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New E. coli Water Sampling Test
Agricultural Research Service scientists have developed a rapid, easy-to-use test to detect and count E. coli O157:H7 bacteria in natural and constructed bodies of water. ARS microbiologists Dan Shelton and Jeff Karns in the Animal Waste Pathogen Laboratory, Beltsville, Md., developed the test, which uses magnetic beads to detect the pathogen. The magnetic beads are coated with anti-E. coli monoclonal antibodies that bind to the bacteria, making it possible to count the organisms. This new method makes it possible to detect E. coli in water samples in a day or less, compared with traditional testing that can take up to four days to complete. Investigations are under way to assure no other bacteria cross-react with the magnetic beads. However, if this test proves to be accurate and selective, it should allow for detection of E. coli in a variety of liquid samples, such as swimming pools and other recreational water.

Do Food Contaminants Cause Testicular Cancer?
According to a report published in the February issue of the journal Cancer Causes and Control, Wake Forest University researcher Gary G. Schwartz believes a toxin found in contaminated cereal grains, pork products and coffee may be a major trigger for testicular cancer. The toxin, ochratoxin A (OTA), is a by-product of molds that grow on a variety of plant products and grains (especially rye), and a known carcinogen in animals. When animals consume the moldy grains, they ingest the OTA, contaminating the meat—which is then eaten by humans. Schwartz proposes that individuals are exposed to OTA in early childhood, and that once internalized, the OTA damages the testicular DNA. This alteration then lies dormant until testicular growth during puberty, when the cancer begins to grow. If true, Schwartz concludes, compounds known to inhibit OTA’s effects in animals—aspirin and vitamins A, C and E—might offer similar protective effects to humans.

Tetra Pak® Develops a Carton to Replace the Can!
Tetra Pak recently launched a new innovative carton packaging system suitable for wet shelf-stable foods—including soups, sauces, tomato products, fruits and vegetables—that have traditionally been packaged in cans or glass jars. The new product looks like existing cartons for liquid foods, but is made of 75 percent paperboard with a polymer coating and a paper-thin aluminum lining. Unlike cans that arrive for filling preformed—taking up great amounts of space—the compact carton pallets represent huge storage savings, and are economical to transport. The carton is also easy to open, and is fully recyclable. Moreover, the food packaged in these cartons has the canned food advantages of staying fresh and healthy without refrigeration.

FMI Establishes Food Industry’s Security Information and Analysis Center
The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) recently joined with the government’s National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) to form the food industry’s Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC), led by FMI. The goal: to keep our nation’s critical infrastructure safe from terrorist attack.

ISACs serve as voluntary industry contact points for gathering, analyzing and disseminating information between companies and the multi-agency NIPC based at the FBI headquarters in Washington, DC. Theirs is a threefold mission:

  • Provide information and analysis that will enable the food industry to report, identify and reduce its vulnerabilities to malicious attack, and to recover from any attacks as quickly as possible
  • Help the NIPC and FBI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Operations Unit identify credible threats and craft specific warning messages for the industry
  • Have experts available to help the NIPC and FBI assess specific threats.
“What’s new today,” says FMI CEO Tim Hammonds, “is that in the wake of September 11 all of America’s strategic industries are now on the front lines of the war on terrorism.” The total number of industry ISACs presently established is seven including Food, Oil & Gas, Electric Power, Banking & Finance, Information Technology, Telecommunications, and Water.

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