Food Safety Fragmentation Still a Problem, Says GAO

By Caroline Scott, FoodNavigator-usa.com

The establishment of a Food Safety Working Group in 2009 was a ‘positive first step’ but more work is needed to address fragmented oversight of US food safety, says the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Read more here.

How to Help Your Pets With Allergies

By Morieka Johnson, CNN

Spring is just around the corner — a time when many of us simply dust off the neti pot or load up on Benadryl in preparation for allergy season.

It’s a little harder for dogs and cats with environmental allergies to avoid the elements. Fortunately, our experts offer cool tips to help keep hot spots and other problems at bay during allergy season.

Read more here.

Rescue Operations in Japan Target the Country’s Furry Friends

By Michelle Macaluso, FOX News

It’s a united inu effort.

Animal rescue groups have joined forces to help the untold number of dogs — inu – in Japanese, cats and other furry friends that have been lost and injured in the tsunami and earthquake that devastated Japan one week ago.

Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support, or JEARS is made up of three Japanese animal welfare groups, Animal Friends Niigata, Japan Cat Network, and HEART-Tokushima to coordinate relief efforts for animals.

Read more here.

EU Wrestles With Issue of Food From Cloned Animals

By Charlie Dunmore, Reuters

European Union governments and lawmakers remained deadlocked on how to regulate the production and sale of food from cloned animals, following all-night talks in Brussels that ended on Thursday morning.

EU sources said the remaining sticking point was a demand by lawmakers in the European Parliament for a full EU ban on the sale of food derived from cloned animals and, crucially, their offspring.

EU governments and the bloc’s executive support an EU ban on the use of cloning for food production, and on the import and sale of food from clones.

Read more here.

USDA Recognizes Work of Farmers and Ranchers on National Ag Day – March 15, 2011

USDA

n honor of the hard work and commitment of America’s producers, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today recognized the nation’s farmers and ranchers — as part of National Ag Day — for the part they play in providing food, fiber and fuel to billions of people worldwide.

“Agriculture touches everyone’s life in one way or another, yet our farmers and ranchers can often be overlooked for the important work they do, and we should all take time during this day to thank producers for a job well done,” said Vilsack.

National Ag Day is an event set aside to celebrate the contributions of agriculture in our everyday lives. It encourages Americans to learn more about how their food, fiber and fuel products are produced, value the essential role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy and appreciate the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant and affordable products.

Read more here.

Good Dog, Hard Choice: Downturn Puts Pressure on Placer County Pet Owners

By Gus Thomson, Auburn Journal

Economic hard times have put the squeeze on many pet owners. And while the idea of paying off a four-figure bill for a pet procedure or even putting food in the dog dish when a dog owner’s family is hungry or in need of new clothes is daunting to some, extraordinary measures are occurring on a near-daily basis.

North Auburn’s Suzy McMinn epitomizes that special bond that develops between a pet and its owner – and the lengths she’ll go to keep her dog. McMinn isn’t close to wealthy. She lives in a mobile-home park and her Social Security check barely pays for her own needs. But she also has a partial hearing loss and adopted the terrier Peppermint Patty several years ago as her ears. Patty, is obedient and loyal while serving as McMinn’s companion animal. It fetches her slippers when McMinn returns home and picks up her own dog dish and returns it for washing when her meal is completed.

When a fire occurred last week at the mobile-home park McMinn lives in, Peppermint Patty was there to alert her. Several weeks ago, Peppermint Patty took off after a squirrel and tore a meniscus. McMinn said she’s careful with her finances, filling her car’s gas tank up once a month and walking if it nears empty.

Read more here.

UK Animal Health Budget to be Devolved

By Caroline Stocks, Farmers Weekly Interactive

From 1 April, England will have £105m to prevent and tackle disease and maintain animal welfare, while Scotland and Wales will be handed £21m.

The budgets have been shared based on historic spending and animal numbers.

Announcing the plans, farm minister Jim Paice said the devolved powers had already had policy responsibility for preventing and tackling diseases such as bovine TB for a long time.

Read more here.

Japan Rescuers Pull Together To Save Pets

By Sharon Seltzer, Care2

While international relief organizations are pouring into Japan to help people after the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami, a handful of animal welfare groups are pulling together to take care of the nation’s displaced pets.

Japan is a country that loves pets so it is no surprise that rescue groups have teamed up to help the estimated thousands of cats, dogs and other animals that were injured or left homeless after the quake.

Assisting pets after a natural disaster is nothing new for Animal Refuge Kansai (ARK.) The organization which has locations in Tokyo and Osaka took in 600 animals after the Great Hanshin earthquake in 1995.

Read more here.

Researchers Pursue Anaplasmosis Vaccine

Drovers

Molecular biologist Susan Noh, at the Agricultural Research Service’s Animal Disease Research Unit in Pullman, Washington, is working to develop a vaccine to protect against anaplasmosis, a tick-transmitted disease of cattle. Caused by the microbe Anaplasma marginale, anaplasmosis affects cattle health, well-being, and production in many parts of the world and is characterized by severe anemia, fever, and weight loss. Despite this threat, there is no widely accepted vaccine for anaplasmosis.

Through their studies, Noh and her colleagues at Washington State University have identified important proteins to include in a potential vaccine, which is now being tested on animals. They found that small groups of the outer surface proteins of A. marginale induce an immune response that not only reduces symptoms, but can also prevent A. marginale infection in some animals. Some of the more promising vaccines being tested have protected 80 to 90 percent of the animals from clinical disease and have prevented infection in up to 40 percent of the animals.

“This is significant because infected animals may have no clinical evidence of infection, yet serve as sources of infection for others,” says Noh. “No vaccine has ever prevented infection from A. marginale in cattle.” Other countries have used an attenuated (weakened) strain (usually A. centrale) as a vaccine, and that vaccine protects against clinical disease, but not infection. Attenuated vaccines are prepared from live microorganisms or viruses that are cultured in the lab in such a way that they lose their virulence, but still confer disease immunity.

Read more here.

Scientist Find Mutation That Would Cause Swine Flu to Spread More Easily

By Mark Johnson, Journal Sentinel

Since the H1N1 swine flu surfaced in 2009 in Mexico, researchers have worried that it could follow the pattern of the 1918 pandemic that killed at least 50 million people.

The 1918 virus actually emerged a year earlier. But it was not until a deadlier version developed in 1918 that the influenza truly wreaked havoc.

Now scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have examined H1N1 and discovered that a single mutation could make the flu more dangerous by removing a fundamental barrier. The 2009 H1N1, like the first version of the 1918 virus, had a protein structure that did not bind efficiently to cells in the human respiratory tract.

Read more here.