TIME Diet/Nutrition

How to Tell If Your Grass-Fed Beef Is Real

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A range of practices and labels persist amid lack of regulation

When you buy a pound of hamburger in the grocery store, you’re likely to be bombarded by an incredible assortment of labels. With all-natural, grass-fed, free-range, pastured, sustainably sourced, and certified organic options to choose from, it’s not easy to parse which beef is actually the best.

In recent years, demand for grass-fed beef has grown rapidly, thanks to the popularity of high-protein diets and growing consumer awareness about the overuse of antibiotics on farms and other related concerns. Grass-fed beef is also seen as nutritionally superior to its corn-fed counterparts, thanks to the omega-3 fatty acids that cows ingest when they graze on clover and other grasses. Grass-fed burger chains are popping up all over the country, and even Carl’s Jr. began offering a grass-fed burger earlier this year.

But what exactly do we mean when we say “grass-fed”? And is all grass-fed beef the same?

It’s All in the Finishing

“All cattle are grass-fed at one time in their life, until most end up in a feedlot where they’re finished on grain,” says Texas rancher Gerry Shudde. Indeed, most cows spend at least six months eating grass, before they are “finished,” or fattened up, with grain.The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association puts that number at 12 months, but most grain-finished beef cows don’t live beyond 18 months.

According to rancher and the author of Defending Beef Nicolette Hahn Niman, the real number likely falls somewhere in the middle. “On average, the cattle in the U.S. that is going through feedlots is slaughtered at 14-16 months,” she says. “They do grow fatter and faster if they’re being fed grain, so they’re going into feedlots at younger ages to shorten that time as much as possible.” In a feedlot environment, grain causes cows to put on about one pound for every six pounds of feed they eat. In contrast, grass-fed cows are slaughtered anywhere between 18-36 months.

“When you keep cattle on grass their whole lives, and truly have them forage for a diet that their bodies have evolved to eat, you allow them to grow at a slower pace,” says Niman. Not surprisingly, caring for the animal for so long can be expensive for ranchers and consumers.

Many informed eaters will tell you that this slower process results in a signature flavor and distinct leanness that sets it apart from its corn-fed counterpart, but the fact is that beef producers can label their product “grass-fed,” even if the animal is fed grain over the course of its lifetime. Unlike the lengthy auditing process involved in U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) organic certification, the use of “grass-fed” is only regulated under the agency’s “marketing claim standards.

According to these standards, grass-fed cows are supposed to be given continuous access to rangeland, and they cannot be fed grains or grain by-products. In the event of drought or other “adverse weather conditions,” farmers are allowed to bend these rules if the animal’s wellness is in jeopardy, but they must maintain meticulous records. Unfortunately, these regulations are, for the most part, a paper tiger.

Missing Oversight

Marilyn Noble of the American Grassfed Association argues that beef producers have little incentive to stick with those rules. “It’s a big issue, and there is a lot of misunderstanding. The Agricultural Marketing Service developed the grass-fed standard, but the Food Safety and Inspection Service actually enforces it,” says Noble. “The two organizations, even though they’re both part of the USDA, don’t communicate especially well. You see a lot of beef labeled as ‘grass-fed,’ but whether or not it actually meets that standard is questionable.”

Noble’s skepticism is rooted in the fact that, for the most part, the USDA allows producers to determine whether or not their beef meets the grass-fed beef marketing claim standard. Noble says farms “self-certify” their own beef, and the Food Safety and Inspection Service generally goes along with their claim. The ubiquitous “naturally raised” label on meat has no enforceable meaning either, and further muddles a consumer’s ability to find beef that has been exclusively raised on pasture.

The American Grassfed Association, established in 2003, has far more stringent standards for its own label than the USDA, and hires third-party auditors to inspect the farms of its 100-plus certified producers across the country each year.

Farmers’ markets are also often full of vendors offering grass-fed beef from their own pastures. And the rising popularity of meat CSAs and whole animal buying clubs is an indication of how dramatically this trend has grown in recent years. With these options, consumers can talk directly to farmers to find out how their beef was raised. Many of these producers have begun using the term “pasture raised,” another unregulated labeling term that is popular among ranchers.

