer-term loyalty-building advantage.

• Associates who offer assistance in finding items, resolve out-of-stocks or address other problems during the trip help supermarkets avoid lost sales and dissatisfied shoppers.

• Social media serve as an important gateway to building and strengthening loyal connections before, during and after grocery trips, with shoppers who connect to their primary stores through social media more likely to recommend the store and offer higher satisfaction ratings.


CONNECT WITH SN ON TWITTER

Follow @SN_News for updates throughout the day.


• 46% of shoppers expressed interest in locally-sourced items, including produce, eggs, meat, poultry and milk.

• 78% of shoppers said they shopped for food at farmers markets due to the freshness of the product and their desire to support the local economy, which RFG said “should serve as a red flag for supermarkets to protect their point of differentiation and, ultimately, the fresh dollar.”

• On a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being best, consumers gave supermarkets a score of 4.17 on food safety, 3.83 on payment security, 3.77 on privacy and security of personal data, 3.76 on paying fair wages and 3.52 on transparency, including whether products contain GMOs.

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Supermarket News

Shoppers like interacting with store associates: Study

Consumers enjoy interacting with store personnel when they shop, according to the seventh annual “U.S. Supermarket Experience Study” by the Retail Feedback Group, Lake Success, N.Y.

“The findings of our study show that a people-first culture is an essential element in winning the grocery war, especially when combining in-store engagement with technology to bring the personal touch back to retail,” RFG principal Doug Madenberg said. “Creating engagement between shoppers and their supermarket is key to trip satisfaction, store shopping enjoyment and willingness to recommend.”

The study said supermarkets continue to generate high satisfaction among shoppers, scoring an average of 4.46 on a 5-point scale.

Other findings included the following, according to RFG:

• 65% of shoppers indicated cashiers have a positive impact on the trip experience, “underscoring the importance of cashier-assisted lanes.”

• Pleasant interactions with store associates in the aisles create an immediate payoff in terms of larger basket size as well as a longer-term loyalty-building advantage.

• Associates who offer assistance in finding items, resolve out-of-stocks or address other problems during the trip help supermarkets avoid lost sales and dissatisfied shoppers.

• Social media serve as an important gateway to building and strengthening loyal connections before, during and after grocery trips, with shoppers who connect to their primary stores through social media more likely to recommend the store and offer higher satisfaction ratings.


CONNECT WITH SN ON TWITTER

Follow @SN_News for updates throughout the day.


• 46% of shoppers expressed interest in locally-sourced items, including produce, eggs, meat, poultry and milk.

• 78% of shoppers said they shopped for food at farmers markets due to the freshness of the product and their desire to support the local economy, which RFG said “should serve as a red flag for supermarkets to protect their point of differentiation and, ultimately, the fresh dollar.”

• On a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being best, consumers gave supermarkets a score of 4.17 on food safety, 3.83 on payment security, 3.77 on privacy and security of personal data, 3.76 on paying fair wages and 3.52 on transparency, including whether products contain GMOs.

Suggested Categories More from Supermarketnews

Supermarket News

WHO Study Measures Global Burden of Listeria

In 2010, Listeria monocytogenes was estimated to infect 23,150 people worldwide. It killed 5,463 of them, or 23.6 percent, according to a new study by European researchers in the World Health Organization (WHO) published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

The researchers say that an urgent effort is needed to fill in information on Listeria infections in developing countries, as countries accounting for 48 percent of the world’s population do not report Listeria illnesses.

The study, ”The Global Burden of Listeriosis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis” aimed to be the first of its kind to estimate the global numbers of illnesses, deaths, and disability-adjusted life-years due to Listeria infections.

While not as common as foodborne pathogens such as Salmonella and E. coli, Listeria is one of the most deadly and adaptable bacteria found in food. Unlike those pathogens, Listeria can grow at refrigeration temperatures and in low-moisture environments.

Of those who fell ill with Listeria in 2010, 20.7 percent were pregnant women. The bacteria affect pregnant women at disproportionate rates and can cause severe complications with pregnancies, including stillbirth and miscarriage.

Among the pregnant women who suffered Listeria infections, 14.9 percent of the infections resulted in infant fatality.

Other populations especially susceptible to Listeria infections include the elderly, immunocompromised individuals, and children. While the bacteria often just cause mild gastrointestinal illness in healthy adults, they can lead to severe, life-threatening illness in anyone with a weakened or developing immune system.

Most Listeria cases are reported in high-income countries, while cases are much more likely to go unreported in developing countries. Because of its high hospitalization rate in the U.S., it’s the third most costly foodborne pathogen, behind Clostridium botulinum (botulism) and Vibrio vulnificus.

The researchers found that Listeria caused the highest burden on quality of life in Latin American regions. The least affected region was Eastern Europe, stretching from Poland to Turkey. Other highly affected areas included Southeast Asia, Africa, Polynesia and India.

The researchers note that Listeria causes significantly fewer deaths worldwide than Salmonella Typhi (216,500 annual deaths) or non-typhoidal Salmonella (155,000), but it does cause a far higher rate of death.

