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Scientists’ Secret Ingredient for a Better Burger

Studies have shown that olive powder has potential to suppress the foodborne pathogen E. coli O157:H7 in hamburger patties and to retard the formation of potentially carcinogenic heterocyclic amines that can form when the burgers are cooked.

Studies have shown that olive powder has potential to suppress the foodborne pathogen E. coli O157:H7 in hamburger patties and to retard the formation of potentially carcinogenic heterocyclic amines that can form when the burgers are cooked.

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.

Chances are that you—or whoever’s the “grillmaster” at your house—have your own “secret ingredient” for making grilled burgers taste even better.  But it might surprise you to know that  Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists and their university colleagues also are working on secret ingredient for a better burger, although their interest focuses on food safety rather than flavor.

They’ve been testing the capacity of olive powder, a byproduct of olive processing, as a weapon against Escherichia coli O157:H7, and the powder’s potential to retard the formation of undesirable substances called heterocyclic amines while the patties are being grilled. Read more »

USDA Small Business Grant Leads to Erosion Control Breakthrough

June through September is wildfire season in the United States and on June 18 there were already 16 active major fires consuming more than 102,000 acres.  As much damage and destruction these fires cause, even more may be on the way when future rains cause mudslides from soil erosion on barren hills.  That’s where “Woodstraw” comes in.

WoodStraw® is a wood-based erosion control product that was developed by Forest Concepts, in Auburn, WA, using a Small Business Innovation and Research (SBIR) grant administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).  This material is made from low-grade waste wood veneer and resembles oversized pick-up sticks.  Wood-based erosion control products have many advantages over traditional grass straw as an erosion-control material because it is heaver and will not blow away, is 100 percent seed and weed-free, and is effective on slopes of up to 70 percent grade. Read more »

National SFSP Kick-Off Takes Place in the District of Columbia

FNCS Under Secretary Kevin Concannon poses with kids drinking low-fat milk.

FNCS Under Secretary Kevin Concannon poses with kids drinking low-fat milk.

Last week Washington DC held a great kickoff event for the summer food service program (SFSP) and I was happy to join in. SFSP is a critical program that keeps kids from going hungry during the summer months and the District is the best out of all the 50 states and territories at getting disadvantaged children enrolled. SFSP is particularly important in the capital because one in eight households face food insecurity and, as a result, may not always get enough food to eat during a day. Read more »

The First Step to Help Avoid Wildland Fire Disaster is Acting Wisely

A large plume of smoke rises over Colorado Springs, Colo., that cast a wide, dark shadow over homes and businesses. Wildland fires burn intensely and creating a defensible space around your home can be the difference between a close call and complete destruction. (Adam Drake/Inciweb.org)

A large plume of smoke rises over Colorado Springs, Colo., that cast a wide, dark shadow over homes and businesses. Wildland fires burn intensely and creating a defensible space around your home can be the difference between a close call and complete destruction. (Adam Drake/Inciweb.org)

The pictures are poignant: house after house destroyed by a wildland fire. We look at these pictures and wonder if anything could have been done to better protect these homes.

Sometimes wildfires are unpredictable. But there are measures homeowners can take that will help lessen the chances a fire will consume their property.

“People who live in a wildland-urban interface often forget or disregard the wildland fire cycles and dangers,” said Tom Harbour, Fire and Aviation Management director. “We need homeowners to understand that they can make a difference by making their homes defensible from wildfire.” Read more »

SNAP Payment Accuracy Best on Record

I began this year by discussing the SNAP Stewardship Solutions Project, our ongoing efforts to further improve Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) integrity.  Halfway through the year, we have made significant progress: we are requiring more frequent reviews of higher risk retailers, expanding the definition of fraud to crack down on newer methods of SNAP benefit abuse, and establishing data-sharing agreements to help catch recipients that attempt to commit SNAP fraud.

We are working hard to ensure the taxpayer investment in SNAP is spent wisely, and that those who are eligible for the program receive the correct amount of benefits—not too much, and not too little. Read more »

NRCS Helps Provide Pollinator Habitat along S.D. Highway

The I-29 median planting seed mix included nine native wildflowers and three native prairie grasses. Photos by Thomas Tran, NRCS.

The I-29 median planting seed mix included nine native wildflowers and three native prairie grasses. Photos by Thomas Tran, NRCS.

Employees of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in South Dakota have a knack for seeing opportunities in the landscape. And recently, two of them initiated a highway beautification and pollinator habitat project.

In 2010, Assistant State Conservationist for Field Operations Curt Elke and District Conservationist Kent Duerre coordinated a wildflower planting project along a stretch of Interstate 29 near the border with North Dakota. They started out by requesting that the South Dakota Department of Transportation allow them to establish an area of Interstate 29 median with native wildflowers and grasses, and offered their expertise as a resource for ensuring the result mimicked the native prairie. Read more »