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Cronobacter Infections May Be More Common Than Previously Thought

Infections from a lesser-known foodborne pathogen most commonly associated with infants may be more common in elderly populations — and even adults and adolescents — than previously thought, according to a new study by researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study, set to be published in the September issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases, was intended to define the impact of Cronobacter on various demographics in the U.S. using data collected by FoodNet, the CDC’s foodborne illness surveillance network in 10 states. It was the first study to look at rates of Cronobacter infections in groups other than infants, said Dr. Anna Bowen, CDC epidemiologist and one of the study’s authors.

In the U.S., Cronobacter has been most commonly connected to outbreaks involving powdered infant formula, though the bacteria has also been found in powdered milk, teas and starches. In infants younger than one year old, infections can enter the bloodstream or cause meningitis, swelling of the brain and spine. In adults, symptoms can manifest as infections in the blood or urinary tract.

The study found that about 3.9 out of 100,000 people older than 65 were infected with the bacteria. That’s more than twice the number of infants infected, at 1.8 in 100,000.

“We were really surprised to find such a high rate of infection among the elderly,” Bowen said.

Out of 540 laboratory isolates between 2003 and 2009 included in the study, the vast majority were found in either infants or the elderly, she added.

Much of the attention related to Cronobacter may center on infants because they suffer from the most severe infections, said Mary Patrick, CDC epidemiologist and the main author of the study. Symptoms are milder in adults, while the bacteria can kill up to 40 percent of infants who suffer from meningitis due to their infections.

For parents who want to minimize their child’s exposure to Cronobacter, CDC recommends breastfeeding whenever possible. Experts also recommend liquid infant formula over powdered, as the liquid variety has been pasteurized, Patrick said.

When the only option is powdered formula, CDC recommends preparing it with water heated to at least 158 degrees F (70 degrees C) to eliminate any potentially harmful bacteria.

Where are all these Cronobacter infections in adults coming from? Answering that question is next on the research agenda, according to Patrick.

“These Cronobacter infections obviously come from someplace,” she said. “I like to think of this study as the first step in figuring that out.”

Food Safety News

China’s Food Safety Issues Worse Than You Thought

(Nancy Huehnergarth is a national food policy activist, journalist, coalition leader and president of Nancy F. Huehnergarth Consulting. Follow her on Twitter. A shorter version of this article first appeared in The Hill.)

In April, I began an email correspondence with an American I’ll call Susan (she prefers to remain anonymous), who has lived in China for 15 years while working in publishing. She currently resides in Beijing and also lived in a small town in Hubei province.

Susan came across our Change.org petition (325,000-plus signatures) asking Congress to “Keep Chinese Chicken Out of Our Schools and Supermarkets” and reached out to me. While she loves China and its people, Susan’s first-hand knowledge of China’s poor food safety practices leaves her deeply concerned about the prospect of American chicken being processed in China for consumption in the U.S.

To provide consumers with even more information about how a weak Chinese food safety system poses a real threat to Americans, I have compiled a Q&A excerpt from my often-startling correspondence with Susan.

Why do you think China suffers from such spectacular food safety problems?

Food safety has always been an issue (in China) due to lack of knowledge about contamination and hygiene standards. Even in Beijing I can count on contracting food poisoning at least once a year, despite all my precautions. The problem is, buying anything here that is processed becomes a roll of the dice.

Most Chinese believe the food safety system is thoroughly corrupt. Although there are protests, in general people say, “Mei ban fa,” or, “Nothing can be done.” This is the traditional Confucian attitude that teaches one to bend like a reed in the wind — never stand against it like a tree.

I do know that almost everyone here believes that government officials have their own private farms to assure that their personal food supply is safe. People also widely believe that the government lies about its results in food testing to avoid panic and protest.

Who staffs China’s food processing facilities?

Chinese food processing plants are staffed by workers with little education — the people who are willing to work for the kind of low wages that make it possible to process U.S. chickens in Chinese plants and export them back to America cost effectively. Unfortunately, these mostly rural workers have limited knowledge of hygiene and sanitation.

