Ice Ice Microbe Baby

Alright, stop! Collaborate and listen.

Did you know there is an association for packaged ice? Yeah, I didn’t either. In November the International Packaged Ice Association (IPIA) will be holding their 99th annual convention, so if you’re in the San Antonio area around then you probably won’t want to miss that!

Did you also know that ice is defined as a food by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and is required to have fewer than 500 microbial colonies per milliliter of thawed ice to be considered safe?

According to IPIA, which sets ice handling standards, approximately two billion bags of ice are sold every year in the United States. There are also 700 commercial ice-making companies, however 200 of those companies are not represented by the IPIA and do not necessarily comply with the specific packaged ice processing standards.

The IPIA recently sponsored research on the thresholds of bacterial contamination of ice throughout Southern California; packaged ice samples were collected from gas stations, liquor stores, and convenient stores.

132 non-IPIA complied samples were analyzed:
15 samples were found to have unsatisfactory levels of heterotrophs (organisms that can’t fix carbon and simply use it for growth; humans are heterotrophs).
41 samples contained unsatisfactory levels of coliforms (bacteria found in digestive tracts of animals/humans, plants, and soil; commonly used as indicator of sanitary quality of foods/water).
19 samples contained staphylococci (the bacteria responsible for Staph infections).
70 samples were found to have mold/yeast.

24 IPIA complied samples were analyzed, and none had unacceptable microbial levels.

None of the samples analyzed, non-IPIA complied or otherwise, were found to have Salmonella. This research provides evidence against the somewhat-popular belief that freezing kills bacteria; like many other foods, ice that isn’t handled properly could contain any of the bacteria or pathogens mentioned above, or even E. Coli.

As the summer progresses, be smart about your ice! Tips for buying ice include:
The package of ice must carry the IPIA logo
The bag must be properly closed and secure without drawstring ties
Ice should be clear, odorless, and tasteless
The bag should have a product code for traceability
The bag must be free of any foreign objects or particles
The bag must have the manufacturer’s name, address and phone number

Word to your mother!


The Eagles

Not the band, the bird!

This election year brings many great changes, the best thus far being a pair of Bald Eagles choosing to nest in the U.S. National Arboretum for the first time since 1947.

If you’re bored with your normal Netflix routine, you can watch these birds, affectionately named “Mr. President” and “The First Lady”, live 24 hours a day at the D.C. Eagle Cam. The website is also full of information and facts for any questions that may arise.

Two eggs have been laid, and one has already begun the hatching process!

“High up on his own, the eagle flies alone and he is free”

In Tyson We Trust

Just when I start to believe the world is progressing, something comes along that makes me question my faith in humanity.

As you may have heard, rapper B.o.B is claiming, via his Twitter page, the world is flat (if you haven’t, a quick Google search can fix that). Seriously? I’m at a loss for words on this one. The rapper has apparently written a song, Flatline, calling out NASA and the science community (specifically Neil DeGrasse Tyson), but it seems to have disappeared from the internet.

I didn’t want to make any sort of post discussing this, because people like that do not deserve the attention. Instead, I’ll highlight the talents of Stephen Tyson, Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s nephew who’s rapper name is simply, Tyson. He wrote a song in response to B.o.B’s claims, and it is FIRE. Listen to Flat to Fact.


Heads Will Roll

Are you suffering from complete paralysis? Good news! Soon you may be able to have a total head transplant!

Italian surgeon Sergio Canavero and a team of other scientists have been experimenting with animals and human cadavers, and hope to offer the surgery to  treat complete paralysis within the next two years. The team has reported transplanting a monkey’s head, which resulted in no apparent brain damage. Canavero is currently looking for funds to perform a transplant on Russian patient with muscle-wasting disease.

No official papers have been submitted for peer-review, which makes the surgeon’s announcement seen pretty unorthodox. Thomas Cochrane, a neurologist at Harvard Medical School, says, “…[the] operation has mostly been about publicity rather than the production of good science.”

Multiple huge ethical issues aside, many critics are suggesting Canavero invest his time into studying nerve regrowth of injured spinal cords rather than conducting total head transplants. Other experienced surgeons are interested in the research merely as proof of principle.

Personally, I am all for the expansion of science and technology in the medical field, for the right reasons, but a total transplant of a human head seems extreme and somewhat creepy. Despite all the reading I have done, many questions still arise.

Read the full story in this article (which may be graphic for some audiences!) from New ScientistHead Transplant, which includes a photograph of an actual monkey stitched up at the neck, and a video of a mouse with a severed spinal cord having the ability to walk again. Googling Sergio Canavero’s name will also lead to a wealth of information pertaining to the topic.