Even Whole Foods has adopted some of this farm-to-market language in its meat sourcing standards. For example, “pasture-centered” farms score a 4 out of 5 on the grocer’s Animal Welfare Rating scale (owned by Global Animal Partnership). In reality, Niman says, these animals may not be doing much of the foraging that gives grass-fed beef its nutritional benefits.

“[Whole Foods] has been encouraging this segment of beef in the marketplace where animals are roaming on a small area with vegetative cover,” says Niman. “But they’re being provided feed, and not actually getting most of their nutrition from foraging. It’s almost like a feedlot.”

At BN Ranch, which Nicolette operates with her husband, Bill Niman, “the godfather of sustainable meat” and founder of Niman Ranch, cattle is given more time to slowly develop fat over a period of more than two years. For the Nimans, good “eating quality” in the beef is paramount. But, Nicolette says, that’s not always the case on farms where people are “doing it for philosophical reasons. They believe that grazing is ecologically superior, and that it is the right way to raise cattle. The things that are motivating them are not eating quality.”

As a result, grass-fed beef’s lean flavor is often seen as inferior. Some chefs, particularly in fine-dining steakhouses, still resist serving grass-fed beef in favor of corn-fed, USDA prime beef, because of its fat content.

Worth the Wait

Michael Sohocki, chef of Restaurant Gwendolyn in San Antonio, Texas, chooses grass-fed beef over the cheaper, richer, corn-fed cuts because he firmly believes that the process is worth the extra time and money. And his discerning diners come to his restaurant because they know the meat has been properly sourced. “When you eat stockyard beef, all of that beef is the same,” says Sohocki. “It’s done that way to guarantee its consistency. That’s what McDonald’s specializes in.”

Sohocki calls grass-fed beef “the only trustworthy product left in this world.” He sources it from nearby Shudde Ranch, where Jeanne and Gerry Shudde make a point of raising a specialized cross-breed of species suited to naturally develop fat on pasture.

“Our [cows] are on grass when they’re with their mother. And when separated, they stay on the grass,” says Gerry Shudde.

The Shuddes decided to go grass-fed by chance after acquiring a herd of Longhorn cattle that they planned to cross-breed with their own. The offspring did not fare well, but the Shuddes ultimately decided to keep the longhorn cows. When they butchered a six-year-old cow, which had been raised on grass for much longer than usual, Jeanne says, “It was really tender. We thought ‘gosh, this tastes better than what we get in the grocery store.’”

From there, the Shuddes developed their own, new breed of grass-fed cattle. They were already raising cows without antibiotics or hormones, and their farm eventually evolved into a completely grass-fed operation by 2002. Still, they had to find the right cow to produce the quality of beef that they desired. “Most of the animals that you find today have been genetically selected to do well in a feedlot environment,” says Jeanne. “If you take them and put them on grass and think they will [taste good], I’d say maybe, maybe not. But if you take an animal that is genetically survival-oriented, it will become well-marbled on grass.”

Their own cows are now a cross between that original herd of Longhorn cattle and a heritage Devon bull. “Our belief is that if they eat what they evolved to eat, and live in the way that they have evolved to, the nutrition for the animal’s survival will be there,” says Jeanne. “If the nutrition is there, humans will get that nutrition when we eat the meat.”

This article originally appeared on Civil Eats

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TIME public health

Turkey Bacon and Six Other Foods to Avoid This Week

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Spoiled turkey bacon and bread with glass bits are being recalled

In our food supply, safety sometimes slips through the cracks. Unfortunately, the U.S. saw quite a few recalls this week, and since not every recall reported to authorities makes headlines, we’ve rounded them up for you. If you purchased a product that’s been recalled, you can often return it from where you bought it for a refund.

Turkey bacon
Brand: Oscar Mayer
Contaminated with: Spoils earlier than indicated.
Kraft Heinz Foods Company is recalling about 2,068,467 pounds of turkey bacon products because the products may spoil before their “best when used by” date. The issue was discovered when consumers complained about spoilage problems. The company has received reports of illness. Read the full report here.

