More than 18 months into the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S., nearly 1 in 5 Americans is consuming an unhealthy amount of alcohol, a new survey suggests.
About 17% of respondents reported "heavy drinking" in the past 30 days, according to the survey conducted by analytics firm The Harris Poll and commissioned by Alkermes, an Ireland-based biopharmaceutical company.
The survey was conducted online from March 30 to April 7 among 6,006 U.S. adults ages 21 and older. Of those, 1,003 adults reported "heavy drinking."
"Heavy drinking" was defined as having had two heavy drinking days in a single week at least twice in the previous 30 days. A "heavy drinking day" was defined as four or more drinks containing alcohol for women and five or more drinks containing alcohol for men.
Dr. Neeraj Gandotra, chief medical officer at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, said the study's findings were "not surprising." Almost 90% of individuals with substance use disorder are not in treatment, and alcohol and drug use typically worsen with isolation, Gandotra said.
Several studies have suggested Americans are buying more alcohol and drinking more frequently during the coronavirus pandemic.
A study by the Rand Corp. last fall found the frequency of alcohol consumption in the U.S. rose 14% compared with before the pandemic. Women, in particular, increased heavy drinking days by 41%, according to the study.
Another study by researchers at the University of Arizona found "dramatic increases in harmful alcohol consumption" over the first six months of the pandemic. Greater alcohol consumption was most associated with job loss because of COVID-19, according to the study.
According to the new Harris Poll survey, many respondents who reported heavy drinking said that, over the past 12 months, they experienced negative mental, physical and psychosocial impacts.
Three in 10 said they continued to drink despite it making them feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem. About 1 in 4 reported they continued to drink after experiencing a memory blackout. More than 1 in 5 experienced withdrawal symptoms when the effects of alcohol were wearing off. And 23% gave up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to them in order to drink.
Why Liquor Shortages Caused By The COVID-19 Pandemic Persist In Some States A fair warning for your next trip to the liquor store: Several states across the U.S. are still experiencing booze shortages related to COVID-19, and it's unclear when supply will be able to meet demand.
Early in the pandemic, it was common to find libations low in stock after some liquor stores briefly closed amid statewide lockdowns and skyrocketing consumer demand for alcohol.
But continued reports of shortages from Vermont to New Jersey to Ohio persist more than a year later, and some states are rationing their liquor supply amid ongoing supply chain issues.
The Pennsylvania state board in charge of consumer liquor sales announced last week that it was limiting customers to two bottles of certain alcoholic beverages per day. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board said the purchase limit on select items — including Hennessy Cognac, Buffalo Trace bourbon and Patrón tequila — will be in place for the "foreseeable future."
Liquor store customers in North Carolina are encountering "out of stock" signs instead of their favorite spirits, local TV station WTVD reported, amid an ongoing supply shortage there, too.
"I don't think anybody saw the kind of demand that we're seeing right now — particularly in those high-end and super-premium products — coming," said David Ozgo, chief economist of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.
Why liquor is running low in many states
According to Ozgo and others, there are problems at nearly every step of the alcohol beverage supply chain.
Some producers are struggling to source glass bottles. The cost to import liquor from overseas has shot up because of price increases in international shipping. And actually delivering booze to bars, restaurants and other vendors has been hampered by a shortage of truck drivers.
"So all along the line, you almost have a compounding effect," Ozgo said, adding that some of these problems existed before the pandemic but grew worse over the past year.
Shawn Kelly, the spokesperson for the Pennsylvania liquor board, said some businesses are also having staffing issues.
But there is another big problem, one that occurs before any alcohol even touches the bottle.
Many liquors simply take a long time to make. Producers have to grow or buy the ingredients, distill the spirit, then let it age. That means producers must anticipate demand years in advance. They can't simply turn on the spigot when demand rises.
"You can't go back five years and retroactively plant more agave," Ozgo said of the plant used to make tequila. "It doesn't work that way."