In the first few years of my life here, I spent time in different cities and towns, including Shanghai, Shijiazhuang, Qingdao, Qinhuangdao, Shenyang, Harbin, Dalian, Changchun, Yichang, Yidu, Wuhan, Xi’an, Yichun, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Ganzhou. I discovered that the vast majority of people are not yet familiar with the concept of a germ, virus or bacteria, or basic hygiene practices such as hand washing or avoiding cross-contamination of food.

What about large multinational food corporations operating in China? Don’t they have sanitation and food safety standards equivalent to those in the United States?

I don’t think so. Shuanghui International, China’s biggest meat products company (which purchased Smithfield Foods last year for $ 4.7 billion), has been plagued by constant reports here in this country of meat infested with maggots, customers succumbing to food poisoning, and random testing that shows illegal levels of bacteria and illegal additives such as clenbuterol in their meat. Negative Chinese articles about Shuanghui were pulled off the web in advance of the Smithfield purchase, but you can still read about the problems here.

Are Chinese citizens fully aware of food safety problems in their country? How do they deal with them?

The residents of Beijing are well aware of (food safety) problems. I can think of four ways in particular that their concern has become evident in recent years.

The first is the proliferation and patronage of foreign import food stores. When I first came to mainland China, there was one such store in Beijing, little more than a hole in the wall, which catered entirely to the foreign population. Today that original shop has eight locations in the city. There are now four competing chains as well, and most have numerous full-sized grocery stores. Even as recently as five years ago, the vast majority of patrons were still foreigners. However, today these stores are filled with Chinese patrons, even though the product markup can often be 100 percent or more above what those items would cost back home.

The second change has been in behavior when eating out. Anyone who can afford it avoids street food and cheaper restaurants, which are notorious for their poor quality. Food consequently often takes up to 50 percent of the average person’s monthly budget. Food poisoning is extremely common, and the rates of cancer in China are rising. I know personally three people under the age of 40 with liver or kidney failure. Gastrointestinal cancer is one of the most common cancers in China. People largely view this as unavoidable and a consequence of dirty food.

The third piece of evidence is that Hong Kong and other countries are restricting the amount of baby formula Chinese citizens can purchase or carry out of the country. These laws were necessary because the Chinese were going abroad in droves and buying up all the baby formula.

The final change has been the proliferation of balcony gardens. Anyone who has room in Beijing tries to turn their apartment balcony into a small garden since vegetables are among the foods most likely to make one ill.

How do you personally deal with rampant food safety issues in China?

I keep an eye on both the official government reports and as much independent media as I am able to access. I am very interested for my own personal health, as well as for the sake of my friends here. Since my roommate (also American) and I started eating only imported food, our health has improved dramatically. In particular, my roommate’s constant skin allergies and rashes have died down. We eat food from China only when out with friends — which we keep to once or twice a month. Most of the time we encourage our friends to come to our home for a meal instead. Whenever we eat out, we can tell. We generally both get headaches and often have digestive problems, and my roommate invariably breaks out in a rash within 24 hours. If we are able to find a restaurant where this does NOT happen, we keep going there until it does.

Is it possible to purchase organic produce in China?

Although “organic” vegetables are available here (little fruit), there are two serious problems with that. The first is that even government spot testing admits that approximately 30 percent of food labeled “organic” does not pass basic tests for pollutants and chemicals. Like most people, if they will admit to as high as 30 percent, I suspect the real number is closer to 60 percent. Greenpeace recently reported that upon asking Chinese organic farmers what “organic” meant, many of them answered: “I grow it by myself.”

Why do you think many farmers in China use unsafe chemicals on the food they grow?

The government limits the profit farmers can make off their goods in order to control inflation. As a result, many farmers have a hard time making ends meet, so they seek ways to improve per acre yields via chemicals. It is well-known (and feared) in the cities that farmers set aside a plot for their own personal use upon which these chemicals are never used. But plots that are growing produce to be sold are highly contaminated to make them profitable. Hence we have issues like last year’s exploding watermelons. An unknown chemical was added to watermelons to make them grow faster and bigger, with the unexpected result that they exploded in the fields.