Breads
Brands: Sara Lee, Great Value, Kroger, Bimbo, Nature’s Harvest and L’Oven Fresh
Contaminated with: Possible glass fragments
Bimbo Bakeries has recalled some of its breads sold under a variety of brands due to the possible presence of glass from a broken light bulb in one of the company’s bakeries. The company was made aware of the problem after three consumers reported small pieces of glass on the outside of the bread. Read the full report here.

Duck head and neck
Brand: California Qi Li’s Braised Chicken
Contaminated with: Undeclared soy sauce
California Qi Li’s Braised Chicken is recalling about 6,644 pounds of duck head and duck neck products due to undeclared soy sauce. There have been no reports of illness from the product. Read the full report here.

MORE: Why You Shouldn’t Eat Delicious Charred Foods

Macadamia nuts
Brand: Jansal Valley
Contaminated with: Salmonella
Food distributor Sid Wainer and Son of New Bedford, MA is recalling Jansal Valley brand Raw Macadamia Nuts after the bacteria Salmonella was found in a one-pound package of the nuts. So far no illnesses have been reported. Read the full report here.

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Granola Bars
Brand: Sam Mills
Contaminated with: Undeclared dairy
Sam Mills is recalling 11,083 cases of 4.4 ounce boxes of Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Granola Bars due to possible contamination with dairy. The product currently claims to be dairy-free even though there is a risk of cross contamination with dairy. This could be problematic for people with dairy sensitivities. Read the full report here.

Dark Chocolate covered Honey Grahams with Sea Salt
Brand: Trader Joe’s
Contaminated with: Undeclared milk
Candy retailer Jo’s Candies is recalling Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate covered Honey Grahams with Sea Salt because the product may contain milk which is not listed on the label. That’s problematic for people who have milk-related allergies. So far there have been two reactions to the product reported. Read the full report here.

Green beans
Brand: Cascadian Farm
Contaminated with: Listeria monocytogenes
General Mills is recalling packages of its Cascadian Farm Cut Green Beans. One package tested positive for the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes. No illnesses have been reported. Read the full report here.

TIME public health

The Downside to the FDA’s Trans Fat Ban

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The new law will make labeling more confusing and make way for more environmentally destructive palm oil

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently told food manufacturers to stop using partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), the major source of artificial trans fats in processed foods ranging from nondairy creamers, to baked goods, margarine, and microwave popcorn. The move, the FDA said, “is expected to reduce coronary heart disease and prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks every year.”

Use of these oils has already dropped by a dramatic 78 percent since the FDA required trans fats to be listed on nutrition labels in 2006. This next phase-out won’t happen overnight: Food companies will have until June 2018 to phase them out.

Before you reach for that donut labeled “trans fat 0 grams,” here’s what you need to know.

1. Trans fats will not disappear from processed food entirely

While the FDA has determined that PHOs will no longer be “generally recognized as safe,” or GRAS, processed food will not be entirely trans-fat-free. There are other sources of trans fats, including fully refined and hydrogenated oils. Some also occur naturally in dairy and meat products.

Food manufacturers have been lobbying to slow down the removal of trans fats since the 1970s, and they are still looking for loopholes. For instance, even with the new ban, companies can petition the FDA to approve specific uses of PHOs, and they will be doing just that. The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) plans to file such a petition on behalf of the industry, “seeking limited and specific use levels to continue using PHOs in food,” said GMA spokesperson Roger Lowe in a recent phone interview. The petition, “will show that the presence of trans fats from the proposed low-level uses of partially hydrogenated oils is safe as the naturally occurring trans fat present in the normal diet,” the GMA explained further in a statement. Any outcome is likely to take several years.

2. “Zero grams” of trans fat per serving does not mean no trans fats

Under current regulations, companies can say “0 grams trans fat” on nutrition labels even if each serving contains up to 0.5 grams of these fats. As the FDA itself explains, “if there is partially hydrogenated oil listed among the ingredients, the product will contain a small amount of trans fat. Selecting foods with even small amounts of trans fat can add up to a significant intake.”

