Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Bacteria Museum

Bacteria Museum


This virtual museum  brings together many links on bacteria, bacteriology, and related topics available on the web. It also provides crystal-clear information about many aspects of bacteria.

The Bacterial Species Tab has information on 40 different kinds of bacteria. Links include photographs, consumer guides, fact sheets, lectures, scientific papers, and scientific links.

The Main Exhibits tab has links providing basic information about bacteria as well as specific topics including pathogenic bateria, evolution, and food and water safety, and how good bacteria in food benefits us.



June 15, 2011 Posted by | Educational Resources (High School/Early College( | , | Leave a comment

Fish Hazards and Controls: More Than a Fish Story

Fish Hazards and Controls: More than a Fish Story - (JPG)
From the FDA Web page

The Hazards Guide is a roadmap for commercial fishermen and processors to follow to ensure that consumers don’t become ill from parasites, pathogens (bacteria, viruses, fungi), or natural toxins (poisonous substances produced by living organisms) in the seafood they eat.

In April 2011, FDA released the fourth edition of the Hazards Guide and posted on the FDA website an introductory video to the guide for the seafood industry.

The Hazards Guide gives fishermen and seafood processors the latest scientific information on contaminants that can be present in their products and where they need controls to eliminate them.

For example, research conducted by FDA gave the agency new insights on what was needed to control scombrotoxin in the processing of tuna and mahi-mahi. Scombrotoxin is one of the most common causes of fish-related “food poisoning” in the U.S….

Related Resources

June 8, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Public Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

Pork, The Other White Meat Gets New USDA Cooking Guidelines

From the USDA Web Site, Safety of Fresh Pork…from Farm to Table

Safe Cooking
For safety, the USDA recommends cooking ground pork patties and ground pork mixtures such as meat loaf to 160 °F.

Cook all raw pork steaks, chops, and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145 °F as measured with a food thermometer before removing meat from the heat source.

For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming. For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook meat to higher temperatures.

For approximate cooking times for use in meal planning, see the attached chart compiled from various resources. Times are based on pork at refrigerator temperature (40 °F). Remember that appliances and outdoor grills can vary in heat. Use a meat thermometer to check for safe cooking and doneness of pork.

Can Safely Cooked Pork Be Pink?
Cooked muscle meats can be pink even when the meat has reached a safe internal temperature. If fresh pork has reached 145 °F throughout, even though it may still be pink in the center, it should be safe. The pink color can be due to the cooking method or added ingredients.

FRESH PORK: Safe Cooking Chart
Cook all raw pork steaks, chops, and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145 °F as measured with a food thermometer before removing meat from the heat source. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming. For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook meat to higher temperatures.
Fresh Pork: Safe Cooking Chart
Cut Thickness or Weight Cooking Time Minimum Internal Temperature & Rest Time
ROASTING: Set oven at 350 °F. Roast in a shallow pan, uncovered.
Loin Roast, Bone-in or Boneless 2 to 5 pounds 20-30 minutes per pound 145° and allow to rest for at least 3 minutes
Crown Roast 4 to 6 pounds 20-30 minutes per pound
Leg, (Fresh Ham) Whole, Bone-in 12 to 16 pounds 22-26 minutes per pound
Leg, (Fresh Ham) Half, Bone-in 5 to 8 pounds 35-40 minutes per pound
Boston Butt 3 to 6 pounds 45 minutes per pound
Tenderloin (Roast at 425-450 °F) ½ to 1½ pounds 20 to 30 minutes total
Ribs (Back, Country-style or Spareribs) 2 to 4 pounds 1½ to 2 hours (or until fork tender)
BROILING 4 inches from heat or GRILLING
Loin Chops, Bone-in or Boneless ¾-inch or 1½ inches 6-8 minutes or 12-16 minutes 145° and allow to rest for at least 3 minutes
Tenderloin ½ to 1½ pounds 15 to 25 minutes
Ribs (indirect heat), all types 2 to 4 pounds 1½ to 2 hours
Ground Pork Patties (direct heat) ½ inch 8 to 10 minutes
Loin Chops or Cutlets ¼-inch or ¾-inch 3-4 minutes or 7-8 minutes 145° and allow to rest for at least 3 minutes
Tenderloin Medallions ¼ to ½-inch 4 to 8 minutes
Ground Pork Patties ½ inch 8 to 10 minutes
BRAISING: Cover and simmer with a liquid.
Chops, Cutlets, Cubes, Medallions ¼ to 1-inch 10 to 25 minutes 145° and allow to rest for at least 3 minutes
Boston Butt, Boneless 3 to 6 pounds 2 to 2½ hours
Ribs, all types 2 to 4 pounds 1½ to 2 hours
STEWING: Cover pan; simmer, covered with liquid.
Ribs, all types 2 to 4 pounds 2 to 2½ hours, or until tender 145° and allow to rest for at least 3 minutes
Cubes 1-inch 45 to 60 minutes
NOTE: Cooking times compiled from various resources.