The distiller Buffalo Trace, whose bourbon is currently limited to two bottles per day for customers in Pennsylvania, is undertaking a $1.2 billion expansion but says it will still be "a few years" before it can fully meet consumer demand.
"Buffalo Trace recognizes this is not the news its fans want to hear for the next few years but making great whiskey does take time and the Distillery is not prepared to cut quality corners to increase short term supply," the company said in a press release.
What it means for drinkers
The statewide policy change in Pennsylvania, which stems from the fact that its government controls the sale of spirits and operates all of the commonwealth's retail stores, affects millions of residents.
"[W]e believe the shortages are out of their control," Chuck Moran, executive director of the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association, said of the state board's decision.
The association represents small-business taverns and licensed restaurants. Moran says that while he understands there are supply chain issues, it's small businesses and customers who pay the price.
"Unfortunately, since taverns and licensed restaurants — as well as the general consumer who walks into a state liquor store — are at the tail end of the chain, it does have a negative impact."
In Virginia, another state where the government is in charge of alcohol sales, customers are only allowed to buy one bottle of certain liquors per day. Part of that is to make special edition booze available to more people, but state officials say it is also the result of skyrocketing demand during the pandemic.
Ozgo, with the Distilled Spirits Council, said that outside of so-called "control states," it would be up to individual liquor stores to determine whether to limit the sale of certain products. From NPR
Wake up and smell the coffee ... made in the United States
NEW YORK, Sept 22 (Reuters) - Farmer David Armstrong recently finished planting what is likely the most challenging crop his family has ever cultivated since his ancestors started farming in 1865 - 20,000 coffee trees.
Except Armstrong is not in the tropics of Central America - he is in Ventura, California, just 60 miles (97 km) away from downtown Los Angeles.
"I guess now I can say I am a coffee farmer!" he said, after planting the last seedlings of high-quality varieties of arabica coffee long cultivated in sweltering equatorial climates.
Coffee is largely produced in the Coffee Belt, located between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, where countries such as Brazil, Colombia, Ethiopia and Vietnam have provided the best climate for coffee trees, which need constant heat to survive.
Climate change is altering temperatures around the globe. That is harming crops in numerous locales, but opening up possibilities in other regions. That includes California and Florida, where farmers and researchers are looking at growing coffee.
Armstrong recently joined a group of farmers taking part in the largest-ever coffee growing endeavor in the United States. The nation is the world's largest consumer of the beverage but produces just 0.01% of the global coffee crop - and that was all in Hawaii, one of only two U.S. states with a tropical climate, along with southern Florida.
Traditional producers of coffee such as Colombia, Brazil and Vietnam have suffered from the impact of extreme heat and changing rain patterns. Botanists and researchers are looking to plant hardier crop varieties for some of those nations' coffee growing regions. read more
Top producer Brazil is going through the worst drought in over 90 years. That was compounded by a series of unexpected frosts, which damaged about 10% of the trees, hurting coffee production this year and next.
As the climate warms in the southern United States, researchers at the University of Florida (UF) are working with a pilot plantation to see if trees will survive in that state.
Scientists have just moved seedlings of arabica coffee trees grown in a greenhouse to the open, where they will be exposed to the elements, creating the risk that plants could be killed by the cold when the winter comes.
"It is going to be the first time they will be tested," said Diane Rowland, a lead researcher on the project.
Rowland said researchers are planting coffee trees close to citrus, an intercropping technique used in other parts of the world as larger trees help hold winds and provide shade to coffee trees.
The project, however, is about more than just coffee cultivation. Alina Zare, an artificial intelligence researcher at UF's College of Engineering, said scientists are also trying to improve how to study plants' root systems. That, in turn, could help in the selection of optimal coffee varieties for the region in the future.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. weather agency, annual mean temperatures were at least 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 degrees Celsius) above average for more than half the time in the long-term measuring stations across the United States' southeastern region in 2020.