What do you hear about soil and water contamination in China with regard to the food supply?

The soil and water are both widely and terribly contaminated. The soil study (the government) finished in 2010 had been locked away as a state secret until recently when they admitted that 20 percent of the nation’s farmland is contaminated — a figure that most who live here would suspect to be low as well as out of date. As to the water, I’ve read that the groundwater of 90 percent of our cities is contaminated to some degree while 64 percent of the groundwater in our cities is severely polluted. Unfortunately, all pollution numbers are ultimately educated guesses since the government tightly controls all such information.

No one I know drinks tap water. Everyone, including the poor, drinks bottled water. I personally have an Aquasana water filtration system — one for drinking and a separate one for the shower — which renders the water clean enough to bathe in but still not what one would want for drinking. When I first came here, it was common for hotels to put a large thermos of boiled water in each room. Restaurants also served boiled water, and many people drank tap water that had been boiled. This is no longer the case.

Can you believe there is fake bottled water? I switched to water filtration because government testing showed that 60 percent of bottled water was “fake,” e.g., bottles had been simply refilled with tap water and sold.

Are there any big food scandals going on right now in China?

Now we’re struggling with the issue of fake eggs. They are nearly impossible to distinguish before buying and far cheaper to make than real eggs are to lay. Fake honey is also a problem. Testing revealed that 60 percent of the honey sold in stores is not honey at all, merely colored glucose water. Of course, fake honey from China has been found in France and the U.S. as well.

Based on your personal experiences and research, do you think it’s safe to process American raised chickens in China?

I was horrified to learn that any food from America might come here to be processed. In my opinion, it will certainly return contaminated — even if nothing is added to it. There is no guarantee that the food will be kept at the proper temperature here, or that anyone involved will ensure the sanitation standards needed.

What’s a good resource to learn about Chinese food safety scandals?

The website “Throw it Out the Window” is a Chinese student’s compilation of all food scandal reports and articles that come out here every month. Running it through Google Translate will help you keep up with our food safety issues.

Food Safety News

China’s Food Safety Issues Worse Than You Thought

(Nancy Huehnergarth is a national food policy activist, journalist, coalition leader and president of Nancy F. Huehnergarth Consulting. Follow her on Twitter. A shorter version of this article first appeared in The Hill.)

In April, I began an email correspondence with an American I’ll call Susan (she prefers to remain anonymous), who has lived in China for 15 years while working in publishing. She currently resides in Beijing and also lived in a small town in Hubei province.

Susan came across our Change.org petition (325,000-plus signatures) asking Congress to “Keep Chinese Chicken Out of Our Schools and Supermarkets” and reached out to me. While she loves China and its people, Susan’s first-hand knowledge of China’s poor food safety practices leaves her deeply concerned about the prospect of American chicken being processed in China for consumption in the U.S.

To provide consumers with even more information about how a weak Chinese food safety system poses a real threat to Americans, I have compiled a Q&A excerpt from my often-startling correspondence with Susan.

Why do you think China suffers from such spectacular food safety problems?

Food safety has always been an issue (in China) due to lack of knowledge about contamination and hygiene standards. Even in Beijing I can count on contracting food poisoning at least once a year, despite all my precautions. The problem is, buying anything here that is processed becomes a roll of the dice.

Most Chinese believe the food safety system is thoroughly corrupt. Although there are protests, in general people say, “Mei ban fa,” or, “Nothing can be done.” This is the traditional Confucian attitude that teaches one to bend like a reed in the wind — never stand against it like a tree.

I do know that almost everyone here believes that government officials have their own private farms to assure that their personal food supply is safe. People also widely believe that the government lies about its results in food testing to avoid panic and protest.

Who staffs China’s food processing facilities?

