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University of Florida

UF/IFAS researchers seek ways to keep pathogens, pests from traveling with grain

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Environment, Families and Consumers, Finances, Food Safety, IFAS, Pests, Research

Beef cattle grazing in front of a grain silo at the Range Cattle REC in Ona, Florida.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty member says new research can help grain handlers and grain inspectors find key locations for pathogens and pests along rail routes in the United States and Australia.

In a new analysis in the journal BioScience, UF/IFAS researchers evaluated how wheat moved along rail networks in the United States and Australia. Through their analysis, researchers identified U.S. states that are particularly important for sampling and managing insect and fungal problems as they move through the networks, said Karen Garrett, a UF/IFAS plant pathology professor and senior author of the study.

“The movement of pests and pathogens can be especially important when there are quarantines against the movement of particular species, or when pesticide-resistant insects invade new areas and make management more difficult,” said Garrett, who began work earlier this year in the UF/IFAS Institute for Sustainable Food Systems (ISFS).

“This innovative research to understand how effectively the world’s food networks function and how they can be improved addresses one of our core missions for ISFS,” said Jim Anderson, professor of food and resource economics at UF/IFAS, director of the ISFS. “This work can have real impact.”

(more …)

Florida Sea Grant offers seafood information in new Florida Trend report

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Aquaculture, Economics, Environment, Families and Consumers, Food Safety, IFAS
Grouper and assorted seafood fillets on display at a store in case. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

Grouper and assorted seafood fillets on display at a store in case. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — October is National Seafood Month, and Florida Sea Grant has spotlighted the safety and variety of the state’s seafood products with a special report published in the September issue of Florida Trend magazine.

Although the average Floridian’s seafood consumption is twice the national average  – 31 pounds per year, compared with 15 – a recent Florida Sea Grant survey indicates that 40 percent of state residents don’t eat two servings each week, as recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“With this special report, we hope to raise awareness of our state’s seafood production and the fact that seafood is a healthy, delicious dining option,” said Karl Havens, Florida Sea Grant director and a professor with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, or UF/IFAS. “We’re very fortunate in Florida to have access to a wide range of local seafood items as well as products sourced elsewhere.”

Florida is the nation’s seventh-largest seafood producing state, offering about 80 wild-caught and farm-raised items, he said. Some of the state’s best-known seafood products include grouper, snapper, oysters, spiny lobster and stone crab. (more …)

UF Field and Fork Pantry dedicated; facility will feed campus community members in need


Field to Fork Pantry grand opening ceremony on September 1st, 2015.

Click on image for high-res version. Photo cutline below.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Vowing that hunger should never be a barrier to education, University of Florida officials dedicated the campus’ newest enterprise addressing hunger within the UF community, the Field and Fork Pantry, with a ceremony Sept. 1 that was light-hearted and celebratory yet charged with a sense of urgency and purpose.

“It doesn’t get any better than this, this is a special morning,” President Kent Fuchs said as he addressed the audience of about 150 gathered under a large tent next to the food pantry, located by the Food Science and Human Nutrition building on the central UF campus. “With (the organizers’ shared desire to help the needy) and with your remarkable spirit of optimism and action, I feel that there’s no limit to what we can create together for our campus, our community, our country and, indeed, actually, for the planet.”

The 40-minute event occurred almost four months to the day after the facility’s groundbreaking May 5, and followed a year-long effort by several campus units to establish a campuswide food pantry for students and employees, Fuchs said.

The president credited the project’s success to enthusiastic cooperation among participants that included the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, the Dean of Students Office, the Division of Student Affairs, the Office of the Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, UF Student Government, the College of Engineering, the Office for Student Financial Affairs, Gator Dining Services and Aramark, the UF International Center, members of the University-Wide Pantry Planning Committee, and members of the food pantry’s parent organization, the Field and Fork Campus Food Program. The Bread of the Mighty Food Bank was a significant community partner as well, Fuchs noted.

Next to speak was Jack Payne, UF’s senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources and the top administrator for UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, or UF/IFAS, which provides programmatic and financial support for the project. Payne related how he’d become aware two years ago that food pantries had been established at other universities, and was spurred to request an exploratory survey on hunger at UF. Researchers found that of 1,800 students responding, 10 percent said they had gone hungry at least once during the previous academic year.

Moved by this revelation, Payne began considering how UF/IFAS could help; he then contacted several key campus units and learned that similar plans were being contemplated or developed by other top administrators. Recognizing their common purpose, everyone agreed to collaborate.

