Beloved monarch butterflies are now listed as endangered

Read the full story from NPR.

The monarch butterfly fluttered a step closer to extinction Thursday, as scientists put the iconic orange-and-black insect on the endangered list because of its fast dwindling numbers.

Chicago manufacturing innovation hub seeks businesses to assist with digital transition

Read the full story at Centered.

Unbeknownst to many people, digital manufacturing innovation hub MxD is tucked away on Goose Island, a largely industrial corridor just outside downtown Chicago. The public-private partnership is seeking its next round of businesses to assist with transitioning to digital manufacturing as part of Industry 4.0.

MxD issued a request for proposals to assist small- and mid-sized manufacturers with creating a playbook for, and overcoming challenges with, adopting advanced manufacturing technologies. Applications are due Aug. 18.

Northern Wisconsin residents claim Wisconsin DNR is violating its own standards to protect water quality

Read the full story from Wisconsin Public Radio.

Northern Wisconsin residents are accusing the Wisconsin DNR of administering timber sales that allow harvesting too close to the water along lakeshores in the Northern Highland American Legion State Forest.

Food expiration dates don’t have much science behind them – a food safety researcher explains another way to know what’s too old to eat

Without obvious signs of contamination like the mold in this jam, consumers use expiration dates to decide whether to keep or throw away food. Ralf Geithe via iStock/Getty Images

by Jill Roberts, University of South Florida

Florida’s outbreak of listeria has so far led to at least one death, 22 hospitalizations and an ice cream recall since January. Humans get sick with listeria infections, or listeriosis, from eating soil-contaminated food, undercooked meat or dairy products that are raw, or unpasteurized. Listeria can cause convulsions, coma, miscarriage and birth defects. And it’s the third leading cause of food poisoning deaths in the U.S.

Avoiding unseen food hazards is the reason people often check the dates on food packaging. And printed with the month and year is often one of a dizzying array of phrases: “best by,” “use by,” “best if used before,” “best if used by,” “guaranteed fresh until,” “freeze by” and even a “born on” label applied to some beer.

People think of them as expiration dates, or the date at which a food should go in the trash. But the dates have little to do with when food expires, or becomes less safe to eat. I am a microbiologist and public health researcher, and I have used molecular epidemiology to study the spread of bacteria in food. A more science-based product dating system could make it easier for people to differentiate foods they can safely eat from those that could be hazardous.

Costly confusion

The United States Department of Agriculture reports that in 2020 the average American household spent 12% of its income on food. But a lot of food is simply thrown away, despite being perfectly safe to eat. The USDA Economic Research Center reports that nearly 31% of all available food is never consumed. Historically high food prices make the problem of waste seem all the more alarming.

The current food labeling system may be to blame for much of the waste. The FDA reports consumer confusion around product dating labels is likely responsible for around 20% of the food wasted in the home, costing an estimated US$161 billion per year.

It’s logical to believe that date labels are there for safety reasons, since the federal government enforces rules for including nutrition and ingredient information on food labels. Passed in 1938 and continuously modified since, the Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act requires food labels to inform consumers of nutrition and ingredients in packaged foods, including the amount of salt, sugar and fat it contains.

The dates on those food packages, however, are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Rather, they come from food producers. And they may not be based on food safety science.

For example, a food producer may survey consumers in a focus group to pick a “use by” date that is six months after the product was produced because 60% of the focus group no longer liked the taste. Smaller manufacturers of a similar food might play copycat and put the same date on their product.

More interpretations

One industry group, the Food Marketing Institute and Grocery Manufacturers Association, suggests that its members mark food “best if used by” to indicate how long the food is safe to eat, and “use by” to indicate when food becomes unsafe. But using these more nuanced marks is voluntary. And although the recommendation is motivated by a desire to cut down on food waste, it is not yet clear if this recommended change has had any impact.

A joint study by the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic and the National Resources Defense Council recommends the elimination of dates aimed at consumers, citing potential confusion and waste. Instead, the research suggests manufacturers and distributors use “production” or “pack” dates, along with “sell-by” dates, aimed at supermarkets and other retailers. The dates would indicate to retailers the amount of time a product will remain at high quality.

