12 January - 20 June 2016

Food safety

20 March 13

**HPA publishes Cryptosporidium investigation findings
**New computer system being development which can detect faults on food production lines
**Rare meat allergy in children linked to tick bites
**Manuka honey fights bacteria commonly found in wound infections
**Contaminated water added to pesticides may be a potential source of noroviruses
**Single point mutation identified in Listeria monocytogenes
**EU agencies to advise on risks from phenylbutazone in horsemeat
**Water quality checks increased after almost 6000 dead pigs found in Chinese river
**Latest research published by the Food Standards Agency
**Prenatal exposure to the pesticide DDT increases risk of adult hypertension
**3M’s Salmonella detection assay certified for all Food categories and environmental products
**Noma the world’s best restaurant gives 67 customers food poisoning
**HPA sets up a survey to try and find source of outbreak of food poisoning from Street Spice event
**Animal diseases updates and food poisoning outbreaks
**The Food Safety Network
**HPA publishes Cryptosporidium investigation findings

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) can confirm that findings of an investigation into an outbreak of Cryptosporidium infection that affected around 300 people in England and Scotland in May 2012 showed strong evidence of an association with eating pre-cut bagged salad products which are likely to have been labelled as ‘ready-to-eat’. The outbreak was short lived and the number of cases returned to expected seasonal levels within a month of the first cases being reported. Most of those affected had a mild to moderate form of illness and there were no deaths associated with the outbreak. (quoted directly)

**New computer system being development which can detect faults on food production lines
Scientists at the University of Lincoln are developing a new computer system which can detect faults in food products and packaging on the production line.  The multi-purpose imaging system will carry out quality inspection tasks in the food industry, including checking that packaging is sealed correctly and that the right amount of food is in the right place.  The project is part-funded by the Technology Strategy Board, the UK’s innovation agency and its lead partner is Ishida Europe Limited, who are enabling real-time testing of the software in its food processing and packaging systems.  (E&T Magazine)

**Rare meat allergy in children linked to tick bites
According to a study, which was presented at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology's annual meeting, by Commins et al., a tick bite may be the cause of a rare meat allergy found in children living in the US Southeast.  The scientists report that bites from ticks cause the body to become allergic to alpha-gal, a protein found in cows, pigs, and sheep.  The scientists found that 45 children who had experienced recurrent hives or anaphylaxis, had antibodies against the protein and all of these children had been bitten by ticks in the past. Meat allergy is difficult to detect as the reaction can occur 3-6 hours after eating meat.  However children often grow out of the allergy, but if the patients experience more tick bites the allergy may reoccur.  (Fox News)

**Manuka honey fights bacteria commonly found in wound infections
According to a study published in PLOS ONE by researchers from the University of Technology Sydney, manuka honey is better than other honeys in fighting clinical isolates of S Staphylococcus aureus, including MRSA strains commonly found in wound infections.  Harry et al. also report that, unlike antibiotics, bacteria will not become resistant to honey.   The team investigated two key honey ingredients, methylglyoxal (MGO) and hydrogen peroxide which are known to inhibit bacterial growth.   Professor Harry states: “Honey has long been known to have anti-bacterial activity. We wanted to compare the effectiveness of different honeys on various bacteria to determine how the different MGO and hydrogen peroxide levels in these honeys relate to bacterial growth inhibition.” They found that manuka-kanuka blend honeys were most effective followed by kanuka honey and then clover honey.  The scientists note that honey with artificially increased MGO levels were no match for genuine manuka honey.

**EFSA clarifies neonicotinoid conclusions in light of new data
EFSA has made minor adjustments to its recent assessment of the risks to bees from pesticides containing the neonicotinoid substance thiamethoxam. The changes, which follow the submission of new information from two Member States, regard some uses of thiamethoxam as a seed treatment for sunflower, oilseed rape and sugar beet. However, the overall conclusions that EFSA reported on 16 January are unaffected.  (quoted directly)

**Contaminated water added to pesticides may be a potential source of noroviruses
A study published in the International Journal of Food Microbiology has investigated whether contaminated water, which is used to dilute pesticides, could be a source of the human norovirus (hNoV).  The consumption of fresh produce is often associated with outbreaks of hNoV but it remains difficult to identify where in the supply chain the virus first enters production. The water that the farmers use often comes from a number of sources including well water, river water or lake water.  These sources have been found to contain hNoV.  The scientists diluted 8 different pesticides with hNoV contaminated water and found that the pesticides did not counteract the effects of the contaminated water.  They conclude by stating that pesticides therefore may not just be a chemical hazard but a microbiological risk factor.

**Single point mutation identified in Listeria monocytogenes
Researchers from Sleator laboratory have investigated how Listeria monocytogenes mutates.  L. Monocytogenes is responsible for approximately 2500 illnesses and 500 deaths per year in the US.  It is able to grow at refrigeration temperatures and in the presence of high concentration of salt.  The findings published in Bioengineered indicate that the bacterium protects itself from such stresses by twisting into a protective corkscrew type shape in an effort to reduce its exposure to the stress—in the same way a human might wrap up tight—hugging the core to reduce the effects of the cold. They also identified a single point mutation which improves the growth of the pathogen.  Eurekalert states that could be a useful BioBrick for designing more physiologically robust probiotics which are resist to cold arid conditions. 

