Did you ever realize how bad a comet smells?

Researchers describe the scent coming off 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as reminiscent of rotten eggs and a horse stable.

They had outfitted Rosetta with a sort of artificial nose — an instrument called ROSINA — that can analyze gas vapors and replicate smell. Among other trace chemicals, Chury offers a powerful punch of hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, formaldehyde and hydrogen cyanide.

The strong presence of rotten egg (hydrogen sulfide) and horse stable (ammonia) smells are accented by notes of alcohol (methane) and vinegar (sulfur dioxide). In case that wasn’t gross enough, the hyrdogen cyanide and carbon disulfide offer a hint of sugared almonds.

Researchers say it’s the first time they’ve really gotten a good whiff of a comet.

“We’ve never been that close to a comet,” Kathrin Altwegg, the researcher who manages the ROSINA instrument from a lab at the University of Bern in Switzerland…

The comet — which Rosetta tried to anchor to with the exploratory craft called Philae — is 250 million miles from the sun. But it’s getting closer. And that’s bad news for astronomers with a weak stomach.

“The closer the comet gets to the sun, the more of its ice will evaporate, and the gas emissions will get more intense,” Altwegg explained to Deutsche Welle.

Sounds like the next time Earthlings sneak up on a comet and land on it to research its composition – we might include a little gas-powered engine in addition to solar panels to power the research vehicle. Something that runs on horse farts.

[Adapted from an article published just before Philae landed on 67P]

“Pink slime” slithers back into school lunches

The favorite food of Republicans

It’s the return of so-called pink slime.

Four more U.S. states have placed orders with the USDA for the coming school year for ground beef that may contain ammonia-treated lean finely textured beef, or LFTB, a product that sparked a consumer backlash in in 2012.

School districts in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Texas will soon be re-joining those in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota — the only three states to have continued buying up the meat item made by Beef Products, Inc. following the uproar — in serving the low cost product to schoolchildren…

As of Sept. 3, those seven states have ordered approximately 2 million pounds of ground beef that may contain LFTB, a fraction of the amount that schools nationwide once ordered.

In 2012, BPI sold 7 million pounds of LFTB to the National School Lunch Program and so-called pink slime was found in roughly 70% of all supermarket ground beef.

After being dropped by McDonald’s, several other fast food chains and supermarkets cited consumer concerns and followed suit, and the USDA amended its policy to allow school districts to opt out of purchasing ground beef that contains LFTB.

Consisting of meat by-products that have been run through a centrifuge and treated with ammonia to kill deadly pathogens like salmonella and E. coli, LFTB is then mixed into traditional ground beef as a way to extend cattle yields. BPI patented the ammonia treatment process, but other companies make LFTB using citric acid.

Bettina Siegel, the Houston mother and food blogger whose petition to rid school lunches of LFTB helped the issue go viral, says the decision to reintroduce the product boils down to money.

“I felt disappointed but not terribly surprised,” Siegel told the Daily News. “Schools initially purchased ground beef with LFTB to cut costs — reportedly, a few pennies per pound. So once the media spotlight on LFTB was removed, I suppose it was predictable that some districts would choose to resume serving it to their students…”

Not so incidentally, BPI filed a $1.2 billion defamation lawsuit against ABC News, two former USDA microbiologists, one of whom coined the term “pink slime”…and its own former corporate quality assurance manager.

A predictable reponse from creeps who don’t want the public to recognize their products as creepy.

“Pink Slime” redux – Beef Products, Inc. sues ABC News

Beef Products Inc. sued ABC News for defamation Thursday over its coverage of a meat product that critics dub “pink slime,” claiming the network misled consumers into believing it is unhealthy and unsafe.

The Dakota Dunes, S.D.-based meat processor is seeking $1.2 billion in damages for roughly 200 “false and misleading and defamatory” statements about the product officially known as “lean, finely textured beef”…

The lawsuit filed in a South Dakota state court also names several individuals as defendants, including ABC news anchor Diane Sawyer and the Departure of Agriculture microbiologist who coined the term “pink slime”…

The reports cited in the lawsuit include 11 that aired on television and 14 that appeared online between March 7 and April 3.

