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6 March 13

**Third FSA update on testing of beef products for horse DNA
**Eat your greens – they may help your immune system
**New project will investigate the effects of the Mediterranean diet on older people
**33% of seafood sold in US found to be mislabelled
**“Junk-food” diet in pregnancy increases preference for palatable diets in adult offspring
**Meat flavoured crisps will contain “real” meat but vegetarians are upset
**Iron intake may help to protect women against PMS
**Increased sugar linked to higher diabetes rates independent of obesity

**Third FSA update on testing of beef products for horse DNA
The Food Standards Agency has received the third set of test results from the food industry, which has been checking for the presence of horse DNA in products that are labelled as beef. Overall, including the previous weeks’ testing, the Agency has received 5430 test results. This figure includes the 1797 results we are publishing today. The updated information from the food industry's own tests is as follows:

  • As in previous weeks, the vast majority (over 99%) of tests continue to show no horse DNA at or above the level of 1%.
  • 1 March results show that four further products have been confirmed as containing horse DNA, since the previous set of industry results was announced last week. These four products are covered by 10 test results that show horse DNA at or above the 1% threshold. These products have been withdrawn from sale.
  • There are now 17 products confirmed as containing over 1% of horse DNA, which have been identified through the industry tests. A further two products have been identified through separate tests.
  • To date, no tests of products containing horse DNA have found the veterinary medicine phenylbutazone (bute).

**Eat your greens – they may help your immune system
A study published in the journal Nature Immunology is reporting that immune cell population, essential for intestinal health, could be controlled by leafy greens in the diet. Innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) are immune cells found in the lining of the digestive system.  They produce a hormone called interleukin-22 (IL-22), which protects the body from invading bacteria in the intestine and can play a part in controlling food allergies, inflammatory diseases, and obesity and may help in the prevention of bowel cancer.  The study by Belz et al. from Walter and Eliza Hall Institute’s Molecular Immunology division states that the proteins in green leafy (cruciferous) vegetables are known to interact with a cell surface receptor that switches on T-bet (essential for producing a population of these critical immune cells) and might play a role in producing these immune cells. Dr Belz states "Proteins in these leafy greens could be part of the same signalling pathway that is used by T-bet to produce ILCs.  We are very interested in looking at how the products of these vegetables are able to talk to T-bet to make ILCs, which will give us more insight into how the food we eat influences our immune system and gut bacteria."

**New project will investigate the effects of the Mediterranean diet on older people
An EU funded project called NU-AGE is investigating the effects of the Mediterranean diet on older people.   The scientists will investigate whether food nutrients in the Mediterranean diet can help the elderly combat physical and mental decline.  The project, involving 1250 volunteers, starts in July 2013, and will involve people over 65 year old, of which half will consume a control diet and the other half a Mediterranean diet comprising of olive oil, fresh fruits and vegetables. During the year blood samples will be taken. Once the scientists have answers on molecular levels, they will attempt to design a functional food for the elderly in collaboration with the food industry.  (Youris.com

**33% of seafood sold in US found to be mislabelled
A study by US base Oceana, which tested 1215 seafood samples from 674 retail outlets in 21 states between 2010 -2012, has reported that 33% of the seafood tested were mislabelled according to US Food and Drug Administration guidelines. Levels of swapped species ranged from 25% to over 70%. Using DNA analysis the researchers found that snapper and tuna had the highest mislabelling rates (87% and 59%, respectively).   White salmon was mislabelled 7% of the time and Chilean sea bass mislabelled between 19% and 38% of the time.  Tilapia was sold as red snapper, king mackerel sold as grouper, escolar sold as white tuna and Atlantic halibut sole as Pacific halibut.  Species not recognised as sold or likely to be sold in the US were also found.  According to Oceana, “the U.S. government has a responsibility to provide more information about the fish sold in the United States, as seafood fraud harms not only consumers’ wallets, but also every honest vendor and fisherman cheated in the process—to say nothing of the health of our oceans."

