12 January - 20 June 2016

Food safety

8 May 13

**Bee survival: Should other pesticides be banned?
**Levels of trans fatty acids have been reduced considerably – Department of Health
**Consumer attitudes to slaughterhouse decontamination treatments on raw meat – FSA
**New method developed to detect Orange II
**Adding caffeine to food, FDA will investigate
**GPs informed on how to identify Avian flu
**Increase in food and skin allergies in US children
**Reducing viral food poisoning in raw oysters
**Soil bacterium may reduce arsenic in rice
**Acrylamide – EFSA launches call for recent analytical data
**North Atlantic seaweed, dulse, is safe to eat
**Vitamin B2 may protect against cyanide poisoning
**Nordic countries outbreak of hepatitis A linked to frozen berries
**Multi-state outbreak of Salmonella linked to imported cucumbers
**Defra – detailed guidance on personal food, plant and animal product imports
**Animal diseases updates and food poisoning outbreaks
**The Food Safety Network

**Bee survival: Should other pesticides be banned?
On 29 April 2013 the European Commission ordered a two year ban on the use of neonicotinoid insecticides.  The ban occurred after findings from the EFSA indicated that neonicotinoids pose a high acute risk to honey bees.  Research has indicated that the insecticide affects the bees’ navigation system, causing them to have problems learning, and also weakens their immune system.  However scientists are reporting that other pesticides may also be harming bees and other pollinators, and are arguing that farmers should not be allowed to spray “a toxic soup of chemicals onto their crops.” Christopher Connolly, a neuroscientist from Dundee University reports that his research found that exposing bee brains to these pesticides and organo-based pesticides made the bees’ nerves spin into hyperactivity and stopped them working.  A combination of these two pesticide types had a stronger impact, suggesting that the combined soup of pesticides could be causing more serious harm. He suggests that we should be tracking pesticide use in the environment, just like we monitor drug use in patients.  Dave Goulson, professor of biological science at the University of Sterling, UK agrees: “there haven’t been nearly enough studies of all pesticides or interactions between them.  Beneficial insects such as ladybirds and bees are exposed to lots of different chemicals and we have a really poor understanding of what it does to them.”   According to Youris opponents believe that the neonicotinoids ban is unlikely to decrease pesticide use and may actually have the opposite effect.   Simon Potts, professor of biodiversity and ecosystem services at Reading University, UK states there are several alternatives to using neonicotinoids, and other pesticides.

**Levels of trans fatty acids have been reduced considerably – Department of Health
The Department of Health has published a summary report on nutrient analysis of a range of processed foods with particular reference to trans fatty acids.  A survey was carried out to investigate the effect of recent reformulation work by the food industry to lower the artificial trans fatty acid content of processed products.  65 composite samples each made up of a number of different brands, were analysed for energy, and a range of nutrients including fat, fatty acids (including trans), protein, carbohydrate, fibre and a full range of vitamins and minerals. Results from the analysis of macronutrients and individual fatty acids were published in an earlier, similarly titled, report.  Amongst the foods analysed were pizza, garlic bread, breakfast cereals, quiche, fat spreads, a range of fish and meat products (retail and takeaway), chips (retail and takeaway), savoury snacks, confectionery and ice cream. Biscuits, buns, cakes and pastries were not included as these were analysed in a separate project, reported elsewhere. Results show that levels of trans fat have reduced considerably compared with previous analyses of similar foods carried out over the last 20-30 years where available.

RSSL's Lipids Laboratory, part of the Investigative Analysis Team can determine the fatty acid profile of all dietary fats and oils including trans fats. For more information please contact Customer Services on Freephone 0800 243482 or email  enquiries@rssl.com

**Consumer attitudes to slaughterhouse decontamination treatments on raw meat - FSA

The risk of food poisoning can be reduced by using slaughterhouse decontamination treatments on raw meat. Consumers have given the FSA their views on which treatments they would find acceptable.  According to the survey’s findings, rapid chilling of meat and the application of hot water or steam emerged as the two treatments consumers would find most acceptable. Treatments using lactic acid and ozone were initially considered less acceptable, however, when consumers were given extra information on lactic acid, its acceptability increased significantly.

**New method developed to detect Orange II
A paper published in The Royal Society of Chemistry journal Analytical Methods by Chinese scientists has described an electrochemical method which can detect the toxic axo dye, Orange II.  The dye is used in wood stain and the textiles industry, however sometimes it is used illegally in food products including chilli sauces from China and Indian sweets.  Orange II has been found to cause liver damage and also to reduce red blood cell levels.  Current methods of detection use chromatography-mass spectrometry and polarography, however these methods can be time consuming and are unsuitable for in situ analysis.  The new technique developed can detect levels at nanomolar concentrations using titanium dioxide-modified grapheme electrodes which can detect the electrochemical signals of Orange II.

**Adding caffeine to food, FDA will investigate
According to the popular press, following the launch of a caffeinated gum by Wrigley, the FDA will be monitoring the marketing, safety and effect foods containing caffeine have on children.  Each piece of gum contains 40 milligrams of caffeine, equivalent to the amount found in half a cup of coffee.  ABC News reports that “the current proliferation of caffeine added to foods is beyond anything FDA envisioned.”  A spokesman for the FDA states that "We're concerned about whether they have been adequately evaluated."  The agency has already held meetings with large companies regarding this issue and companies have labelled products containing caffeine for adult use only.    The agency are reported to be examining  added caffeine in its totality — while one product might not cause adverse effects, the increasing number of caffeinated products on the market, including drinks, could mean more adverse health effects for children.  ABC news reports that critics are concerned that although the products are marketed to adults, caffeine has been added to candy which is attractive to children.

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

**GPs informed on how to identify Avian flu
According to the Daily Mail GPs in Britain have been sent letters on how to identify cases of Avian flu, advising them of what action to take. The article states that experts believe that the virus is a real threat to the UK, noting that it is taking its first steps toward becoming a global threat to humans.  At present the virus only affects people who have been in close contact with birds, however the article states “If it were to become fully adapted to human hosts it could result in a serious worldwide pandemic claiming millions of lives.”  The bird flu is already mutating, and scientists believe it already has two of five genetic changes which are believed to be necessary for human-to-human transmission.

**Increase in food and skin allergies in US children
A US government survey has found that parents are reporting more skin and food allergies in their children.  A spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who carried out the survey, states that they do not know what is causing this increase.  The survey found that 1 in 20 U.S. children have food allergies, which is a 50 percent increase from the late 1990s. For eczema and other skin allergies the survey found an increase of 69 percent. It found no increase, however, in hay fever or other respiratory allergies.   The prevalence of food and skin allergies increased in children under age 18 years from 1997–2011, the prevalence of skin allergies decreased with age. In contrast, the prevalence of respiratory allergies increased with age.  Hispanic children had a lower prevalence of food allergy, skin allergy, and respiratory allergy compared with children of other race or ethnicities.  Non-Hispanic black children were more likely to have skin allergies and less likely to have respiratory allergies compared with non-Hispanic white children.  Food and respiratory allergy prevalence increased with income level.  Children with family income equal to or greater than 200% of the poverty level had the highest prevalence rates.

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.

**Soil bacterium may reduce arsenic in rice
Scientists from the University of Delaware have found a naturally occurring soil bacterium which can create an iron barrier in rice roots, reducing the uptake of arsenic.   Although arsenic may occur naturally in the soil, it can also be a result of environmental contamination.  Currently no effective agricultural method is reported to reduce these levels. Bais et al discovered that the soil bacterium known as UD1023 is found in the layer of soil and microbes adjacent to the rice roots.  Preliminary investigations found it to mobilise iron from the soil and slow the uptake of arsenic.  The scientists do not currently understand how the process works and whether it will lead to reduced levels of arsenic in the rice grains. Bais states: "We don't know yet whether we can reduce arsenic in the grains or reduce the upward movement of arsenic towards the grain, but we're optimistic. Coating seeds with bacteria is very easy. With these bacteria you could implement easy, low-cost strategies that farmers could use that would reduce arsenic in the human food chain." (Science Daily)

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

**Reducing viral food poisoning in raw oysters
A team of scientists have been investigating how electron-beam pasteurisation of raw oysters may reduce the possibility of food poisoning through virus. The study which will eventually be published in the Journal of Applied and Environmental Microbiology, investigates e-beam pasteurisation technology on a human norovirus surrogate called murine norovirus (NoV) and a hepatitis A virus.  E-beam pasteurisation technology generates the ionising irradiation which inactivates the viruses. Pillai et al. report that the technology is already being used by the FDA to control Vibrio vulnificus bacterial pathogen in shellfish. The study found that if a serving size of 12 raw oysters were contaminated with approximately 100 hepatitis A and human noroviruses, an e-beam dose of 5 kGy (kilograys) would achieve a 91 percent reduction of hepatitis A infection risks and a 26 percent reduction of norovirus infection risks. A kilogray is a unit of absorbed energy from ionizing radiation. (Science Daily)

**Acrylamide – EFSA launches call for recent analytical data

EFSA would like food business operators and other stakeholders to submit analytical data on acrylamide occurrence levels in foods and beverages collected outside official controls from 2010 onwards. This information will support development of EFSA’s risk assessment on this process contaminant. Acrylamide is a chemical substance that forms in starchy foods during heat treatment, e.g. roasting, baking and frying. (quoted directly)

