Food e-News

Edition 586: 22 May - 04 June 2014

Quantitative data on the global rise in obesity

The world is putting on weight. With obesity a major global health challenge - perhaps even a pandemic - it is becoming increasingly important to quantify the health effects of the disease so that decision-makers are informed by accurate and up-to-date information.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation conducted a systematic analysis to estimate global trends in adult and childhood overweight and obesity over the years 1980 -2013, the findings of which were published in The Lancet in May this year. Investigators looked at data from surveys, reports and 1769 published studies, grouping it by region, country, age, sex and year.

The key findings of the analysis were that in the past 33 years the world percentage of men with body mass index (BMI) of 25 kg/m2 or greater increased from 28.8% to 36.9%; in women the change was from 29.8% to 38.0%. In 2013, as many as 23.8 % of boys and 22.6% of girls in developed countries were overweight or obese. In developing countries, meanwhile, the increase in the proportion of children and adolescents who were overweight or obese was from 8.1% to 12.9% in boys and from 8.4% to 13.4% in girls. Almost two in three of the world's obese people now live in developing countries, with the prevalence of adult obesity in some (in particular island nations in the Pacific and the Caribbean, countries in the Middle East and Central America) reaching 50% and higher.

One positive finding was that since 2006 the increase in adult obesity is slowing down, though still, in 2013, more than half of the UK's adult population was overweight or obese (66.6% of men and 57.2% of women).

As a result of increasing prevalence of obesity and its associated health risks (cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoarthritis and chronic kidney disease) the Member States of WHO in 2013 introduced a target to stop the rise in obesity by 2025. In order to achieve the target, global leadership is needed to help countries to tackle major determinants of obesity: excessive calorie intake, physical inactivity, changes in the gut microbiome and active promotion of food consumption by industry. The researchers involved in this study also note that more complex measurement strategies are needed to strengthen surveillance of obesity prevalence in populations. [BBC, Guardian, ScienceDaily]

Vitamin E in canola, soybean and corn oils can harm lungsback to top

A first of its kind study by the Northwestern University School of Medicine has shown drastically different effects of vitamin E intake in humans depending on the form of the vitamin. Associations were observed between gamma-tocopherol levels in the blood - present in soybean, corn and canola oils - and lung inflammation, airway hyperresponsiveness and asthma. In contrast, alpha-tocopherol, the form of vitamin E found in olive, wheat germ, almond and sunflower oils, in the blood was associated with better lung function in humans.

Researchers analysed data from a large cohort of 4526 participants aged 18-30 from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study (CARDIA). Senior author Joan Cook-Mills analysed spirometry data to measure lung function and capacity at 0, 2, 5, 10 and 20 years, and alpha and gamma tocopherol levels in the blood plasma at 0, 7 and 15 years.

The study concluded that high gamma-tocopherol levels were associated with a 10-17% reduction in lung function. Vitamin E affects lung function because it influences a protein that allows white blood cells to exit the bloodstream and enter tissues, including cells in the lung. Gamma-tocopherol increases the activity of the protein, causing lung inflammation, whereas alpha-tocopherol reduces it. Separate research on allergies has shown that in mice, alpha-tocopherol decreased lung inflammation and gamma-tocopherol increased airway hyperresponsiveness, a characteristic of asthma.

Cook-Mills noted that a 10% reduction in lung function is comparable to an asthmatic condition, causing trouble breathing and expelling air, reducing lung capacity. Therefore, these recent findings are significant for human health, with potential implications including improving lung capacity, improving and maintaining lung function and ultimately decreasing the incidence of individuals with reduced lung function.

Also significant is the potential link to diet. A movement in U.S diets away from lard and butter to oils such as soybean, canola and corn oils has coincided with elevated rates of asthma, though Dr Cook-Mills stressed that this is only observational at present, and it has not been demonstrated that dietary vitamin E of either type has a direct effect on lung function. European and Scandinavian countries have higher dietary intakes of the alpha-tocopherol rich vegetable oils, leading to average blood plasma levels of gamma-tocopherol being four times lower than in the US. [NYTimes, NorthWestern]

Do you need to test vitamins in your products?

