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Texas A&M Graduate Student Discovers New Way to Safeguard Raw Oysters
According to the Centers for Disease Control, about one in six Americans gets food poisoning each year. Additionally, virus infection risks from consumption of raw oysters in the U.S. are estimated to cost around $200 million a year.
To address the issue of health risk from eating raw oysters, Texas A&M University graduate student Chandni Praveen, along with Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientist Dr. Suresh Pillai and a team of researchers from other agencies and institutions, studied how electron-beam pasteurization of raw oysters may reduce the possibility of food poisoning through virus.
Other entities involved in the study included the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and University of Texas School of Public Health-El Paso regional campus.
The results of this study will be published in the June issue of the leading microbiology journal, Applied and Environmental Microbiology.
"The study was performed using a human norovirus surrogate called murine norovirus (NoV), and a hepatitis A (HAV) virus along with advanced quantitative microbial risk assessment tools," explained Pillai, professor of microbiology and director of the National Center for Electron Beam Research at Texas A&M University. "A salient feature of e-beam pasteurization technology is that it uses commercial electricity to generate the ionizing radiation that inactivates the viruses. It is a green technology because no chemicals are involved."
Pillai said the FDA already has approved the use of electron beam technology as a pathogen intervention strategy to control the naturally occurring Vibrio vulnificus bacterial pathogen in shellfish.
According to the FDA, raw oysters contaminated with Vibrio vulnificus can be life threatening or even fatal when eaten by someone with liver disease, diabetes or a weakened immune system.
"We're all for any means of technology that enhances the safety of our product," said Sal Sunseri, co-owner of P&J Oysters and a representative of the Louisiana Oyster Dealers and Growers Association. "While we provide a safe product, we know there are at-risk groups, and that processing methods like freezing, high-pressure treatment and electron-beam irradiation reduce or eliminate the risk for those groups and enhance the overall safety of our product."
At this time, however, electron-beam technology is not being used for commercial oysters sold in the U.S.
"For the study, we chose the norovirus and hepatitis A virus, as these are pathogenic threats to those consuming shellfish, and chose oysters as they are a type of mollusk that's more commonly eaten raw," said Praveen, a doctoral candidate in the toxicology program of the Food Safety and Environmental Microbiology Laboratory at Texas A&M.
"Bivalves such as oysters are also filter feeders that obtain their food by pumping water through their system and filtering small organisms," she said. "This can lead to the possible accumulation of NoV and HAV viral pathogens, as well as bacterial pathogens."
Praveen said she and the other researchers also chose the viral pathogens as opposed to bacterial as they were more difficult to treat and also require a host species.
Pillai said non-thermal food processing technologies are needed to reduce these infection risks.
"This is the first study that has attempted to quantify the reduction in infection risks of raw oysters contaminated with different levels of virus when pasteurized at FDA-approved doses," he said.
Pillai said that the study showed if a serving size of 12 raw oysters were contaminated with approximately 100 hepatitis A and human noroviruses, an e-beam dose of 5 kGy (kilograys) would achieve a 91 percent reduction of hepatitis A infection risks and a 26 percent reduction of norovirus infection risks. A kilogray is a unit of absorbed energy from ionizing radiation.
Pillai said the study showed that if electron-beam pasteurization technology was included as part of a comprehensive food safety plan to reduce illnesses from raw oysters, significant public health benefits and, by extension, significant savings in medical and related expenses due to foodborne illness, can occur.
The study can also be found online at the American Society of Microbiology website, http://aem.asm.org.
Five Ways to Protect Yourself from Shady Insurance Agents
The arrest of an insurance agent
here this week should serve as a warning to consumers looking for cheap
insurance that they should be weary of shady deals, warns the New York Alliance
Against Insurance Fraud (NYAAIF).Agent Norman Michaels was charged
with selling bogus health insurance to more than 400 New Yorkers.
"If you've got a serious medical condition and discover the policy you've been paying into is fake, you could be thousands of dollars in debt if you get treatment without realizing you had no coverage," says Jack Houston, chairman of the NYAAIF.