Go to  the USDA Web Site, Safety of Fresh Pork…from Farm to Table for additional information on pork, as inspection, grading, dating, preparation, and storage.

May 25, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Public Health | , | Leave a comment

7 Tips for Cleaning Fruits, Vegetables

7 Tips for Cleaning Fruits, Vegetables - (JPG)
From the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Web site

FDA says to choose produce that isn’t bruised or damaged, and make sure that pre-cut items—such as bags of lettuce or watermelon slices—are either refrigerated or on ice both in the store and at home. In addition, follow these recommendations:

  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after preparing fresh produce.
  • Cut away any damaged or bruised areas before preparing or eating.
  • Gently rub produce while holding under plain running water. There’s no need to use soap or a produce wash.
  • Wash produce BEFORE you peel it, so dirt and bacteria aren’t transferred from the knife onto the fruit or vegetable.
  • Use a clean vegetable brush to scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers.
  • Dry produce with a clean cloth or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present.
  • Throw away the outermost leaves of a head of lettuce or cabbage.

May 24, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , | Leave a comment

How Safe is Your Food? GMO, Foodborne Illnesses and Biotechnology

From a blog item by the Center for Research on Globalization by Rady Ananda

GRAIN has released a global report, Food Safety for Whom? Corporate Wealth vs. Peoples’ Health, showing how governments and corporations use “food safety” to manipulate market access and control. Rather than making food safer, domestic and trade rules “force open markets, or backdoor ways to limit market access.” Highlighting aspects of the report, GRAIN states:

“Across the world, people are getting sick and dying from food like never before. Governments and corporations are responding with all kinds of rules and regulations, but few have anything to do with public health. The trade agreements, laws and private standards used to impose their version of ‘food safety’ only entrench corporate food systems that make us sick and devastate those that truly feed and care for people, those based on biodiversity, traditional knowledge, and local markets.”

Graph: Data compiled by GRAIN from government and UN sources, 2008-2010 (except Australia=2005)

Canadian raw milk producer Michael Schmidt makes a brief statement about these fake food safety laws that violate food freedom in this video (though he has confused it with food sovereignty, which is the right of a nation to determine food safety standards and appropriate ag technologies despite trade agreements):

In the next video, Paul Noble discusses raw milk and government intrusion. “If God had intended us to drink pasteurized milk, he would have put a pasteurizer on the cow.”

GRAIN notes, “During US President Obama’s visit to India in November 2010, Indian Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar made it clear that the United States can produce all the scientific studies it wants, and they will be respectfully reviewed, but India will not import US dairy products that offend domestic religious sensitivities.”

That corporations control governments is undeniable, and we see this with the Food Safety Modernization Act. On May 4th, citing the FSMA for its authority, the US Food and Drug Administration declared it can seize food without evidence of contamination. This blatantly violates the U.S. Constitution protecting citizens from unreasonable search and seizure.

In its 37-page report, GRAIN spends time showing how bilateral trade agreements inhibit developing nations from controlling imports and exports. Rules generated by the World Trade Organization, in the name of food safety, “do little to protect public health, serving only corporate growth imperatives and profit margins.” Several specific examples are given. (To follow developing and ongoing bilateral trade agreements,

Click here for the rest of the article

May 6, 2011 Posted by | Public Health | , | 1 Comment

Natural Resources Defense Council: Smarter Living

Natural Resources Defense Council
The Natural Resources Defense Council is environmental action group of 1.3 million members including more than 350 lawyers, scientists and other professionals.

The home page tabs provide access to News, Issues, Policies, Smarter Living options, and more.

The Smarter Living sections  include a wide range of resources and information, including

Related Resources

  • Household Products Databases – This database links over 8,000 consumer brands to health effects from Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) provided by the manufacturers and allows scientists and consumers to research products based on chemical ingredients
  • ToxNet – Databases on toxicology, hazardous chemicals, environmental health, and toxic releases

May 1, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 10 Pathogen-Food Combinations With the Greatest Burden on Public Health

From Ranking the Risks : The 10 Pathogen-Food Combinations With the Greatest Burden on Public Health

Thursday, April 28, 2011 

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Researchers at the University of FloridaEmerging Pathogens Institute have identified the Top 10 riskiest combinations of foods and disease-causing microorganisms, providing an important tool for food safety officials charged with protecting consumers from these costly and potentially life-threatening bugs.

