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Summer news tips for the media

Even though the first day of summer is toward the end of June, Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of the season for sun and recreation. The UC Agriculture and Natural Resources communicators network have taken this opportunity to compile news tips that will be of interest to the media and their clientele during the summer months.

Each tip can stand alone, providing useful information to make the summer safer, plus includes the name, phone number and e-mail address of a UC academic expert on the topic who can provide additional information if a reporter wishes to flesh out a story. The topics are:

-Food safety in the ‘Good Old Summertime’
-Preventing the itch
-Rattlesnake season poses concerns for pets and other animals
-Death cap mushrooms spreading in California
-Insects are biological indicators of water quality
-Know your watershed before you eat fish
-Thirsty children and pesticides
-Swimmers’ handmade dams are havens for pesky black flies

Picnic in the park
Picnic in the park

Posted on Thursday, May 24, 2007 at 10:27 AM

We're still No. 1!

Whenever I travel in the United States or overseas, I like to tell people that I come from the No. 1 ag county in the world. That's impressive. Today, the Fresno Bee reports that Fresno County has retained the title for yet another year.

The total gross production value of Fresno County crops and livestock was the highest ever in 2006 at $4.85 billion, up 4.41 percent from 2005, the Bee story quoted Fresno County agricultural commissioner Jerry Prieto Jr. Seven commodities generated more than a quarter-billion dollars in revenue here: grapes, almonds, tomatoes, poultry, cattle and calves, milk and cotton. 

Fresno County UC Cooperative Extension has supported the Fresno County agriculture industry for 89 years with research and education programs. Currently, nine farm advisors work with the area's superb farmers. In addition, the UC Kearney Research and Extension Center, which houses 24 researchers affiliated with UC Davis, Berkeley or Riverside, is located in Fresno County. There is no doubt that UC's presence contributes to the county's continued agricultural success.

Fresno County
Fresno County

Posted on Wednesday, May 23, 2007 at 9:58 AM

UC collaboration gets coverage

Western Farm Press published an article May 18 about the need for inter-agency collaboration to improve California food safety and water quality. The article was an outgrowth of a three-day San Luis Obispo meeting in April: The Coordinated Management of Water Quality and Food Safety Conference.

"More than 100 leaders in water quality and food safety from thoughout the nation gathered to develop strategies to protect both the environment and fresh produce," wrote the article's unnamed author.

The writer noted that UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor Mary Bianchi, a conference coordinator, said the complex nature of food safety will require scientific, regulatory and food distribution communities to coordinate their efforts.

"The value in each person striving to connect beyond their current sphere of influence cannot be underestimated," Bianchi is quoted.

The article said there were 4 conference organizers, 13 planning partners and 7 government agencies that sent representatives.

Posted on Tuesday, May 22, 2007 at 9:42 AM

California shares Arizona's pain

A reporter at the Arizona Republic turned to UC experts for a story on oleander leaf scorch, a disease that has killed many of California's oleander plants and is now wreaking havoc in Arizona. In California it is the glassy-winged sharpshooter that is spreading the virus Xylella fastidiosa, which causes oleander leaf scorch in oleanders plus Pierce's disease in grapes. In Arizona the culprit is the smoke tree sharpshooter.

Oleander leaf scorch begins with yellow margins or spots on the leaves before the edges and tips take on a scorched appearance.

"Right now, it's pretty hard to find a healthy oleander anywhere in Riverside. I used to have them in my own backyard," said UC Riverside entomologist Matthew Blua, as quoted by John Faherty in the Republic article.

UC Berkeley professor emeritus Alexander Purcell told the paper that there is no cure.

"I wish I could give you some words of wisdom or encouragement, but there is nothing we can do. With no expectation of recovery, you may as well remove the plants sooner than later."

Glassy-winged sharpshooters on oleander
Glassy-winged sharpshooters on oleander

Posted on Monday, May 21, 2007 at 10:29 AM

Trans fat trouble

The health advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest issued a press release May 16 announcing that it filed a lawsuit against Burger King because it is the only leading restaurant chain that had not yet committed to eliminating trans fats from its menu. Indeed, media have been reporting on trans fat bans on a regular basis. This week, Applebees, Hooters and Starbucks all announced their plans to remove trans fat from the foods they serve, according to various media outlets. New York City and Philadelphia were the first cities to pass laws getting trans fat out of restaurants. According to media reports, the Montgomery County Council in Maryland on May 15 unanimously passed a resolution to ban the use of trans fats in most foods served in local restaurants and in prepared food at supermarkets.

These developments would be applauded by Sheri Zidenberg-Cherr and Anna Jones, editors of Nutrition Perspectives, a bimonthly newsletter from the UC Davis Department of Nutrition. (Back issues are online. Current issues are only available to subscribers in hard copy form.) An article in the March/April 2007 edition provides objective, scientific information about trans fatty acids and their effect on cardiovascular disease risk. In short, the article says people should not eat trans fat and they should not substitute unhealthy saturated fat for the trans fat in their diets.

The article, written by Jones, debunks common concerns about trans fatty acid bans. "The main concerns are that a decrease in (trans fatty acids) content in foods would result in a rise in saturated fat consumption as well as a rise in cost and decrease in palatability and availability of foods," Jones wrote in the article. "However, Denmark banned the use of oils containing more than 2 percent trans fatty acids in 2004 and has not experienced those problems."

Margarine
Margarine

Posted on Friday, May 18, 2007 at 6:34 AM

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