News briefs on uncracked grade A-eggs and salmonella, tomato taste tips and our destroyed wetlands.
No Yolks, Folks
MOST OF US ARE CAREFUL NOT TO buy cracked or otherwise suspect eggs at the grocery store, but new evidence suggests that even perfectly intact, grade A-inspected eggs can cause food poisoning. Concerned by a six-fold increase in outbreaks of Salmonella enteritidis infections in the Northeast between 1976 and 1986, scientists for the Centers for Disease Control went looking for the culprit. From January 1985 to May 1987, there were 65 outbreaks of S. enteritidis in the Northeast involving some 2,119 cases. Of the 35 outbreaks for which a specific food source could be identified, 77070 were caused by uncracked grade A eggs or by products containing eggs. The researchers theorize that the contamination occurs within the hens' ovaries, before the eggs are laid—or perhaps externally deposited Salmonella bacteria work their way through the shell. In either case, washing and disinfectants are ineffective for eggs and salmonella. The scientists suggest that consumers in the Northeast and other affected areas of the country protect themselves by avoiding raw or nearly raw eggs in such foods as Caesar salad dressing and hollandaise sauce. Fans of sunny-side up, over-easy and one minute poached eggs should beware, too. Salmonella organisms will not be killed, say the researchers, unless eggs are boiled for at least seven minutes, poached for five, or fried on each side for three minutes.
Elders and Prescription Drugs
People aged 60 and over make up 16.6% of the population but use nearly 40070 of all prescribed drugs, claims Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer watchdog organization. Each year, says the group, 61,000 older adults contract drug-induced Parkinsonism, 32,000 suffer hip fractures attributable to drug-induced falls, 163,000 experience drug induced or -worsened memory loss or impaired thinking, and 243,000 have to be hospitalized because of adverse reactions to drugs. In an effort to provide the elderly with information on the dangers of prescription drug overuse and misuse, Public Citizen has published Worst Pills, Best Pills: The Older Adult's Guide to Avoiding Drug-Induced Death or Illness. The book, printed in large type, evaluates the 287 drugs most often prescribed for older patients, describes possible side effects and other concerns for each, and suggests safer alternatives to potentially harmful medications. The guide, along with a drug worksheet for consumers to complete with their doctors, is available for $12 postpaid from Public Citizen, Washington, DC.
Tomato Taste Tips
Gardeners who know their sweet corn wait till the pot is boiling before picking the ears to be cooked-so the corn's natural sugars won't have time to break down. Now a USDA researcher has found reason to apply a similar principle to tomatoes. According to Dr. Ronald G. Buttery, a vine-ripened tomato starts to release the natural chemical attributable for its fresh aroma and flavor—(Z)-3-hexenal—"about three minutes after you slice into the fruit." It's best, therefore, to slice a tomato at the table, just before it's to be eaten. Buttery's research also scientifically confirmed what many a cook has claimed all along: that fresh tomatoes should not be refrigerated. In laboratory tests, tomatoes kept in a refrigerator for a week contained less (Z)-3-hexenal than did tomatoes kept at room temperature.
Where are all the frogs and toads? Scientists are becoming alarmed over a widespread decline in the populations of native amphibians, reports High Country News (Paonia, CO; biweekly, $20 annual subscription). In northern Colorado and southern Wyoming, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists have been unable to find leopard frogs and boreal toads in over 90°7o of their native habitat. Entire populations of the boreal toad have disappeared from New Mexico's San Juan Mountains and Utah's Wasatch Range. In the Midwest, leopard frogs are becoming "damn scarce," says a University of Minnesota biologist. Worse, nobody knows exactly why frogs and toads are disappearing. Acid precipitation, heavy metal pollution, agricultural pesticides and habitat destruction all are suspected of contributing to the problem, but because these small amphibians don't get the public and media attention garnered by game animals and by larger or more spectacular threatened species, funding for research is scant. Ignoring the plight of amphibians such as the boreal toad could be a serious mistake, says Colorado biology professor Cindy Carey. "In my view they're a critical indicator species. Something's killing them, and it's very widespread. What does that mean in terms of the future of other species, or people for that matter?"
Listen Up, Danny Boy
Next time there's a gathering of the clans, you'd best stand a good distance back from the pipes acalling. Physicians Robert W. Hartenstein and Stephen M. Brittain warn that the "considerable volume" generated by bagpipes can cause acoustic trauma and permanent ear damage. Sound-pressure levels emitted by the traditional Scottish instrument can meet or exceed federal noise exposure maximums, say the doctors. They recommend using quality foam ear plugs to reduce the potential for injury.
Nematodes are microscopic, threadlike roundworms that live in the soil. Harmful species feed on plant roots and stunt plant growth, causing annual crop losses estimated at $5 billion. Synthetic chemical nematicides are generally used to treat infested soil, but gardeners and farmers may now have a better, safer solution: a new biological pesticide, ClandoSan, derived from crustacean shells. The active ingredient in the product, a protein-and-chiten complex extracted from shellfish waste, doesn't kill the worms directly but instead stimulates the growth of microorganisms already in the soil. The microbes, in turn, release enzymes that destroy the worms. Recently approved by the EPA, ClandoSan acts as a safe control for harmful nematodes and as a slow-release fertilizer, as well, claims its manufacturer, IGENE Biotechnology of Columbia, Maryland. ClandoSan will also help the fishing industry dispose of waste products.
Shopping For Pleasure
Shopping has become one of America's favorite pastimes, according to a survey done for Neiman Marcus, one of the nation's poshest department stores. A whopping 40% of the adult Americans surveyed enjoy shopping at least as much as playing sports, and 36% put shopping on a par with eating and drinking. A sizable 17%, in fact, claim to like cruising stores as much as or even more than romance.
Wetlands-swamps, bogs, marshes, intertidal flats and areas along the banks of streams and rivers-function as vital wildlife habitat, ground-water recharge and discharge zones, flood and storm buffers, and biological "filters" that help draw pollutants from water. But more than half of our country's 2.5 million acres of native wetlands have been destroyed, warns a new National Wildlife Federation publication, Status Report on Our Nation's Wetlands. A large proportion of lost wetlands were drained for agricultural use, often with the support of federal incentive programs. Many of the areas remaining are being polluted by activities such as mining and farming. The NWF's report provides an overview of federal, state and private wetlands preservation efforts and not only offers advice on ways to protect and restore existing wetlands but also suggests methods for creating new watery areas. The publication is available for $4 from NWF, Washington, DC.
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