In a 2015 analysis, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that 27 percent of the 84,000 foods in its database contain artificial trans fat and another 10 percent were likely to. EWG also found that 87 percent of the more than 7,500 foods that contained partially hydrogenated oils didn’t disclose this on nutrition labels, but showed their trans fat content at 0 grams per serving. While this is not good news for anyone’s health, it’s particularly problematic for children, who tend to take in proportionally more of these fats, said EWG nutritionist and registered dietitian Dawn Underagga.

On a call with reporters, the FDA said it has plans to deal with this labeling issue separately. The agency is now considering a proposed update to nutrition labels, but whether it will change the amount of trans fat per serving allowed under the “0 grams per serving” listing, remains to be seen.

3. The replacement fats have their own problems

One of the attractions of PHOs is their long shelf-life, which is good for processed food manufacturers. It also allows fry oil to be used many times. “Regular soybean oil has a relatively short life before it goes rancid,” explained Center for Science in the Public Interest executive director Michael Jacobsen. But now, he added, “high oleic oils”–soy, canola, cottonseed, and palm–have been engineered to make them last.

According to Chemical and Engineering News, the oils created by Dow, DuPont, and Monsanto through breeding or genetic modification “are low in polyunsaturated fatty acids, which keeps them from going rancid, and enriched in monounsaturated oleic acid,” making them more healthful than trans fats. They are less beneficial than their natural counterparts, however, “because of their reduced levels of α-linolenic acid, a polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acid, according to Harvard School of Public Health’s website.”

Palm oil, in particular, is likely to be a solution many companies turn to in the coming years. According to the Rainforest Action Network, use of palm oil has already increased by about 500 percent in the past 10 years as labeling rules took effect, and FDA indicated a phase-out might be coming.

This has been bad news in places like Indonesia and Malaysia, where rainforests are being cleared for palm oil plantations. Not only is this destroying habitat for orangutans, elephants, tigers, and other rare species, but it is also removing some of the world’s best natural sources for absorbing atmospheric carbon emissions, significantly contributing to climate change. Human and labor rights abuses are also an ongoing problem in this industry.

During the September 2014 U.N. Climate Summit, dozens of the world’s biggest food producers–including Cargill, General Mills, Kellogg, Mondelez, Mars, Nestlé, and Walmart–pledged to reduce the carbon impacts of their products, including by making a commitment to source only sustainably grown palm oil.

Despite what he calls “tremendous changes” in palm oil supply chains, Friends of the Earth international forest campaigner Jeff Conant says the FDA’s trans fat phase-out could lead to more rain forest destruction. The U.S., said Conant, should “create and enforce mandatory environmental and social standards on palm oil investment and palm oil purchasing.” And Rainforest Action Network, which continues to watchdog the companies who’ve pledged to improve their palm oil sourcing, found that many big brands, including Sara Lee, Pepperidge Farm, Top Ramen, Cup Noodles, and Weight Watchers are still using what the group calls “conflict palm oil.”

4. This change probably won’t make Americans healthy on its own

General Mills told Civil Eats that “more than 95 percent of its U.S. retail products are already labeled zero grams trans fat, and work on the rest of the portfolio is already underway.” Kraft and Kellogg’s report similar progress. But the FDA says to truly avoid PHOs, shoppers should read ingredient lists rather than rely only on labels.

Restaurant food is trickier, since it isn’t labeled, but a number of restaurant chains–including McDonald’s–have already moved away from trans fats, partly in response to restrictions imposed by local governments, such as those in New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, California, and King County, in Washington’s Seattle area. But it’s still not clear whether these changes will make a significant enough impact on customers’ health.

Meanwhile, environmental health advocates are calling on FDA to act further. “This is a public health victory, but there are thousands of chemicals in the food supply the FDA should also be reviewing,” said Natural Resources Defense Council health and environment program director Erik Olson. EWG research director Renee Sharp agreed, adding, “there’s so much more that needs to be done.”

As Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health professor of epidemiology and nutrition Walter Willett noted in a blog on the Harvard website, while, “elimination of trans fat is an important step forward, much additional effort is needed to improve the quality of the U.S. food supply, which is far too high in refined starch, sugar, salt, and red meat, and far too low in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.”