**“Junk-food” diet in pregnancy increases preference for palatable diets in adult offspring
Scientists have indicated that mothers who eat unhealthy foods while pregnant may actually cause changes in the development of the opioid signalling pathway in the brains of their offspring. The study published in The FASEB Journal  reports that opiods are released upon consumption of foods that are high in fat and sugar, and changes in the development of these signalling pathways may mean that the offspring are less sensitive to opioids.  They therefore will have a higher tolerance to unhealthy foods and eat more to achieve a “feel good” response.  Muhlausler et al split a group of rats into two groups and fed one group a range of human “junk foods” during pregnancy and lactation, and the other group a normal rat diet.  Daily injections of an opioid receptor blocker were given to the pups after weaning.  The scientists found that the opioid receptor blocker was less effective at reducing fat and sugar intake in the “junk food” fed mother’s pups, indicating that in these offspring the opioid signalling pathway was less sensitive than in the pups whose mothers were fed normal rat feed.

**Meat flavoured crisps will contain “real” meat but vegetarians are upset
As part of an experiment, Walkers are to use extracts of real bacon in their smoky bacon crisps and real free range chicken in their roast chicken flavour packets.  According to the Independent vegetarians are unhappy about this decision and have complained on online forums, as the crisps currently do not contain any meat.  The manufacturer is moving to home-grown British ingredients in ten flavours and will be replacing the monosodium glutamate in the cheese and onion crisps with cheese powder from Somerset, the salt in the salt and vinegar crisps with Cheshire salt and will add sour cream from Dorset in the sour cream and chive crisps. 

**Increased sugar linked to higher diabetes rates independent of obesity
A study by researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine, the University of California-Berkeley and the University of California-San Francisco and reported in the PLOS ONE has found that increased sugar in a population's food supply is linked to higher diabetes rates, independent of obesity rates.  Basu et al. investigated data from the past decade from 175 countries on sugar availability and diabetes rates. The scientists indicate that apart from obesity there are additional factors that contribute to diabetes risk, suggesting that sugar and total calorie intake also play a role.  Basu et al state that taking confounding factors such as obesity and physical activity into account, for every 150 calories of sugar available per person per day, there is a 1 percent increase in the prevalence of diabetes in that population.   In addition, the scientists report higher rates of diabetes were found in those who were longer exposed to excess sugar. Basu et al note however that their results do not prove that sugar causes diabetes, but provide real-world support to previous trials that suggest that sugar affects the liver and pancreas in ways that other types of foods or obesity do not.

**Iron intake may help to protect women against PMS
Researchers at UMass Amherst and Harvard are reporting that women who reported eating a diet high in iron were 30 to 40% less likely to develop pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) than women who consumed lower amounts.   The study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology by Bertone-Johnson et al assessed mineral intake in around 3,000 women who were free from PMS at baseline and were involved in the Nurses' Health Study II.  Over the 10 year study period the participants’ completed three food frequency questionnaires.  After 10 years 1,057 women were diagnosed with PMS and 1,968 remained free from PMS.  After taking into account calcium intake and other factors, the scientists compared previous mineral intake from the women diagnosed with PMS with that of those who had few or no menstrual symptoms. Bertone-Johnson et al state: “We found that women who consumed the most non-heme iron, the form found primarily in plant foods and in supplements, had a 30 to 40 percent lower risk of developing PMS than women who consumed the lowest amount of non-heme iron. We also saw some indication that a high intake of zinc was associated with lower risk. In contrast, we were somewhat surprised to find that women consuming the highest amount of potassium had a higher risk of being diagnosed with PMS than women consuming the lowest amount of potassium. In general, results for mineral from food sources and minerals from supplements were similar. The level of iron intake at which we saw a lower risk of PMS, roughly greater than 20 mg per day, is higher than the current recommended daily allowance (RDA) for iron for premenopausal women, which is 18 mg per day.   However, as high iron intake may have adverse health consequence, women should avoid consuming more than the tolerable upper intake level of 45 mg per day unless otherwise recommended by a physician.”  The team suggested that iron may be related to PMS because it is involved in producing serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate mood.

RSSL's Metals Laboratory is equipped with AAS and ICP-MS to analyse for a wide range of concentrations of iron (UKAS accredited) including haem iron and other metals in foods, drinks and dietary supplements. For more information please contact Customer Services on Freephone 0800 243482 or email enquiries@rssl.com

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