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Features: Packaging That Tests Food Freshness?
Scientists at Eindhoven University of Technology have developed what they say is the final piece in the puzzle of developing a smart sensor that could be integrated within food packaging to provide a readout of that food’s freshness: A plastic analog-to-digital converter. The invention was presented in late February at the ISSCC in San Francisco, an important conference on solid-state circuits.
After two seasons in a row of disease outbreaks associated with cantaloupe—the Jensen Farms (Colorado) listeria outbreak of 2011 and the Chamberlain Farms (Indiana) salmonella outbreak of 2012—growers on the East Coast of the U.S. have come together to form their own association aimed at improving food safety practices and restoring consumer confidence.
Statewide efforts to pass laws requiring labeling of genetically modified foods have so far failed—California’s bill went down to defeat in November—but more states are trying. On Feb. 22, a coalition of consumer and environmental groups (and even one labor union) held a press conference urging New Jersey’s legislature to become the first in the nation to mandate such labeling.
The European horse meat controversy got bigger on Feb., 27 as Swedish do-it-yourself furniture giant Ikea halted sales of its Kottbullar frozen meatballs in three more countries: Thailand, Hong Kong, and the Dominican Republic. At the same time, the company withdrew its Wiener sausages from stores in Ireland, the U.K., France, Portugal, and Spain; it wouldn’t say whether horse meat had been detected in these products too, and in a statement called the withdrawal an “extra-precautionary...
Features: A Look at the New Strain of Norovirus
A new strain of norovirus, known as “GII 4 Sydney” since it was first identified in Australia last year, has caused more than 140 outbreaks of stomach illness in the U.S. from the time when it first emerged here in September 2012. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, GII 4 Sydney is now responsible for at least 60% of the norovirus outbreaks in the U.S.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) and representatives of the food industry in the United Kingdom agreed to conduct testing of meat products and publish the results “to provide a clearer picture of standards in the food chain,” the agency announced February 4. Some grocery chains have also announced their own new DNA testing regimens. The tests are being implemented in response to the identification of horse and pig DNA in beef products in the U.K. and Ireland.
Features: Food Fraud on the Rise, New Report Finds
Whether it’s diluted olive oil, mislabeled fish, adulterated spices, or any of a number of other counterfeits, the instances of food fraud in the U.S. are on the rise, according to a new report from the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP), which sets quality standards for food and medicines.
It’s long been known that young children account for a disproportionately high percentage of foodborne illness cases. But public health experts have questioned whether that’s because kids are more susceptible to pathogens or because parents are more likely to take a child for a doctor visit, thus generating an official report of illness.
In the U.S., the Food Safety Modernization Act includes specific protections for whistleblowers who report food safety violations, but China has taken that one step further. On January 15, China’s State Food and Drug Administration announced that individuals who report food and drug safety violations could receive a reward ranging from 1% to 6% of the value of the products involved—up to 300,000 yuan (about $50,000).
Australian researchers are fine-tuning a new, more efficient genotyping platform for pathogen screening, leveraging microsphere bead technology to carry out multiplexed PCR assays to simultaneously test multiple gene variants without the need for unique internal probes customized for each target.