12 January - 20 June 2016

Food safety

9 Jan 13

**FSA reports on consumer attitudes to labelling of GM food
**Study questions previous BPA research
**Exposure to the pesticide benomyl and Parkinson’s
**Farmers told they should be working toward producing more GM crops
**Health Canada to introduce new rules limiting amount of caffeine in energy drinks
**Essential oils may reduce Salmonella in chickens
**Antibiotics and antiviral drug found in KFC in China
**Companies producing unsafe food will be banned for life - China
**Scientists discover new strain of MRSA in milk from five farms in the UK
**Is bottle water as safe as tap water?
**Animal diseases updates and food poisoning outbreaks
**The Food Safety Network

**FSA reports on consumer attitudes to labelling of GM food
The Food Standards Agency has published the findings of research looking at consumer attitudes to the labelling of genetically modified (GM) food and the use of 'GM-free' labelling. The key findings of the research are:

  • Consumer awareness of the current labelling requirements is low.
  • Participants were typically not seeking information or labelling with regard to GM foods
  • Only 2% of participants mentioned spontaneously that they looked for information about GM content when buying food products for the first time.
  • There was a slight preference for labelling indicating the presence of GM, rather than labelling indicating the absence of GM.
  • Labelling foods to indicate the absence of GM ingredients can result in a number of expectations. For example, participants expected a product labelled as ‘GM-free’ to be completely free of the use of GM.
  • Participants were generally unaware of the use of GM animal feed by farmers. Once made aware of its use, they typically considered that products from animals fed GM feed should be labelled, consistent with previous FSA research. (Quoted directly)

**Study questions previous BPA research
Previous studies feeding BPA to pregnant yellow mice have shown that BPA turned on the agouti gene in offspring. This gene regulates hair colour but BPA seems to activate it in other tissues and causes more colour and more disease in these mice. Another study showed that genistein, a soy-based estrogen mimic, could counteract the effects of BPA. However, research by Cheryl Rosenfeld, an associate professor of biomedical sciences with MU's Bond Life Sciences Center, and her team and published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences couldn’t replicate these findings. Rosenfeld et al didn’t find any increase in colouration or a counteracting effect from genistein. They did however see a rise in the number of brown and yellow mice with the agouti gene switched on compared to the number of black, non-agouti siblings when mothers were fed a BPA/genistein combination or when fed a synthetic hormone, ethinyl estradiol, used in birth control.  The gene may offer an advantage under some conditions but with a risk of adult-onset metabolic diseases. Rosenfeld suggested that one reason for this might be a so-called "thrifty genotype". This would convey an advantage to pups in hard times. Rosenfeld is quoted as saying that "If you had a gene that allowed you to procure as much nutrients from the mom as possible you could grow and develop faster than siblings that don't have that gene. She added "They could possibly be thought of as gluttonous, but during starvation times the offspring that expressed this gene would be at an advantage."  (Medical Xpress)

**Exposure to the pesticide benomyl and Parkinson’s
A study by neurologists at UCLA and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has found a link between Parkinson’s disease and the pesticide benomyl, which was banned by the US Environmental Protection Agency around 10 years ago.    Bronstein et al. tested the effects of benomyl in cell cultures and also in a zebra fish model and found that exposure to the pesticide caused the start of a cascade of cellular events that may lead to Parkinson's.  It was found to prevent an enzyme from keeping a lid on a toxin which naturally occurs in the brain.  Accumulation of this toxin DOPAL has been found to damage neurons in the brain.   In Eurekalert , Bronstein states: “We've known that in animal models and cell cultures, agricultural pesticides trigger a neurodegenerative process that leads to Parkinson's and epidemiologic studies have consistently shown the disease occurs at high rates among farmers and in rural populations. Our work reinforces the hypothesis that pesticides may be partially responsible, and the discovery of this new pathway may be a new avenue for developing therapeutic drugs."