Webb said the reports had “an enormous impact” on the company, forcing it to close three of its four U.S. plants and lay off more than 650 workers. Webb said the network also published a list of chain grocery stores that had stopped selling the product, and that this pressured others to end their business relationship with BPI.

Craig Letch, BPI’s director of food-quality assurance, said the company lost 80 percent of its business in 28 days.

Critics worried about the way the meat is processed. Bits of beef are heated and treated with a small amount of ammonia to kill bacteria, a practice that has been used for decades and meets federal food safety standards. The phrase “pink slime” began to spread after The New York Times cited it in a 2009 article on the safety of meat processing methods.

Soon afterward, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver began railing against it. McDonald’s and other fast food companies stopped using it, and major supermarket chains including Kroger and Stop & Shop vowed to stop selling beef with the low-cost product.

An online petition calling for the banning of the product from school menus drew hundreds of thousands of supporters.

I guess we’re supposed to feel sorry for these creeps, right? Stalwarts of an industry that cut wages in half over the past couple of decades – mostly by replacing citizens with undocumentados.

Meatpacking is an industry that relies on lobbyists to purchase politicians and bureaucrats to validate smarmy and innocuous names created by marketing mavens to replace more accurate descriptions of foodstuffs I wouldn’t feed a goat. They have never lobbied against practices like pumping cows full of antibiotics to encourage weight gain. They deserve as little respect as they get.

Is there pink slime in your meat? USDA says labels are voluntary

As consumers clamor for more transparency about the beef product dubbed “pink slime,” federal agriculture officials have agreed to allow several meat producers to list the stuff on package labels.

That means grocery shoppers soon could know whether some packages of ground beef contain the ammonia-treated meat that has been at the heart of a controversy that has shuttered plants, scuttled jobs and sparked uproar over the contents of the nation’s hamburgers…

At least one big beef maker, Cargill Inc., said that firm officials had requested the labeling changes, in part to address the groundswell of consumer concerns…

“If the product had been labeled from the start, I doubt we’d see anything like the consumer backlash that the media has stirred up in the past few weeks,” said Bettina Elias Siegel, author of the blog “The Lunch Tray,” which helped force agriculture officials to allow schools to opt out of using the beef byproduct in school lunches…

Combined with Siegel’s quest to get the product out of schools, the current controversy led big U.S. supermarkets, including Safeway Inc., Kroger Co. and Supervalu Inc. to pledge to stop using the products.

It forced BPI to halt production at some of its plants last week, and this week forced another processor, AFA Foods, into bankruptcy…

Much of the contention in scientific circles has centered on whether the ammonia-treated product should actually be considered meat, or whether it should be considered and identified as an additive…Others have urged that labeling products with LFTB should be mandatory.

Of course, it should be mandatory. It’s just more conservative corporate ideology fiddling around with discussion between the meatpackers, the FDA and the USDA. There’s no one in that discussion actively representing consumers.

There are enough dumbass people in the United States who will continue to eat a certain amount of crap food based on price alone. At root, that’s not exclusively an economic decision – especially if you leave out factors like nutrition and health in making that decision. There’s still an old saw about an educated consumer being the best customer.

Pink Slime producer closes 3 of 4 factories as boycott grows

The maker of “pink slime,” a low-cost blend of ammonia-treated bits of leftover meat, suspended operations at three of four plants on Monday, saying officials would work to address public concerns about the product.

Craig Letch, the director of food safety and quality assurance for Beef Products Inc., said the company suspended operations in Amarillo, Tex.; Garden City, Kan.; and Waterloo, Iowa. The plant in Dakota Dunes, S.D., will continue to operate…

Federal regulators say the product meets food safety standards. So do steam-cleaned chicken toenails.

Critics say it could be unsafe – and is an unappetizing example of industrialized food production

As people realized what crap was being used to extend fast food for schools and retail vendors, the reaction went viral and loud. Parents shouted at local school cafeterias – and the Feds. The Department of Agriculture caved in and will let school districts to stop using it this month regardless of existing contracts and some retail chains have pulled products containing it from their shelves.

