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03 Feb 2012 15:12


Tech: Fun guy chillin’ in South American rainforest finds plastic-eating fungi

  • Seriously, though this is kind of a big deal. Know that big problem we have? You know, the one involving a crapload of used plastic hanging around in landfills with nowhere to biodegrade for a couple million years? Well, Jonathan Russell might’ve solved that problem. See, Russell and his fellow Yale students went to Ecuador, where they found a new kind of fungus they’re calling Pestalotiopsis microspora. Big deal, you’re thinking. Anyone can find fungus anywhere! Well, something his fellow students found out after the fact is that this fungus can live on a diet of polyurethane alone — and even crazier, it doesn’t even need air to do so! In other words, we could potentially put it at the bottom of a landfill and cover it with plastic, and it would do the rest of the work. This might be game-changing if it works as advertised. (photo via Flickr user dbutt; EDIT: Updated with link to research abstract) source

11 Jan 2012 10:42


Biz: Not the Twinkies! Hostess files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

  • Too many employees, too much debt: Hostess, the company that makes Twinkies, HoHos, Ding Dongs, Zingers and other amusingly-named foods (including Wonder bread), says that it has too many legacy payments. With 12 unions making up 83 percent of its 19,000 employees, the company says it “is not competitive, primarily due to legacy pension and medical benefit obligations and restrictive work rules.” The company, which is still negotiating with its unions, will stay in business thanks to $75 million in financing from lenders. (photo by Like_the_Grand_Canyon on Flickr) source

16 Nov 2011 01:37


Politics: USDA’s healthy school lunches turn into starchy, tomato-ey mess

  • Pizza can continue to be the meal of choice: In a bit of a setback for the Obama administration, the USDA’s efforts to push for schools to provide healthier lunches ran into a wall of starchy special interests after members of Congress, in coordination with the food industry, added an unhealthy amendment to a spending bill. The amendment limits how much the government can regulate starchy vegetables like potatoes, as well as tomato paste (the fundamental ingredient of pizza), in school lunches. Why? Congress says it’ll be more expensive, due in part to vegetable prices. If the spending bill passes, we can blame kids’ unhealthy lunches on Congress. We love pizza too, but really now. (photo via USDA’s Flickr page) source

12 Aug 2011 22:48


World: UK study: Cutting salt intake should be a global priority

  • 15% amount of salt the study suggests we should cut source
  • » Are food companies are pulling a fast one on us? According to the study, they’ve been adding extra salt to food to trick us into eating more. “They train your taste buds — the more salt you eat, the less salt you taste, the more salt you want, to get that saltiness,” notes Professor Francisco Cappucio of the University of Warwick, one of the authors of the study. He notes that this extra salt makes us want to eat more, leading to higher food industry profits. By cutting salt intake worldwide, we could save thousands of lives each year in the U.S. alone, the study notes — and 8.5 million lives in the next decade. The study suggests that the UN get involved.

22 Mar 2011 13:49


World: China, South Korea strictly checking Japanese food

  • China and South Korea wary of radiation in food: Some countries (and even individual restaurants) that import food from Japan are concerned about the possibility of radiation contamination. The Japanese government has assured their citizenry that the radiation levels detected in milk, spinach, and some water is not enough to do rapid or lasting damage, though they’ve imposed a freeze on food from that region. China and South Korea want to look into the matter themselves, though, absent the responsibility of keeping the Japanese citizenry from being stricken with panic, which their government obviously has. That seems reasonable enough. source

16 Mar 2011 11:18


Biz: Wholesale food costs leap in February, costing us our appetite

  • 3.9% the leap in February’s wholesale food costs source
  • » Why this is a really big deal: Well, see, this is the highest one-month leap in food production costs since, umm … November 1974. So, what caused the increase? We’ll leave that one to the Labor Department: “About seventy percent of the February rise can be traced to higher prices for fresh and dry vegetables, which jumped 48.7 percent,” they write. “Advances in the indexes for meats and dairy products also were major factors in the increase in the finished consumer foods index.” So, umm … yeah. This is not a positive economic trend.

24 Feb 2011 13:02


World: A bad time (or rather, several generations) to be North Korean

  • YES Kim Jong-Il parties while his people toil in starvation source
  • » Maybe not the biggest surprise. But still, guy’s an jerk, huh? An especially harsh winter season (most North Korean winters being merely normally harsh) has killed somewhere from 50% to 80% of the wheat and barley crop for the spring season, and high food prices have hamstrung the regime as far as import goes. While this might sound like a humanitarian crisis for most governments, Kim Jong-Il’s regime has always been pretty cozy with the idea of starvation and/or malnutrition – a 2009 Washington Post article mentions a U.S. intelligence study that found brain damage by malnutrition derails nearly 1/4th of prospective North Korean soldiers, to say nothing of the estimated 200,000 North Koreans who are wasting away in concentration camps. But, to be fair, you couldn’t ask the Dear Leader to stop spending on things like this.

27 Jan 2011 22:37


Tech: All the flavor, none of the fat: New device lets you inhale food vapors

  • $135 price of tasting…without eating source
  • » How it works: First, take a packet of specially-prepared, pre-liquidized food (yum!). Then, pop it into “Le Whaf,” as the gizmo is called, and watch as it’s magically transformed it into vapor. The vapor collects in an enormous glass bowl, at which point you’re just one straw-suck away from getting all of the food’s delicious flavor without the annoyance of texture, consistency, or a full stomach. It also works with booze, meaning that you can sidestep that awful side-effect of being drunk and just enjoy the scrumptious taste of alcohol. It costs $135, and the inventor admits to having been drunk when he came up with the idea.

20 Jan 2011 11:18


Biz: Wal-Mart: We’re going to make our foods healthier, kids

  • Wal-Mart is in a unique position as a big-time grocer. With 140 million people who shop at their stores each week, their products can have a major effect on the food that people eat – both good and bad. So, as a way to take advantage of that, the mega-corp announced it would be making some changes to the foods it stocks, in line with Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity campaign:
  • 25% the amount of salt Wal-Mart plans to remove from its processed foods by 2015 (good job!)
  • 10% the amount of sugar the retail chain plans to remove from those foods, which is a great idea source
  • » Also good to note: They’ll also be ditching such unhealthy things as trans fats and partially hydrogenated oils. They made this announcement while chief executive Bill Simon was randomly hanging out with Michelle today. “No family should have to choose between food that is healthier for them and food they can afford,” Simon said. So, has the federal government ditched their pro-cheese program yet?

14 Jan 2011 13:34


Biz, World: Could food prices be a root cause of Tunisia’s unrest?

  • 32% increase in food prices in 2010’s second half source
  • » How does this matter? We’re at a record with food prices, making it hard for people to live in third-world countries. With quick growth in countries such as China, reserves are becoming harder to keep, and the supplies of basic crops like corn and soybeans (which also get used in vast quantities for such things as ethanol) are down significantly. And since Americans tend to eat more processed foods (which use fewer raw materials), price increases aren’t felt in the developed world as much as they are in the third world. “In this country, a much higher proportion of your food dollar is spent on processing, advertising and promotion and marketing,” said Global Insight economist Tom Jackson. “There’s not really that margin built in between the farmer and the consumer in the developing countries.”