The importance of good nutrition for HIV patients on antiretroviral treatmentback to top

Roughly 25 million people in Africa are living with HIV, though the use of antiretroviral treatment (ART) has improved the lives of many patients and controlled the development of HIV to significantly reduce the number of deaths from AIDS related illnesses over the past decade.

Though ART is powerful and generally effective, it is still the case that, in some countries, up to 25% of patients die within three months of starting treatment. A contributing factor in these deaths is suspected to be malnutrition, which allows the virus to develop more strongly than in non-malnourished patients.

A recent study carried out jointly between University of Copenhagen and Jimma University, Ethiopia showed that provision of a dietary supplement alongside ART was beneficial to patient health, leading to increased lean body mass, more weight gain, and better grip strength compared to a control group. Patients were provided with a daily supplement of 200g peanut butter fortified with whey or soy protein, vitamins, and mineral additives packaged in 100g sachets, with their consumption monitored by counting the empty sachets returned.

It is possible that because ART can have the side effect of weight gain, malnutrition in patients and its effects may have been somewhat overlooked. This study highlights the beneficial effects of weight gain due to good nutrition rather than medication, noting that whilst weight gain as a side-effect of ART is due to increased fat and does not bring health benefits, taking the supplements increased the patients' lean body mass - loss of which has been associated with mortality in HIV sufferers. [MedicalNewsToday]

Transgenic mice could help us study the effects of omega-6 and omega-3back to top

Dietary omega-3 and omega-6 are both essential for human health. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to be beneficial for the heart whereas omega-6 fatty acids are important for brain function, and both are necessary for normal growth and development. The ideal ratios of each which should be consumed for maximal benefit is an interesting question, and an active area of research, especially given the growing prevalence of omega-6 in the western diet (in vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds), and the lesser consumption of omega-3 rich foodstuffs such as green vegetables and some types of fish.

Recent research from Massachusetts General Hospital has provided a new means of investigating this question. The researchers bred mice incorporating specific genes from a roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans which were able to synthesise both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids within their bodies given a diet of carbohydrates or saturated fats - this is something humans cannot do, which is why they are necessary in our diet. The successful breeding of these Omega mice strains means that future research can more closely study the effects of these molecules on health, and perhaps do even more. Senior author Jing X. Kang stated: "Introducing into mammals the capacity to convert non-essential nutrients into essential fats could lead to new, sustainable and cost-effective resources of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids." [Eurekalert]

More on omega-3, omega-6 and fatty acid profiling...

The potential of cultured meatback to top

In a paper recently published in Trends in Biotechnology, researchers from Wageningen University in The Netherlands describe a potential process for manufacturing meat products that starts with animal stem cells. The paper aims to contribute to the current discussion surrounding meat sustainability and alternative protein sources by detailing the possibilities of cultured meat, the great positive of which is the beneficial effect on the environment. If cultured meat were commonplace, then the greenhouse gas emissions from livestock could be reduced, and land freed up for other uses.

It has already been demonstrated that the capability for producing meat in this fashion exists, for example by Dr Mark Post of Maastrict University, who last year created a hamburger starting from cow's muscle stem cells. This and other attempts have all used small-scale laboratory processes, however. The questions now surrounding cultured meat are whether it would gain consumer acceptance and regulatory backing, and whether processes for its creation could scale up efficiently and cost-effectively.

Authors of the recent paper Cor van der Weele and Johannes Tramper contend that scaling up production is certainly possible; the method they outline would involve taking a small number of stem cells, growing cells to the desired cell density in a bioreactor, and binding them with the protein-crosslinking enzyme transglutaminase and binding protein before pressing the results into a "cake". The authors suggest that the process would work well at a local level, with perhaps each town having its own cultured meat factory. Despite this optimism, however, the authors note that there would be economic difficulties. The process is not cheap, and products would be expensive in comparison to traditional meat. They suggest that future increases in meat prices might lead to cultured meat being a more economically viable alternative.