The report, “Ranking the Risks: The 10 Pathogen-Food Combinations with the Greatest Burden on Public Health,” lists the number of illnesses, costs, and overall public health burden of specific microbes in particular types of food –such as Salmonella in poultry and Listeria in deli meat. This is the first comprehensive ranking of pathogen-food combinations that has been computed for the United States.

Millions of Americans get food poisoning each year and thousands die. Federal agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and more than 3,000 state and local governments are charged with protecting consumers from these risks, but their efforts often are fragmented and uncoordinated.

[Click here for more of the press release, the report, a video, and an accompanying interview]

These Top-10 pathogen-food combinations cause the greatest burden to the public health 

  • Campylobacter in Poultry costs $1.3 billion and causes a loss of 9500 QALYs (Quality Adjusted Life Years)
  • ToxoplaSma in Pork costs $1.2 billion and causes a loss of 4500 QALYs
  • LiSteria in Deli Meats costs $1.1 billion and causes a loss of 4000 QALYs
  • Salmonella in Poultry costs $700 million and causes a loss of 3600 QALYs
  • LiSteria in Dairy Products costs $700 million and causes a loss of 2600 QALYs
  • Salmonella in Complex Foods costs $600 million and causes a loss of 3200 QALYs
  • NoroviruS in Complex Foods costs $900 million and causes a loss of 2300 QALYs
  • Salmonella in Produce costs $500 million and causes a loss of 2800 QALYs
  • ToxoplaSma in Beef costs $700 million and causes a loss of 2500 QALYs
  • Salmonella in Eggs costs $400 million and causes a loss of 1900 QALYs

April 30, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Public Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

One Quarter Of U.S. Poultry And Meat Tainted With Resistant Bacteria

A schematic representation of how antibiotic r...

Image via Wikipedia

From a 15 April 2011 Medical News Today article

7% of poultry and meat samples were found to be contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, and half of those with bacteria resistant to three or more classes of antibiotics, researchers from the Translational Genomics Research Institute wrote in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases[full text].

Strains of drug resistant Staphylococcus aureus, also known as S. aureus, are bacteria associated with several human diseases and appear to be widespread in the poultry and meat sold in American retail outlets. The researchers were surprised the contamination rate was so high.

The authors explain that theirs is the first nationwide assessment of contamination of the U.S. food supply with antibiotic resistant S. aureus.

According to the results of genetic (DNA) tests that were carried out, it appears that the major source of contamination is from livestock (farm animals).

Proper cooking of S. aureus tainted poultry and meats should kill off all bacteria. However, there is a risk of human infection if the food is not handled properly during the preparation of meals….

…Senior author, Lance B. Price, Ph.D., said:

“For the first time, we know how much of our meat and poultry is contaminated with antibiotic-resistant Staph, and it is substantial.

The fact that drug-resistant S. aureus was so prevalent, and likely came from the food animals themselves, is troubling, and demands attention to how antibiotics are used in food-animal production today.”

The authors explained that highly industrialized farming, where animals are densely packed together and fed steady low doses of antibiotic, are perfect breeding grounds for drug-resistant bacteria to thrive, and then make their way into humans.

Dr. Price said:

“Antibiotics are the most important drugs that we have to treat Staph infections; but when Staph are resistant to three, four, five or even nine different antibiotics – like we saw in this study – that leaves physicians few options.”

Paul S. Keim, Ph.D., co-author, said:

“The emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria – including Staph – remains a major challenge in clinical medicine.

This study shows that much of our meat and poultry is contaminated with multidrug-resistant Staph. Now we need to determine what this means in terms of risk to the consumer.”…

April 16, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News, Public Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Five food safety myths — debunked!

Five food safety myths — debunked!

From the Daily Need

By Anastacia Marx de Salcedo February 8, 2011




1. Food safety is worse than it used to be.

Food safety has actually improved since the mid-1990s when the Centers for Disease Control first began its national monitoring program, with net incidence of the major illnesses falling by 20 percent. On a disease-by-disease basis, that means 30 percent less campylobacter, 41 percent less toxin-producing E. coli and 10 percent less salmonella. In fact, the only increase — by 85 percent — has been in vibrio, contracted by eating raw shellfish. (You heard it, people, shuck and slurp and you’re on your own.) And even though the CDC recently tripled the number of major foodborne pathogens it monitors from 9 to 31, it reduced its estimate of annual illnesses from 76 to 48 million.

