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Wednesday Briefing

Mad cow discovery in California prompts major South Korean supermarket chain to pull U.S. beef from its stores. The chain, Lotte Mart, said the move was taken to calm worries among its customers, not because of any quality issues. Another South Korean chain, Home Plus, also suspended sales but, within hours, resumed selling U.S. beef. The first confirmed case of mad cow disease in the U.S. since 2006 surfaced in California’s Central Valley on Tuesday, but  health officials stressed that the diseased animal never entered the human food chain and that U.S. beef and dairy products are safe. The Associated Press, Los Angeles Times

Study shows damage to plants from nanoparticles. Researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the University of Massachusetts documented the first findings that the tiny engineered particles, increasingly used in industry, can enter plant cells and damage their DNA. The scientists found that exposure to nano-scale copper oxide particles stunted the shoots and roots of radishes and two species of rye grass. The lead researcher emphasized that the concentrations of nanoparticles in the study were higher than likely in real-world scenarios. But, he said, “If there was an accidental spill of nanoparticles on a farm, then that crop would most likely be lost.” The New York Times

Justice Department files criminal charges accusing former BP employee of destroying oil spill records. The charges are the first to be filed in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico disaster, and they are significant because they target an individual employee for his actions. The Justice Department, in court papers, accuses Kurt Mix, a former BP engineer, of deleting email and text messages he had sent to senior company managers in the early days of the disaster estimating that the amount of oil spewing into the gulf was many times greater than the amount stated publicly. Officials charge that Mix disregarded specific instructions by BP lawyers to retain his records. More charges are considered likely. ProPublica

Cruise industry adopts new safety policies following Costa Concordia wreck. The policies, announced by the Cruise Lines International Association and the European Cruise Council, were spurred by the January Concordia accident near the Italian island of Giglio that killed 32 passengers and crew. The measures include bringing more lifejackets aboard ships and limiting access to a ship’s bridge at potentially dangerous times. In addition, routes are to be planned in advance and shared with all members of the bridge team. The changes are effective immediately. The Miami Herald

Forever 21 store in New Jersey accused of seven safety violations. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration said the charges against the Bridgewater, N.J., store include repeat violations of failing to provide adequate workspace around electrical equipment and failing to maintain obstruction-free exit routes. The agency said it began investigating the store after receiving a complaint in November. The agency is proposing fines totaling $69,000 against Forever 21, a clothing retailer based in Los Angeles. MyCentralJersey.com, OSHA

Recalls: Lenovo ThinkCentre computers, Puma training jackets, Louise Paris girls jackets

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein