12 January - 20 June 2016

Food safety

24 April 13

**EFSA and ECDC trying to identify the origin of Hepatitis A outbreak
**US foodborne illness trends
**Review into FSA response to horse meat incident
**Sandwiches delivered to German workers spiked with rat poison
**Avian flu virus found at Bernard Matthews Farm
**Join EFSA’s Scientific Panels
**Australia and New Zealand may permit the use of irradiation for tomatoes and peppers
**IFST updates fresh produce safety information statement
**High levels of lead found in imported rice – US
**More funding needed, as deadly wheat disease could threaten global food supplies
**GM fish which is expected to be approved by US, causes debate on safety of GM animals
**EFSA unable to conclude on the safety of GM maize 98140
**Phenylbutazone residues in horsemeat is of low concern for consumers – EFSA
**Animal diseases updates and food poisoning outbreaks
**The Food Safety Network

**EFSA and ECDC trying to identify the origin of Hepatitis A outbreak
EFSA is working closely with ECDC to help identify the origin of the recent outbreak of Hepatitis A virus infection in humans in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. Between 1 October 2012 and 8 April 2013, 16 confirmed cases of hepatitis A virus (HAV) infections with subgenotype IB and identical RNA sequence have been reported. As none of the cases have a travel history outside the EU within their period of potential exposure, this represents a multicountry outbreak, with exposure currently taking place in the EU. Hepatitis A is an infectious disease that can be transmitted through consumption of contaminated food or water or direct contact with an infectious person. ECDC, EFSA and the European Commission, in cooperation with the affected countries, will continue to closely monitor the situation and will provide regular updates as new information becomes available.

**US foodborne illness trends
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has published the Foodborne Disease Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet) on trends on foodborne illness in the United States, 2012.  FoodNet monitors foodborne diseases including infections causes by Cambylobacter, Listeria, Salmonella, Shiga-toxin producing E.coli (STEC) O157 and non-O157 Shigella, Vibrio, and Yersinia, and the parasites Cryptosporidium and Cyclospora, confirmed by laboratory tests.  The findings help the CDC and its partners and policy makers know how much progress has been made and indicate which areas need further improved prevention.  The report found that  Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, Salmonella, Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157 and non-O157, Shigella, and Yersinia infections were highest among children aged <5 years; the incidences of Listeria and Vibrio infection were highest in adults aged ≥65 years; the incidences of laboratory-confirmed Listeria, Salmonella, Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157, and Yersinia infections have not change significantly in 2012 compared with 2006–2008; Campylobacter was the second most common infection reported in FoodNet (14.3 cases reported per 100,000 population). They also found that incidence of infection was 14% higher in 2012 compared with 2006–2008; Campylobacter infections are usually self-limited, but may result in severe complications such as Guillain-Barré syndrome (a type of paralysis), and arthritis; exposures related to Campylobacter infection include consumption of undercooked poultry, raw milk, produce, untreated water, and contact with young animals; vibrio infections are rare (0.41 cases reported per 100,000 population). Incidence of Vibrio infection was 43% higher in 2012 compared with 2006–2008 amongst others.  Compared to data collected between 1996-1998 the incidence of infections caused by Campylobacter, Listeria, STEC O157, Shigella, and Yersinia has declined, mostly in the first years, the overall incidence of Salmonella was unchanged, but the incidence of some types of Salmonella have increased while others have decreased, the incidence of Vibrio infection is now 116% higher and the overall incidence of infection with six key foodborne pathogens (Campylobacter, Listeria, Salmonella, STEC O157, Vibrio, and Yersinia) was 22% lower.

**Review into FSA response to horse meat incident
A review will examine the Food Standards Agency’s response to the horsemeat incident.  The review which will be presented to the FSA Board at its open Board meeting on 4 June 2013 will be carried out by an independent Agency, headed by Professor Pat Troop, vice chair of Cambridge University Hospitals, and a FSA secretariat.  The team will examine all documents held by the FSA relevant to the case, and the findings will feed into a larger Government review.  The FSA review will include: the response of the FSA to any recent prior intelligence on the threat of substitution of horsemeat for beef in comminute beef products available in the UK; the FSA strategic, tactical and operational response to the FSAI announcement on 15 January 2013 and subsequent developments, including: key roles and responsibilities assigned to FSA staff engaged in the response; the operation of the incident response protocol; resourcing the incident response; information flows within the FSA, including to the FSA Board; communication from the FSA to the public, parliament, and other stakeholders, including but not limited to the FSA website, media and social media engagement, and the FSA Helpline; the response of the FSA, in terms of its engagement with the food industry and collaboration with other regulatory agencies in the UK and overseas, including other arms of UK and devolved governments; the enforcement response of the FSA, in terms of the powers available and arrangements for conducting investigations into potential breaches of food law or other law, including liaison and collaboration with other law enforcement agencies and other factors which emerge in the course of the review which offer the opportunity for lessons to be learned that could improve the ability of the FSA to respond to incidents of food authenticity or food safety in future.

RSSL's DNA and Protein Laboratory uses PCR techniques to identify from over 20 species of meat including chicken, pork and beef in protein extracts and other complex ingredients as well as foodstuffs. Routine meat speciation is also performed using ELISA techniques to detect pork, beef, lamb, poultry and horse. For more information please contact Customer Services on Freephone 0800 243482 or email enquiries@rssl.com

**Sandwiches delivered to German workers spiked with rat poison
Sandwiches delivered to a company in Steinfeld, Germany, labelled as a “present”, have been found to contain rat or mouse poison.  Twenty five employees from Mueller Technik, a car parts company in the north-western town of Steinfeld, ate the rolls and are so far not showing any symptoms of poisoning.  The employees described the bread as tasting old and dry before they found pink seeds underneath the fillings of meat and cheese.  Further tests revealed that these seeds were rat poison.  Police believe that whoever delivered the sandwiches must have been familiar with the company as they knew that food was often brought to work for other co-workers and as there was only a small amount of rat poison the perpetrator was likely to be someone with a grudge rather than someone with intent to kill. (Independent)

**Avian flu virus found at Bernard Matthews Farm
The BBC is reporting that Avian Influenza has been found at a Bernard Matthews farm at Ubbeston near Haleworth. Initial tests have detected the presence of the avian influenza virus however tests were negative for the H5 and H7 strains, which are a threat to humans.  Further tests are being carried out at the premises.  Restrictions on movements have been put into place at the farm however these are expected to be lifted in next couple of days.

**Join EFSA’s Scientific Panels
Are you a scientist with experience of chemical risk assessment? Are you interested in making a difference to European food safety? Then apply to join two of EFSA’s Scientific Panels dealing with food ingredients and packaging and be a part of Europe’s network of top food safety scientists. EFSA’s experts help to protect European consumers by delivering high-calibre independent scientific advice to European decision-makers on food and feed safety. Successful applicants will be appointed as a Panel member for a three-year term starting in July 2014. Scientists are invited to apply by 17 June 2013.(quoted directly)

**Australia and New Zealand may permit the use of irradiation for tomatoes and peppers
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSAZ) is deciding whether to approve the use of irradiation for tomatoes and peppers.  An article by News.com.au is reporting that after restrictions were imposed on dimethoate and fenthion, two common chemical insecticides, Queensland's Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry were seeking alternative options to control fruit flies.  The irradiated food will be labelled and notices will be placed at sales areas or on menus.  The FSANZ report that “permitting irradiation of tomatoes and capsicums will allow domestic and international trade in tomatoes and capsicums to continue without disruption.” In 2009 the Federal Government banned irradiation of cat food after dozen of cats died or suffered with neurological damage.  However FSANZ note that a dose of up to one kilogray is suitable for tomatoes and capsicums.  This is well below the levels that were used in the pet food.

**IFST updates fresh produce safety information statement
The Institute of Food Science and Technology has updated their information statement on fresh produce safety.  The statement provides the risk assessment background in relation to fresh produce including sprouted seeds and  highlights current guides and codes of practice that have been developed for the food supply chain to minimise microbiological contamination of produce. Whilst produce is seen as an important source of nutrients and vitamins there have been a number of well-publicised food safety incidents associated with fresh produce. This has led to increased attention being paid to how the food safety hazards associated with raw foods should be effectively controlled and where possible reduced to a safe level.