2. The biggest danger to your health comes from livestock feeding practices, food industry negligence and the terrorist threat to our food supply.

More than 90 percent* of foodborne illnesses occur within a vast, loosely organized network of rogue microbe breeders: restaurants! (about half of all outbreaks) and a motley assortment of workplaces, banquet facilities, caterers, churches, nursing homes, schools and others. Almost 60 percent of these — 5.5 million illnesses — are caused by norovirus, about which the CDC observes, “In many of these cases, sick food handlers were involved in the spread of the virus.” A 2004 study by the FDA found that 56 percent of fast food and 72 percent of full-service restaurant personnel did not wash their hands often or well enough. Ten viral particles with your soup, sir? (Or fork or menu or credit card?)

3. OMG! I’ve got salmonella! I’m going to DIE!

Just calm down, get plenty of rest and keep hydrated. Your risk of death isextremely small — half of one percent for salmonella, one tenth of one percent for campylobacter and half of one percent for even the most virulent variety of E. coli. In fact, the total annual number of deaths from foodborne illnesses is about 3,000, or the number killed by the flu in a very, very good year. (In a bad year, flu can kill up to 50,000 people.) As with influenza, most food-pathogen-related deaths are among the very old, the very young and the immunologically compromised. That guy whotestified before Congress that his mother died from eating contaminated peanut butter? Shirley Almer may have had a lot of sisu, Finnish for spunk, but she also had lung cancer and a brain tumor and was far more susceptible to infections, including the UTI she was hospitalized for when she contracted salmonella.

4. From now on, I’m scouring every tomato! Pressure-washing every pepper!

Go right ahead if it makes you feel in control — and to remove some pesticides and grit. But unless you’re plunging your produce in boiling water or immersing it in a 10 percent bleach solution, those little salmonella, campylobacter and E. coli bacteria are going to go right on doing the things organisms like to do — ingesting, reproducing, excreting. Speaking of which, most major foodborne illnesses are transmitted through feces — campylobacter: chickens; E. coli: cows; salmonella: the whole barnyard; norovirus: us — and some are perfectly normal residents of animal guts. They only cause mayhem when we insert them — via dirty food or hands — in places they shouldn’t be, e.g. our mouths.

5. Anyway, now that the Food Safety Modernization Act’s been signed into law, I don’t have to worry about this stuff, right?

Of course not! Faster recalls, more frequent inspection of food processing facilities, greater importer accountability and high-tech food-chain tracking are going to eradicate all foodborne illnesses…. Except for those 58% that come from norovirus and the other unknown percent — probably substantial — that are caused or exacerbated by risky food service practices such as cross-contamination through utensils, work surfaces and equipment; storage at improper temperatures; commingling of foodstuffs; and, of course, poor hygiene. What with 42% of our food budget spent on meals outside the home, you know what would have really made sense? A national safety-training program for food service workers.

February 10, 2011 Posted by | Health News Items | , , , | Leave a comment

The Costs of Food Born Illness and Related Information

From the Web page of the Partnership for Food Safety Education (PFSE)

Foodborne illness is much more than the “stomach flu”, and it is a serious health issue and economic burden for consumers. According to the Economic Research Service (ERS) of the USDA, each year $6.9 billion in costs are associated with five bacterial pathogens, CampylobacterSalmonellaListeria monocytogenesE. coli O157:H7, and E. coli non-O157:H7 STEC (2000). These costs are associated with medical expenses, lost productivity, and even death.The ERS estimates that the annual economic cost of salmonellosis—the illness caused by the Salmonella bacterium—is $2.65 billion (2009). This estimate is for all cases of salmonellosis, not just foodborne cases. The estimate includes medical costs due to illness, the cost (value) of time lost from work due to nonfatal illness, and the cost (value) of premature death.

The ERS estimates that the annual economic cost of illness caused by shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC O157) is $478 million (2009). This estimate is for all cases of STEC O157 disease, not just foodborne cases. The estimate includes medical costs due to illness, kidney dialysis and transplant costs, and the cost (value) of time lost from work due to nonfatal illness, and the cost (value) of premature death.

The ERS estimates that the annual economic cost of illness caused by Campylobacter, the most frequently isolated cause of foodborne diarrhea, is $1.2 billion. The estimate includes medical costs, lost productivity, and death due tocampylobacteriosis from food sources and costs associated Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), a form of paralysis.

Estimates for the cost of foodborne illness do not include other significant costs to both industry and government.

The Partnership for Food Safety Education is a collaboration of the US Depts of Health and Human Services, Education as well as leaders of food trade associations, consumer and public health organizations and the Association of Food and Drug Officials.