Cases involving the sale of bogus insurance policies appear to be increasing across the country and in New York. "In this tough economy, everyone is looking for a deal, and consumers are a lot more vulnerable to the traps of schemers," says Houston.
While the vast majority of insurance agents are honest and ethical, agents can take advantage of consumers in several ways, including:
* Theft of premiums. An agent pockets insurance premiums instead of sending it to the insurer. Crooked agents may steal premiums to support their business, feed a gambling or drug habit, or buy luxury goods such as cars or jewelry.
* Sale of phony insurance. An agent or company rep sells fake coverage from a phony or non-existent insurance company. Or the agent sells bogus coverage using a legitimate company's name, or a name that's similar to a legitimate insurer. Consumers might receive an official-looking policy or proof of insurance that's worthless.
* Sale of coverage you don't want or need. The coverage maybe real, but it's expensive, unnecessary or both. This is especially true of life insurance and longterm care coverage.
Protect yourself from shady insurance agents by taking these five steps:
1. Make sure the agent and company are licensed in your state. Be especially careful if you don't recognize the company's name. Before you buy, contact the New York Department of Financial Services to verify. 1-800-342-3736
2. Go slow if the agent or company rep seems evasive or can't answer your questions, or tries to sell you coverage without "bothering" your family with the details.
3. Get a copy of every form you sign. If you finance your premiums, make sure your agent gives you paperwork that describes exactly how much you pay for each installment, and what that payment covers.
4. Contact the company if you haven't received a policy within 60 days after sending in your application.
5. Know what your current policy does and doesn't cover. Ask your agent or insurer for a detailed explanation in plain language. Ask pointed questions if you have any doubts about what's in your policy.
If you suspect fraud, contact the Frauds Bureau at the New York Department of Financial Services.
"Fraud is no gain, just pain," says Houston. "Especially for the victims."
The New York Alliance Against Insurance Fraud is a non-profit organization that seeks to increase public awareness about insurance fraud and its consequences. Membership includes more than 100 insurance companies writing policies in New York State.
Green food labels make nutrition-poor food seem healthy
Green calorie labels may lead people to see nutrition-poor foods in a healthier light.
A Cornell researcher says in the current issue of the journal Health Communication that consumers are more likely to perceive a candy bar as more healthful when it has a green calorie label compared with when it had a red one, even though the number of calories are the same. And green labels increase perceived healthfulness of foods, especially among consumers who place high importance on healthy eating.
"More and more, calorie labels are popping up on the front of food packaging, including the wrappers of sugary snacks like candy bars. And currently, there's little oversight of these labels," said Jonathon Schuldt, assistant professor of communication and director of Cornell's Social Cognition and Communication Lab. "Our research suggests that the color of calorie labels may have an effect on whether people perceive the food as healthy, over and above the actual nutritional information conveyed by the label, such as calorie content."
Schuldt asked 93 university students to imagine that they were hungry and see a candy bar while waiting in a grocery checkout lane. The students were then shown an image of a candy bar with either a red or a green calorie label. Schuldt asked them whether the candy bar, compared to others, contains more or fewer calories and how healthy it is. The students perceived the green-labeled bar as more healthful than the red one, even though the calorie content was the same.
Schuldt repeated the experiment with 39 online participants who were shown candy with either green or white labels. The participants were asked to what extent the healthiness of food is an important factor in their decision about which foods to buy and eat, on a scale of 1 (not at all important) to 7 (very important).
The more importance the participants placed on healthy eating, the more they perceived the white-labeled candy bar as less healthful, a pattern that was eliminated when the candy bar had a green label.
"The green calorie labels buffer relatively poor nutrition foods from appearing less healthful among those especially concerned with healthy eating," Schuldt said.
The study has implications for nutrition labeling, given that front-of-package calorie labels have become increasingly common in the food marketplace in the United States and Europe. For example, M&Ms and Snickers have green front-of-package calorie flags that are particularly conspicuous to consumers at points-of-purchase.
