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Your grocery bill could rise 3.5% in 2019, study predicts

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The price of food could increase by up to 3.5 per cent in 2019, an annual study of food prices predicts, but there’s good news for Canadian consumers buying meat and seafood, which are projected to become cheaper.

Meat and seafood have seen sharp increases in recent years, but a shift away from eating meat to a more plant-based diet is reducing demand.

Canada’s Food Price Report 2019, an independent analysis produced by university researchers, predicts the price of meat will drop by up to three per cent and seafood by two per cent. 

But those drops are more than offset by rising prices in other areas, led by a 4-6 per cent hike in the price of vegetables.

The annual food expenditure for the average Canadian family of four is expected to increase by $411 in 2019 to around $12,157 for the year.

That hike is a little more than for 2018, when the overall cost of food rose by about 1.8 per cent, in line with the report’s predictions for the year, which was a 1-3 per cent increase.

Restaurant prices, which rose steeply in 2018, are expected to take another jump and a family could spend an additional $143 on out-of-home food purchases.

Food economy researchers from Dalhousie University and the University of Guelph look at numerous factors to determine how food prices might change, everything from the weather, the retail environment and changes among food processors to consumer preferences.

Canadians are eating less meat

A big trend is the drop in meat consumption, with a separate survey by researchers from the same two universities suggesting 32.2 per cent of Canadians are thinking of reducing their meat intake over the next six months.

That is based on interviews with 1,067 Canadians over age 18 in September 2018 with a margin of error of 3 per cent or 19 times out of 20.  

In the past year, Canadians consumed approximately 94 million kilograms less beef per year, compared to 2010. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

“We’re seeing a gradual shift to more vegetarian and vegetable-based diets in the markets,” said Simon Somogyi, one of the lead authors of the Food Price Report

The authors call this the “protein wars” with pulses and legumes replacing meat in North American diets, leading to a fall in demand, especially for beef. In the past year, Canadians consumed approximately 94 million kilograms less beef annually, compared to 2010.

Young consumers are leading the way, with 63 per cent of vegans under age 38. That could mean big changes in the tastes of young families down the road.

Changing tastes ahead for food producers

“We see a clear market segment that is changing. Under-35 females are leading the way to plant-based diets and that is having a big impact on food systems,” Somogyi said.

It’s not just the women. Men are also leaning towards eating more vegetables and the very image of meat as the basis of a man’s dinner is changing. Among the baby boom generation, the trend is toward a “flexitarian” diet, meaning less meat and more meat alternatives.

Even Canada’s Food Guide, scheduled to be updated this year, is set to notice this trend, according to the Food Price Report.

The report predicts the price of meat will spiral downwards until 2020, until food producers adapt to the new marketplace.

Higher prices hurt low-income Canadians harder

Trish Hennessy, executive director of Upstream, a non-profit group focused on healthy living, points out that the food choices Canadians make depend on their income.

“There’s the people who are buying organic vegetables and eating out. They’ve got lots of choices,” she said.

“But if you live on social assistance or a pension or you are working for minimum wage, you are unlikely to be able to afford the kind of healthy diet recommended in Canada’s Food Guide.”

Those low-income people will feel the impact of food price increases the hardest, she said. And lack of fresh food plays into health issues such as diabetes and increased childhood obesity.

The kind of groceries people select also depends on their geographic location — in Canada’s North the price of fresh fruits and vegetables are so high that many cannot afford them.

The price of seafood is also falling because of falling demand, though global market forces play a role, Somogyi said.

The USMCA trade deal opens Canada’s market for poultry and eggs, but Somogyi said most of those price differentials are too small to have an impact.

Effects of free trade deal, climate change

Most significant of the trade deal’s impacts is allowing U.S.-made ingredients in yogurt, cheeses and some other dairy products. Whether that will make a difference to the family grocery bill may depend on your grocer.

“Will it be passed to the consumer or will it be absorbed by the retailer? Most retailers operate on very small margins,” he said.

As consumers abandon meat in favour of vegetables “that increases demand and that increases the prices.”

Canadians are changing the way they eat and both producers and grocers have to adapt. (Philippe Wojazer/Reuters)

Other factors also could affect vegetable pricing over the coming year, among them currency fluctuations and changes in the weather.

