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Racing for alternatives in the age of antibiotic resistance

This week is World Antibiotic Awareness week and ‘Get Smart About Antibiotics’ week. Learn more about how USDA works to ensure antibiotics remain effective to treat both people and animals when necessary and the alternatives available to traditional antibiotics.”

For billions of years, microbes such as bacteria and viruses have been in a struggle for survival in the face of naturally occurring antimicrobial substances. This struggle has continued in nature and into human society, where humans, plants, animals, and microbes themselves constantly ward off disease-causing microbes. The plight for adaptation and survival is not unlike the Red Queen’s race in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, where it takes all of the running one can do to remain in the same place. 

Proactive Efforts by U.S. Federal Agencies Enable Early Detection of New Antibiotic Resistance

Just over a year ago, President Obama released a National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria. As part of that plan, he also charged the Department of Defense (DoD), Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) with co-chairing a Presidential Advisory Council on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria (Advisory Council). In the past year, our three agencies and the Council have held numerous stakeholder meetings, made new discoveries, and undertaken new research to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics.

In recent weeks, our three agencies have made some important discoveries regarding antibiotic resistance in the United States. Earlier this week, the Department of Defense notified stakeholders that its Multidrug-resistant Organism Repository and Surveillance Network (MRSN) at the Walter Reed Institute of Research had identified the first colistin-resistant mcr-1 E. coli in a person in the United States. A USDA and HHS search for colistin-resistant bacteria in food animals, retail meats and people also has found colistin-resistant E. coli in a single sample from a pig intestine.

Food Safety is Everybody's Business

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

USDA’s summer road trip may have come to an end, but many folks are still firing up the grills as summer winds down. With that, consumers still need to be conscious of food safety—from checking temperatures of grilled meat to discarding perishables that have been sitting out too long. A quick U-turn on our road trip explores USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) food safety research program, which addresses complex food safety challenges by developing scientific information and new technologies to control foodborne contaminants.

Nothing Fishy about Probiotics

After searching 15 years for a way to combat a devastating disease among salmonids (salmon and trout), researchers at Washington State University (WSU) and the University of Idaho (UI) found an answer inside the fish itself.

Dr. Kenneth Cain’s team at UI’s Aquaculture Research Institute cultured a bacteria from the fish’s gut (designated Enterobacter C6-6) and found that it inhibited the growth of Flavobacterium psychrophilum, the organism that causes Coldwater Disease.

Cain and Dr. Douglas Call, his WSU-based research partner since 2001, found that by adding C6-6 to fish feed as a probiotic they could limit the damage caused by Coldwater Disease – but they’re not quite sure why.  “We know that C6-6 produces a toxin,” Call said.  “This toxin kills the bacteria although we’re trying to get more funding to figure out how this works in the fish itself.”

Don't Let Bacteria Score a Touchdown at Your Super Bowl Party

The Super Bowl is one of the most popular sporting events in the United States and the second largest food consumption day. This means there are many opportunities for Americans to come into contact with some nasty bacteria that can cause food poisoning.

According to the National Restaurant Association, more than 48 million Americans will order takeout or delivery during the game. In 2014, the National Chicken Council estimated that 1.25 billion chicken wings were consumed Super Bowl weekend. To promote proper food handling, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is issuing safety recommendations to explain how you can keep your Super Bowl food both safe and delicious.

To Wash or Not to Wash... Your Turkey?

Washing anything makes it cleaner and safer, right? Not necessarily.

Wash your hands, but not the turkey!  Many consumers think that washing their turkey will remove bacteria and make it safer.  However, it’s virtually impossible to wash bacteria off the bird. Instead, juices that splash during washing can transfer bacteria onto the surfaces of your kitchen, other foods and utensils. This is called cross-contamination, which can make you and your guests very sick.  Washing your hands before and after handling your turkey and its packaging is crucial to avoid spreading harmful bacteria.

¿Lavar o No el Pavo?

Lavar cualquier cosa lo hace más limpio y seguro, ¿verdad?

Lave sus manos, ¡pero NO el pavo! Los consumidores piensan que lavar sus pavos ha de remover las bacterias y hacerlos más seguros. Sin embargo, resulta virtualmente imposible lavar la bacteria del ave. Sin embargo, los fluidos que salpican durante el lavado pueden transferir bacteria a superficies de su cocina, otros alimentos, y utensilios. Esto es llamado “contaminación cruzada”, lo cual puede enfermarle mucho a usted y a sus invitados. El lavarse sus manos antes y después de manejar su pavo y su empaque es crucial para evitar propagar la bacterias dañinas.

Tackling a Tailgate, Food Safety Wins!

Cross posted from the FoodSafety.gov blog:

It’s tailgate season, are you ready for the kick off? Planning is the key to keeping your food safe during a tailgate so get your gear ready now. Do you have enough coolers, and all the tools you need to cook? In addition to a grill and fuel for cooking make sure you don’t forget your most valuable player, the food thermometer. It’s the only way you can be sure your meat or poultry has reached a safe temperature.

Teach Your Growing 'Superhero' to Defeat Bacteria, Use Their Powers to be Food Safe at Any Age

“Aw, Mom, I’ll be fine,” says a teen off to college for the first time when cautioned about handling food safely.

An elementary school student tells his dad not to mention putting the cold pack in his lunchbox. “Don’t bug me in front of my friends,” says the gradeschooler who feels embarrassed. “Charlie’s folks don’t make him keep his lunch cold.”

Strong, healthy students of all ages may feel invincible to becoming ill from food. It may be the “superhero” mentality of video games and movies or just the optimism of youth. After all, if the food looks and smells good, what can be wrong with it?

Enhancing Yogurt with Healthful Fiber From Oats

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Yogurt is pretty healthy already, so how do you make it even healthier? Well, Agricultural Research Services (ARS) scientists have found a way - - by adding fiber. They've added very small amounts of a fiber-rich component of oats, called beta-glucan, to low-fat yogurt without noticeably affecting key characteristics such as the yogurt's thick, creamy texture that many of us love.