The Japanese eat 10,000 tons of fugu each year. Here’s what makes the poisonous pufferfish so expensive.

There are over 120 species of puffer fish, and 22 different kinds are approved by the Japanese government for use in restaurants. But one is more prized, and more poisonous, than the others: torafugu, or tiger puffer fish.

Wild torafugu is often found at high-end restaurants, where it’s served as perfectly thinly sliced sashimi, deep-fried, and even used to make a hot sake called hirezake. Yamadaya has been serving puffer fish for over 100 years. Their fugu is caught in southern Japan and airlifted alive to their Tokyo restaurants.

In Haedomari Market the fugu is auctioned off using a bag and hidden hand signals. Each potential buyer puts their hand in the bag and makes their bid secretly, before a successful bidder is chosen.

When selling such a dangerous food, safety is paramount. In 2018, a supermarket accidentally sold five packets of the fish that hadn’t had the poisonous liver removed, and the town used its missile-alert system to warn residents.

The tetrodotoxin found in fugu is more toxic than cyanide, and each year about 20 people are poisoned from badly prepared fish.

It takes a lot of skill and training to prepare the fish safely and know which parts are poisonous.

The poisonous parts can vary by species, and hybrid species are appearing now that are even harder to tell apart. One of the hardest things to distinguish between can be the female fugu’s ovaries, which are extremely toxic, and the male’s testicles, which are a delicacy.

The Japanese government tightly control who can prepare fugu, and chefs need to take an extensive exam before they’re legally allowed to serve the fish. This rigorous regulation means that while the fish can be lethal, far more people die from eating oysters than fugu each year.

All of the skill and training that goes into preparing this fish increases the price. The fish is killed seconds before preparation. And while the process looks gruesome as the muscles continue to spasm, the fish is dead.

This method of killing the fish means that the meat stays fresh for longer, and at Yamadaya, the fugu is aged for 24 hours before it’s served. So what does it actually taste like?

There’s another reason tiger fugu is getting more expensive: overfishing.

Tiger puffer fish is near threatened, and in 2005 the Japanese government limited its fishing quotas and seasons. Another popular edible species across Japan, the Chinese puffer fish, has declined in population by 99.9% over the last 45 years.

Farmed versions are much cheaper, and many more affordable chain fugu restaurants are starting to appear, but the farmed version is difficult to raise, and many consumers say it doesn’t taste as good.

Wild fugu’s high price guarantees that it is safely prepared by an expert chef, and when you’re dealing with a potentially deadly fish, that price is reassuringly expensive.

With thanks to Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in July 2019.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Why cities can’t get rid of rats

  • Cities across the US are getting more infested with rats. As hard as we try to get rid of the pests, they always seem to find a way back.
  • In many ways, rats are better suited for living in cities than people. They can climb brick walls and “tightrope walk” over telephone cables.
  • Their incisors grow 14 inches a year, which lets them gnaw into anything – including everywhere you don’t want them.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Wormtail. Professor Ratigan. The R.O.U.S. Pop culture has given rats a bad rep. And it’s understandable why.

Take northeastern India’s rat flood. Twice a century, rats swarm when bamboo forests drop about 80 tons of seeds. After they devour the seeds, they devastate local agriculture. In the 1960s, the resulting famine was so bad, it lead to a major political uprising.

It’s no wonder that the technical term for a group of rats is a “mischief”! And they’re not just a problem for farmers. These crafty rodents are the ultimate urbanites.

Meet your average city rats: Rattus rattus and Rattus norvegicus. These rats live pretty much wherever we do. Especially in cities. Take New York City, for example. We don’t know exactly how many rats call the Big Apple home. But a 2014 study gave a ballpark estimate of 2 million rats.

That means for heavily-infested areas you could have several rats per person! And in some ways, rats are better suited for living in cities than people. They can climb brick walls, “tightrope walk” over telephone cables, and their incisors grow 14 inches a year. Which lets them gnaw into anything – including everywhere you don’t want them.

But their most powerful ability? Rats are clever. Too clever. Scientists have shown that rats can learn to use tools. And when offered the choice between a chocolate and freeing a trapped friend. Rats chose to free their friend over chocolate!

Translate those smarts to the real world and rats easily avoid traps. Trying to poison them won’t help much either. Rats are extremely patient when it comes to new foods. They’ll taste just a tiny portion at first, wait to see if that food makes them sick and only then, consume the rest if it’s safe.

This is called “delayed learning” and it’s why rats are notoriously difficult to poison. Plus, they can develop resistance to many poisons over time so even outwitting them might not work in the long run.

Another major issue is that rats reproduce quickly. A single doe usually has 8-12 pups every 8 weeks! And those babies can have pups of their own after only 5 weeks!

So as long as they have access to food, rat populations will rebound from just about any attack. The only attack they can’t handle is improved sanitation.

And cities are using that to their advantage. In 2017, for example, New York City launched a $32 million war plan against its rats. Eliminate 70% of the rats in its 10 most-infested neighborhoods.

The plan is simple. Cut off their food source.

You see, NYC produces around 33 million tons of trash a year – more than any other city on Earth! The trash piles aren’t getting any smaller but the city can at least make it harder for rats to reach by replacing traditional trash compactors with a mailbox style opening.

Will NYC succeed by the end of 2018, as proposed?

Judging by the thousands of years where rats came out on top, it sounds a little too optimistic.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in July 2018.

Read the original article on Business Insider

One bite from this tick could ruin red meat for the rest of your life

  • A single bite from a lone star tick could cause hives, shortness of breath, or even death.
  • It’s not something they were born with, it’s something their body was taught to reject, by an uninvited little wilderness hitchhiker.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Imagine that you’re a red-blooded carnivore. You love burgers, steak, pork chops, bacon. But one day, out of nowhere, red meat starts to make you physically sick to the stomach. It sounds like science fiction, but it’s real, and it’s spreading.

It’s spreading to people like Amy.

Amy Pearl: My name is Amy Pearl, and I’m a producer for WNYC.

She has what is called a mammalian meat allergy.

Amy Pearl: I have a tendency to not mention it at restaurants, because I feel like if you say to a server, I’m allergic to meat, they’re gonna be like, I’m spitting in your food.

Any meat that came from a cow, a pig, or a lamb, will make Amy sick. Very, very sick.

Amy Pearl: Like I just had hives on my hands and my feet, and like all over my torso. I was nauseous, and I felt like I was fainting, I felt like the world was ending, I felt like I was gonna pass out and I couldn’t really breathe.

Thousands of Americans are suffering like Amy, but until 2009, this sort of allergy went undiagnosed.

Amy Pearl: I think I made an appointment with my regular physician, but he immediately was like, there’s no such thing as a meat allergy, has to be something else.

That changed with the cancer drug, Cetuximab. In a clinical trial, one in four patients developed severe allergic reactions to the drug. Some even died.

Naturally, Cetuximab was investigated. University of Virginia’s allergy department focused on one specific part of the drug. The key ingredient in Cetuximab is a specific carbohydrate that all non-primate mammals carry in their cell walls and tissues, Galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose, or, if you’re pressed for time, alpha-gal.

Dogs have it, cats have it, and the mice cells involved in the production of Cetuximab have alpha-gal. The team discovered that those who had reactions were from only certain areas of the US, the southeast. The locations of the cases aligned almost perfectly with the range of a specific type of tick, the lone star tick.

Dr. Scott Commins is an allergist, and was working with the University at the time.

Scott Commins: Over 90 to 93% of our patients that developed allergic reactions to red meat and test positive by blood test will have a history of tick bites.

Amy Pearl: The thing I Googled was “sudden meat allergy.” I found an article that said there was some man in Florida, had gone into anaphylactic shock from eating meat after a tick bite. And I was like, “I had a tick bite!” I mean, I often have a tick bite. I’d just taken a tick off me.

One of the leading researchers, Dr. Thomas Platts-Mills, went so far to use himself in an unofficial experiment, taking a hike through a nest of larval ticks. It earned him a nice case of red meat allergy.

There’s still a lot we don’t know about how this meat allergy works, but here is the leading theory. Ticks don’t have alpha-gal naturally, but they could be carrying it if they fed off a mammal, like a deer or a dog. If a tick then bites you, it trades some of your delicious blood for its saliva, which is a cocktail of nasty things. An enzyme in that saliva tells your body that there’s a variety of dangerous threats, and your immune system bans everything in that saliva from entering the body, including alpha-gal, which is also in every burger, steak, and bacon strip. So the next time you eat one of those, your body treats the carbohydrate like an intruder, and hits the panic button.

This is happening in the bodies of an estimated 5,000 Americans. What’s worse is that the range of the lone star tick is growing.

Scott: Their range is spreading into the Ohio River Valley and now up into Minnesota. We also know places where this alpha-gal red meat allergy exists, but they don’t have lone star ticks at all. And this would be southern Sweden, for example, there’s parts of Europe, Australia, and now even South Africa. So clearly other tick species can do this as well.

University of Virginia’s researchers have also linked the alpha-gal allergies with a higher risk of heart disease.

Scott Commins: This allergy seems as though it will often go away over time, but the problem has been that any additional tick bites seem to cause the allergy to return. And these are often patients who like to be outside.

Amy Pearl: I know that my numbers have gone down, because I’ve been retested a couple of times, but they’re still 10, 20 times what they should be.

Dr. Commins continues to work towards an immediate cure to mammalian meat allergy. In the meantime, the number of cases are rising.

Scott Commins: So what we’ve been trying to do is work on a vaccine related to tick saliva, in hopes that we can prevent the allergic response from continuing, or recurring, with additional tick bites.

If you’ve been bitten by ticks recently, be sure to get tested. If you haven’t, learn how to explore the woods safely.

Scott Commins: you may want to consider pre-treating your skin or clothing with DEET or Permethrin, respectively.

Amy Pearl: People are so freaked out about ticks, it’s not that bad. They’re much easier to see than you think.

Learn how to do a tick check after spending time in the wilderness. And if you value a juicy steak over a walk in nature, then maybe stay out of the woods.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in August 2018.

Read the original article on Business Insider

We tried a fermentation-tracking device and highly recommend it to find out which foods are making you bloated

Following is a transcript of the video.

Michelle Yan: Burping, farting, bloating, diarrhea: We all experience these things. Some may know exactly what foods are causing them these problems, but others may not. Sure, generic lists on Google may help, but they’re not personal or quantifiable enough. This device, called FoodMarble AIRE, may give you a clearer idea of exactly what foods are causing your discomfort.

Kara Chin: My digestive problems include…

Gene Kim: Feeling gassy all the time.

Abby Narishkin: Constipation.

Manny Ocbazghi: Sharp pains in my stomach.

Abby: IBS.

Gene: And also violent diarrhea.

Michelle: So what exactly is this device?

James Brief: FoodMarble AIRE is a breath-analysis device that tracks a specific kind of digestion called fermentation. And fermentation’s a healthy part of digestion, but sometimes too much fermentation from certain foods can cause symptoms in a lot of people. Bloating, pain, gas, and even diarrhea.

Abby: My stomach does not respond well to things like onions and garlic.

Gene: Meat or oily foods.

Abby: Brussels sprouts.

Kara: If it says “sugar-free,” I know I shouldn’t have it.

Abby: If I eat an apple, game over. And avocados, sadly.

What could be causing these symptoms?

James: Fermentable oligosaccharide, disaccharide, monosaccharide, and polyols. It’s a fancy word that means some complex carbohydrates and not carbs like we think of like bread. FODMAPs are found in all kinds of fruits, dairy, vegetables, grains, and these nutrients, while very healthy, if they’re not absorbed properly in certain people, this fermentation causes a lot of the symptoms that people experience.

Manny: I don’t know exactly what I’m reacting to. It could be gluten. It could be dairy. So hopefully this test will help me figure that out.

James: So there’s two general ways that people can use this device. One, you can use it in your regular, everyday use. You can track your foods, track your symptoms, and then you take several breaths throughout the day, and then with our app’s food database, we can tell you which foods contain higher and lower amounts of FODMAPs.

The second way that people could use the app is that we optionally provide pure samples of FODMAPs. You mix it into a little bit of water, and then for three hours while you have an empty digestive system, except for this one FODMAP, we can test you and see if you’re fermenting a lot from this. It’s day one of this experiment.

Gene: I got some teriyaki chicken.

Kara: I got noodle soup.

Gene: Are you excited?

Kara: Uh, yeah, we’re gonna learn things.

Gene: Yeah, let’s do this. Let’s figure out what’s causing our digestive problems.