**Farmers told they should be working toward producing more GM crops
The popular press is reporting that Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary, has told farmers at the 2013 Oxford Farming Conference that they should be working towards producing more genetically modified (GM) crops.  He is quoted as saying: “From Turnip Townshend to Sir Joseph Nickerson, the industry has long been at the forefront of innovation through its development of new processes, technologies and land management techniques. This is something we must continue to champion. The world's population has grown from 2.5bn in 1950 to just over 7bn today. New technologies for food and agriculture are helping us to keep pace with the growing population. Between 1967 and 2007 crop yields increased by 115 per cent but land use only increased by eight per cent. If we tried to support today's population using the production methods of the 1950s, instead of farming 38 per cent of all land, we would need to use 82 per cent. When we're talking about innovation, we should consider GM," he said. "In 2011, 16m farmers in 29 countries grew GM products on 160m hectares. That's 11 per cent of the world's arable land. To put it in context that's six times larger than the surface area of the UK. I fully appreciate the strong feelings on both sides of the debate. GM needs to be considered in its proper overall context with a balanced understanding of the risks and benefits. We should not, however, be afraid of making the case to the public about the potential benefits of GM beyond the food chain, for example, significantly reducing the use of pesticides and inputs such as diesel. As well as making the case at home, we need to go through the rigorous processes that the EU has in place to ensure the safety of GM crops. I believe that GM offers great opportunities but I also recognise that we owe a duty to the public to reassure them that it is a safe and beneficial innovation.”    However the Farmer Guardian is stating that the “Soil Association has dismissed the suggestion that genetically modified (GM) crops hold the key to future food security as a ‘red herring’”.  Tom Macmillan, the Soil Association’s innovation director states: “Farmers and the public have been promised the earth on GM yet the results to date have been poor. The UK Government’s own farm scale experiment showed that overall the GM crops were worse for British wildlife.  US Government figures show pesticide use has increased since GM crops have been grown there because superweeds and resistant insects have multiplied. Lynas, Paterson and other GM enthusiasts must beware of opening floodgates to real problems like this.” (Public Service)

**Health Canada to introduce new rules limiting amount of caffeine in energy drinks
From February Health Canada is going to limit the amount of caffeine to be used in energy drinks.  This is part of a number of new rules which will force companies to reformulate drinks.  Drinks that are marketed as energy and concentration boosters are now to be reclassified as food.  According to thestar.com, Health Canada is limiting energy drink’s caffeine, vitamin and minerals and amino acid content.  The new limit for caffeine will be 180 mg per can or single serving bottle, which is the equivalent amount found in 8 oz of filter drip coffee.  Health Canada reports that 400 mg of caffeine per day is considered safe for most adults.   The new regulation will also require the drinks to be nutritionally labelled, and also state the amount of caffeine they contains.  Data will be collected before deciding if further regulations are needed. “We consider there to be (information) gaps right now, as to how these products are actually being used,” said William Yan, a director in Health Canada’s bureau of nutritional sciences.  Who’s consuming them? Is the labelling working? All those questions ... we’re trying to ask before we decide on the final risk-management approach.”

RSSL’s Functional Ingredients Laboratory can quantify caffeine in foods and beverages.  For more information please contact Customer Services on Freephone 0800 243482 or email enquiries@rssl.com

**Essential oils may reduce Salmonella in chickens
A study published in the journal Food Control by scientists from the University of Georgia has investigated whether adding organic acids, essential oils, lactic acid (LA) or  levulinic acid plus sodium dodecyl sulfate  to chicken’s water can reduce Salmonella Heidelberg (SH) contamination.  Alali et al. used thyme, oregano, and eucalyptol, which have been found to have antibacterial properties and compared the results to a control group who just received water.  The scientists found that broilers who received the essential oil had significantly greater weight gain and lower mortality than other treatments.  Alali et al. state: “that the essential oils and lactic acid used in the study may control SH contamination in crops of broilers when administered in drinking water.”

**Antibiotics and antiviral drug found in KFC in China
According to the Telegraph high levels of antibiotics have been found in Kentucky Fried Chicken in Shanghai, China.  Reuters are reporting that the levels of antibiotics and steroids were within limits, however a suspicious level of an antiviral drug in one of the eight samples tested was found. A formal investigation is being carried out by the Shanghai Food and Drug Administration, who are due to publish their findings shortly.  CCTV reported on December 18, that poultry farms located in north China, who supply KFC had been found to be using large amounts of antibiotics and growth hormones.  The Telegraph states that  KFC said it would "actively co-operate" with the Shanghai authorities, and told the state-run China Daily newspaper it "strictly" abides by Chinese regulations.  McDonald’s and KFC have now terminated their contracts with Liuhe, one of China’s largest poultry companies, who were found in 2010 to have large amounts of antibiotics in their raw chicken.