Product recalls and alertsback to top

UK Recalls

  • The Fine Seafood Company has recalled its 'Whiskey Cured and Oak Smoked' Smoked Salmon (70g, grey packs only) because of high levels of Listeria monocytogenes. (FSA)

Ireland Recalls

  • Milk protein was detected in O Conaill Irish Handmade Dark Couverture Chocolate Bar (70% cocoa content), with best before date of 31 December 2014 and pack size 250g. This was labelled as dairy free; however, the dairy free status cannot be assured in any of the batches and the dairy free claim is to be removed.

Australia and New Zealand Recalls

  • Jonny's Popcorn has recalled Jonny's Popcorn Delights Choc Chip from corner stores, independent supermarkets, fruit and vegetables shops and some vending machines in NSW, QLD, SA, VIC and WA. The recall is due to the possible presence of undeclared allergens (peanuts and tree nuts).
  • Vegan Perfection has recalled The Redwood Co, Wot No Dairy? Raspberry Dessert from health food stores, organic produce stores and some convenience stores nationally. The recall is due to the presence of an undeclared allergen (dairy).

Canada Recalls

  • Advantage Health Matters and Back 2 the Garden are recalling various products containing sprouted chia seeds from the marketplace due to possible Salmonella contamination.
  • Uncle T Food Ltd. is recalling Ben Tre brand Coconut Candy from the marketplace because it contains peanuts which are not declared on the label.
  • Orr's Fine Meats and Deli is recalling Smoked Fish from the marketplace because they may permit the growth of Clostridium botulinum.

US Recalls

  • KIND Healthy Snacks (KIND) is voluntarily recalling STRONG & KIND bars as well as KIND Healthy Grains Maple Pumpkin Seeds with Sea Salt bars after learning that, contrary to KIND's strict quality specifications, its supplier roasted pumpkin seeds using equipment that had also been used to roast peanuts.
  • St. Louis-based Sherman Produce is voluntarily recalling walnuts comprising of 241 cases of bulk walnuts packaged in 25 lb bulk cardboard boxes and Schnucks brand 10 oz trays with UPC 00338390032 with best by dates 03/15 and 04/15 because the products are potentially contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
  • Whole Foods Market is recalling Thai Soba Noodle Salad sold in all stores in five states due to an undeclared soy allergen.
  • Brunkow Cheese of Darlington, Wisconsin, is voluntarily recalling its 8 ounce tubs of Fayette Creamery brand Jalapeno Pepper Raw Milk Cheddar Cold Pack Cheese Spread because they may contain an undeclared soy ingredient.
  • Belleville Farmer's Market of Belleville, IL is recalling its packages of Shelled Walnuts because they have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes
  • Sun Tree LLC is voluntarily recalling walnuts comprising of 46 cases of 24 count 12oz produce bags, California Grown Shelled Walnuts, Lot No. 42720, Best by 12/11/2014 UPC code, 69887507806, because it has been determined that there is a possibility of contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
  • East Providence, RI - Rome Packing Co., Inc. has issued a voluntary recall of Ocean's Catch brand minced crab meat after routine product sampling by the company determined some of the finished products may have been contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes bacteria.
  • Navitas Naturals, the Superfood Company is voluntarily recalling products which contain Organic Sprouted Chia Powder due to possible health risks related to Salmonella contamination.
  • Baptista's Bakery, Inc. is voluntarily recalling 4,339 cases of LiveGfree Gluten Free Rosemary and Olive Oil Multiseed Crackers with a best if used by date of 11-24-14 because they contain a seasoning that is being recalled by Kerry Ingredients. Kerry Ingredients is recalling the seasoning due to possible health risks related to Salmonella contamination.
  • Glutino, a division of GFA Brands, Inc. based in Paramus, NJ, is voluntarily recalling Glutino Rosemary and Olive Oil Snack Crackers. The recall is being initiated because the seasoning supplier, Kerry Ingredients, recalled the seasoning blend due to possible Salmonella contamination.