Before concluding his remarks, Payne provided a pleasant surprise, an informal announcement that Alan and Cathy Hitchcock, former owners of the Hitchcock’s supermarket chain, had pledged a leadership gift to help support the $290,000 second phase of construction for the food pantry. The food pantry currently occupies a 900-square-foot building that cost $172,000 to renovate and prepare for use; adjacent space for build-out is available. The Hitchcocks will also provide organizers with valuable advice on supermarket design, to help with expansions.

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UF/IFAS survey: We like seafood, but we don’t eat enough

Topic(s): Aquaculture, Economics, Extension, Families and Consumers, Food Safety, IFAS, Nutrition, Research

Shrimp and cans of crab meat on display for sale at a seafood store.  Fishing, seafood industry, food.  UF/IFAS Photo: Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Nearly half of Floridians eat more seafood than they did five to 10 years ago, but 40 percent still do not eat the federally recommended dietary intake of seafood, a new UF/IFAS and Florida Sea Grant-funded survey shows.

Floridians also know seafood is good for them, and they like their seafood caught or harvested in the Sunshine State. But many are not sure they’d know Florida seafood if they saw it, and they’re hesitant to pay the higher cost of local seafood.

“We know that eating Florida seafood is important to consumers,” said Florida Sea Grant Agent Bryan Fluech. Consumers want to support fishermen and the local economy, the survey says.

UF/IFAS experts say they can help educate consumers and the seafood industry to close these gaps.

“Specific educational programs could focus on developing a ‘train-the-trainer’ model for restaurant and retail staff,” said Fluech. That’s because most consumers purchase their seafood from restaurants and grocery stores, although they are not confident that they are getting accurate information from these sources. “Such a program would help these workers better address customer questions and needs, while promoting Florida seafood.”

(more …)

UF CALS courses, majors evolve to meet changing demands

Topic(s): Agriculture, Aquaculture, CALS, Citrus, Crops, Economics, Environment, Families and Consumers, Food Safety, IFAS, Nutrition

Classroom, students, learning, auditorium.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

See caption below

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As the University of Florida prepares to embark on the 2015-16 academic year, the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences offers several courses and majors that reflect how the institution adapts to industry and stakeholder needs.

The courses and majors aren’t brand new for this fall. They evolved during the past few years. But they reflect the growing menu of courses and majors offered to the more than 3,700 undergraduate students expected to enroll at UF CALS this fall.

Just to name a few of the relatively new majors and course offerings, UF CALS offers a major in marine sciences that leads to a bachelor’s degree, a new undergraduate certificate titled “Challenge 2050: Global Leadership and Change” from the Challenge 2050 Project and three new majors offered in the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department that were previously specializations under one major – Food Science and Human Nutrition.

(more …)

Keep Your Home Safe during Pesticide Use

Topic(s): Environment, Families and Consumers, Florida Friendly, Food Safety, IFAS

Date: June 3, 2015

By: Beverly James, 352-273-3566, beverlymjames@ufl.edu

Source: Philip Koehler, 352-392-2484, pgk@ufl.edu

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida, with its tropical and subtropical environment, is a breeding ground for many pests in the home. Do you handle it yourself or get a pest management professional? Misconceptions about pesticides may keep you from tackling the job.

“Many people believe that pesticides are dangerous and cause a lot of poisonings, and that’s not necessarily true,” said Philip Koehler, professor of entomology at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “Poison control center statistics show that the number one cause of poisoning is analgesics. Pesticides come in at number nine on their list. There are a lot of other things such as medicines, make up and cleaning products that poison more people every year.”

A second myth is that over-the-counter pesticides are safer than ones used by pesticide operators, Koehler said. But, pest control operators use the same active ingredients that are sold in retail stores, he said. “The problem comes in when the homeowner wants to store leftover pesticide. Improper storage is really dangerous especially if it is just placed under the sink or on a shelf in the garage,” Koehler explained.

When a professional handles the treatment, he takes the leftover pesticide with him so the homeowner won’t have to store pesticide in the home, he said. While most pesticides will not poison a resident, improperly stored pesticide is dangerous for children who can accidentally eat or drink it, Koehler said.

What to do with old pesticide? The product will likely have a shelf life of more than two years. “It’s common for people to pour it on the ground, in the sink or in the toilet. That contaminates the water supply and hurts the environment,” Koehler said.  He suggests taking pesticide to the county toxic waste disposal program, where professionals will properly discard the product.