With the unpredictable impact of climate change, Somogyi is hesitant to say definitively how the weather will change, but El Nino, a warming of the Pacific Ocean, is likely to take over from El Nina and result in drier weather, following a cold winter. North America may have extremely dry conditions and problems with access to water that could affect growing conditions and push up prices.

“It has an impact on producers. Most of our produce we used to get from California and it is highly perishable and has to be shipped by truck,”  he said.

Somogyi said researchers avoided trying to predict the exchange rate of the Canadian dollar against the U.S. dollar, but that could also have an impact on vegetable and fruit prices.

Concern over high vegetable prices

Abby Langer, a dietitian in Toronto, is concerned that a sharp rise in vegetable prices will cause some Canadians to eat fewer vegetables.

“Vegetables have been identified as a luxury item with that increase of up to six per cent,” she said.

Affordability can be a problem for middle-class families as well as low-income Canadians, she said, pointing out that price is an incentive and they may be faced with cheaper meat as well as more expensive veggies.

“People may make other choices if they can’t afford vegetables. Canadians already eat too few,” Langer said.

“Remember if you can’t afford fresh vegetables, frozen ones are just as nutritious.”

She applauds the change in Canadian eating patterns to more plant-based diets.

“People are really health conscious and that’s a good thing. Dietitians hope to encourage that.”.

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Post-vaccine surge? Michigan’s spring coronavirus case spike close to previous year’s autumn high

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(Natural News) The spike in new Wuhan coronavirus infections recorded in Michigan over the spring is similar to a spike seen during the 2020 fall season. According to a Wall Street Journal analysis, the state’s daily coronavirus case count averaged more than 7,000 for almost two weeks – before taking a slight dip to 6,891 on April 20. This echoed similar figures back in November and December 2020, which saw sharp rises in infections for those two months before plunging.

Back in autumn of last year, Michigan averaged more than 7,000 cases per day for a span of 10 days. New infections dropped slightly, then briefly spiked as the December holidays approached. It then fell to the low 1,000s for the succeeding two months – until ascending again in March.

According to University of Michigan internal medicine professor Dr. Vikas Parekh, the sudden increase in new infections could be attributed to several factors. Among the factors he cited was re-openings, which increased people’s interactions and mobility. Parekh said the loosened restrictions contributed to the spread of the highly contagious U.K. B117 variant.

“As the B117 variant spreads nationally, we will likely see other stats [with] their own surges – although I hope none are as bad as Michigan,” the professor remarked. He continued: “The milestone just tells us we are not yet in the clear, especially as we still have large portions of our population who are not vaccinated yet.”

Parekh also expressed optimism over the lower daily caseloads the Great Lakes State reported. He said he believes both cases and hospitalizations have plateaued and will likely decline soon. The professor commented: “[COVID-19] positivity has been declining now for one week, which is usually a leading indicator of case decline.”

Meanwhile, the state cited younger populations and youth sports, such as basketball, wrestling and hockey, to increase new COVID-19 infections. Because of this, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called to suspend youth sports and indoor dining in the state. She also exhorted high schools to conduct remote class sessions for two weeks to curb the spread of the pathogen.

Michigan still experienced the spike in cases despite having one of the highest vaccination rates in the country

During the opening stages of the U.S.’s immunization drive against COVID-19, Michigan boasted of having one of the highest vaccination rates nationwide. A report by Bridge Michigan even noted the initial “frenzy for vaccines” that “far exceeded the state’s limited supply.” But things have appeared to turn around for Michigan, as it now struggles to reach the 70 percent vaccination rate needed for herd immunity.

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Scottish mom’s legs turn into a pair of “giant blisters” after first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine

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(Natural News) Sarah Beuckmann of Glasgow, Scotland, felt a tingling sensation in her legs and noticed a rash flaring up around her ankles a week after getting her first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine on March 18.

She also had flu-like symptoms right after the vaccination.

Beuckmann called her doctor to arrange an appointment the morning she noticed the rash, but by the afternoon her skin was already breaking out into blood-filled blisters. Blisters also appeared on her legs, hands, face, arms and bottom.