Where to find Product Alert and Recall information

Food safetyback to top

Don't wash raw chicken is the latest message to the public from the FSA

For this year's Food Safety Week running 16 - 22nd June, the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) will be focusing on the message: Don't wash raw chicken. Reducing foodborne illness is a high priority for the FSA, and this latest campaign message aims particularly at food poisoning caused by campylobacter bacteria found on poultry meat. Campylobacter present on the raw chicken will be killed when it is cooked; however, washing the chicken may lead to the bacteria spreading elsewhere before this occurs. Campylobacter may be splashed from the chicken onto hands, work surfaces, kitchen equipment and the surroundings, leading to cross-contamination and more opportunity for people to consume them and become ill.

The FSA's UK-wide campaign will involve local authorities, farmers, slaughterhouses and retailers in an attempt to increase awareness and encourage best practice in tackling campylobacter from farm to fork. [FSA]

Research into food safety in the home among over-60s

Results from a study conducted by the Centre for Research in Primary and Community Care at the University of Hertfordshire have just been published, reporting on the kitchen habits of a selection of households and the implications of these habits for the spread of foodborne illness (FBI). The study focused on a small number (10) of households with residents of 60+ years, citing recent increases in listeriosis cases amongst this demographic as a reason for focusing on it. Researchers observed the participants’ behaviour preparing food, examined photographs of their kitchens and interviewed them informally in an attempt to accurately document their real kitchen habits (previous studies have shown that what people report in this area is not always accurate.)

Reporting on the study has focused on particularly risky practice and/or lack of knowledge demonstrated in areas such as refrigeration and when to wash fruit and vegetables. Participants tended not to know what temperature their fridge was or should be set to or where best to store items. It was also noted that many factors contributed to changes in food practices in this demographic, from increased physical frailty to, to input (potentially conflicting) from relative and carers, to bereavement and living alone, meaning that determining how best to correct risky behaviours may be complex. [HealthCanal]

Reduce the danger of botulism from vacuum-packed fish by removing packaging before thawing

Researchers at Michigan State University Extension (MSUE) have called for food service employees and consumers to take more care when thawing vacuum-packed fish by ensuring that the packaging is opened beforehand. This is advised because in the low-oxygen environment inside the sealed packaging, the anaerobic bacteria Clostridium botulinum can produce toxins that cause botulism, once temperatures rise above around 3°C.

The MSUE scientists advised that vacuum-packed fish should always be stored at the advised temperature and kept frozen until it is to be used, then removed from the packaging before thawing according to the guidelines provided. Thawing in an environment with normal oxygen levels should prevent the Clostridium botulinum spores from producing the dangerous toxin.

Head of horsemeat review warns that cost-cutting in trading standards could lead to danger

The Mirror reports on comments made by Professor Chris Elliott - head of the Institute for Global Food Security and leader of the review into the 2013 horsemeat scandal - regarding the dangers posed by Trading Standards budget cuts.

Professor Elliott warned that reductions in the numbers of trading standards officer, inspections, and labelling checks could have serious food safety and public health repercussions if supply chains are compromised.

Legislation headlinesback to top

Entering a name in the register of protected designations of origin and protected geographical indications: Lonzo de Corse/Lonzo de Corse - Lonzu (France)

Entering a name in the register of protected designations of origin and protected geographical indications: Jambon sec de Corse/Jambon sec de Corse - Prisuttu (France)

Entering a name in the register of protected designations of origin and protected geographical indications: Coppa de Corse/Coppa de Corse - Coppa di Corsica (France)

Directive 2014/63/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 May 2014 amending Council Directive 2001/110/EC relating to honey: to provide that pollen, being a natural constituent particular to honey, should not be considered to be an ingredient of honey, to clarify the labelling requirements for the cases where honey originates in more than one Member State or third country, and to review the scope of the existent power conferred on the Commission.

Scientific Opinions

On the modification of the existing MRLs for ethephon in table olive and table grape

On the review of the existing maximum residue levels (MRLs) for folpet according to Article 12 of Regulation (EC) No 396/2005

On the safety assessment of the process "MKF-Ergis", used to recycle post-consumer PET into food contact materials

On the safety assessment of the process "FOOD RePET FGI. H.", used to recycle post-consumer PET into food contact materials

On the modification of the existing MRL for picoxystrobin in sugar beet