Climate change boosts risks to crops from pests

Plant diseases and invasive insects take a huge toll — up to 40 percent — on global crop production, with annual losses worth nearly $300 billion. Climate change could make that worse by opening up new areas to plant pests, according to a scientific review released on Wednesday.

Report touts upside, refutes downside of hedgerows

A two-year study by University of California researchers says that hedgerows, the strips of vegetation along the edges of fields, take up so little space that they are not a shelter for rodents or a source of food-borne pathogens.

Selective breeding of tilapia can reduce need for antibiotics

Work by two USDA molecular biologists shows that tilapia, a commonly consumed food fish in the United States, can be selectively bred for resistance to two types of streptococcosis bacteria. Fish farmers frequently turn to antibiotics to fight diseases such as strep in farm-raised tilapia.

BPI and ABC News go to court over ‘pink slime’

Jury selection starts this week for a lawsuit filed by Dakota Dunes-based Beef Products Inc. in 2012 against ABC News and correspondent Jim Avila over “pink slime.” BPI is seeking $1 billion in defamation charges, claiming that ABC made its product — beef that has had the fat removed and then ammonia gas added to kill bacteria — seem unsafe to consume.

Brazil needs independent control of meat safety, says EU official

Ending a visit prompted by a meat-inspection scandal, the EU food safety commissioner said Brazil's meat inspection system "must be independent and not under the influence of politicians and other actors," reported Reuters. EU commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis told the wire service that EU restrictions and stepped-up checks of meat from Brazil may not be removed in the near term.

Montana senator would ban Brazilian beef for four months

With a scandal clouding Brazil's meatpackers, Montana Sen. Jon Tester announced legislation for a 120-day ban on U.S. imports of meat from the South American country. The ban will give USDA "time to comprehensively investigate food safety threats and to determine which Brazilian beef sources put American consumers at risk," said Tester's office.

Poultry breeder culls Alabama flock that might have bird flu

After tests suggested bird flu in a poultry flock in northern Alabama, the poultry breeding company Aviagen culled the flock and removed from its production line eggs that originated from the farm, says Reuters. The flock was one of three potential outbreaks of bird flu and followed discoveries across the state line in Tennessee a week earlier.

Imports implicated in small but growing share of food illness outbreaks

Fish and produce are the imported foods associated with the most outbreaks of foodborne illness, say researchers who studied four decades of records. In a study published in the CDC journal, Emerging Infectious Diseases, the scientists say imports were cited for an average of three outbreaks a year during 1996-2000, or 1 percent of outbreaks, and an average of 18 outbreaks per year from 2009-14, or 5 percent.

FSIS extends deadline for new pathogen-reduction standards

The USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) will grant poultry processors more time to comply with the agency’s new salmonella and campylobacter standards, giving fowl farmers until July 1 to implement the stricter guidelines.

Removing ground cover fails to reduce food pathogens

After an E. coli outbreak in bagged spinach in 2006, growers in California's Central Coast were pressured to remove vegetation that bordered their fields as a way to keep out wildlife and prevent food contamination by pathogens.

Tapeworms top a global list of food-borne pathogens

Three types of tapeworms found in pork and fresh produce take the three leading places in a list of the 10 "food-borne parasites of greatest global concern" issued by the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization. "The parasites affect the health of millions of people every year, infecting muscle tissues and organs, causing epilepsy, anaphylactic shock, amoebic dysentery and other problems," says FAO.

USDA proposes stricter limits on pathogens in poultry meat

The government proposed tougher standards on disease-causing bacteria in chicken and turkey meat, saying the result would be 50,000 fewer cases a year of food-borne illnesses.

Earliest date for mechanically tenderized meat labels – 2018

Food Safety News says "the earliest consumers will see labels on mechanically tenderized beef in grocery stores will be 2018" because the administration failed to complete work on the regulation during December.

Hog-farm workers carry drug-resistant bacteria

A small-scale study in North Carolina "suggests that nearly half of workers who care for animals in large industrial hog farming operations may be carrying home livestock-associated bacteria in their noses, and that this potentially harmful bacteria remains with them up to four days after exposure," says Johns Hopkins University.

FDA approves irradiation for shellfish

The Food and Drug Administration approved the use of irradiation to kill pathogens in shellfish. In a step requested by the National Fisheries Institute, FDA said there are no health risks so the process can be used...

Tussle intensifies over poultry plant rules

"(C)ivil rights and worker-safety groups arranged for poultry workers to meet with lawmakers and administration officials to warn against the proposed acceleration of processing-line speeds...