Elizabeth Grossman is a Portland, Oregon-based journalist specializing in environmental and science issues. She is the author of Chasing Molecules, High Tech Trash, Watershed and other books. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including Scientific American, Environmental Health Perspectives, Yale e360, Ensia, High Country News, The Pump Handle, Chemical Watch, Washington Post, TheAtlantic.com, Salon, The Nation, and Mother Jones.

This article originally appeared on Civil Eats

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TIME global health

Over 46 Million People Now Have Dementia Worldwide

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Dementia is often caused by Alzheimer's Disease

More than 46 million people around the world suffer from dementia, according to a report released Tuesday.

The World Alzheimer Report, published by Alzheimer’s Disease International and King’s College London, says the number of people affected by dementia has increased quickly from the 35 million estimated in 2009, and researchers warn that number could double in the next 20 years.

Dementia is a collective term for progressive, degenerative brain syndromes affecting cognitive functions. Alzheimer’s disease is a common cause of dementia.

The report also noted that 58% of all people with dementia reside in developing countries. By 2050, 68% of those with dementia will be located in low and middle income countries, where services are limited and populations are aging quickly.

There is no cure for dementia.

TIME public health

This Technology Tracks Antibiotic Resistance In Food

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Danny Kim for TIME

Federal officials have created a new public database that tracks superbugs

On Wednesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rolled out a new interactive tool that allows users to follow the spread of antibiotic resistant bugs nationwide, called NARMS (National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System) Now: Human Data. According to the CDC, every year there are two million reported illnesses and 23,000 deaths associated with antibiotic resistant bacteria. Bacteria in our food accounts for 440,000 of those illnesses.

The CDC has long tracked the travel routes of four of the common types of bacteria transmitted through food: Campylobacter, E. coli O157, Salmonella, and Shigella. The data has already helped researchers investigate the distribution of multi drug resistant strains of salmonella and track down trends in resistance. For instance, the FDA withdrew approval for Enrofloxacin (a fluoroquinolone) in chickens after NARMS data revealed growing fluoroquinolone-resistant bacterial infections among Americans. Now the interactive database is free to the public to examine how these bugs have changed through the past 18 years.

“This is an educational tool for people who want to learn more about foodborne pathogens,” says Regan Rickert-Hartman, senior epidemiologist and program coordinator for NARMS. “This is [also] a good tool for health departments that are looking to compare their data to other states.”

Interactive maps, some of the most consumer-friendly aspects of the database, allow users to watch the spread and growth of antibiotic resistant bacteria like Salmonella and Campylobacter over time through the United States.

The database was launched partly in response to calls from academics, Congress and consumer groups for more transparency and better access to data on antibiotic resistance, the CDC says. Rickert-Hartman says the database is part of the agency’s response to President Obama’s Open Government Initiative to establish more participation and open collaboration.

Though the current data only goes through 2013, Rickert-Hartman says the CDC hopes to add 2014 and 2015 data by the end of the year.

TIME Heart Disease

Working Long Hours Could Increase Your Risk of Stroke and Heart Disease

The reasons might be connected to stress, physical inactivity, and higher alcohol consumption

Burning the candle at both ends might impress your boss, but you could be sacrificing your health in the process.

A study published in The Lancet on Wednesday finds a strong connection between people who work 55 or more hours per week and cardiovascular disease. Those who work such long hours were found to have a 33% increased risk of stroke and 13% greater chance of developing coronary heart disease compared to people who work the standard 35- to 40-hour work week.

Researchers from University College London reviewed 42 studies of hundreds of thousands of men and women from Europe, the U.S., and Australia for several years. Their results held even after controlling for demographic factors—age, sex, socioeconomic status—and health behaviors—like smoking, alcohol consumption, and physical activity.

Working overtime in general, even if it’s not the 55 hour maximum the group studied, also affects health outcomes negatively. Working between 41 to 48 hours led to a 10% increased risk of stroke and upping work hours to between 49 and 54 hours a week caused a 27% increased risk of stroke.

The authors aren’t sure exactly what the link is, but noted a few potential causes. For one, working long hours tends to be correlated with risky health behaviors, like drinking more alcohol or sitting for hours at a time. Those behaviors, combined with the stress associated with working overtime, could be a perfect recipe for a stroke or cardiovascular strain.