“I ended up asking my husband to take me to A&E,” said Beuckmann, referring to “accident and emergency,” the equivalent of an emergency room (ER). “When I got there, my heart rate was sitting at 160bpm, which they were very concerned about. I got put on an ECG machine.”

Doctors determine AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine triggers the rash

Medics carried out tests for HIV, herpes and other skin conditions to work out what triggered the rash, but all results came back negative. Doctors finally determined that the vaccine caused her rare reaction after carrying out two biopsies.

“Once they found that it was a reaction to the vaccine, they put me on steroids and that really seems to be helping my progress,” said Beuckmann. She had been advised by her doctor not to get the second dose of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine because of her reaction.

Beuckmann spent 16 days at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. She was discharged to recover at home. The 34-year-old mother of one is currently wheelchair-bound due to the bandages on her legs and blisters on the soles of her feet. She may need physiotherapy to help strengthen her leg muscles.

“They are starting to heal and they’re looking a lot better than they were but as the blisters started to get worse, they all sort of merged together,” she said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

With the blisters merging, her legs have looked like a pair of “giant blisters.” Beuckmann admitted that at one point she feared her legs might have to be amputated.

Dermatologist agrees COVID-19 vaccine causes the blisters

Dr. Emma Wedgeworth, a consultant dermatologist and spokeswoman at the British Skin Foundation, agreed that Beuckmann had likely suffered a reaction to the vaccine.

“Vaccines are designed to activate the immune system. Occasionally people will have quite dramatic activation of their immune systems which, as happened in this case, can manifest in their skin” Wedgeworth told MailOnline. “This poor lady had a very severe reaction, which thankfully is extremely rare.”

It is not clear why Beuckmann, who works in retail, was invited for a vaccine. Scotland’s vaccine rollout was focused on people over the age of 50 when she got vaccinated, although vaccines are available to those who are considered at risk from the virus, or live with someone considered vulnerable.

At least 20 million Briton have had AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, which drug regulators say causes a rash in one percent of cases. They say rashes caused by the jab tend to go away within a week.

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Trojan labs? Chinese biotech company offers to build COVID testing labs in six states

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In 2012, BGI acquired Complete Genomics, a DNA sequencing company and equipment maker. The funds for the $117.6 million purchase were raised from Chinese venture capitals. The company has expanded its footprint globally. According to its website, BGI conducts business in more than 100 countries and areas and has 11 offices and labs in the U.S.

People are concerned about China’s access to American DNA data

Some said that with Complete Genomics providing an American base, BGI would have access to more DNA samples from Americans, helping it compile a huge database of genetic information. Some also worried about the protection of the genetic information’s privacy.

According to a 2019 report from the U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC), BGI “has formed numerous partnerships with U.S. healthcare providers and research organizations to provide large-scale genetic sequencing to support medical research efforts,”

There are three main reasons why many people in the biotech community and government have expressed concerns about China’s access to American DNA data.

In the “60 Minutes” interview, Evanina discussed the very likely scenario in which Chinese companies would be able to micro-target American individuals and offer customized preventative solutions based on their DNA.

Evanina asked: “Do we want to have another nation systematically eliminate our healthcare services? Are we okay with that as a nation?”

The second concern is that China may use DNA to track and attack American individuals. As the USCC report states: “China could target vulnerabilities in specific individuals brought to light by genomic data or health records. Individuals targeted in such attacks would likely be strategically identified persons, such as diplomats, politicians, high-ranking federal officials or military leadership.”

The third concern is that China may devise bioweapons to target non-Asians. Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, discussed it in his article “What Will China Do With Your DNA?” published by The Epoch Times in March 2019.

He wrote: “We know that the Asian genome is genetically distinct from the Caucasian and African in many ways. … Would it be possible to bioengineer a very virulent version of, say, smallpox, that was easily transmitted, fatal to other races, but to which the Chinese enjoyed a natural immunity? … Given our present ability to manipulate genomes, if such a bio-weapon can be imagined, it can probably – given enough time and resources – be realized.”

An article from Technocracy said: “China’s aggressive collection of American DNA should be doubly alarming because it can only spell one ultimate outcome: biowarfare. That is, genetically engineering viruses or other diseases that will be selectively harmful to U.S. populations.”

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