The effort to quantify the global burden of Listeria will enable Listeriosis to be an included disease in WHO’s international prioritization exercises. But because nearly half of the world’s population resides in countries where Listeria isn’t reported, there’s still significant uncertainty about the exact burden the bacteria pose worldwide.

In 2011, cantaloupe contaminated with Listeria infected at least 147 people in the U.S. and killed at least 33, making it one of the deadliest foodborne illness outbreaks in U.S. history. A Listeria outbreak in Denmark this year killed at least 15 people and sickened 38.

Common sources of Listeria in the U.S. include ready-to-eat lunch deli meats, hot dogs, meat spreads, unpasteurized dairy, smoked seafood and raw sprouts.

Food Safety News

No sign of health or nutrition problems from GMO livestock feed, study finds

A new scientific review from the University of California, Davis, reports that the performance and health of food-producing animals consuming genetically engineered feed, first introduced 18 years ago, has been comparable to that of animals consuming non-GE feed.

The review study also found that scientific studies have detected no differences in the nutritional makeup of the meat, milk or other food products derived from animals that ate genetically engineered feed.

The review, led by UC Davis animal scientist Alison Van Eenennaam, examined nearly 30 years of livestock-feeding studies that represent more than 100 billion animals.

Titled “Prevalence and Impacts of Genetically Engineered Feedstuffs on Livestock Populations,” the review article is now available online in open-access form through the American Society of Animal Science.

Genetically engineered crops were first introduced in 1996. Today, 19 genetically engineered plant species are approved for use in the United States, including the major crops used extensively in animal feed: alfalfa, canola, corn, cotton, soybean and sugar beet.

Food-producing animals such as cows, pigs, goats, chickens and other poultry species now consume 70 to 90 percent of all genetically engineered crops, according to the new UC Davis review. In the United States, alone, 9 billion food-producing animals are produced annually, with 95 percent of them consuming feed that contains genetically engineered ingredients.

“Studies have continually shown that the milk, meat and eggs derived from animals that have consumed GE feed are indistinguishable from the products derived from animals fed a non-GE diet,” Van Eenennaam said. “Therefore, proposed labeling of animal products from livestock and poultry that have eaten GE feed would require supply-chain segregation and traceability, as the products themselves would not differ in any way that could be detected.”

Now that a second generation of genetically engineered crops that have been optimized for livestock feed is on the horizon, there is a pressing need to internationally harmonize the regulatory framework for these products, she said.

“To avoid international trade disruptions, it is critical that the regulatory approval process for genetically engineered products be established in countries importing these feeds at the same time that regulatory approvals are passed in the countries that are major exporters of animal feed,” Van Eenennaam said.

Collaborating on the study was co-author Amy E. Young in the UC Davis Department of Animal Science.

The review study was supported by funds from the W.K. Kellogg endowment and the California Agricultural Experiment Station of UC Davis.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California – Davis. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Consumers will pay more for eco-friendly plants, study shows

People concerned with future consequences of their decisions will pay up to 16 cents more for eco-friendly plants, a new University of Florida study shows.

While 16 cents may not seem like much, researchers see any willingness to pay more to help the ornamental plants industry and the environment as good news.

Previous research has investigated the effects of perceived long-term consequences on people’s environmental behavior, including recycling or using public transportation. So UF food and resource economics assistant professor Hayk Khachatryan wanted to understand how differences in people’s perceptions of long- and short-term consequences affect plant preferences and purchase decisions.

For the study, 159 people bought plants at experimental auctions at Texas A&M University, the University of Minnesota and the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre in Ontario, Canada. The participants were recruited through Craigslist and community newsletters. Researchers studied differences in what’s called “consideration of future consequences” ─ the extent to which consumers consider potential outcomes of their actions ─ and how that affected their willingness to pay for edible and ornamental plants. Specifically, the study focused on their preferences for plant attributes related to sustainable production methods, container types and origin of production.

Eighty-eight of the 159 participants were deemed concerned about the consequences of their purchases. The study showed they were willing to pay up to 16 cents more for plants grown using energy-saving and sustainable production methods, sold in non-conventional containers as well as plants produced locally.

Some people recycle, exercise or diet, actions that take time to see results. Paying for long-term environmental conservation is a bit like working out or jogging, Khachatryan said.

“When you exercise, you don’t see the benefits right away,” he said.

Similarly, the benefits of pro-environmental production practices in the ornamental plants industry may not produce immediate impacts. Thus, consumers’ plant choices may depend on how much they consider future versus immediate consequences of their choices, said Khachatryan, a member of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences who conducts research at the Mid-Florida Research and Education Center in Apopka.

The price increase is relatively low, but even 16 cents can help retailers offset their costs, researchers said. Some larger retailers may go through thousands of plants in a short period, and that can add up quickly, said Ben Campbell, a University of Connecticut extension economist, and study co-author.

A garden center or retailer may have a thin margin between production cost and the sales price, Campbell said. By adding 16 cents per plant ─ the amount some say they’re willing to pay for eco-friendly plants ─ the margin can increase considerably, he said. That makes garden centers and other retailers more profitable and, perhaps more sustainable. The study is published online in the current issue of the Journal of Environmental Horticulture.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. The original article was written by Brad Buck. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily