The British government has ordered the country’s food industry to test all processed beef products. The move comes after one of the UK’s biggest food manufacturers found horsemeat in some of its ready-to- eat meals and withdrew 180,000 of them from sale.
The Findus frozen food company discovered that some of its beef lasagnas were in fact 100 percent horsemeat. The meals were manufactured by a supplier in France where there is no cultural taboo against eating horses and horse meat is widely consumed as a cheaper alternative to beef.
This is not the first time horse meat has hit the headlines in Britain. Last month frozen beefburgers were also removed from many British supermarket shelves after equine DNA was detected.
Alistair Driver, political editor of Farmers Guardian magazine, says the scandal has lifted the lid on the whole business of cheap food, where costs and corners have been cut:
“It seems to be the trading of ingredients across the continent from one trader to another, from a manufacturer to a trader…that’s all about just cutting costs and trading these cheap products,” says Driver.
Ironically horsemeat is considered healthier than beef as it’s leaner. But some safety concerns are emerging. Samples of the lasagna are being tested for bute, a painkiller given to horses which is harmful to humans. There’s no evidence that the U.S. food chain has been affected.
The Northeast is facing snowstorm Nemo. Canceled flights, school closings, worries about shortages and power outages, and long lines in stores. We called up Jeff Klein, owner of Marshall's Country Corner in Bernardston, Mass., to find out what his customers are up to.
"I am a store owner and I do count on the weather reports for business. Being Western Mass., snowstorms do affect us a little bit. This one obviously made a lot of people panic. People were coming out in droves thinking that we'll be out of power for a bunch of days. In Western Mass., I think they take care of the roads pretty well. There are a lot of great plow drivers out there. We're cleared up usually in 24 hours. So yeah, I'm pretty jaded," say Klein.
Klein says people are buying the essentials -- milk, bread, ice (!), batteries, flashlights, lots of food.
"There's a lot of panic, which I don't think is needed," says Klein. "When the weather people report something this major, which is great 24 hours ahead of time, so people get ready so they don't panic in an emergency, it definitely spurs the economy around here. But also, weathermen are only 50 percent right half the time, so right now how much do we really predict on snow."
"I predict the next couple of days to be quite slow because everyone's stocked up on their grocery goods. We're selling a lot of food, so people won't tend to grocery shop the next couple of days because they're going to be so loaded up and full," adds Klein.
We are keeping a focus this week on the Internet of things -- going beyond websites, to what some see as a new network of intelligent objects, devices that communicate with each other. We've heard from artist Will.i.am about how this sort of thing might change music. Also from a company called SmartThings and the CEO of Cisco, about how smart devices in the home could revolutionize everything from reading electricity meters to kitchen appliances. Today it's something even closer to the heart: How medicine could be transformed by smart devices.
Dr. Anthony Jones, who works for Philips Healthcare, a company that designs machines and software for hospitals around the world, says a nurse could check on you four times a day, or there could be networked machines that send data on your vitals in a constant stream to a master control.
"If I now have a continuous monitor, and I have that data going up into a central repository, I can write algorithms and put some intelligence into that repository that allows me to look for trends," says Jones. "So part of what the Internet of things will allow is much more sophisticated, much more continuous monitoring."
Done right, this new era of monitoring could also help keep you from going into the hospital in the first place. Advances in wireless and medical tech will go even further still, according to Ed Price at Georgia Tech's Institute for People and Technology.
"If you've got chronic blood pressure issues, maybe there is blood pressure sensor in your seatbelt in your car," says Price. "Obviously there is no time for a human to analyze all that data, but an algorithm in a computer can look at all your data for your blood pressure and trigger when there is an event that needs to be noticed by care providers."
And the health care reform law plays a role here, as doctors and health care companies get new incentives to make people well and keep them that way.
"Electronic devices [and] tele-medicine will be a key part of that," says Price.
This week, Twitter bought a company that's good at tracking online buzz -- in other words, what's getting written about, tweeted about, photographed and shared. Twitter's purchase of the research company Bluefin for an undisclosed amount is about gathering the sort of social media info that can be used to extract more money from advertisers.
But as Slate Tech Blogger Will Oremus explains, Twitter plus Bluefin is also about a strange habit we've picked up. When the TV goes on, the tablet or smartphone doesn't go off?
"That is going to sound crazy to a lot of people out there. They'll say, 'how on earth could you be reading Twitter and watching TV at the same time?' But, about a quarter of the people out there listening are going to be going, 'oh yeah, I do that all the time,'" says Oremus.
According to Oremus, TV advertisments have been a very lucrative business for a very long time, yet advertisers are still very much in the dark about how their ads are working. With the Bluefin acquisition, Twitter may be able to finally answer that question.