Livin' on the MDedge

Stay tuned for CSI: Olive oil


Cracking down on food fraud

How do you know the olive oil in your pantry is from Greece? Or that the avocados on your toast are from Mexico? The label, right? Well, maybe not. False claims of origin are a huge problem in the food industry, costing over $30 billion in economic damage annually.

A bottle of olive oil surrounded by black olives ©Volosina/

Fear not, citizens, because botanists are on the job, and they’ve found a cheaper and more efficient way to expose that non-Greek olive oil.

How? Florian Cueni, PhD, of the University of Basel, Switzerland, and associates developed a new model to simulate oxygen isotope ratios in plants from a specific region, based on the temperature, precipitation, growing season information, and humidity data. Previously, botanists had to collect reference data from the claimed origin country and from other regions to validate where the product actually came from.

“With minor adjustments to the parameters, our model can be used to determine all plant products,” said senior investigator Ansgar Kahmen. This can open up the door for even more plant forensics, including drug confiscations and illegal timber logging, with information that will hold up in court.

Why pay Greek-olive prices for olives from California?

Fear leads to anger, anger leads to unhelpful online reviews

And reading angry online reviews leads to hate and suffering. We may have co-opted Master Yoda’s wise words ever so slightly, but anyone who’s done any shopping online (so everyone) knows that the review section of any product can be downright villainous. Do these reviews affect what we buy?

A man punches a whole through his laptop screen clintspencer/E+

The angry online product review was the subject of a recent study published in MIS Quarterly. In a series of experiments, participants were shown a series of realistic online reviews with varying amounts of anger but with similar amounts of information. After reading the reviews, participants rated helpfulness, their personal opinion of the product/retailer, and whether or not they would buy the product.

Participants overwhelmingly rated calmly written reviews as more helpful than angrily written ones. One would expect, then, that those unhelpful angry reviews would have little effect on the participant’s view or willingness to buy a product, but the study investigators found the opposite. Reading angry reviews made the participants more likely to reject the product, even though they didn’t think the angry review was useful. And when you think about it, it does make sense. Anger means drama, and we can’t resist a juicy bit of drama.

So while we should all aspire to be Yoda and rise above anger and hatred, in reality we seem to be channeling Emperor Palpatine. We let the hate flow through us, and in our anger, we ignore perfectly good products. On the plus side, now we can shoot lightning out of our hands, so that’s pretty cool.

Health care is heading to the hall of fame

We couldn’t be happier here at LOTME because it’s that time of year again.

National Inventors Hall of Fame NIHF

No, we’re not talking about Healthcare Security and Safety Week or National Metric Week, although those are both kind of important. Hmm, maybe we should talk about health care security or the metric system. After all, in this country, medicine is one of the metric system’s biggest customers. And who doesn’t love picograms? They’re the unit-of-measurement equivalent of a koala.

So we’re doing the metric system, then? Nah.

We’re excited because the 2022 inductees to the National Inventors Hall of Fame were just announced, and, as usual, the world of health care is well represented.

First up is the surprisingly relevant (thanks to the party guest that won’t leave, SARS-CoV-2) pair of Katalin Karikó, PhD, and Drew Weissman, MD, who worked together in the early 2000s to modify mRNA “so it could avoid immediate immune detection, remain active longer and efficiently instruct cells to create antigens to protect against severe disease.” Their discoveries eventually led to the use of modified mRNA in the COVID-19 vaccines.

The second, albeit posthumous, physician-inductee is Patricia Bath, MD, who was the first Black female physician to receive a U.S. patent for a medical invention. The laserphaco device and technique to remove cataracts “performed all steps of cataract removal: making the incision, destroying the lens, and vacuuming out the fractured pieces.”

Two other inductees have somewhat tenuous connections to medical care. Lonnie Johnson invented the Super Soaker, a powerful squirt gun that has been criticized by psychologists for encouraging violence, and Carl Benz invented the automobile, which sort of means he invented the ambulance, so there you go.

The induction ceremony takes place on May 5, 2022, in Washington, DC. If you’re attending the black-tie dinner at The Anthem, let us know and we’ll split an Uber. It’s our only night to be fancy.

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