12 January - 20 June 2016

Food safety

10 April 13

**French Agency publishes findings on health risks of BPA
**Helping packaging manufacturers assess diffusion risks of potentially harmful molecules
**Identifying VTEC bacteria strains - EFSA
**Increase in human infections from Campylobacter and E.coli, whilst Salmonella continues to fall
**Mercury exposure and risk of type 2 diabetes
**Filtering materials found to add arsenic to beers
**Combined pesticide exposure affects bees’ learning and memory
**Testing the five second rule
**Combinations of estrogen-mimicking chemicals found to dramatically distort hormone action
**Study find DNA damaging compounds in foods and flavouring
**Nanomaterials in food packaging “safe and convenient” for consumers
**E. coli outbreak in US sickens 24
**New global food security report published
**Food Standards Agency - new allergy project
**Bisphenol A: EFSA consult on its draft opinion
**Mechanically separated meat: EFSA advises on public health risks and detection methods
**Animal diseases updates and food poisoning outbreaks
**The Food Safety Network

**French Agency publishes findings on health risks of BPA
French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES) has published their findings from a 3 year study on the health risks of bisphenol A (BPA).   In a press release the Agency states that the study takes into account not only BPA exposure from food, but also from inhalation (via ambient air) and the dermal route (contact with consumer products).   They report that food contributes to over 80% of the population’s exposure, with the main source being from canned foods, accounting for around 50% of dietary exposure.  The Agency also states that water distributed in refillable polycarbonate containers is a major source of exposure to bisphenol A.  The press release states: “The conclusions of the risk assessment, carried out on the basis of hazards identified from studies conducted on animals and of characterisation of exposure, show a potential risk to the unborn children of exposed pregnant women. The identified effects relate to a change in the structure of the mammary gland in the unborn child that could promote subsequent tumour development. The reporting of these potential risks however comes with a confidence level described by the experts as “moderate” with regard to the current state of knowledge and uncertainties.”  They note that there is insufficient evidence relating to other vulnerable groups including young children, and recommend research should focus on this area.  The Agency also recommends reviewing the relevance of using toxicity reference values or tolerable daily intakes.

**Helping packaging manufacturers assess diffusion risks of potentially harmful molecules
A SafeFoodPack Design project coordinated by Vitrac and funded by the French National Research Agency aims to build tools to aid packaging manufacturers assess the diffusion risks of potentially harmful molecules, at every stage of the packaging’s life, from manufacturing to final use, including transport and storage.  The scientists have been investigating how potentially harmful molecules can diffuse from one layer of food packaging to the next.  They are identifying critical points where migration can occur.  The team have also been developing a database which documents material used in food packages, together with their molecule content.  It will eventually contain diffusion speeds.    The open-source software is expected to be available by December 2014 and will use Failure Mode Effects and Criticality Analysis to detect critical points in the packaging process. (Alpha-Galileo)

**Identifying VTEC bacteria strains - EFSA
EFSA’s scientific experts say that it is currently not possible to identify which VTEC bacteria strains have the potential to cause human diseases. In order to help risk managers to identify human health risks, EFSA has proposed a scheme to categorise VTEC strains according to their potential to cause disease. This work has been carried out in response to a request of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Health. (quoted directly)

**Increase in human infections from Campylobacter and E.coli, whilst Salmonella continues to fall
The EFSA is reporting that over the last five years there has been a continuous increase in reported cases of Campylobacteriosis in humans.  Since 2008 there has been an increase in reported cases of human verocytotoxin-producing Escherichia coli (VTEC/STEC) which was strengthened by the outbreak in the summer of 2011. For the seventh consecutive year Salmonella cases in humans have continued to fall. These are some of the main findings of the annual report on zoonoses and food-borne outbreaks in the European Union for 2011 produced jointly by EFSA and ECDC. (EFSA)

**Mercury exposure and risk of type 2 diabetes
A study published in Diabetes Care has found that young adults exposure to high levels of mercury had a 65 percent increased risk of type 2 diabetes later in life.  The study recruited 3875 men and women aged 20–32 years, free of diabetes in 1987 (baseline) who were followed six times until 2005. Incident diabetes was identified by plasma glucose levels, oral glucose tolerance tests, haemoglobin A1C levels, and/or antidiabetic medications.  Mercury levels were measured in toenails. Over 18 years follow up 288 incident cases of diabetes occurred and the scientists report that mercury levels were positively associated with the incidence of diabetes.  They found that those with the highest levels of mercury also had healthier lifestyles and consumed more fish.   The authors state that their study shows the importance of choosing sea food with low amounts of mercury, especially for pregnant women.  Magnesium and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, have previously been reported to counter the effects of mercury, however the authors note: "the association between mercury exposure and diabetes incidence was substantially strengthened after controlling for intake of LCn-3PUFAs (omega-3) and magnesium." 