**North Atlantic seaweed, dulse, is safe to eat
A study published in the Journal of Applied Phycology by Mouritsen et al. from the University of Southern Denmark, is reporting that North Atlantic seaweed is safe to eat.  Although dulse has traditionally been eaten by populations along the Atlantic Coast including Great Britain, previous scientists from the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration have indicated that dulse may contain dangerous levels of the neurotoxin kainic acid, which when consumed in large doses can lead to brain damage. In this present study, Mouritsen et al. found that dulse contains extremely small doses of kainic acids and a person would need to consume 150 kg in one sitting to experience the poisoning effect found in animal studies.  The scientists also found dulse to contain small concentrations of iodine, arsenic, mercury, cadmium and lead, below the WHO-defined limits.  They state: “There are many delicious, healthy and safe seaweed species in North Atlantic waters. Just stay away from old seaweed washed up on the beach and harvest only seaweed from clean waters.

RSSL's Metals Team can determine iodine by ICP-MS down to a detection limit of 0.05 ppm. For more information please contact Customer Services on Freephone 0800 243482 or email enquiries@rssl.com.

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

**Vitamin B2 may protect against cyanide poisoning
A study on zebrafish and published in the FASEB journal has indicated that vitamin B2 (riboflavin) is an antidote to cyanide poisoning.  The study exposed zebrafish to cyanide and then monitored the effect of the poisoning on the fish’s behaviour, heart rate and survival.  The scientists note that cyanide had the same effect on the fish as it does to rabbits and humans, stating that the zebrafish were therefore a suitable model for human cyanide exposure.  The scientists investigated 3120 drugs including riboflavin, to see if these could protect the fish from cyanide poisoning.   The study states: “The most potent antidote was riboflavin. Metabolomic profiling of cyanide-treated zebrafish revealed changes in bile acid and purine metabolism, most notably by an increase in inosine levels. Riboflavin normalises many of the cyanide-induced neurological and metabolic perturbations in zebrafish.  In summary, riboflavin may be a novel treatment for cyanide toxicity and prophylactic measure during nitroprusside treatment, inosine may serve as a biomarker of cyanide exposure, and metabolites in the bile acid and purine metabolism pathways may shed light on the pathways critical to reversing cyanide toxicity.

RSSL's Functional Ingredients Laboratory provides vitamin analysis in a wide range of matrices including drinks, fortified foods, pre-mixes and multi-vitamin tablets.  It provides a full vitamin and mineral analysis service to assist with labelling, due diligence, claim substantiation and stability. For more information please contact Customer Services on Freephone 0800 243482 or email enquiries@rssl.com

**Nordic countries outbreak of hepatitis A linked to frozen berries
Eurosurveillance is reporting that an ongoing multi-strain food-borne hepatitis A outbreak, in four Nordic countries, has been linked to frozen berries.  A case–control study identified frozen berries eaten in smoothies as a potential vehicle. In the following weeks, Finland, Norway and Sweden also identified an increased number of hepatitis A patients without travel history. Most cases reported having eaten frozen berries at the time of exposure. By 17 April, 71 cases were notified in the four countries. No specific type of berry, brand or origin of berries has yet been identified.

**Multi-state outbreak of Salmonella linked to imported cucumbers
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced that a multi-state Salmonella outbreak, which has sickened 73 people in 18 states, may be linked to imported cucumbers.  Preliminary epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback investigations conducted by officials in local, state, and federal public health, agriculture, and regulatory agencies indicate that exposure to imported cucumbers supplied by Daniel Cardenas Izabal and Miracle Greenhouse of Culiacán, Mexico and distributed by Tricar Sales, Inc. of Rio Rico, Arizona is the likely source of this outbreak of Salmonella Saintpaul infections.   Cucumbers from these two firms will be denied admission into the United States unless the suppliers show that they are not contaminated with Salmonella.

**Defra – detailed guidance on personal food, plant and animal product imports
Defra have published a guidance document for individual travellers bringing food or other products with a plant or animal origin into the UK for personal use, or receiving such products by post.  What products you can bring into the UK depends on where you are travelling from, and not where the products were produced or packaged.  If you’re travelling from a country within the EU, you can bring any fresh foodstuffs - fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy or other animal products (e.g. fish, eggs and honey) - into the UK. When travelling from outside the EU, there are strict rules about bringing food products, plants and plant products back into the UK for your own personal consumption or use. This guide gives further details about the restrictions on other food products being imported for personal use, in luggage or by post or courier, and explains exactly which foodstuffs are exempt from the restrictions.

**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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