**Companies producing unsafe food will be banned for life - China
Reuters state that the official Xinhua news agency is reporting that Beijing, in an attempt to keep food safety under control, will introduce new laws in China to punish firms that oppose food safety laws.  This announcement came after Shanghai stated that it would blacklist firms that flout food safety laws.  The regulation, which will come into force in April, will ban companies for life if they are found to be producing or selling unsafe foods.

**Scientists discover new strain of MRSA in milk from five farms in the UK
Scientists from Cambridge University have discovered a new strain of MRSA in milk from farms in the UK. The study, cited by the Independent, reports that the new strain MRSA ST398 was found after the scientists tested 1,500 samples.   The study published in Eurosurveillance found seven samples of bulk milk from five different farms in England to contain the new strain.  Using disk diffusion according to the European Committee on Antimicrobial Susceptibility Testing (EUCAST) guidelines, Holmes et al. found that all seven isolates were resistant to penicillin, meticillin and cefoxitin.  The Independent notes that an increase in the use of antibiotics in farms due to intensive farming has meant infections spread faster and this is causing an increased likelihood of creating antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as MRSA.  As milk is pasteurised experts claim there is no risk of MRSA infection to consumers, although farm workers, vets and abattoir workers may become infected through contact with livestock and could transfer the bacteria to others. Mark Holmes states: “This is definitely a worsening situation. In 2011 when we first found MRSA in farm animals, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs [Defra] initially didn’t believe it. They said we don’t have MRSA in the dairy industry in this country. Now we definitely have MRSA in livestock. What is curious is that it has turned up in dairy cows when in other countries on the Continent it is principally in pigs. Could it be in pigs or poultry in this country? We don’t know. If farmers were not screwed into the ground by the supermarkets and allowed to get a fair price for their milk they would be able to use fewer antibiotics.”

**Is bottle water as safe as tap water?
The Telegraph is reporting on a study by Prof Paul Younger of Glasgow University, which according to them states that bottle water is not as healthy for consumers as tap water.  According to the media the scientists state that bottled water endures less stringent safety tests than tap, reporting that the bottled variety is more likely to be contaminated or become a source of infection as it is stored for long periods of time, and after a bottle is opened it does not remain sterile and must be consumed within a couple of days.  The article quotes Younger as saying: “People think there must be something wrong with tap water because it is so cheap and plentiful. But from a safety and price perspective, tap water is better for you.  If the bottle is accidentally opened or someone tampers with it, then it can easily get contaminated. There's certainly a greater chance you could find something harmful in bottled water than from your taps. Ideally it should be drunk on the day it is opened, as it can easily pick up bacteria from someone's hands or face.” Jo Jacobius, director of British Bottled Water Producers, states that all water available in Britain was “highly regulated and generally of good quality”.

**Animal diseases updates and food poisoning outbreaks
Regular global updates on food poisoning outbreaks and animal diseases, such as avian influenza, foot and mouth, Ebola, SARS, and Anthrax can be found on the International Society for Infectious Diseases ‘ProMED-mail’ web site. 

**BITES safe food from farm to fork
The BITES web site at Kansas State University (KSU) provides up-to-date details of food safety incidents around the world.  It replaced the International Food Safety Network (iFSN) web site at KSU, which is no longer being kept up-to date. The Fsnet Archives are still available but only updated until September 2009.

RSSL's scientists are able to assist food businesses to manage food safety issues more effectively. The laboratories have considerable experience in the detection and identification of foreign bodies, heavy metals, allergens, toxins and chemical residues. For more information on any of these services and RSSL's Emergency Response Service, please contact Customer Services on Freefone 0800 243482 or e-mail enquiries@rssl.com

share this article
RSSL endeavours to check the veracity of news stories cited in this free e-mail bulletin by referring to the primary source, but cannot be held responsible for inaccuracies in the articles so published. RSSL provides links to other World Wide Web sites as a convenience to users, but cannot be held responsible for the content or availability of these sites. This document may be copied and distributed provided the source is cited as RSSL's Food e-News and the information so distributed is not used for profit.

Previous editions

Load more editions

Make an Enquiry