The PFSE  Web page includes links to



December 21, 2010 Posted by | Consumer Health, Consumer Safety, Educational Resources (High School/Early College(, Health Education (General Public), Public Health | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fresh Seafood Shouldn’t Smell Fishy, Food Science Expert Says

[Editor’s note: When I was living in Lubbock, TX it was a bit challenging to get fresh seafood. The Gulf of Mexico was a 10 hour drive away, and it seemed the locals were more into beef at that time. Luckily, an Asian grocery store trucked in fresh seafood twice a week from the Gulf….The fish was kept in styrofoam coolers under ice!…I did check the seafood, as described below…(including the close up sniff test!)and had some delicious meals!]


HealthDay news image


From a November 25, 2010 Health Day news item by Robert Preidt

THURSDAY, Nov. 25 (HealthDay News) — If seafood is on the menu this holiday, there are a number of ways you can ensure that it’s fresh and safe.

A faint sea odor is normal, but fresh seafood should not smell “fishy,” according to Kantha Shelke, an Institute of Food Technologists food science expert. Freshly cut fish, peeled crustaceans (shrimp, prawns, rock shrimp, lobster, soft shell crabs) and shucked mollusks (scallops, oysters, clams and mussels) should be moist, not slimy or dry around the edges.

Fresh fish should have clear, well-rounded eyes, not clouded, dry and sunken. The gills should be bright red, not darkened or slimy, and the fish should feel moist and springy instead of mushy, she added.

Fresh prawns, shrimp, lobster, soft shell crabs and rock shrimp should have a uniformly light-colored tail without any discoloration, Shelke said. Mollusks in the shell should be alive and hold tightly to their shells when handled and must come with either a “last sale date” or “date shucked.” When buying fresh oysters, look for a natural creamy color within a clear liquid.

It’s best to buy fresh seafood the day you’re going to eat it. If that isn’t possible, properly store it in the fridge or freezer until it is prepared and cooked. Shelke offered the following storage tips:

  • Fresh fish, shrimp, scallops, freshwater prawns, and lobster tails can be stored in tightly sealed storage bags or plastic containers and kept on ice in the refrigerator. Using this method, fresh scallops and crustacean tails will keep three to four days and fresh fish will keep five to seven days.
  • Scallops, crustacean tails and fish can be frozen in water and stored in a freezer for four to six months (0 degrees Fahrenheit or lower). To thaw, leave them in the refrigerator overnight or you can place them under cold, running tap water immediately before you cook them.
  • Live, hardshell mollusks can remain alive for a week to 10 days stored un-iced in the fridge, kept at 34 to 38 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Freshly shucked mollusks can keep for up to 10 days when packed in ice and stored in the refrigerator.
  • Fresh softshell crabs can be stored up to two days if wrapped in plastic and packed in ice in the fridge. They can keep for up to six months when wrapped in several layers of plastic and stored in a freezer (at 0 degrees Fahrenheit). It is important to thaw these overnight in the refrigerator only.

SOURCE: Institute of Food Technologists, news release, Oct. 27, 2010




November 27, 2010 Posted by | Consumer Health, Health News Items | , , | Leave a comment

FDA Heightens Focus on Retail Food Safety

From a Oct 22, 2010 US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) news release

10-year tracking report highlights areas for improvement

The Food and Drug Administration called today for stepped up efforts to improve food safety practices in retail food establishments, specifically pointing to the need for the presence of certified food safety managers to oversee safety practices. FDA pledged to work closely with state and local governments and operators of restaurants, grocery stores and other food service establishments to prevent illness from contaminated food.

FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods Michael R. Taylor cited the retail food industry’s recent progress in key areas as well as room for improvement, based on the findings released today from FDA’s 10-year study tracking the retail industry’s efforts to reduce five key risk factors.

“In looking at the data, it is quite clear that having a certified food protection manager on the job makes a difference,” Taylor said. “Some states and localities require certified food protection managers already, and many in the retail industry employ them voluntarily as a matter of good practice. We think it should become common practice.”

A component of the 10-year study, the 2009 retail food report, found that the presence of a certified food protection manager in four facility types was correlated with statistically significant higher compliance levels with food safety practices and behaviors than in facilities lacking a certified manager. For instance, compliance in full service restaurants was 70 percent with a manager, versus 58 percent without a manager. In delicatessens, compliance was 79 percent with a manager, versus 64 percent without. For seafood markets, compliance with a manager was 88 percent, versus 82 percent without. And in produce markets, compliance was 86 percent with a manager, versus 79 percent without.



October 23, 2010 Posted by | Public Health | | Leave a comment


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