Chinese food processing plants are staffed by workers with little education — the people who are willing to work for the kind of low wages that make it possible to process U.S. chickens in Chinese plants and export them back to America cost effectively. Unfortunately, these mostly rural workers have limited knowledge of hygiene and sanitation.

In the first few years of my life here, I spent time in different cities and towns, including Shanghai, Shijiazhuang, Qingdao, Qinhuangdao, Shenyang, Harbin, Dalian, Changchun, Yichang, Yidu, Wuhan, Xi’an, Yichun, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Ganzhou. I discovered that the vast majority of people are not yet familiar with the concept of a germ, virus or bacteria, or basic hygiene practices such as hand washing or avoiding cross-contamination of food.

What about large multinational food corporations operating in China? Don’t they have sanitation and food safety standards equivalent to those in the United States?

I don’t think so. Shuanghui International, China’s biggest meat products company (which purchased Smithfield Foods last year for $ 4.7 billion), has been plagued by constant reports here in this country of meat infested with maggots, customers succumbing to food poisoning, and random testing that shows illegal levels of bacteria and illegal additives such as clenbuterol in their meat. Negative Chinese articles about Shuanghui were pulled off the web in advance of the Smithfield purchase, but you can still read about the problems here.

Are Chinese citizens fully aware of food safety problems in their country? How do they deal with them?

The residents of Beijing are well aware of (food safety) problems. I can think of four ways in particular that their concern has become evident in recent years.

The first is the proliferation and patronage of foreign import food stores. When I first came to mainland China, there was one such store in Beijing, little more than a hole in the wall, which catered entirely to the foreign population. Today that original shop has eight locations in the city. There are now four competing chains as well, and most have numerous full-sized grocery stores. Even as recently as five years ago, the vast majority of patrons were still foreigners. However, today these stores are filled with Chinese patrons, even though the product markup can often be 100 percent or more above what those items would cost back home.

The second change has been in behavior when eating out. Anyone who can afford it avoids street food and cheaper restaurants, which are notorious for their poor quality. Food consequently often takes up to 50 percent of the average person’s monthly budget. Food poisoning is extremely common, and the rates of cancer in China are rising. I know personally three people under the age of 40 with liver or kidney failure. Gastrointestinal cancer is one of the most common cancers in China. People largely view this as unavoidable and a consequence of dirty food.

The third piece of evidence is that Hong Kong and other countries are restricting the amount of baby formula Chinese citizens can purchase or carry out of the country. These laws were necessary because the Chinese were going abroad in droves and buying up all the baby formula.

The final change has been the proliferation of balcony gardens. Anyone who has room in Beijing tries to turn their apartment balcony into a small garden since vegetables are among the foods most likely to make one ill.

How do you personally deal with rampant food safety issues in China?

I keep an eye on both the official government reports and as much independent media as I am able to access. I am very interested for my own personal health, as well as for the sake of my friends here. Since my roommate (also American) and I started eating only imported food, our health has improved dramatically. In particular, my roommate’s constant skin allergies and rashes have died down. We eat food from China only when out with friends — which we keep to once or twice a month. Most of the time we encourage our friends to come to our home for a meal instead. Whenever we eat out, we can tell. We generally both get headaches and often have digestive problems, and my roommate invariably breaks out in a rash within 24 hours. If we are able to find a restaurant where this does NOT happen, we keep going there until it does.

Is it possible to purchase organic produce in China?

Although “organic” vegetables are available here (little fruit), there are two serious problems with that. The first is that even government spot testing admits that approximately 30 percent of food labeled “organic” does not pass basic tests for pollutants and chemicals. Like most people, if they will admit to as high as 30 percent, I suspect the real number is closer to 60 percent. Greenpeace recently reported that upon asking Chinese organic farmers what “organic” meant, many of them answered: “I grow it by myself.”

Why do you think many farmers in China use unsafe chemicals on the food they grow?