**EU agencies to advise on risks from phenylbutazone in horsemeat
The European Commission has asked the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to carry out a joint assessment of the risks to human health from the presence in horsemeat of residues of the anti-inflammatory drug phenylbutazone. The request follows the recent identification of beef products contaminated with horsemeat and the discovery of phenylbutazone – also known as “bute” – in a small number of horse carcasses intended for the food chain.

**Water quality checks increased after almost 6000 dead pigs found in Chinese river
Shanghai is increasing the frequency of water quality checks after the number of dead pigs found in Huangpu River has risen to almost 6000.  The government is increasing its construction of barriers to prevent more pigs from floating downstream.  Tests have revealed that the pigs originated from Zhejiang province. According to Bloomberg, the pigs have been dumped in the river by people living in Jiaxing.  Porcine circovirus, a common disease in pigs, was found in a sample taken from the river however the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states there is no evidence that this is a safety risk or causes illness in humans.  The river provides drinking water for 23 million residents.  Hourly tests have come back negative for other diseases including foot-and-mouth, swine fever, hog cholera and blue ear. Bloomberg quote Ben Cowling, associate professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Hong Kong’s School of Public Health as saying: “If there are dead animals in a water supply, then it’s unlikely to be a good idea to drink that water because of the risk of bacteria or other kinds of infections.”   Apparently this mortality rate of hogs in Jiaxing is currently within “normal” limits.  There may have been many factors that contributed to the deaths of these pigs, including farming techniques, environmental conditions, climate and illness, Jiang Hao a deputy director of the Jiaxing husbandry and veterinary bureau has said.

**Latest research published by the Food Standards Agency
The Food Standards Agency has produced a summary of its research published in February and March 2013. The summary includes brief information on eight areas of research.  The titles of the research are:  an evaluation into reducing the shedding of E.coli in cattle in the UK, potential for rapid on-site testing at border inspection posts, the safety of sous vide foods, new approaches for managing foodborne disease outbreaks, slaughterhouse social science project, an evaluation of food chain information and inspection results, an assessment for visual-only post-mortem meat inspections and trial of visual inspection of fattening pigs from non-controlled housing conditions.

**Prenatal exposure to the pesticide DDT increases risk of adult hypertension
A study led by scientists from the University of California, Davis and published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives has indicated that prenatal exposure to the pesticide dichlorodiplhenyltrichloroethan (DDT) increases the risk of high blood pressure in adulthood. The scientists report that infant girls exposed to DDT were three time more likely to develop hypertension when they become adults.   Although the pesticide was banned in the US in 1972 it is still used for malaria control in other countries, including India and South Africa.   Le Merrill et al. also report that traces of the pesticide still remain in the food system, primarily in fatty animal products.  The scientists came to these conclusions after examining concentrations of DDT in blood samples collected from women who had participated in the Child Health and Development Studies.  Adult daughters of those involved in the studies were surveyed to see if they had developed hypertension.  La Merrill states: "Evidence from our study shows that women born in the U.S. before DDT was banned have an increased risk of hypertension that might be explained by increased DDT exposure and the children of people in areas where DDT is still used may have an increased risk, as well."

**3M’s Salmonella detection assay certified for all Food categories and environmental products
3M’s Salmonella detection Assay has received AFNOR certification for all food categories and environmental products.  The AFNOR CERTIFICATION expert committee found 3M’s assay to be as or more effective than standard methods for detecting Salmonella spp. in seafood and vegetable products as well as in environmental samples taken from food processing sites.   The assay which has been available since 2011, and is used in at least 33 countries, has already been recognised for detecting Salmonella in eggs, meat and dairy product.  It uses isothermal DNA amplification and bioluminescence detection to detect pathogens.

**Noma the world’s best restaurant gives 67 customers food poisoning
A Danish restaurant which has won its third S.Pellegrino award for World’s Best Restaurant has given 67 customers of the 78 guest who dined there between Feb 12 and 16, food poisoning.  The cheapest option on Noma’s menu is a set menu priced at £174. The two star Michelin restaurant is renowned for using unusual, locally sourced ingredients such as reindeer moss, unripe plums and live shrimp.  The food authority investigated the restaurant after receiving a number of complaints. It criticised the restaurant for failing to react to emails from diners and a member of staff who had reported falling ill.  Noma was also reported not to have provided hot water in the taps used by staff to wash their hands and also to have failed to disinfect the kitchen properly before the virus spread.  The Telegraph quote Noma's managing director, Peter Kreiner, as saying: "We are in the business of making people happy and taking care of our guests, so this is the worst thing that could happen to us." He added: "Since the outbreak we have worked closely with the health authorities to get to the bottom of it and find the source of infection.  We are extremely sorry about all of this and I have personally been in dialogue with all the guests who were affected and discussed compensation for them."

**HPA sets up a survey to try and find source of outbreak of food poisoning from Street Spice event
The Health Protection Agency (HPA) is investigating the source of an outbreak of Salmonella food poisoning.  Three hundred and forty two people have now reported becoming ill after eating at the Street Spice event at the Centre for Life in Newcastle.  Fourteen samples have tested positive for Salmonella bacteria.  The HPA has set up a survey which aims to track what people ate at the event, and which stalls they ate from, reporting whether they experienced vomiting, diarrhoea or abdominal symptoms afterward.  Officers will analyse the results of the survey to see if they can identify the exact cause of the outbreak.  They want to hear from people with symptoms as well as those without.   The survey highlights 3 vendors directly, and list a further 17 businesses and will take 10 minutes to fill in. (The Journal)

**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

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