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California adopts tough rules for antibiotic use in farm animals

By Lisa Baertlein LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – California Governor Jerry Brown on Saturday signed a bill that sets the strictest government standards in the United States for the use of antibiotics in livestock production. The move from California, known for its leadership on public health and environmental issues, comes amid growing concern that the overuse of such drugs is contributing to rising numbers of life-threatening human infections from antibiotic-resistant bacteria known as “superbugs.” The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 2 million people in this country are infected with drug resistant bacteria each year and that 23,000 die as a direct result. “This puts California at the forefront of U.S. efforts to address the overuse of antibiotics in meat production,” said Avinash Kar, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

GE wins EU approval to buy Alstom’s power unit

By Foo Yun Chee BRUSSELS (Reuters) – General Electric won European Union antitrust clearance on Tuesday to buy Alstom's power unit after agreeing to sell some of the French company's assets to Italian competitor Ansaldo Energia. The European Commission said the concessions allayed its earlier concerns that the 12.4-billion-euro ($13.9 billion) deal would reduce competition to two major players, namely the merged company and Germany's Siemens . GE will divest Alstom's large turbine product line and the technology it is developing for very large turbines to Ansaldo, which is 40 percent owned by Italian state-backed investment fund Fondo Strategico Italiano and another 40 percent by China's Shanghai Electric .

China’s foreign minister to visit Ebola-affected countries

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi leaves this week on a visit to three of the African nations hardest hit by an outbreak of the Ebola virus, the Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday. Ebola has killed more than 11,200 people in West Africa since it broke out in December 2013. China, Africa's biggest trading partner, has sent hundreds of medical workers to Africa and contributed aid of more than $120 million to the anti-Ebola effort, after initially facing criticism for not doing enough.

Mozart-loving chickens may answer quest for healthier nugget

By Naveen Thukral and Gavin Maguire YONG PENG, Malaysia (Reuters) – In barns filled with classical music and lighting that changes to match the hues outside, rows of chickens are fed a diet rich in probiotics, a regimen designed to remove the need for the drugs and chemicals that have tainted the global food chain. As food giants face growing pressure to offer healthier produce, Southeast Asian poultry firm Kee Song Group says its use of “good” bacteria in feed and water means it can meet one the industry's biggest challenges: how to mass produce drug and hormone-free poultry at a reasonable price. A series of scandals in the last few years from melamine-tainted milk powder in China, horse meat supplied as beef in Europe and growth drugs causing lameness in U.S. cattle has triggered a consumer backlash over food standards and safety. Recently, Tyson Foods Inc pledged to eliminate the use of human antibiotics in chicken by 2017, one of the most aggressive timetables yet by a U.S. poultry firm.

New Zealand firms see slump in China demand for infant formula after poison threat

By Naomi Tajitsu and Adam Jourdan WELLINGTON/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Chinese demand for New Zealand infant formula has fallen after a threat by suspected environmental activists to contaminate the product with an agricultural poison, the head of an exporter group said on Wednesday. Orders for infant formula, prized among China’s growing middle class, have slumped after New Zealand police on Tuesday said letters were sent to the national farmers’ group and dairy giant Fonterra in November accompanied by packages of infant formula laced with poisonous pesticide 1080, formally called sodium fluoroacetate. Following the announcement, China said it would increase scrutiny of milk powder imports from New Zealand, which depends on dairy products for about a quarter of its export earnings.

Australian food company recalls berries after hep A outbreak linked to China

By Jane Wardell SYDNEY (Reuters) – An Australian company has recalled its frozen berry products following a hepatitis A outbreak linked to poor hygiene and water supplies in a Chinese packaging plant, reigniting fears about the safety of the Asian giant’s food exports. Australian authorities were investigating on Monday after five people fell sick after eating the Patties Foods Ltd berries, which were grown in both Chile and China before being packaged at the Chinese factory. There has long been concern about food safety in China, where pollution from rapid industrialization has exacted a heavy toll on soil and water. Contamination scandals that led to deaths and serious illnesses have increased the popularity in China of imports of European infant formula, New Zealand milk and Japanese rice.

California turkey farm quarantined after bird flu detected

By Theopolis Waters CHICAGO (Reuters) – A California turkey farm has been quarantined after confirmation of the first case of an outbreak of the highly pathogenic H5N8 avian influenza strain in the Pacific Northwest and in a commercial flock, the U.S. government said. The news on Saturday came just weeks after China banned U.S. poultry after an outbreak of another strain of bird flu in the Pacific Northwest. In the latest outbreak, Foster Farms said in a statement that it had informed the U.S. Department of Agriculture after detecting the H5N8 strain on a single turkey ranch in Stanislaus County following routine testing. State and government labs confirmed the findings from samples submitted by Foster Farms, which had experienced a spike in bird deaths, according to the USDA.

Two die of bird flu in China

Two people have died of the H7N9 strain of avian flu in China's eastern province of Fujian, state media said Saturday, quoting local health officials. Fujian has confirmed 15 cases since the start of 2015, Xinhua news agency reported. Another human infection was reported in the adjacent province of Jiangxi on Friday, Xinhua said, while both the municipality of Shanghai and neighbouring Zhejiang province have reported cases “this winter”. Cases of the virus accelerated in China in 2014, with statistics compiled by health authorities in Beijing showing 310 cases were diagnosed on the mainland from January until December 10, including 132 deaths.