The government limits the profit farmers can make off their goods in order to control inflation. As a result, many farmers have a hard time making ends meet, so they seek ways to improve per acre yields via chemicals. It is well-known (and feared) in the cities that farmers set aside a plot for their own personal use upon which these chemicals are never used. But plots that are growing produce to be sold are highly contaminated to make them profitable. Hence we have issues like last year’s exploding watermelons. An unknown chemical was added to watermelons to make them grow faster and bigger, with the unexpected result that they exploded in the fields.

What do you hear about soil and water contamination in China with regard to the food supply?

The soil and water are both widely and terribly contaminated. The soil study (the government) finished in 2010 had been locked away as a state secret until recently when they admitted that 20 percent of the nation’s farmland is contaminated — a figure that most who live here would suspect to be low as well as out of date. As to the water, I’ve read that the groundwater of 90 percent of our cities is contaminated to some degree while 64 percent of the groundwater in our cities is severely polluted. Unfortunately, all pollution numbers are ultimately educated guesses since the government tightly controls all such information.

No one I know drinks tap water. Everyone, including the poor, drinks bottled water. I personally have an Aquasana water filtration system — one for drinking and a separate one for the shower — which renders the water clean enough to bathe in but still not what one would want for drinking. When I first came here, it was common for hotels to put a large thermos of boiled water in each room. Restaurants also served boiled water, and many people drank tap water that had been boiled. This is no longer the case.

Can you believe there is fake bottled water? I switched to water filtration because government testing showed that 60 percent of bottled water was “fake,” e.g., bottles had been simply refilled with tap water and sold.

Are there any big food scandals going on right now in China?

Now we’re struggling with the issue of fake eggs. They are nearly impossible to distinguish before buying and far cheaper to make than real eggs are to lay. Fake honey is also a problem. Testing revealed that 60 percent of the honey sold in stores is not honey at all, merely colored glucose water. Of course, fake honey from China has been found in France and the U.S. as well.

Based on your personal experiences and research, do you think it’s safe to process American raised chickens in China?

I was horrified to learn that any food from America might come here to be processed. In my opinion, it will certainly return contaminated — even if nothing is added to it. There is no guarantee that the food will be kept at the proper temperature here, or that anyone involved will ensure the sanitation standards needed.

What’s a good resource to learn about Chinese food safety scandals?

The website “Throw it Out the Window” is a Chinese student’s compilation of all food scandal reports and articles that come out here every month. Running it through Google Translate will help you keep up with our food safety issues.

Food Safety News

China’s Food Safety Issues Worse Than You Thought

(Nancy Huehnergarth is a national food policy activist, journalist, coalition leader and president of Nancy F. Huehnergarth Consulting. Follow her on Twitter. A shorter version of this article first appeared in The Hill.)

In April, I began an email correspondence with an American I’ll call Susan (she prefers to remain anonymous), who has lived in China for 15 years while working in publishing. She currently resides in Beijing and also lived in a small town in Hubei province.

Susan came across our Change.org petition (325,000-plus signatures) asking Congress to “Keep Chinese Chicken Out of Our Schools and Supermarkets” and reached out to me. While she loves China and its people, Susan’s first-hand knowledge of China’s poor food safety practices leaves her deeply concerned about the prospect of American chicken being processed in China for consumption in the U.S.

To provide consumers with even more information about how a weak Chinese food safety system poses a real threat to Americans, I have compiled a Q&A excerpt from my often-startling correspondence with Susan.

Why do you think China suffers from such spectacular food safety problems?

Food safety has always been an issue (in China) due to lack of knowledge about contamination and hygiene standards. Even in Beijing I can count on contracting food poisoning at least once a year, despite all my precautions. The problem is, buying anything here that is processed becomes a roll of the dice.

Most Chinese believe the food safety system is thoroughly corrupt. Although there are protests, in general people say, “Mei ban fa,” or, “Nothing can be done.” This is the traditional Confucian attitude that teaches one to bend like a reed in the wind — never stand against it like a tree.

I do know that almost everyone here believes that government officials have their own private farms to assure that their personal food supply is safe. People also widely believe that the government lies about its results in food testing to avoid panic and protest.

Who staffs China’s food processing facilities?

Chinese food processing plants are staffed by workers with little education — the people who are willing to work for the kind of low wages that make it possible to process U.S. chickens in Chinese plants and export them back to America cost effectively. Unfortunately, these mostly rural workers have limited knowledge of hygiene and sanitation.

In the first few years of my life here, I spent time in different cities and towns, including Shanghai, Shijiazhuang, Qingdao, Qinhuangdao, Shenyang, Harbin, Dalian, Changchun, Yichang, Yidu, Wuhan, Xi’an, Yichun, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Ganzhou. I discovered that the vast majority of people are not yet familiar with the concept of a germ, virus or bacteria, or basic hygiene practices such as hand washing or avoiding cross-contamination of food.

What about large multinational food corporations operating in China? Don’t they have sanitation and food safety standards equivalent to those in the United States?

I don’t think so. Shuanghui International, China’s biggest meat products company (which purchased Smithfield Foods last year for $ 4.7 billion), has been plagued by constant reports here in this country of meat infested with maggots, customers succumbing to food poisoning, and random testing that shows illegal levels of bacteria and illegal additives such as clenbuterol in their meat. Negative Chinese articles about Shuanghui were pulled off the web in advance of the Smithfield purchase, but you can still read about the problems here.

Are Chinese citizens fully aware of food safety problems in their country? How do they deal with them?

The residents of Beijing are well aware of (food safety) problems. I can think of four ways in particular that their concern has become evident in recent years.

The first is the proliferation and patronage of foreign import food stores. When I first came to mainland China, there was one such store in Beijing, little more than a hole in the wall, which catered entirely to the foreign population. Today that original shop has eight locations in the city. There are now four competing chains as well, and most have numerous full-sized grocery stores. Even as recently as five years ago, the vast majority of patrons were still foreigners. However, today these stores are filled with Chinese patrons, even though the product markup can often be 100 percent or more above what those items would cost back home.

The second change has been in behavior when eating out. Anyone who can afford it avoids street food and cheaper restaurants, which are notorious for their poor quality. Food consequently often takes up to 50 percent of the average person’s monthly budget. Food poisoning is extremely common, and the rates of cancer in China are rising. I know personally three people under the age of 40 with liver or kidney failure. Gastrointestinal cancer is one of the most common cancers in China. People largely view this as unavoidable and a consequence of dirty food.

The third piece of evidence is that Hong Kong and other countries are restricting the amount of baby formula Chinese citizens can purchase or carry out of the country. These laws were necessary because the Chinese were going abroad in droves and buying up all the baby formula.

The final change has been the proliferation of balcony gardens. Anyone who has room in Beijing tries to turn their apartment balcony into a small garden since vegetables are among the foods most likely to make one ill.

How do you personally deal with rampant food safety issues in China?

I keep an eye on both the official government reports and as much independent media as I am able to access. I am very interested for my own personal health, as well as for the sake of my friends here. Since my roommate (also American) and I started eating only imported food, our health has improved dramatically. In particular, my roommate’s constant skin allergies and rashes have died down. We eat food from China only when out with friends — which we keep to once or twice a month. Most of the time we encourage our friends to come to our home for a meal instead. Whenever we eat out, we can tell. We generally both get headaches and often have digestive problems, and my roommate invariably breaks out in a rash within 24 hours. If we are able to find a restaurant where this does NOT happen, we keep going there until it does.

Is it possible to purchase organic produce in China?

Although “organic” vegetables are available here (little fruit), there are two serious problems with that. The first is that even government spot testing admits that approximately 30 percent of food labeled “organic” does not pass basic tests for pollutants and chemicals. Like most people, if they will admit to as high as 30 percent, I suspect the real number is closer to 60 percent. Greenpeace recently reported that upon asking Chinese organic farmers what “organic” meant, many of them answered: “I grow it by myself.”

Why do you think many farmers in China use unsafe chemicals on the food they grow?

