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Posts tagged: Science Tuesday

Making Sure Consumers Get What They Pay For

Honey on biscuits

When ARS researchers wrote the definitive report on the composition of honey in 1962, they made it possible to detect whether other substances might have been added, thus allowing consumers to have confidence when the label says “100 percent honey.” (USDA-ARS photo by Scott Bauer).

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.

When you buy packaged foods at the grocery store, who makes sure what it says on the outside is true on the inside—whether you are reading “100 percent sweet honey” or checking the calories in a serving of nuts?

It never says so on the label, but many times the surety rests on the science of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS). Read more »

Three Ways USDA Helps Consumers Keep Foods Safe

A plate of hamburgers beside vegetables on skewers, ketchup, mustard and a pepper shaker

It’s important for consumers to be concerned about food safety. From shopping to storing leftovers, USDA provides easily accessible information to help keep food safe every step of the way.

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.

July is the height of summer grilling season, and throughout the month USDA is highlighting changes made to the U.S. food safety system over the course of this Administration. For an interactive look at USDA’s work to ensure your food is safe, visit the USDA Results project on Medium.com and read Chapter Seven: Safer Food and Greater Consumer Confidence

Have you ever wondered how to safely grill your burgers? How about determining the latest food safety recalls?  USDA provides a number of resources to ensure that you have access to the most up to date information on food safety.

Keeping the food on America’s tables safe to eat is a serious challenge and USDA is serious about helping families avoid dangerous bacteria and other contaminants that can lead to foodborne illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in six Americans are likely to become ill from foodborne illness each year, but most of these illnesses are thought to be preventable. That’s why USDA provides a number of tools consumers can use in order to prevent or reduce the risk of foodborne illness that would spoil the meal. Read more »

Simple, Inexpensive Camera System Detects Foodborne Toxins

A system used to detect active Shiga toxin

USDA-ARS scientists developed this low-cost yet effective system to detect active Shiga toxin. USDA-ARS photo by Reuven Rasooly.

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.

As the weather heats up this summer, many of us are firing up our grills and going on picnics. But one thing we all want to avoid is getting food poisoning from the food or beverages we consume.

Each year, an estimated 48 million Americans get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases. An obstacle to extensive testing of foods for microbes, pathogens and toxins that cause food poisoning is equipment cost, according to an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientist. Read more »

Celebrating the Highbush Blueberry’s Centennial

A winter-hardy, black-fruited blueberry

Nocturne, a winter-hardy, black-fruited blueberry developed by ARS. USDA-ARS photo by Mark Ehlenfeldt.

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.

You probably don’t think there’s anything special about picking up a tub of fresh blueberries at the store or the farmers market—the quality of the product, the freshness and the convenience of it all. If only you had to go pick the fruit from the wild yourself!

Up until 1911, blueberries had to be picked from the wild, and bushes were dug from the wild that might or might not survive when transplanted elsewhere. True domestication—reproduction at the will of the grower and breeding to improve desirable traits—was beyond reach until USDA botanist Frederick Coville unlocked a longstanding mystery in 1910. Read more »

Investigating Retail Price Premiums for Organic Foods

Retail price premiums for selected organic foods, 2010 chart

The Economic Research Service used grocery store purchase data to estimate retail price premiums for 17 commonly purchased organic foods relative to their nonorganic counterparts from 2004 to 2010.

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.

Consumer demand for organically produced goods has shown double-digit growth during most years since the 1990s, according to industry statistics, providing market incentives for U.S. farmers across a broad range of products. Consumers can now purchase organic food at nearly three out of four conventional grocery stores. These products generally carry a price that reflects the additional costs of producing organic foods and of keeping products segregated throughout the supply chain. The price premiums reflect these costs as well as consumers’ willingness to pay more for organic products.

A new Economic Research Service report provides estimated retail price premiums—and changes in premiums—for 17 commonly purchased organic foods relative to their nonorganic counterparts from 2004 to 2010. We used grocery store purchase data from a large set of nationally representative households. The data included detailed information on each product (degree of processing, flavor, package size, and whether organic), its price, and where it was purchased, allowing us to isolate the organic price premium. Read more »

Students Intrigued Enough to ‘Worm’ Their Way into Ag Science

Future Scientists Program teachers in the field with ARS research entomologist John Goolsby

Future Scientists Program teachers in the field with ARS research entomologist John Goolsby, learning about his research on bio-control for Giant Reed (Arundo donax) in the Rio Grande Valley.

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.

The goal of USDA’s Hispanic-Serving Institutions National Program (HSINP) Future Scientists Program is to enhance the scientific knowledge of teachers, helping them to become more effective in encouraging student interest and progress in science. Teachers in the program attend two-day summer institutes at Agricultural Research Service (ARS) labs nationwide, where scientists introduce them to various research projects. ARS researchers share scientific knowledge with the teachers, who then share it with their students to encourage them to become future scientists.

One of the catalysts for this lofty goal is a tiny, inconspicuous and innocuous caterpillar—the corn earworm that wreaks havoc in corn fields nationwide as an agricultural pest.  This program began in 2003.  I brought 10 teachers into the ARS Southern Plains Agricultural Research Center (SPARC) in College Station, Texas, for a summer institute that included teachers studying in corn research plots searching for corn earworm caterpillars in 100-degree heat! It was the first time I made caterpillars the focus of this program. Read more »