Read next: Want a Four-Day Workweek? Here’s How to Make it Happen

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TIME medicine

Pharmaceutical Giant Amgen Settles for $71 Million For Misleading Consumers

Amgen Pharmaceutical
Robert Galbraith—Reuters Amgen's office in San Francisco on Oct. 21, 2013.

The company was accused of "making unapproved and unsubstantiated claims about prescription drugs" Aranesp and Enbrel.

Pharmaceutical company Amgen Inc. has settled with 48 states and the District of Columbia for $71 million after being accused of illegally promoting two drugs for “off-label” uses, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Tuesday.

The pharmaceutical company was accused of promoting its two brands, Aranesp and Enbrel, for uses not approved by the FDA.

“Pharmaceutical companies are prohibited from making unapproved and unsubstantiated claims about prescription drugs,” Schneiderman said in a press release. “Consumers need to have confidence in the accuracy of claims made by pharmaceutical companies.”

Aranesp is an anemia medication that works by stimulating bone marrow production of red blood cells. Enbrel is used to treat multiple conditions, notably chronic and severe plaque psoriasis.

A complaint filed against Amgen said Aranesp was promoted for longer dosing frequencies and for cancer-caused anemia, for which it had neither FDA approval nor scientific proof. Enbrel was promoted for mild cases of plaque psoriasis, despite being only approved for severe cases; it was also advertised to be far more effective than scientifically shown, according to the complaint.

As part of the settlement Amgen will have to change its advertising strategy to exclude it of its current misleading intent and is forbidden from continuing its current claims.

In a statement, Amgen responded by saying it “is pleased to have this matter resolved, and remains committed to fulfilling its mission to serve patients.”

TIME public health

5 Things You Should Know About Listeria

Getting sick from listeria is relatively rare, and only a small part of the population is at risk of getting seriously ill from it

Nearly four months after recalling all of its products due to possible Listeria contamination, the maker of Blue Bell ice cream announced yesterday that its trucks are back on the road.

Listeriosis is one of the most deadly foodborne illnesses in the U.S., and the recent outbreak raised panic and fear across the country, in part because Blue Bell is one of the nation’s largest ice cream suppliers. In total, ten cases of listeriosis were reported from four states, and three hospital patients who ate milkshakes made with Blue Bell products died as a result of the disease. But listeriosis is relatively rare, and only a small part of the population is at risk of getting seriously ill from it.

To clear up misunderstandings about the disease, here are 5 things you should know:

1. What is listeriosis and how do you get it?

People typically become infected with listeriosis after eating food contaminated with a bacterium called Listeria monocytogenes. It can be found in soil and water, and animals can carry the bacterium without getting ill. Uncooked meat, vegetables, and dairy can all be contaminated with Listeria, and the bacteria can be tracked into factories in a number of ways—workers can accidentally bring it in on the bottoms of their shoes, for instance. Babies can be born with listeriosis if their mothers ate contaminated food during pregnancy.

2. How common are listeria outbreaks?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, listeriosis infects an estimated 1600 people each year in the United States and causes about 260 deaths, making it a serious public health problem. While the Blue Bell outbreak is on track to be the most far-reaching listeria scare of 2015, there have been deadlier outbreaks in recent years. (In 2014, 35 cases of listeriosis were attributed to prepackaged caramel apples, with 7 deaths linked to the outbreak. A cantaloupe outbreak in 2011 infected nearly 150 people, with 33 reported deaths.)

3. What happens if I get listeriosis?

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, symptoms of listeriosis can appear several weeks after eating contaminated food (and affected individuals will not know they’ve consumed contaminated food until that point). People experiencing muscle aches, sometimes preceded by gastrointestinal symptoms, or develop a fever and chills after eating the ice cream should seek medical care.

4. I ate Blue Bell ice cream before they announced the recall. Am I at risk?

If you’re not in a high-risk category (i.e. pregnant women, people with weakened immune systems, and adults over the age of 65), listeriosis is rare. Even if you do get infected, it is unlikely you’ll become seriously ill. Additionally, no related listeriosis cases have been reported since the Blue Bell recall—all 10 cases linked to the outbreak occurred between January 2010 and January 2015. But that doesn’t mean you should eat all the Blue Bell ice cream buried away in your freezer (“When in doubt, throw it out,” is the CDC’s official line).