The government limits the profit farmers can make off their goods in order to control inflation. As a result, many farmers have a hard time making ends meet, so they seek ways to improve per acre yields via chemicals. It is well-known (and feared) in the cities that farmers set aside a plot for their own personal use upon which these chemicals are never used. But plots that are growing produce to be sold are highly contaminated to make them profitable. Hence we have issues like last year’s exploding watermelons. An unknown chemical was added to watermelons to make them grow faster and bigger, with the unexpected result that they exploded in the fields.

What do you hear about soil and water contamination in China with regard to the food supply?

The soil and water are both widely and terribly contaminated. The soil study (the government) finished in 2010 had been locked away as a state secret until recently when they admitted that 20 percent of the nation’s farmland is contaminated — a figure that most who live here would suspect to be low as well as out of date. As to the water, I’ve read that the groundwater of 90 percent of our cities is contaminated to some degree while 64 percent of the groundwater in our cities is severely polluted. Unfortunately, all pollution numbers are ultimately educated guesses since the government tightly controls all such information.

No one I know drinks tap water. Everyone, including the poor, drinks bottled water. I personally have an Aquasana water filtration system — one for drinking and a separate one for the shower — which renders the water clean enough to bathe in but still not what one would want for drinking. When I first came here, it was common for hotels to put a large thermos of boiled water in each room. Restaurants also served boiled water, and many people drank tap water that had been boiled. This is no longer the case.

Can you believe there is fake bottled water? I switched to water filtration because government testing showed that 60 percent of bottled water was “fake,” e.g., bottles had been simply refilled with tap water and sold.

Are there any big food scandals going on right now in China?

Now we’re struggling with the issue of fake eggs. They are nearly impossible to distinguish before buying and far cheaper to make than real eggs are to lay. Fake honey is also a problem. Testing revealed that 60 percent of the honey sold in stores is not honey at all, merely colored glucose water. Of course, fake honey from China has been found in France and the U.S. as well.

Based on your personal experiences and research, do you think it’s safe to process American raised chickens in China?

I was horrified to learn that any food from America might come here to be processed. In my opinion, it will certainly return contaminated — even if nothing is added to it. There is no guarantee that the food will be kept at the proper temperature here, or that anyone involved will ensure the sanitation standards needed.

What’s a good resource to learn about Chinese food safety scandals?

The website “Throw it Out the Window” is a Chinese student’s compilation of all food scandal reports and articles that come out here every month. Running it through Google Translate will help you keep up with our food safety issues.

Food Safety News

Crop species may be more vulnerable to climate change than we thought

A new study by a Wits University scientist has overturned a long-standing hypothesis about plant speciation (the formation of new and distinct species in the course of evolution), suggesting that agricultural crops could be more vulnerable to climate change than was previously thought.

Unlike humans and most other animals, plants can tolerate multiple copies of their genes — in fact some plants, called polyploids, can have more than 50 duplicates of their genomes in every cell. Scientists used to think that these extra genomes helped polyploids survive in new and extreme environments, like the tropics or the Arctic, promoting the establishment of new species.

However, when Dr Kelsey Glennon of the Wits School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences and a team of international collaborators tested this long-standing hypothesis, they found that, more often than not, polyploids shared the same habitats as their close relatives with normal genome sizes.

“This means that environmental factors do not play a large role in the establishment of new plant species and that maybe other factors, like the ability to spread your seeds to new locations with similar habitats, are more important,” said Glennon.

“This study has implications for agriculture and climate change because all of our important crops are polyploids and they might not be much better at adapting to changing climate than their wild relatives if they live in similar climates.”

Glennon’s study also provides an alternative explanation for why plants are so diverse in places like the Cape where the climate has been stable for hundreds of thousands of years. Although her study examined plant species from North America and Europe only, she is looking forward to testing her hypotheses using South African plants.

Glennon’s paper has been published in Ecology Letters.