RSSL's Metals Laboratory is equipped with AAS and ICP-MS and can determine lead concentrations to a limit of 10 ppb (UKAS accredited) and mercury to 20 ppb.  For more information on metal analysis please contact Customer Services on Freephone 0800 243482 or email enquiries@rssl.com

**Filtering materials found to add arsenic to beers
Scientists have announced at the 245th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society the reasons why arsenic levels in beer, sold in Germany, could be higher than in the water or other ingredients used to brew the beer.  Coelhan et al. analysed 140 samples of beers sold in Germany for arsenic, leads, natural toxins, pesticides and other undesirable substances. They note that the World Health Organisation state that levels of arsenic in drinking waters should be no more than 10 micrograms per litre.  The scientists found that the arsenic was coming from the filtering material called kieselguhr or diatomaceous earth, used to remove yeast, hops and other particles and give the beer a crystal clear appearance. The authors note that the levels of arsenic found are low, however breweries, wineries and other food processors that use kieselguhr should be aware that the substance can release arsenic. (Eurekalert)

RSSL' s Metals laboratory is equipped with AAS and ICP-MS for analysing a wide range of concentrations of trace elements in foods, drinks and dietary supplements and can determine arsenic down to 50 ppb.  For more information please contact Customer Services on Freephone 0800 243482 or email enquiries@rssl.com

**Combined pesticide exposure affects bees’ learning and memory
Two studies published in Nature Communications have found that combined pesticide exposure can impact bee brain function, making them slower to learn and causing them to forget floral scents and food rewards.  The levels used in the study were similar to those found in the wild and commonly used in agriculture. The two pesticides investigated were neonicotinoid pesticides used on crops, and coumaphos which is used in honeybee hives to kill the Varroa mite. Both pesticides were found to target the learning area of the bee’s brain.  When used in combination the effect was greater. A second study investigated the same pesticide combination and reported similar findings, noting that after exposure to these pesticides for 4 days, around 30% of the bees failed to learn or did not do very well in memory tests.

**Testing the five second rule
The BBC has investigated the five second rule to see whether it can be potentially dangerous.  The rule, which many people follow, is that you are allowed to eat something that has dropped on the floor, provided that it has not stayed there for longer than five seconds.  Dr Ronald Cutler from Queen Mary, University of London tested pizza, toast (butter side down), and an apple, which were dropped on a kitchen floor, a carpet and a street. After they had been dropped the scientist tested the foods in a laboratory and found that all foods, including those which were dropped on the kitchen floor were covered in bacteria a day later. The pizza dropped on the kitchen floor was also found to have traces of faecal bacteria on it.

**Eating too much salt contributed to 2.3 million deaths throughout the world
A study presented at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism 2013 Scientific Sessions is reporting that eating too much salt contributed to 2.3 million deaths from heart attacks, strokes and other heart-related diseases throughout the world in 2010.  This represents 15% of all deaths due to these causes.  The scientists came to these conclusions after they analysed 247 surveys of adult sodium intake between 1990 and 2010.  Using 107 randomised, prospective trials the scientists investigated sodium intake and risk of cardiovascular disease, how sodium affects blood pressure, and how these differences in blood pressure relate to the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, compared with consuming no more than 1,000 mg per day of sodium.  They found that nearly 1 million of these deaths were premature, occurring in people 69 years of age and younger. Sixty percent of the deaths occurred in men and 40 percent were in women. Heart attacks caused 42 percent of the deaths and strokes 41 percent. The remainder resulted from other types of cardiovascular disease. Eighty-four percent of these deaths, which were due to eating too much sodium were in low and middle-income countries, rather than high-income countries. (Science Daily)

RSSL's Product and Ingredient Innovation Team, has considerable experience in re-formulating products to provide more healthy options including low salt, low sugar versions and using pre- and probiotics.  Using RSSL can help speed up your development cycle considerably.  For more information please contact Customer Services on Freephone 0800 243482 or email enquiries@rssl.com

**Combinations of estrogen-mimicking chemicals found to dramatically distort hormone action
A study published in the journal Environmental Health by Watson et al has used a new technique to study exposure to low doses of multiple xenoestrogens.   The scientists exposed rat pituitary cell cultures (cells that are master regulators of the animals' endocrine systems) to mixture of three compounds: bisphenol A, nonylphenol and bisphenol S.  All of these compounds have been reported to affect estrogen signalling. Watson et al investigated whether a combination of these chemicals produced a dramatically greater effect than any one of them alone. Their experiments measured the responses of key signalling pathways that lead to cell proliferation, the secretion of the pituitary hormone prolactin and the activation of proteins involved in apoptosis. They found that when they are combined they affect estrogenic signalling differently and more dramatically than they do individually. 