The FDA considers some products “potentially hazardous foods” if they have characteristics that allow microbes to flourish, like moisture and an abundance of nutrients that feed microbes. These foods include chicken, milk and sliced tomatoes, all of which have been linked to serious foodborne outbreaks. But there is currently no difference between the date labeling used on these foods and that used on more stable food items.

A plastic bag of precooked, stuffed pasta lies with its label face up, reading 'Use by 22 November' and 'keep refrigerated.'
Expiration dates could be more meaningful if they were based on scientific studies of a food’s rate of nutrient loss or microbial growth. Thomas Faull/iStock via Getty Images

Scientific formula

Infant formula is the only food product with a “use by” date that is both government regulated and scientifically determined. It is routinely lab tested for contamination. But infant formula also undergoes nutrition tests to determine how long it take the nutrients – particularly protein – to break down. To prevent malnutrition in babies, the “use by” date on baby formula indicates when it’s no longer nutritious.

Nutrients in foods are relatively easy to measure. The FDA already does this regularly. The agency issues warnings to food producers when the nutrient contents listed on their labels don’t match what FDA’s lab finds.

Microbial studies, like the ones we food safety researchers work on, are also a scientific approach to meaningful date labeling on foods. In our lab, a microbial study might involve leaving a perishable food out to spoil and measuring how much bacteria grows in it over time. Scientists also do another kind of microbial study by watching how long it takes microbes like listeria to grow to dangerous levels after intentionally adding the microbes to food to watch what they do, noting such details as growth in the amount of bacteria over time and [when there’s enough to cause illness].

Consumers on their own

Determining the shelf life of food with scientific data on both its nutrition and its safety could drastically decrease waste and save money as food gets more expensive.

But in the absence of a uniform food dating system, consumers could rely on their eyes and noses, deciding to discard the fuzzy bread, green cheese or off-smelling bag of salad. People could also might pay close attention to the dates for more perishable foods, like cold cuts, in which microbes grow easily. They can also find guidance at

Jill Roberts, Associate Professor of Global Health, University of South Florida

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

‘Forever chemicals’ lawsuits: Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul sues 18 companies over PFAS contamination

Read the full story in the Chicago Sun-Times.

The chemicals also have been found in more than 100 drinking water systems in Illinois, including those in Lake Forest, Waukegan, North Chicago, South Elgin and Crest Hill.

She gave away her wedding gown on Facebook. Soon others did the same.

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

“I didn’t want to spend so much money on a dress that I would put in a box and never wear again,” she said. “That’s just not me.”

So, Stulgis came up with a plan. After her wedding on May 6, she would gift the dress to a bride-to-be who otherwise couldn’t afford a gown.

“I knew it wasn’t something I wanted to keep,” said Stulgis, who paid for the dress in monthly installments up until just before her wedding.

Knowing how exorbitant gowns can get — the average price of a bridal gown last year was about $1,800 — she decided to give it away rather than sell it.

Big fish sightings are spiking. Climate change may be the cause.

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

Big fish sightings appear to have spiked around the world: In the last year-and-a-half, there have been reports of a 661-pound, record-breaking stingray in Cambodia, a 240-pound lake sturgeon outside Detroit and a 100-pound opah fish on the Oregon coast. As these fish show up in unexpected places, experts say climate change may be helping drive this trend.

The fish “aren’t growing larger, they are relocating to new environments,” said Francisco Werner, director of scientific programs at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries.

Biodiversity crisis affects billions who rely on wild species, researchers say

Read the full story in the New York Times.

The latest global assessment of the decline in plant and animal life found some bright spots but recommended significant changes to hunting and other practices to address the risks.

Why microplastic pollution is still fashion’s concern

Read the full story at Sourcing Journal.

Although numerous residents of New Jersey are still openly bemoaning the plastic bag ban that took effect in May, millions of people around the globe are participating in Plastic Free July, an initiative of the Plastic Free Foundation, an organization whose vision is “seeing a world free of plastic waste.” Included in that waste is microplastic ocean pollution, more than a third of which stems from apparel made synthetic fibers.

Experts predict top emerging impacts on ocean biodiversity over next decade

Read the full story from the University of Cambridge.

Lithium extraction from the deep sea, overfishing of deeper-water species, and the unexpected ocean impacts of wildfires on land are among fifteen issues experts warn we ought to be addressing now.