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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — To help federal officials understand the produce industries they regulate, University of Florida food safety experts recently took part in a cross-state tour that provided a behind-the-scenes look at growers’ operations and food safety efforts.
Five faculty members gave presentations highlighting their work to enhance the safety and quality of fruit and vegetable crops. The March 8-10 tour brought a delegation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other agencies to 15 farms and packinghouses.
Organizers hope the tour leaves a lasting impression, one that may prompt attendees to see regulatory issues from a broader perspective, said Martha Roberts, special assistant to the dean for research with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
“It’s critical that the people regulating agricultural crops have the knowledge and experience of seeing how the crops are grown, harvested, packed, repacked, shipped and sold,” Roberts said.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Don Sweat, a recently retired Florida Sea Grant marine extension agent, has been awarded the national William Q. Wick Visionary Career Leadership Award in recognition of his career achievements.
The award is given every other year by the extension program leaders of the 32 Sea Grant programs nationwide to recognize retired or soon-to-retire individuals for outstanding performance in extension programming or administration.
Sweat was the first marine extension agent hired by Florida Sea Grant in 1977. At his retirement he served a multicounty region on the state’s west coast, including Citrus, Hernando, Levy, Pasco and Pinellas counties.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Not much in life beats a fresh grouper sandwich enjoyed with a cold beer and an ocean view.
But that experience is far less fun when consumers discover they’re paying a restaurant for fresh, locally caught grouper, yet eating farm-raised fish from thousands of miles away.
And sometimes they never do find out.
University of Florida researchers report in the current issue of Marine Resource Economics that 57 percent of the seafood-eating adults they surveyed would pay more if a labeling program guaranteed that sandwiches and other items contained fresh grouper caught in Florida.
The survey of 400 consumers was meant to show fishermen how much awareness there is about the knockoff-fish problem and whether a labeling program might be worth a closer look, said Chuck Adams, a professor with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and the Florida Sea Grant program.
“Basically we found that yes, people were aware of it, and we found that it had, in fact, affected their purchasing of seafood,” he said.
The Gulf & South Atlantic Fisheries Foundation paid for the $40,000 study, said Sherry Larkin, an associate professor in resource economics also with IFAS. Graduate student Andrew Ropicki worked on the survey as well.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Recent cold weather has delayed largemouth bass spawning, says a University of Florida expert whose research suggests anglers should enjoy the opportunity for easy catches, despite naysayers.
In Florida, the bass usually begin spawning in January or February but this year they started at least a month late, said Mike Allen, a fisheries professor with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
Largemouths are the state’s most popular freshwater game fish. To spawn, male bass make shallow nests in the sand, court females, and then protect the eggs and hatchlings for several weeks.
Males guarding nests are notoriously aggressive, striking anything that moves. The fish are easy to catch, but it’s commonly believed that spawning-season fishing reduces bass populations. Allen’s latest study suggests that notion is rarely true. (more …)
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The oyster lover’s axiom of edibility — that this shellfish is safest to eat in any month with an “r” in it — may soon become somewhat of a culinary anachronism, thanks to a new food-safety test developed with help from the University of Florida.
Oysters are typically considered safest to eat in cooler months (September through April) because the shellfish-infecting bacteria in the genus Vibrio flourish best in warm temperatures.
Even in the “r” months, slurping an oyster opens some people to infection from these bacteria, which can cause fever, nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea and has even led to finger amputation when it’s given a chance to penetrate a cut or skin lesion.
However, a new quick and inexpensive diagnostic test developed by DuPont Qualicon and refined by UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences could make weeding out pathogen-loaded oysters much more practical and efficient. Oysters are a $14 million industry in the Sunshine State, according to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
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The Caribbean spiny lobster is one of Florida’s top commercial seafood species, with an annual $27 million harvest — but a recently discovered virus is killing the crustaceans and threatening the industry.
Now, scientists with the University of Florida and several other institutions have been awarded a three-year, $1.4 million National Science Foundation grant to research transmission of the virus, known as PaV1.
The research should answer many lingering questions about the spread and geographic distribution of the pathogen, and could lead to management strategies and new methods for identifying infected lobsters, said Don Behringer, an assistant professor with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
One of the main issues to be investigated: whether the virus is dispersed long distances by lobster larvae, which float hundreds of miles during their first months. Infected spiny lobsters have been found in far-flung places, including the Florida Keys and parts of Mexico, Belize and St. Croix. (more …)
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Marine sponges may not look like apartment buildings, but to shrimps, juvenile lobsters and other animals in Florida Bay, the puffy filter-feeders provide one of the few safe places to live.
In 2007, harmful algae blooms killed sponges in large tracts of the shallow lagoon, where fresh water draining from the Everglades meets the Gulf of Mexico. University of Florida and Old Dominion University researchers are trying to restore the invertebrates by slicing up healthy sponges, then planting the cuttings in affected areas to grow and reproduce.
The results of the study will lay the groundwork for larger restoration efforts that would boost populations of economically important seafood species that depend on sponges, help the state’s commercial sponge industry and improve water quality, said Don Behringer, a research assistant professor with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. (more …)
Tom Nordlie – (352) 273-3567
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Spotted green puffer fish seldom reproduce in captivity, but University of Florida experts have created the first commercial breeding method reported in the United States, a move that could benefit the tropical fish industry and genetics researchers.
A UF team investigated the species at the request of producers, who hope to breed some of the estimated quarter million spotted green puffers sold annually to North American hobbyists and researchers, said Craig Watson, director of UF’s Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory in Ruskin, part of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. (more …)
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — One of the country’s biggest and longest-running artificial reef research projects is about to widen its scope, and the payoff could be healthier grouper in the Gulf of Mexico, a University of Florida researcher says.
Over the last 17 years, UF researchers have built and placed a 26-mile line of artificial reefs in the Gulf and studied its impact on gag grouper, a popular game and food fish. (more …)
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Mention sturgeon to a Floridian these days, and they might flinch. The armor-plated fish have made news this summer by body-checking boaters, but the animals might soon develop a new reputation — as cash cows.
Sturgeon farmers across the Sunshine State say marketable yields of caviar could begin within the next year. (more …)