Koehler offered some tips:

  • Use baits or gels that come in syringes to exterminate pests like ants and cockroaches. “The industry has moved to baits that can be put in corners, cracks and crevices where roaches and ants live,” he said. “You don’t have to be worried about spraying a plate of food and contaminating it.”
  • Make sure you are using the right product for the right insect. “Residents can take the pest to a county extension office where there is an insect identification lab. The key is to know the pest you are trying to control and use appropriate measures.”
  • Store pesticides in an area where children cannot reach it. And when ready to dispose of it, call your county toxic waste disposal program for location, days and times of collection.
  • Educate yourself about pests and pest control. Many fact sheets are available on the University of Florida IFAS website for “featured creatures.”



UF/IFAS study: New information changes few opinions on GMOs, global warming

Topic(s): Agriculture, Conservation, Crops, Economics, Environment, Food Safety, IFAS, Research, Weather

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — First impressions are important. So much so that even armed with new information, many people won’t change their minds about genetically modified foods and global warming, a new University of Florida study shows.

In fact, some grow even more stubborn in their beliefs that GMOs are unsafe, said Brandon McFadden, an assistant professor in food and resource economics in the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

After they read scientific information stating that genetically modified foods are safe, 12 percent of the study’s participants said they felt such foods were less safe – not more, much to McFadden’s astonishment.

That’s partly because people form beliefs and often never let go of them, he said.

“This is critical and hopefully demonstrates that as a society we should be more flexible in our beliefs before collecting information from multiple sources,” McFadden said. “Also, this indicates that scientific findings about a societal risk likely have diminishing value over time.”

(more …)

New Sea Grant specialist aims to keep Gulf seafood safe

Topic(s): Aquaculture, Extension, Families and Consumers, Food Safety, Research, Safety

George Baker.  Assistant Scientist. Food Science and Human Nutrition.

George Baker

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — George Baker hopes to help ensure Gulf seafood remains safe to consume.

As the new seafood safety specialist for Florida Sea Grant, Baker will primarily give seafood processors the best scientific data from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and other sources.

He’ll train processors and others in seafood safety. Baker wants to help develop methods to detect chemical compounds that would hinder seafood safety, and he hopes to generate and disseminate basic nutritional information or analysis.

“Working with seafood can be very exciting and quite challenging,” said Baker, who, in addition to his new Sea Grant position, will retain his appointment as an assistant professor in food science and human nutrition at UF/IFAS. “It seems that there are far more safety issues associated with seafood in the news or on the web than other food commodities like meat and poultry or produce. However, it’s my opinion that, unless you have a seafood-related allergy, seafood is as just as safe, or safer, than other food.”

(more …)

Fishermen, communities need more than healthy fish stocks

Topic(s): Aquaculture, Conservation, Economics, Environment, Families and Consumers, Food Safety, IFAS, Nutrition, Research

Jim-Anderson 050615

James Anderson

The Alaska salmon fishery is touted as one of the best in the world. When measured with an ecological yardstick, it is – fish stocks are healthy and the fishery is certified by the Marine Stewardship Council as consistently meeting rigorous biological standards. Fish are individually counted as they swim upstream to ensure there are enough to breed.

But Alaska salmon falls behind some of the world’s fisheries in how it benefits local fishermen, processing workers and nearby rural communities, according to a new assessment that ranks the vitality of a fishery by looking at its economic and community benefits as well as its ecological health.

“We wanted to develop a new set of metrics to determine how well fisheries management systems work and to test what factors are most effective in improving them,” said James Anderson, professor of Food and Resource Economics and director of the new Institute for Sustainable Food Systems at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Anderson is a lead author of a paper published May 6 in the journal PLOS ONE, describing the new methodology.

 “These new Fishery Performance Indicators (FPIs) are designed to help us evaluate a fishery system’s performance toward achieving economic, community and ecological sustainability – the ‘triple bottom line,'” he said.

(more …)

“The Meat We Eat” a popular course that improves attitudes

Topic(s): Extension, Families and Consumers, Food Safety, IFAS, Livestock, Nutrition

MEATWEEAT for web 042215

Cutline below

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Some people are changing their attitudes about the meat industry after taking the popular online course, “The Meat We Eat.”

The course, intended to give the consumer a more educated view of the meat industry, started up again April 20, and so far, about 5,000 people are registered. Chad Carr, a UF/IFAS animal sciences associate professor and meat Extension specialist, hopes that number rises above last year’s enrollment of 20,000 – students from around the world.

(more …)

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