Florida experienced record heat last year, with average temperatures of 28.3 C (83 F) in July, and 16.4 C (61.6 F) in January. That is hotter than Brazil's Varginha area in Minas Gerais state, the largest coffee-producing region in the world, which averages 22.1 C (71.8 F) in its hottest month and 16.6 C (61.9 F) in the coldest.
"With climate change, we know many areas in the world will have difficulties growing coffee because it is going to be too hot, so Florida could be an option," Rowland said.
UK meat industry warns of imminent supply threat from CO2 crisis
LONDON, Sept 20 (Reuters) - Britain's meat processors will start running out of carbon dioxide (CO2) within five days, forcing them to halt production and impacting supplies to retailers, the industry's lobby group warned on Monday.
A jump in gas prices has forced several domestic energy suppliers out of business and has shut fertiliser plants that also make CO2 as a by-product of their production process. read more
The CO2 gas is used to stun animals before slaughter, in the vacuum packing of food products to extend their shelf life, and to put the fizz into beer, cider and soft drinks. CO2's solid form is dry ice, which is used in food deliveries.
The CO2 crisis has compounded an acute shortage of truck drivers in the UK, which has been blamed on the impact of COVID-19 and Brexit.
"My members are saying anything between five, 10 and 15 days supply (remain)," Nick Allen of the British Meat Processors Association told Sky News.
With no CO2, a meat processor cannot operate, he said.
"The animals have to stay on farm. They'll cause farmers on the farm huge animal welfare problems and British pork and British poultry will disappear off the shelves," Allen said.
"We're two weeks away from seeing some real impacts on the shelves," he said, adding that poultry could start disappearing from shops even sooner.
Samuel Adams' new beer is illegal in 28 states. Here's why.
The brand just released its 12th batch of Utopias beer, according to a press release from the company. Utopias, which is barrel-aged and released every two years, is described by the company as “a spirited blend of multiple batches of our extreme beers.” This particular batch was finished with 2,000 pounds of cherries and offers “subtle notes of honeyed apricot and caramel to the rich layers of flavor.”
The reason it’s illegal in 28 states, however, has to do with its alcohol by volume (ABV), which stands at 28%. By comparison, a typical beer is only 5% ABV, while spirits like vodka, rum, and tequila hover around 40% ABV.
Many states, such as Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont and West Virginia, still have laws on the books, dating back to the Prohibition era, that caps beer at 5% ABV. However, many have argued that the laws are arbitrary and are limiting craft beer makers.
For those who want to get their hands on a bottle (legally, of course) you’ll have to pay a bit more than your average six pack. A bottle of the latest batch of Utopias retails for a suggested price of $240.
Vaccines in your salad? Scientists growing medicine-filled plants to replace injections
Thanks to a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, researchers are now looking accomplish three goals. First, the team will try to successfully deliver DNA containing mRNA vaccines into plant cells, where they can replicate. Next, the study authors want to show that plants can actually produce enough mRNA to replace a traditional injection. Finally, the team will need to determine the right dosage people will need to eat to properly replace vaccinations.
“Ideally, a single plant would produce enough mRNA to vaccinate a single person,” says Juan Pablo Giraldo, an associate professor in UCR’s Department of Botany and Plant Sciences, in a university release.
“We are testing this approach with spinach and lettuce and have long-term goals of people growing it in their own gardens,” Giraldo adds. “Farmers could also eventually grow entire fields of it.”
In the new study, Giraldo teamed with UC-San Diego’s Professor Nicole Steinmetz to use nanotechnology to deliver more genetic material into chloroplasts.
“Our idea is to repurpose naturally occurring nanoparticles, namely plant viruses, for gene delivery to plants,” Steinmetz says. “Some engineering goes into this to make the nanoparticles go to the chloroplasts and also to render them non-infectious toward the plants.”
“One of the reasons I started working in nanotechnology was so I could apply it to plants and create new technology solutions. Not just for food, but for high-value products as well, like pharmaceuticals,” Giraldo adds.
McDonald's will transition all of its Happy Meal toys to products made from renewable, recycled or certified materials by 2025. This could have a deep impact given that the company sells about one billion Happy Meals every year, reported Forbes.
