sealPurdue Science and Health Briefs

June 1999

Y2K problem has its positives, Purdue retail expert says

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- The doom and gloom of potential computer glitches in the year 2000 may be overshadowing the beneficial side of the current rush to make computers compatible with the new millennium.

"Solving Y2K problems has forced businesses to confront the way they do business," says Richard Feinberg, professor of consumer sciences and retailing and director of the Purdue University Center for Customer-Driven Quality. "As a result, unexpected ways to better serve the customer are being found that are unrelated to computers."

He predicts some very positive benefits from the massive effort to upgrade computers and make sure that products and services are available in the new year. Among them:

  • Y2K fears could stimulate the economy if retailers and businesses stock up on inventory just in case deliveries or manufacturing are interrupted.

  • These increased inventories in the first quarter of 2000 may mean terrific values for customers, as businesses sell off their excess stock.

  • Updated computer systems improve the ability of businesses to partner with vendors and manufacturers. These improved relationships may mean that products reach customers faster and at a better price.

  • Y2K has created thousands of jobs, as businesses need experts and consultants and new products to identify and deal with Y2K concerns.

    CONTACT: Feinberg, (765) 494-8303,

    Be more concerned about food safety than Y2K

    WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- You may have more to fear from home canning by novices than from Y2K computer crashes, says a Purdue University specialist.

    Concerns about social and economic disruptions that might occur if computers crash at midnight on the last day of this year have prompted some people of both prudent and radical philosophies to investigate canning their own food. But Purdue Cooperative Extension Service foods and nutrition specialist Bill Evers says food preserved at home by inexperienced canners may be the more potent threat.

    "Some people want to preserve their own food because they think that all of the supply and food delivery systems will fail at 12:01 a.m. on New Year's Day. We feel that the chance of food poisoning from home-preserved food is greater than the very, very unlikely chance of a collapse of the food delivery system," Evers says.

    "In low-acid foods, essentially all non-fruits, the botulinum organism can grow and have a great time if it is not eliminated in the canning process. Canning requires pressure cooking with the proper canner at 10 pounds pressure to kill the organism and make food safe."

    Evers points out that in addition to the danger of botulism, any food that is improperly handled is subject to growth of other food poisoning bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria, all of which can cause serious sickness or death.

    For those who are concerned abut Y2K, he recommends common-sense planning such as laying in a few days supply of some dried foods. "If a person wants to, he or she could keep some dried milk, cereal, bread and a few containers of water."

    CFS-119, "Keeping Food Safe During Emergencies," and similar publications on canning and food safety are available from Purdue Extension county offices, via the Internet or toll-free at (888) EXT-INFO (398-4636).

    CONTACT: Evers, (765) 494-8546;

    'ER' fans can earn biology credit at Purdue

    WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- The NBC medical drama "ER" will become a science lab at Purdue University this summer.

    Edward Simon, a biology professor in the School of Science, decided to base a class on the show after being regularly bombarded with questions from his students following each new episode. "The Biology of ER" will be offered for one semester hour of credit for the first time in May.

    "'ER' raises questions about AIDS in the workplace, the ethics of drug trials, medical economics and euthanasia," Simon explains. "There is never a shortage of issues to research further and discuss in greater detail."

    Students will view a specific episode and then prepare questions and comments on the medical and biological aspects of the program for use in class the following day.

    CONTACT: Simon, (765) 494-4991;

    Compiled by Susan Gaidos, (765) 494-2081;

    Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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