We can thank bloggers and the Web for getting the word out. Our elected and appointed officials knew about this adulteration from the first contract they signed for it. Our beancounters as always cared only about cost.

Schools get to choose between Pink Slime and ground beef


“Pink slime” just went from a simmer to a boil.

In less than a week this month, the stomach-turning epithet for ammonia-treated ground beef filler suddenly became a potent rallying cry by activists fighting to ban the product from supermarket shelves and school lunch trays. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is set to announce Thursday it will offer schools choice in ground beef purchases in response to requests from districts…

“It sounds disgusting,” said food policy expert Marion Nestle, who notes that the unappetizing nickname made it easier for the food movement to flex its muscles over this cause.

“A lot of people have been writing about it. Therefore, more people know about it, therefore more people are queasy about it, particularly when you start thinking about how this stuff turns up in school lunches,” said Nestle, a professor at New York University…

The controversy centers on “lean finely textured beef,” a low-cost ingredient in ground beef made from fatty bits of meat left over from other cuts. The bits are heated to about 100 F and spun to remove most of the fat. The lean mix then is compressed into blocks for use in ground meat. The product, made by South Dakota-based Beef Products Inc., also is exposed to “a puff of ammonium hydroxide gas” to kill bacteria, such as E. coli and salmonella.

There are no precise numbers on how prevalent the product is, and it does not have to be labeled as an ingredient. Past estimates have ranged as high as 70 percent; one industry officials estimates it is in at least half of the ground meat and burgers in the United States.

It has been on the market for years, and federal regulators say it meets standards for food safety. But advocates for wholesome food have denounced the process as a potentially unsafe and unappetizing example of industrialized food production…

Continue reading

Walmart customers get into a household chemical brawl

Arrested for chemical warfare in WalMart

A woman poured bleach and Pine-Sol on a Walmart customer in southern Baltimore County, police said, in an incident that closed down the store for several hours Saturday and sent 19 to area hospitals.

The suspect, Theresa Monique Jefferson, 33, followed another woman into the store and assaulted her, county police spokesman Shawn Vinson said in an email. She later turned herself in and was arrested. The two women knew each other and were involved in a continuing dispute, Vinson said.

The victim’s boyfriend has a child with Jefferson…Jefferson has been charged with first- and second-degree assault, theft of items worth less than $100 and malicious destruction of property, police said. She is being held at the Baltimore County Detention Center on $350,000 bail…

The Baltimore County Fire Department’s fire and medic units, who arrived on the scene just after 11 a.m., requested the hazardous materials team a short time later because of complaints about watery eyes and other injuries, said spokesman Glenn Blackwell.

One person was taken to the Wilmer Eye Institute for a potentially serious injury, while 18 others were taken to area hospitals, including Baltimore Washington Medical Center, Harbor Hospital, Northwest Hospital Center and St. Agnes Hospital, Blackwell said.

The store at the Lansdowne Station shopping center was evacuated and closed. The store reopened at 2 p.m. after employees cleaned up and ventilated the area, said Walmart spokeswoman Dianna Gee. Three employees suffered minor respiratory problems, she said…

Baltimore County officials said ammonia had been thrown as well. Mixing ammonia and bleach can create a toxic gas that could lead to choking or other breathing problems.

Ms. Jefferson may find herself on trial for some violation of Homeland Security regulations involving chemical weapons of mass destruction.

Mystery eye problem at dairy show caused by cows

Well, not so much the cows as their pee.

The cause of a mystery eye ailment that struck about 50 visitors to a dairy pavilion at an agricultural show in Australia has been traced — to cow urine.

The Royal Adelaide Show had to close its dairy cattle pavilion after an rising number of people reported sore eyes when visiting the judging marquee.

Officials from the South Australia (SA) Health Department were called in to investigate and found the cause of the outbreak was stagnant cow urine.

Show spokeswoman Michelle Hocking told local reporters that a recent spell of wet weather may have created conditions within the pavilion where ammonia from cow urine was released…

Maybe feeding them oregano would cure that problem, as well?