Friday, January 09, 2004

Let's get Technical
An excellent antidote to mad cow hysteria is a regular dose of the Journal of Food Protection, which this month features a 10-year study of "Statistical Distributions Describing Microbial Quality of Surfaces and Foods in Food Service Operations." Rutgers alumni will be particularly interested, since they scraped the coliform off your dining hall kitchen. Sadly, I don't have a subscription, but the abstract reveals that "mean counts for foods ranged from 2 to 4 log CFU/g," which should inspire a healthy respect for the human immune system [CFU = colony forming units]. Another article on commercially brined pork loin is sufficient encouragement to do it yourself: "There was an increase in the number of L. monocytogenes in the recirculating brine with time, reaching a maximum of 2.34 log CFU/100 ml after 2.5 h of moisture-enhanced pork production."

C. S. Srinivasan comes to some sobering conclusions in "Concentration in ownership of plant variety rights: some implications for developing countries," Food Policy 28, Issues 5-6 (October-December 2003): 519-546, though he says that the global seed market is not yet concentrated enough to warrant anti-trust concerns.

Carol A. Auer, "Tracking genes from seed to supermarket: techniques and trends," Trends in Plant Science 8, Issue 12 (December 2003): 591-597 is a useful review of how scientists try to estimate gene flow, how they detect modified genes in end-products, and how to improve the situation.

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