FYI: The FDA Has Ceased Its Food Inspections

istock.com/Olivier Le Moal
istock.com/Olivier Le Moal

It may be safe to eat romaine lettuce again, but The Hill is reporting that the FDA is suspending "most food inspections" amid the current partial government shutdown.

As the government shutdown rounds out its third week, the effects have begun to take a toll on both minor and major scales. Government workers are missing paychecks, affordable housing contracts are expiring, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is not able to cover all of its usual duties. According to the official FDA website, around 55 percent of their $5.4 billion budget comes directly from federal funding, with the other 45 percent coming from industry user fees.

With fewer resources for protecting the nation's food supply, FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb has had to delegate most workers to investigate "high risk facilities," such as those that produce seafood or cheese.

In 2018, nearly a dozen different products were cited for salmonella contamination, including raw turkey, pre-cut melon, and even Honey Smacks cereal. The FDA also warned of a possible salmonella outbreak from eggs last May.

Though the FDA will continue to inspect foreign manufacturers and products, the agency generally conducts roughly 160 food inspections per week. They look for any possible contamination due to various unclean circumstances, and that is only the beginning of a much longer process if foods actually need to be recalled. The FDA also investigates cases sent to them by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); after an illness or outbreak has been reported, the FDA works to trace where the contaminant could have come from before recalling and pulling problematic products from the shelves. All of this takes a lot of work, as we recently reported.

[h/t The Hill]

You Can Buy an Extinct Volcano in Devon, England, for $60,000

People buy private islands, so why not buy a private volcano? Posbury Clump, a 250-million-year-old inactive volcano located in Devon, England, could be yours for the seemingly reasonable price of about $60,0000.

As Smithsonian reports, the volcano is 500 feet tall at its peak and surrounded by 4.9 acres of woodland (holly, oak, and ash trees), so you get sweeping views of the English countryside. The wooded outcrop and rolling hills make Posbury Clump look less like a volcano and more like a forest. Architects used the basalt stone from a former on-site quarry to build two of the area's most famous structures: Crediton Church and Medland Manor.

Because of its unique potassium-rich lava and other rare geological features, Posbury Clump has been designated a site of scientific interest, and as such has been formally marked for conservation.

Currently, only a few houses reside in the area, but Posbury—settled during the Iron Age, between about 800 BCE and AD 100—once housed convent Posbury St Francis, which was a part of the Posbury Clump estate. Those interested in possibly purchasing the volcano can contact agent Jackson-Stops. The cost is £50,000, or around $60,800, which is about what you'd pay to rent a studio apartment in New York City's Tribeca neighborhood for one year.

Just remember: If you do buy the volcano, you won't be the first person to purchase such a thing. According to Atlas Obscura, famed cartoonist-turned-oddities-collector Robert Ripley tried to purchase Parícutin (a baby volcano that suddenly sprung up from a cornfield in Mexico) in 1943, but was beaten to the punch by muralist Gerardo Murillo. Several individuals have privately owned New Zealand's active Whakaari volcano, and people privately own volcanoes in California and Oregon, too.

Reality Bites: A Humongous Tick That Chases Its Prey Has Been Found in the Netherlands

ironman100/iStock via Getty Images
ironman100/iStock via Getty Images

Humans have long been discouraged from tolerating the parasitic behavior of the tick. These pathogen-ridden arachnids latch onto their hosts for a blood buffet while transmitting a variety of diseases through their bites. Typically, ticks in infested areas wait for their hosts to stand or pass by and hope a bare leg presents itself.

But not all ticks are so passive. In the Netherlands, there have been reported sightings of Hyalomma marginatum, a kind of Andre the Giant of ticks that are twice the size of a more common species, Ixodes ricinus (sheep tick). Worse, they don’t sit idle. If they want to bite you, they’ll run after you.

The non-native species has been spotted twice in the past month. One was in Drenthe, a province in the northeastern part of the country, and the other was found in Achterhoek. They measure up to 0.2 inches but can grow to 0.7 inches when engorged with the blood of their hosts. The ticks are known to hide in brush. When they spot a potential meal, they run toward it. H. marginatum can detect a victim from up to 30 feet away and track it for 10 minutes before abandoning pursuit.

The species is typically found in northern Africa and Asia as well as parts of southern and eastern Europe. How did they get to the Netherlands? Researchers theorize they hitchhiked on migratory birds. And while their appearances have been scarce, they’re still a cause for concern. H. marginatum is known to harbor the virus that causes Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, which lists uncontrolled bleeding among its undesirable symptoms. The ticks, which were collected for analysis, tested negative for that disease but one was positive for the bacteria Rickettsia aeschlimannii, which causes spotted fever.

There have been no sightings of H. marginatum in the U.S., but native ticks remain a perpetual concern. If you’re outdoors, it’s always a good idea to monitor yourself for ticks and take steps to remove them safely.

[h/t LiveScience]

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