**High levels of lead found in imported rice – US
A study presented at the American Chemical Society meeting in New Orleans has found that rice imported into the United States contains high levels of lead, with baby food having some of the highest levels. Tongesayi et al. note that lead can damage the brain, and in children can cause issues with learning and behaviour, including being more aggressive, impulsive and hyperactive.  It can also cause calcium deficiency and cause anaemia by disrupting the production of haemoglobin.  Americans consume around 4.4 million metric tons of rice per year.  Imports of rice and rice flour have increased in the US by over 200% since 1999. Levels of lead found in the imported rice ranged from 6 to 12 mg/kg.  The highest amounts were found in rice imported from Taiwan and China however rice from the Czech Republic, Bhutan, Italy, India and Thailand also had high amounts of lead. Tongesayi  et al calculated  the daily exposure levels from eating imported rice as being 20-40 times higher than the FDA’s Provisional Total Tolerable Intakes (PTTI).  However, daily exposure levels for children would be 30-60 time higher than the FDAs PTTI levels. (BBC)

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

**More funding needed, as deadly wheat disease could threaten global food supplies
A paper published in the journal Science by researchers from the University of Minnesota has examined how a deadly wheat disease could threaten food supplies for millions of peoples.  They report that the disease, Ug99, which is a virulent form of stem rust first found in Uganda in 1999, is evolving and mutating into new forms so that even wheat which has some resistance to the disease is unable to fight it.  Pardey et al state that new resistant varieties need to be developed. Although new projects are studying the development of resistance to Ug99, the scientists estimate that to prevent economic losses, around $51 million a year is needed.  They note that “spending on stem rust research has been inadequate for some time, and increased research investment must be sustained over the long haul if science is to keep on top of these ever-evolving crop diseases."

**GM fish which is expected to be approved by US, causes debate on safety of GM animals
The Daily Mail is reporting that in the next few week’s authorities in the US are expected to approved a GM fish called Aquabounty salmon that grows twice as fast as normal salmon.   The Daily Mail states that the fish is produced by “inserting a growth hormone gene and another gene taken from the eel-like ocean pout. The fish would be sterile and raised in vast tanks on land rather than in sea cages.”  Professor Helen Sang, a GM animal expert at the Roslin Institute where the cloned sheep Dolly was produced, is calling on the Government to support the spread of GM into farm animals but admits there will need to be a change in attitude among British families and retailers.  She states: “This is a very exciting time. We have GM animals that have qualities you can’t achieve through conventional animal breeding. The problem with GM is that it is seen as mumbo jumbo magic. But if people can understand what the aims are and what we are trying to achieve then they are much more comfortable.  It is an issue for us that the supermarkets decided many years ago not to sell GM food. They will have to change what they do, which will be a challenge for them. Food production is an international business and so GM animals may become acceptable in other countries before it is accepted here.”  However Helen Wallace of Genewatch is concerned what would happen if a GM fish escaped stating that this could threaten wild salmon populations.  Pete Riley of the GM Freeze campaign reports that there are no advantages from GM animals and after seeing issues caused by inbreeding using conventional methods this could cause genetic problems impacting the health and welfare of animals.

**EFSA unable to conclude on the safety of GM maize 98140
EFSA has been unable to conclude on the safety of genetically modified (GM) maize 98140 for human and animal health after the applicant failed to supply essential data to allow a full risk assessment to take place. The Authority found it was not possible to carry out the comparative assessment of the GM maize because studies submitted as part of the application contained insufficient data on the plant’s characteristics, such as its composition and appearance. (quoted directly)

RSSL's DNA and Protein Laboratory uses multiple primer sets to enable the detection of all GM soya, maize and rapeseed varieties with turnaround times as short as two days. Real-Time quantitative PCR testing using the most robust and accurate methods available has a detection limit of 0.1% of extracted DNA. For more information please contact Customer Services on Freephone 0800 243482 or email enquiries@rssl.com

**Phenylbutazone residues in horsemeat is of low concern for consumers – EFSA
EFSA and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) are stating that the illegal presence of phenylbutazone residues in horsemeat is of low concern for consumers due to the low likelihood of exposure and the overall low likelihood of toxic effects. The two agencies carried out a joint assessment and their results confirms it is not possible to set safe levels for phenylbutazone in food products of animal origin and therefore its use in the food chain should remain prohibited. EFSA and EMA delivered a series of recommendations to further reduce the risk of phenylbutazone entering the food chain.

**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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