Manny: So my first week using AIRE has been pretty interesting.

Gene: So it felt like the device was accurately measuring my activity in the stomach.

Kara: My fermentation levels are really high after I’ve had pizza and pita chips and hummus.

Manny: One of the surprising results I got was when I went to Chipotle last week. I purposely stacked my bowl with like dairy products, and then I did my breath test probably about a half an hour later, and my fermentation score actually decreased from the morning.

Abby: I would eat the almonds, and this past week I’ve been recording it, and my fermentation score has been really high. So we asked why that might be happening, and it turns out that almonds are low FODMAP only in smaller quantities, which I have a problem with portion control.

Gene: When I eat meat with vegetables, it was actually fine. The levels would show a low indicator. But when I would eat meat with bread, like a sandwich or a hamburger, the levels were high.

Manny: So when you first download the app, it does tell you not to use the breath tests while you’re drinking. But I was still curious to see what it says, and my readings were like 10 out of 10, like off-the-charts red. But that does let me know that the app is working.

Gene: I tried the inulin elimination diet. I didn’t even know such thing existed before this. I came in thinking that meat is the main problem in my diet, but it turned out that it wasn’t necessarily meat. It was the things that I ate with meat, like bread, garlic, and onion.

Abby: So going forward, I’m gonna eat less almonds and definitely work on portion control.

Kara: I think I just will prepare for suffering whenever I have these foods that I love but know that my body doesn’t react well to.

Abby: I think I would recommend this device. Although it didn’t necessarily give me the answers that I wanted, I think it would be really helpful for someone who definitely has an intolerance to lactose or one of those four pillars and so that they can get a pretty solid answer on what they should avoid to eat.

James: Unfortunately, breath analysis is limited to fermentation-related issues. So if breath analysis and fermentation are not their cause of their problems, they should see a dietician, a healthcare professional, a gastroenterologist for further analysis that can help their issues.

Michelle: So be like, “This is Gene the farting machine.”

Gene: All right, you give me the cue.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in May 2019.

Read the original article on Business Insider

How JFK customs searches 1 million packages a day for illegal items

Following is a transcription of the video.

Narrator: About 1 million packages arrive at John F. Kennedy International Airport every day. And just like travelers have to go through customs, so do international packages. The US Customs and Border Protection, or CBP, is tasked with screening all of them. They’re looking for anything that isn’t legally allowed in the US; certain foods, animals, drugs, and counterfeit goods.

JFK is one of nine international mail facilities in the US. It’s essentially the country’s biggest mail room, dealing with roughly 60% of all international packages entering the country.

First, the packages are taken off arriving passenger or cargo planes and transported to the US Postal Service’s mail room on site. They’re sorted and then taken to the CBP mail facility next door for inspection. CBP uses a three-tiered strategy to efficiently search each of these packages; intelligence gathering, nonintrusive inspection, and hand inspection. We followed two units searching for drugs and counterfeit items.

Before a package ever lands in the US, CBP gathers intelligence on the sender, the container, and the aircraft. They’ll check with law-enforcement partners like Homeland Security, the DEA, and the FBI to see if there’s anything of interest. This is how CBP narrows down a million packages to ones that will get flagged for further inspection.

Once a suspicious package is pulled, it goes to the CBP inspection area. This is where human CBP officers get a little help. Here, a four-legged officer, like Alex, will search hundreds of packages in 20-minute runs. These dogs are trained to sniff out seven different drugs.

Michael Lake: The drugs that they are trained for are hash, marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, ecstasy, as well as fentanyl.

Narrator: If Alex finds something, he’ll notify his handler by sitting or lying down. If he’s right, he gets his chew toy.

Lake: This is the game that they work for. All right, it’s good play. Here’s a good boy, good boy.

Narrator: And if Alex or one of his furry friends comes in contact with a drug, officers have the antidote Narcan on hand. Nearby, CBP officers are using another nonintrusive search tool: X-rays.

Nathanial Needham: When I first started this, I would literally open up everything ’cause I couldn’t tell what the image was. But eventually, after you do thousands of parcels, opening them up and comparing them to image, now you start getting good. You can identify, oh, that’s this, oh, that’s this. We can let that go because of this.

Narrator: If they see something on an X-ray monitor that looks suspicious, officers will isolate the package.

Needham: Can we pull that one, actually?

Narrator: Isolated packages go through an intrusive search. Officers will cut them open to hand-search for drugs or counterfeit goods.

Needham: I always got taught, basically, expect a package to be something that’s going to your mom, so that if it is good, it’s coming back to your mom the same way that it’s supposed to be.

This is common. It’s, like, from back home. It’s pills, certain kind of vitamins, and they get them from their little pharmacy. I’m pretty sure that this right here is actually a steroid.

Producer: Is that allowed?

Needham: No. The worst part is you don’t know what’s in these capsules.

Narrator: If the officer finds drugs, the package is sent to Murielle.

Murielle Lodvil: That’s 4,000-plus pills here.

Narrator: But if he finds a counterfeit good, it’s sent to Steve. We’ll start with Murielle.

Lodvil: The strangest areas that we find drugs concealed are radio speakers or even car bumpers. For some reason, they love to place cocaine in car bumpers. It’s crazy, where we even find drugs in Play-Dohs. Also books, children books. In between the lining of the pages, you’ll find drugs there.

Narrator: Murielle tests the drugs with a spectrometer called a Gemini. Using lasers, the machine can pierce through packaging and tell what drug is inside.

Lodvil: Right now, I’m gonna test this particular package. It’s telling me that it’s ketamine. It’s used for horse tranquilizer and also painkillers.

Narrator: Murielle will label the drugs based on where they fall among the DEA’s drug schedules, Schedule V being a drug with the lowest potential for abuse or dependence, like Robitussin, and Schedule I being a drug with the highest potential for abuse, like ecstasy.

Lodvil: We have the GBL coming from the Netherlands, and someone in New York is receiving it. Steroid, a Schedule III, coming from Hong Kong. Then we have the carisoprodol coming from India. And then we have the tramadol coming from Singapore.

Narrator: Any scheduled drugs will be seized.

Lodvil: There is no day that we come to work that we don’t find anything. Every day is a sense of importance because of the fact that we taking out those particular drugs from the street.

Narrator: The narcotics unit had over 7,600 seizures in 2018, including 246 pounds of cocaine and over 360 pounds of ecstasy.

Now, back to Steve. He’s the one that gets all the counterfeit goods. That’s anything that infringes on a company’s intellectual property rights, or IPR. Think fake Air Jordans, Gucci purses, or Rolex watches. Companies like Louis Vuitton and Gucci train Steve on the telltale signs for spotting a fake. While most of the tips are kept top secret to protect the brand, there are a few things that Steve could share with us.

Steve Nethersole: The first, when it comes in, is the country of origin. These high-end manufacturers here, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, they’re coming from France, Italy, Spain. The watch is coming from Switzerland. When it’s coming from China, bing, that’s your No. 1 red flag. Then you look at the dilapidated boxes, so that’s two red flags there. A third thing is commingling. The high-end manufacturers never commingle their products, like, in other words, a Gucci inside a Fendi or a Louis Vuitton. These people will stuff watches, a wallet, inside a handbag. And so, they’ll never commingle their products. They are so precise.

Some of the things I could say, like, some of the manufacturers, they don’t put any of this in it, the filler, inside it. They would never do that. We’ll look at the smell. Sometimes it smells like petroleum. It’s not real leather. We look at the stitching. We look at the symmetry of the logos by the manufacturer, the zippers. This one here is a Coach bag with a Michael Kors zipper. This coat has “Burbelly” on the buttons instead of Burberry, so these are the comical things that we find when you look at it up close, and you could pick it right out.

Narrator: Counterfeit goods make up an estimated trillion-dollar industry that’s even been linked to terrorist groups around the world. In 2018, CBP had over 1,800 IPR seizures. And if all those counterfeit goods had gone on to sell at their suggested retail price, they’d total an estimated $54 million. So, where do all these seized goods end up anyway?

Well, most of the narcotics and counterfeit goods will be sent to a top-secret incinerator to be destroyed. Some of the drugs will go under further testing, while some of the counterfeit goods may be donated if the offended company allows it. But, in some cases, if the illegal goods are part of a greater investigation, CBP officers will actually put that package back in the mail. Then, they’ll track it all the way to the person it was sent to. This is known as a “controlled shipment.”

Lodvil: I’m the one who opened that package, and now I’m involved in this controlled delivery. Now I get to finish the story. All right, now we go out. We knocked on your door, you open. Hello, we noticed that you’ve ordered, you know, this particular package. It’s MDMA. What’s the story behind it? So then, we listen.

Narrator: But whether they’re up against fake Guccis or dangerous amounts of fentanyl, CBP stands guard at the country’s busiest mail facility.

Lake: This is where it comes. You don’t see it all the time coming across the border in trucks and big bundles, like the TV will have you see. This is where it’s all coming from, and it hits the street and it destroys lives. So, in our way, if we can stop it here, it’s one less tragic story, probably, that we’re gonna have to hear about.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in September 2019.

Read the original article on Business Insider

What staring at a screen all day does to your brain and body

Following is a transcript of the video.

It’s 11:00 pm. You should be asleep. But you’re watching a video on your phone. Tomorrow, you’ll wake up and go to work, where you’ll stare at your computer for 8 hours. When you get home, you’ll watch a movie on TV. And if you’re anything like the average American adult, you spend more than 7 hours a day staring at digital screens.

So, what’s all this screen time actually doing to your body and brain? Humans didn’t evolve to stare at bright screens all day. And our eyes are suffering the consequences. An estimated 58% of people who work on computers experience what’s called Computer Vision Syndrome.

It’s a series of symptoms that include:

  • eyestrain
  • blurred vision
  • headaches
  • and neck and back pain

And long-term, this amount of screen time could be damaging our vision permanently. Since 1971, cases of nearsightedness in the US have nearly doubled, which some scientists partly link to increased screen time. And in Asia today, nearly 90 percent of teens and adults are nearsighted. But it’s not just the brightness of our screens that affects us.

It’s also the color. Screens emit a mix of red, green, and blue light – similar colors in sunlight. And over millennia, it was blue wavelengths in sunlight that helped us keep our circadian rhythms in sync with our environment. But since our circadian rhythms are more sensitive to blue light than any others,

A problem occurs when we use our screens at night. Typically, when the sun sets, we produce the hormone melatonin. This hormone regulates our circadian rhythms, helping us feel tired and fall asleep. But many studies have found that blue light from screens can disrupt this process.

For example, in one small study, participants who spent 4 hours reading e-books before bed for 5 nights produced 55% less melatonin than participants who read print books.

What’s more, the e-book readers reported that they:

  • Were more alert before bed
  • Took longer to fall asleep and reach a restorative REM state
  • And were more tired the next morning

But perhaps the most concerning changes we’re starting to see from all this screen time is in kids’ brains. An ongoing study supported by the NIH has found that some pre-teens who clocked over 7 hours a day on screens had differences in a part of their brains called the cortex. That’s the region responsible for processing information from our five senses.

Usually, our cortex gets thinner as we mature. But these kids had thinner cortices earlier than other kids who spent less time on screens. Scientists aren’t sure what this could mean for how the kids learn and behave later in life. But the same data also showed that kids who spent more than 2 hours a day on screens scored lower on thinking and language skill tests.

To be clear, the NIH data can’t confirm if more time spent staring at screens causes these effects. But they’ll have a better idea of any links as they continue to follow and study these kids over the next decade. It’s no doubt that screens have changed the way we communicate. But only time will tell what other changes are on the horizon for humankind.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in January 2019.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The real reason you should never eat raw cookie dough

Following is a transcript of the video.

Licking the spoon is the best part of baking cookies. But it’s a bad idea. Because eating raw cookie dough really can make you sick, and not just because it contains raw eggs.

In 2009, over 77 people across 30 states got food poisoning after eating prepackaged raw cookie dough. Many experienced vomiting and bloody diarrhea, and some had severe kidney damage. In the end, Nestlé had to recall 3.6 million packages of its refrigerated cookie dough. And in 2016, another group got sick after eating raw homemade cookie dough made from General Mills products.

But despite what you’d expect, the culprit wasn’t salmonella in the eggs. It was a shiga toxin-producing E. coli in the flour, the same type that sometimes finds its way into romaine lettuce and hamburger meat. In fact, the CDC estimates it’s responsible for 265,000 illnesses, 3,600 hospitalizations, and 30 deaths in the United States every year.

Now, normally E. coli likes to bunker down in moist places. That’s why scientists were surprised when it turned up in flour. And even today, it’s a mystery as to how the E. coli got there in the first place, or how it survived in the flour’s dry environment. The problem is that the bacteria could have infiltrated the flour during any step of the manufacturing process. It might have snuck onto the wheat from animal poop, or jumped to the flour from a contaminated processing equipment. There’s really no way to know for sure. Now, just to be clear, although flour was the culprit in this case, raw eggs can still be just as dangerous. In fact, the FDA estimates that every year contaminated eggs cause 79,000 food-borne illnesses and 30 deaths in the United States. With that in mind, the CDC warns against eating any raw cookie dough.

But, there’s good news. Although, yes, there’s a risk your cookie dough is contaminated, it’s a pretty minimal one. Many bakers, for example, taste test all the time, no worse for wear. Plus, a study found that over half of college students ate unbaked cookie dough, and they lived to tell the tale.

Even better, the risk is lower today than ever before, at least when it comes to store-bought varieties. Because, after the 2009 outbreak, companies like Nestlé and Pillsbury have started including heat-treated flour and pasteurized eggs in their dough. By heating flour to 71 degrees Celsius, you kill off any E. coli. And the pasteurization process heats eggs just enough to kill off bacteria without cooking the egg. Heat-treated flour and pasteurized eggs also explain why the sort of cookie dough you find in ice cream is harmless. But if you insist on making your chocolate chip cookies from scratch, there’s a DIY way to sterilize your own ingredients: bake the cookie! It’ll still taste good.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published on February 12, 2019.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Why printer ink is so expensive

  • Printer ink can often be more expensive than the printer itself.
  • Using an outdated “razor-and-blades” business model, printer companies sell printers at a loss and make up for it in ink sales.
  • Printer companies do whatever they can to squash competition from more economical and sustainable third party options by frequently updating the firmware in the cartridges.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories. 

Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: A gallon of printer ink can cost you $12,000. When in cartridge form, it’s more expensive than vintage Champagne and even human blood. In fact, it can be cheaper to buy an entire printer than it is to purchase new ink cartridges. So why is printer ink so expensive?

Let’s start with the first printers. No, not that far. No. Come on. There we go. Inkjet printers were first developed in the 1960s, and early computer inks were made from food dye and water. Because of this, they would fade after a few months, so companies had to develop a dye that gave permanent photographic quality. In 1988, Hewlett-Packard achieved just that, with the first mass-market inkjet printer, which sold for about $1,000. But a lot has changed since then.

Today, you can buy a brand-new printer for around $35. But there’s a catch. When the ink runs out in one of these printers, you need to buy specific cartridges, and these cartridges are expensive. So why are the cartridges so pricey?

David Connett: Oh that’s simple: greed. And an outdated razor-and-blades model.

Narrator:  This is David Connett. He’s the former editor of The Recycler and has been lobbying for change in the printer-ink industry for years.

Connett: They sell the printers cheap. They sell the consumables at a very expensive price. And basically it’s a formula: The cheaper the printer, the more expensive the consumables.

Narrator:  Once you’ve bought a printer that uses cartridges you’re trapped in a cycle. You have no choice but to buy them, or throw away your printer. As a printer is typically a one-time purchase, companies don’t mind selling them at a loss and making the money back through cartridge sales. The HP Envy 4520 all-in-one printer, for example, sells for $70 but is estimated to cost $120 to manufacture. The loss they make on printers means that companies need to sell ink cartridges to make a profit, and this model has led to a battleground between printer manufacturers and third-party ink suppliers. The companies do everything they can to keep you buying official ink cartridges. Manufacturers install microchips into their cartridges and frequently issue firmware updates to prevent the use of third-party ink, which can be more affordable.

Connett: Last year, almost 900 firmware upgrades were issued by just nine printer manufacturers, so that’s almost three a day. I mean, that’s just, like, either absolute incompetence, ’cause you’ve got to do it so much, or it is a definite stealth tactic to control the market.

Narrator: Printer companies attribute the high costs to the research and development that goes into perfecting printer ink. The materials they use, however, cost very little.

Connett: The manufacturing cost of ink is between €20 and €40 a liter.