5. Is it okay to eat Blue Bell ice cream again?

In April, Blue Bell Creameries announced it “will embark on an intensive cleaning program while it simultaneously conducts a new training program for its employees.” The company also set up agreements with the Alabama Department of Public Health, the Texas Department of State Health Services, and the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry outlining steps to safely bring its products back to market.

But while Blue Bell ice cream may soon be back on shelves, it seems the company won’t emerge unscathed: Lawsuits against the company have already been filed, and Blue Bell’s CEO announced in May that 37 percent of the company’s 3900 employees would be laid off because of the pause in production.

This article originally appeared on Food52

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TIME public health

Head Lice in 25 States Are Now Resistant to Treatment

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Illustration by Sydney Rae Hass for TIME

A large number of lice populations have gene mutations that may make it resistant to over-the-counter treatments

Here’s some lousy news: Lice in half of America—at least 25 states—are now resistant to over-the-counter treatments. That’s according to new research presented at the American Chemical Society’s national meeting.

Study author Kyong S. Yoon, PhD, assistant professor in the Biological Sciences and Environmental Sciences Program at Southern Illinois University, has been researching lice since 2000. (“My PhD entirely focused on head lice,” he says with a laugh.) Using the services of professional nitpickers across the country, Yoon decided to take an American lice census by collecting pest populations from every state.

MORE: Experts Claim Selfies Are Giving Teens Head Lice

His research is still ongoing, but what he’s found so far in 109 samples from 30 states is startling: the vast majority of lice now carry genes that are super-resistant to the over-the-counter treatment used against them.

Lice is commonly treated by a group of insecticides called pyrethroids, used for mosquito control. One of those, permethrin, is the active ingredient in some anti-lice treatments—but lice populations can develop a trio of mutations that make it resistant to pyrethroids.

MORE: Head Lice Is No Reason To Keep Kids Out Of School

In 25 of the states, lice samples had all three of these genetic mutations, making them the most resistant to treatment. Lice populations from four other states had one, two or three mutations, and in just one state—Michigan—were the pests not resistant at all to the insecticide.

“It’s a really, really serious problem right now in the U.S.,” Yoon says. Though head lice aren’t known to transmit any diseases, they can be an itchy nuisance—and now, they’re harder to kill. Yoon suggests prescription-based products, like ivermectin or spinosad, if pyrethroid-based treatments don’t work.

TIME public health

The One Food to Avoid Buying This Week

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Hint: it's a whole hog

It was a pretty good week for food recalls, but one item stood out in these final days of summer: whole hogs for barbeques.

On Thursday, federal officials announced that Kapowsin Meats, a company based in Graham, Washington, recalled 116,262 pounds of whole hogs due to possible Salmonella contamination. The bacteria can cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps in people who consume it. Some people who consume Salmonella-tainted products may develop a severe infection and need to be hospitalized.

MORE: 38 Things Americans Say They’ve Found In A Hot Dog

In July, the Washington State Department of Health notified authorities that it was investigating Salmonella illnesses in the state. Health officials eventually linked these infections to whole hogs for barbeque from Kapowsin Meats. More than 30 people ate the hogs before they became infected with Salmonella.

The investigation is continuing, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) says there are 134 people in Washington whose onset of illness between April 25, 2015 to July 27, 2015. Those sicknesses may be tied to the contaminated hogs, which were produced between April 18, 2015 and July 27, 2015.

MORE: Meet The Secret Group That Decides Which Flavors Are ‘Natural’

FSIS and Kapowsin Meats worry some consumers may have contaminated meat in their freezers. The meat was shipped to consumers, retail shops and distributors in Alaska and Washington.

There’s concern among health officials that the source of the outbreak could go beyond Kapowsin Meats and to farms in Washington or Montana. “Eight of 11 environmental samples from the slaughterhouse did return positives for the pathogen, which is being seen in Washington State for the first time ever,” Food Safety News reports.

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