**Study find DNA damaging compounds in foods and flavouring
A laboratory study published in Food and Chemical Toxicology by Kern et al. is reporting that liquid smoke flavouring, black and green teas, and coffee activate the highest levels of a well-known, cancer-linked gene called p53. The p53 gene becomes activated when DNA is damaged. The higher the level of DNA damage, the more p53 becomes activated.  The scientists from John Hopkins University came to these findings after they tested the effects of these foods and food flavourings on cell cultures.  The foods caused a 30-fold increase in p53 activity when they were added to the cells, which is comparable to the effect that the chemotherapy drug etoposide can have on the cancer-suppressing gene.  Kern et al state these foods and flavourings contain pyrogallol and gallic acid, which they believe are responsible for damaging the DNA and activating p53.  Kern says that more studies are needed to examine the type of DNA damage caused by pyrogallol and gallic acid, but notes there could be ways to remove the two chemicals from foods and flavourings.

**Nanomaterials in food packaging “safe and convenient” for consumers
The Parliament.com is reporting on a study commissioned by PlasticsEurope, the Brussels-based association of plastics manufacturers, which has investigated the risk from nanoscience and nanotechnologies in the food chain.  The results were published at a debate in parliament hosted by Holger Krahmer MEP (ALDE, DE).  The study by Roland Franz, who heads the department of product safety and chemical analysis at the Fraunhofer IVV institute, based in Germany investigated whether nanoparticles can migrate from food contact material into food.  The study reports that after much research the risk of migration was "very low" and that nanomaterials in food packaging are "safe and convenient" for consumers.

**E. coli outbreak in US sickens 24
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced a multistate outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O121 (STEC O121) infections.  The outbreak may be associated with Farm Rich brand frozen food products, who recalled approximately 196,222 of chicken quesadillas and several other frozen mini meals and snack items because they might be contaminated with E. coli O121.  A total of 24 individuals from 15 states have been infected with the outbreak strain of STEC O121.  CDC and state public health officials have interviewed those who had become ill.  They were asked questions about foods consumed and other exposures during the week before becoming ill. Eighteen (100%) of 18 ill persons interviewed reported consuming frozen food products. Eight (57%) of 14 ill persons reported consuming Farm Rich brand frozen food products. Investigations are ongoing to determine the specific types and sources of frozen food that might be linked with illness, as well as to determine which particular ingredients or components of these products may be contaminated.

**New global food security report published
A new global food security report entitled “Global Food Systems and UK Food Imports” highlights issues surrounding global food systems and the importation of food into the UK.  The report contains discussions from the Public Policy Seminar 30 March 2012, which was co-funded by ESRC, Defra, the Food Standards Agency and Scottish Government.  The seminar brought scientists and non-scientists together to discuss the broad range of factors which affect the stability and resilience of the UK’s food supply chain. As we are not self-sufficient in the UK, our food supply chains, in part, depend on events outside the UK.  The first section of the report outlines the issues and concerns regarding food resilience, safety and security raised by speakers and audience participants during the seminar. The second section highlights topics which seminar participants suggested as possibilities for future research activity, including global diet, food waste and new technologies, amongst others.

**Food Standards Agency - new allergy project
An International study on food allergy led by the University of Manchester and funded by the European Commission has just been launched.  The Food Standards Agency reports that the Integrated Approaches to Food Allergen and Allergy Risk Management (iFAAM) is expected to produce a standardised approach to allergen management for companies involved in food manufacturing. It will also develop tools to inform new health advice to prevent the development of food allergies.  The project is expected to take three years to complete and will also investigate the development of food allergy and other allergic diseases, such as asthma or eczema, in early life.

RSSL carries out allergen testing using immunological, DNA and distillation techniques, depending on the allergen to be detected. Detection limits are in the range 1- 100 mg allergen/kg of sample for almond, Brazil nut, macadamia nut, peanut, walnut, hazelnut, cashew nut, pistachio nut, pecan nut, pine nut and chestnut.  Celery, celeriac, black mustard, lupin  and kiwi allergens can be detected by DNA methods, as can crustacean, fish and mollusc allergens.  The laboratory also uses a range of UKAS accredited immunological procedures for the detection of allergens including gluten, peanut, hazelnut, almonds, soya, egg, milk, sesame and histamine.  Distillation and titration methods are used for the determination of sulphur dioxide and sulphites.  For more information please contact Customer Services on Freephone 0800 243482 or email enquiries@rssl.com.

**Bisphenol A: EFSA consult on its draft opinion
EFSA will launch a public consultation in July on its draft scientific opinion on the possible risks to public health of bisphenol A (BPA), a substance used in food contact materials. By extending the timeline for the final adoption of its opinion to November 2013, EFSA’s scientific experts will also be able to consider the results of ongoing scientific work on BPA at European and national level while completing their comprehensive risk assessment.

**Mechanically separated meat: EFSA advises on public health risks and detection methods
Microbiological and chemical hazards associated with mechanically separated meat derived from poultry and swine are similar to those related to non-mechanically separated meat (fresh meat, minced meat or meat preparations). However, the risk of microbial growth increases with the use of high pressure production processes. These are some of the findings of a scientific opinion published by EFSA on public health risks related to mechanically separated meat. EFSA’s Panel on Biological Hazards also developed a model to help identify mechanically separated meat and differentiate it from other types of meat. (quoted directly)

**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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