A record 73 ships were awaiting a berth in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach as of Sept. 19, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California. Big vessels continue to join the bottleneck, and experts say other West Coast ports like Oakland and Seattle simply aren't large enough to handle the surplus, reported The Wall Street Journal.
Missing out on the recommended seven or more hours of sleep per night could lead to more opportunities to make poorer snacking choices than those made by people who meet shut-eye guidelines, a new study suggests. The analysis of data on almost 20,000 American adults showed a link between not meeting sleep recommendations and eating more snack-related carbohydrates, added sugar, fats and caffeine. The research also revealed what appears to be a popular American habit not influenced by how much we sleep: snacking at night.
"At night, we're drinking our calories and eating a lot of convenience foods," said Christopher Taylor, professor of medical dietetics in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at The Ohio State University and senior author of the study.
"Not only are we not sleeping when we stay up late, but we're doing all these obesity-related behaviors: lack of physical activity, increased screen time, food choices that we're consuming as snacks and not as meals. So it creates this bigger impact of meeting or not meeting sleep recommendations."
Dave Portnoy, founder of the pop culture site Barstool Sports, is jumping in on the virtual “ghost kitchen” trend, partnering with Planet Hollywood founder Robert Earl to launch a virtual restaurant concept built around the Barstool brand, reported Bloomberg.
According to a new survey by Alignable, 85% of small U.S. restaurants say it’s still very difficult to find staff. The company polled small and medium-sized business owners between August 15 and September 13 and found 803 restaurant owners said it was very difficult to find employees, up slightly from the month prior, reported Business Insider.
One million people from around the world applied for jobs at Amazon during a September 15 recruiting event held by the online retailer. The hiring push follows the company's recent announcement that it plans to hire 125,000 warehouse and transportation workers in the U.S., with those roles offering average starting wages of $18 an hour, reported CBS News.
Fruit and vegetable consumption and exercise can increase levels of happiness, according to research by the University of Kent and University of Reading, reported MedicalXPress.
Stocks for Oregon-based coffee chain Dutch Bros. surged 70% after opening on Wednesday in its first session as a public company. The chain boasts more than 480 locations in 11 states and has said it aspires to eventually rival global coffee giant Starbucks, reported Fast Company.
Georgia restaurant forced to close after entire staff quits
A burrito chain restaurant in Georgia was forced to close after the entire staff quit, citing they all worked seven days a week for the past month.
Scientists Are Potty Training Cows with the New 'MooLoo' to Protect the Environment
A study by the Research Institute for Farm Animal Biology in Germany revealed that cows — whose urine causes environmental harm — can be successfully toilet trained
According to a study published Monday by the Research Institute for Farm Animal Biology (FBN) in Germany, scientists have taught cows to urinate in a designated area, dubbed a "MooLoo."
The study revealed that, over the course of 15 training sessions, researchers were able to direct cows into the barn's "MooLoo" to urinate. Scientists rewarded the cows with a treat when they successfully used the "MooLoo" and learned to control their urinary reflexes.
"Within one or two urinations, most of the animals were walking down the alleyway, pushing open the door and going into the toilet," said Lindsay Matthews, a New Zealand-based animal behavioral expert and the lead author of the study, The Washington Post reports.
According to researchers, 11 of the 16 calves were successfully trained within a few weeks, comparing the performance level to that of young children.
"Normally, it is assumed that cattle are not able to control their defecation or urination," Dr. Jan Langbein, an FBN scientist, said in a release. "Cattle, like many other animals or farm animals, are quite intelligent and capable of learning. Why shouldn't they also be able to learn how to use a toilet?"
Cow urine contains high amounts of nitrate, which can contaminate waterways or create airborne nitrous oxide once it enters the soil if not appropriately managed. By toilet training cows — who urinate frequently — researchers believe greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced significantly, according to the study.
Now, outdoor farms are starting to adopt the methods used in the research in hopes of improving cleanliness and reducing environmental harm with the same technique.