Story Source:

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

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Syngenta’s snacking tomato event provides food for thought

“snack tomato could represent 30-40% of the total market in 5 years”
Syngenta’s snacking tomato event provides food for thought

Last week, key players in the European snacking tomato business gathered in Almeria to attend Syngenta’s International Trends and Innovations in the snacking tomato business. The two day event, held in the heart of Spain’s greenhouse area of Almeria, was a great opportunity for leading growers, traders and retailers to scan the possibilities in the field of the snacking tomato. 

The snacking tomato segment is one of the most thriving segments in the worldwide greenhouse tomato industry. The young and dynamic category has seen an impressive growth over the last 20 years and according to Syngenta’s Head of Vegetables EAME, Phillipe Chatin, the snacking tomato has been a constant source of innovation for the industry; breeders are fanatically working on the genetics, colour, shapes and flavours, traders and retailers are experimenting with packaging, and growers are challenged to achieve a consistent quality in year round production.

Nowadays the snacking tomato is responsible for 10-30% of the total tomato market in terms of volume, acreage, seeds and value. In the UK and Germany the snacking tomato is responsible for one third of the total amount of consumed tomatoes, and according to Phillipe Chatin, this trend will pass on to other countries in the coming years; the snacking tomato could represent 30-40% of the total market in 5 years time, he said.


Philippe Chatin during the opening session

As of today, Syngenta is the market leader in the active cultivation [greenhouse cultivation with additional heating] of snacking tomatoes, and their varieties are also very popular in the passive greenhouse cultivation [no extra heating]. The market potentials of the segment were more than enough reason for Syngenta to dedicate a two day event to the snacking tomatoes to share the latest knowledge, innovations, strategies and possibilities.

On the first day, the attendees had a chance to get an update on Syngenta’s innovations in the snacking tomato segment. Special for this occasion, a complete selection of Syngenta commercial varieties, trials and other innovative varieties were on display at the Breeding Centre greenhouse in El Ejido.


Dutch growers and marketeers from Red Star, Harvest House, Seasun and Westburg visiting the Demo Greenhouse

The crops were sown on the 31st of August 2013. In this order, growers from all over Europe had a chance to see how the full grown varieties behaved in a Mediterranean climate. As the demand for snacking tomatoes is increasing, many European retailers are asking for a year round supply, and varieties that can be grown year round in different climates is always more than welcome.

Syngenta is currently a market leader in the segment with varieties like Angelle, Sweetelle, Dunne and Edioso. All of these well know tomatoes were on display as well as several other introductions and trials. Next to this there were also some crops that originated from other breeding programs in different countries.


Inside the lab

Along with a tour in the R&D facility at the breeding centre, the visit gave insight to the latest developments in varieties, flavour, shelf life and crop protection solutions. Professionals from Syngenta explained about the structure of the breeding process and the visitors learned how much effort is put in to each single specification of a variety.


Speakers at the conference on the 2nd day

On the second day of the event a varied conference program covered all aspects of the snacking tomato chain; from technical seminars on cultivation strategies, crop enhancement and pest control, towards a focus on marketing by speakers that issued consumption trends, retail needs, flavour differentiation and product positioning.

Even though the speaker program carried out a wide variety of topics, the discussed content was still very interesting for everybody in the chain. Presentations in the morning by Franciso Egea of the University of Almeria,  Peter Stradiot of InnoGreen and Francisco José Rodríguez Noguerón focused on the technical aspect of tomato cultivation; what steps need to be taken to increase sustainability, achieve a better crop and how to control pests and diseases. All very technical content that still was very interesting for traders and retailers because they could get a better impression of the breeding process.

The second part of the day focused on marketing. What does the consumer want, where and how do you position the product? Shall you go for mass production, or for a niche, or somewhere in between? What type of consumer are you addressing? Does the consumer spends more money on tomatoes than he did 10 years ago?

Presentations by Elena Ozeritskaya from Fresh Insight, Rene van Paasen from Greenco and David del Pino from La Palma proved to be food for thought for both marketeers and growers and resulted in an interactive discussion afterwards.

In the coming weeks, HortiDaily.com will review the conference program in several articles.

Click here to view a photo report of the event.

Publication date: 1/28/2014


FreshPlaza.com