Narrator: And a lot of the ink you buy never even gets used for printing. According to a 2018 test by Consumer Reports, more than half the ink you buy could end up lost in maintenance cycles for cleaning the printheads. And printers that use multiple-color ink cartridges also stop working as soon as one color runs out, even if the other colors are still full. These days, you’re getting even less for your money. While the cartridges themselves are the same size and price, they often contain far less ink inside than they used to. The ink in many manufacturers’ cartridges has shrunk from 20 mil to around 5 mil over the past few years, without any reduction in price. The original-size 20 mil cartridges are often still on sale but are often sold as extra-large cartridges for even more money. And some new cartridges can have as little as 3 milliliters of ink inside. Some companies have now even started ink subscriptions, deactivating your cartridges remotely if you print more than your allocated pages. Laser printers offer a lower-cost alternative to inkjet but produce a lower-quality printed image. The real solution for many, though, would be to offer more-efficient ink cartridges.

Connett: This product, you know, can be better engineered. They could liaise with the aftermarket to actually, you know, find a solution that works for everybody because, you know, this, ultimately, this is bad for the consumer, because it’s overpriced and expensive, and it’s bad for the environment, because it doesn’t need to be made that way.

Narrator: We reached out to Canon and HP for comment. HP replied with this statement:

“Original HP ink and toner cartridges deliver the best possible printing experience for customers. We make significant investments in R&D each year to provide the highest levels of print quality, safety and environmental sustainability. When customers purchase HP, they are reducing plastic waste and contributing to a circular economy. And we work tirelessly to maximize value for our customers, including Instant Ink, our “ink delivery” subscription service which includes ink, shipping and recycling.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published on August 19, 2019. 

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Why you should never release your pet goldfish into the wild

Goldfish may look small and cute in your home, but in the wild it’s a different story. Releasing them into your local stream or lake is a bad idea. Following is a transcript of the video.

Right now, Washington state is fighting off an invasion! The culprit? Goldfish. Yup, you heard right.

Thousands of goldfish have infested the West Medical Lake and are crowding out the native fish population. How did this happen? The Department of Fish and Wildlife thinks that a few irresponsible pet owners are to blame. And while the goldfish may have cost the owners a few dollars, this mess is going to cost the state an estimated $150,000 to try to remove these feral fish.

But this isn’t the only place this is happening. Goldfish are invading lakes and streams worldwide, and it’s all our fault.

If you think you’re doing the goldfish a favor by releasing it, you’re not! Instead, you’re setting the stage for an ecological disaster, which could threaten hundreds of other species. Turns out, goldfish are one of the world’s worst invasive species.

Goldfish were first selectively bred in China 2,000 years ago for food. By the 14th century, goldfish had been promoted from our meals to our entertainment. It wasn’t long before pet owners helped them spread across the world, eventually reaching North America by the 19th century.

They may look small and cute in your home, but in the wild it’s a different story. Given enough time and resources, these little orange monsters will grow into giants, reaching as much as 4 pounds, or 2 kilograms, about the size of an American football!

These big fish are also big eaters, feeding on plants, insects, crustaceans, and other fish. But they’re not just consuming what other fish rely on to survive – their voracious feeding time actually kicks up mud and sediment, which can lead to harmful algae blooms that choke the ecosystem.

If that’s not enough, they also introduce foreign parasites and diseases that wreak havoc on the delicately balanced ecosystems wherever they go. And they aren’t content to stay in one place. Goldfish are a rapidly reproducing fish and will migrate across multiple bodies of water. Case in point: When a few were dumped in a local Australian river in the early 2000s they eventually migrated to the Vasse River, where they’re still a major problem today.

There are similar accounts of goldfish invasions in Epping Forest, London; Alberta, Canada; and Lake Tahoe, Nevada. In fact, invasive fish species accounted for over half of the total fish population in Lake Tahoe Basin. Besides causing fiscal and environmental disasters there are other reasons you should keep that goldfish in its tank.

For starters, goldfish are smarter than you might think. They have a memory span of at least three months, which means you can teach them tricks like this. They also can tell the difference between Stravinsky and Bach.

Can you do that?

So, consider the wildlife, and think twice before tossing that goldfish away.

Additional video courtesy Spartan’s tricks.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in April 2018.

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