"As government organizations including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration consider developing a uniform front-of-package labeling system for the U.S. marketplace, these findings suggest that the design and color of the labels may deserve as much attention as the nutritional information they convey," Schuldt said.
The article, "Does Green Mean Healthy? Nutrition Label Color Affects Perceptions of Healthfulness, is available online at http://alturl.com/j6vez.
Anti-Fraud Collaboration Launches Website with Access to Anti-Fraud Tools
The Anti-Fraud Collaboration, featuring organizations that represent the financial reporting supply chain, has launched a new website, www.AntiFraudCollaboration.org, to highlight resources to help audit committees, financial executives, internal auditors and external auditors deter and detect financial reporting fraud. The new website serves as a clearinghouse to allow visitors access to Collaboration products and other fraud resources targeted to the unique roles and responsibilities of the primary participants in the financial reporting supply chain, audit committees, financial company management, and internal and external auditors.
The Anti-Fraud Collaboration was formed in October 2010 by the Center for Audit Quality (CAQ), Financial Executives International (FEI), The Institute of Internal Auditors (The IIA) and the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD). The organizations partnered to develop thought leadership, awareness programs, educational opportunities and related resources to promote the deterrence and detection of financial reporting fraud.
"The new website is an important step in the evolution of the Anti-Fraud Collaboration," said CAQ Executive Director Cindy Fornelli. "As the Collaboration and other groups continue to develop important resources in the battle against financial reporting fraud, the partners felt it was critical to direct corporate governance stakeholders to a single website to access those materials."
Resources featured on the website include Deterring and Detecting Financial Reporting Fraud, the CAQ's 2010 report that led to the establishment of the Collaboration; the Skepticism Webinar Series developed by NACD; and FEI's Fraud Literacy Quiz. The site includes important fraud deterrence and detection resources developed outside of the Anti-Fraud Collaboration, including tools and noteworthy articles from The IIA, FEI and NACD. The new site also offers valuable resources for educators.
Visitors to www.AntiFraudCollaboration.org can access all of the materials through the site free of charge.
About the Anti-Fraud Collaboration
The Anti-Fraud Collaboration represents the collaborative efforts of the Center for Audit Quality, Financial Executives International, The Institute of Internal Auditors and the National Association of Corporate Directors, organizations that actively engage in efforts to mitigate the risks of financial reporting fraud. The Collaboration's goal is to promote the deterrence and detection of financial reporting fraud through the development of thought leadership, awareness programs, educational opportunities, and other related resources specifically targeted to the roles and responsibilities of participants across the financial reporting supply chain.
Barnes and Noble Development Partners Unveil New eBook for Kids
Do your kids spend more time on your iPad than you do? Has reading time evolved from hardcovers to the Kindle? More parents are using tablets not only to entertain their children, but to teach them valuable lessons as well.
Every Walrus Can Fly is the first book from the award-winning digital design studio The Basement. Families are invited to explore the world of a young walrus pup as he overcomes the obstacle of his natural inability to fly.
The playful cadence and lush illustration of Every Walrus Can Fly will appeal to kids, while parents will appreciate the messages of determination, problem solving and how a few saved pennies can go a long way.
"I was writing this book as though I was writing an animated film," says Brian Phillips, author of Every Walrus Can Fly and executive creative director for The Basement. "I wanted to create an unexpected way of telling my son that if you dream big and work hard, anything is possible."
As a national digital design studio and one of the few approved development partners of Barnes & Noble for their Nook kids "Read and Play platform," The Basement saw and understood the value of releasing this eBook, not just on the Nook kids platform, but on the other major digital book platforms as well; Apple iBooks, Google Play and Amazon's Kindle bookstore.
"We are excited to have such a rich story available to the public, no matter what tablet or platform they choose," says Jacob Leffler, president of The Basement.
The Basement is also planning an app and a film version of Every Walrus Can Fly.
For more information on The Basement, go to www.thebasement.tv.
On Twitter: @TheBasementTV
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