12 January - 20 June 2016

Food safety

22 May 13

**Researchers looking for peanut-allergic people to participate in study for a year
**Intestinal bacteria can protects against E. coli O157:H7
**Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurant fined after serving wheat pasta to a celiac
**Flavouring substance raises safety concerns
**Study on levels of lead in imported rice cast into doubt
**EFSA and ECDC report on antimicrobial resistance in zoonotic bacteria
**Keeping fruit, vegetables fresh for longer
**Nematode-resistant wheat can benefit crops grown after it
**IFST publishes new information statement on Campylobacteriosis in food
**Understanding the risk of foodborne illness associated with eating food from retail delicatessens
**Investigating how Clostridium botulinum survives, multiples and causes harm
**Study finds US processed and fast foods still have a high salt content
**Poultry drug found to increase levels of organic arsenic in US poultry
**Animal diseases updates and food poisoning outbreaks
**The Food Safety Network

**Researchers looking for peanut-allergic people to participate in study for a year
Dr Clark, and his colleagues Dr Robert Boyle and Professor Steven Durham from Imperial College, Dr Isabel Skypala from Royal Brompton Hospital, and Professor Clare Mills from the University of Manchester, are looking for people with a peanut allergy to participate in the TRACE study for a year. The researchers will invite about 100 peanut-allergic people from a cross-section of the population. These individuals will undergo 'challenges' under varying conditions to find out how sensitivity to peanut is altered by external factors, including exercise and stress (which in this study will be caused by sleep deprivation).  According to Dr Clark, this study is the first of its kind globally. 'It will not only bring reassurance to the thousands of people who are allergic to peanuts but offers a blueprint for improving food labelling for a whole variety of food,' he said. (Food Standards Agency)

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.

**Intestinal bacteria can protects against E. coli O157:H7
A study funded by the National Institutes of Health and presented at the113th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, has indicated that intestinal bacterial can protect against E. coli O157:H7.  The food-borne pathogen Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) O157:H7 has been responsible for several recent outbreaks of potentially fatal disease.  Severe manifestations of this disease include both hemorrhagic colitis (HC) and hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) (a form of acute renal disease that can result in death or permanent disability). Scientists from the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor report that HUS is caused by absorption of Shigatoxins (Stx) which are produced by the bacteria in the intestine.  Currently there is no specific treatment or preventative measure that prevents progression from HC to HUS. Using a mouse model, the scientists found that non-pathogenic bacteria, that are normal inhabitants of the human intestine, can eliminate Stx from the intestinal contents and completely prevent HUS.  The scientists state that their findings explain why not everyone infected with EHEU develop HUS and secondly that specific, non-pathogenic, probiotic bacteria could be used to prevent or treat Stx-mediated diseases. (Eurekalert)

**Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurant fined after serving wheat pasta to a celiac
According to the Daily Mail, Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurant has been fined after staff served wheat pasta to a celiac, after she had asked three times for gluten-free pasta.  The lady suffered an allergic reaction and was violently sick for around five hours. The judge fined the restaurant £8,000 for breaching food safety laws and ordered it to pay £9,212 costs. Prosecutor Malcolm Gibney for Portsmouth City Council Trading Standards said “She wanted to check that the restaurant could serve a gluten free meal and she suffers from a number of other illnesses so wanted to ensure the staff knew what her needs were.  She spoke to the maitre d' and was assured that gluten free pasta could be provided, so an order was placed and consumed.  But within a couple of hours Mrs Richardson started to feel nauseous and continued to vomit over the next four or five hours. As a result she suffered a very nasty reaction and an auto-immune response to other medication she had.”  Environmental officers found that the restaurant has “lamentable failures” over food allergy issues. The company initially indicated there was a ‘mix up” however a legal battle followed with the firm pleading guilty to selling food not of the nature, substance or quality demanded by a purchaser. The offence is a breach of the Food Safety Act 1990.

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.

**Flavouring substance raises safety concerns
EFSA has reported that the flavouring substance 3-acetyl-2,5-dimethylthiophene is genotoxic (that is, it can damage DNA, the genetic material of cells) and therefore a safety concern for human health. Genotoxic substances should not be intentionally added to the food chain. In the coming days, EFSA’s scientific advice will help to inform EU risk managers’ decisions regarding the possible removal of 3-acetyl-2,5-dimethylthiophene from the EU list of authorised flavouring substances.

**Study on levels of lead in imported rice cast into doubt
Findings presented at the American Chemical Society conference in April by Tongesayi et al  (reported in FEN Edition 561), which indicated that rice imported to the US contained high levels of lead have been cast into doubt.    Independent checks have failed to replicate the results of the study, indicating that the equipment used may have been faulty. Tongesayi et al used X-ray fluorescence to analyse the rice which found levels of lead between 6 and 12 parts per million (6,000 to 12,000 parts per billion).   Samples used by Tongesayi team were sent to another laboratory for analysis.  Using a different technique, the laboratory found levels to be below one part per million.  The team have in the meantime sent the instrument used in the study back to its manufacturer, who have since reported that the machine has calibration problems.(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

**EFSA and ECDC report on antimicrobial resistance in zoonotic bacteria
The third joint EFSA and ECDC report on antimicrobial resistance in zoonotic bacteria affecting humans, animals and foods has found the continued presence of resistance to a range of antimicrobials in Salmonella and Campylobacter, the main bacteria causing food-borne infections in the European Union (EU). Nevertheless, co-resistance (combined resistance) to two critically important antimicrobials, remains low. The report is based on data collected by EU Member States for 2011. A high proportion of Campylobacter bacteria,the primary cause of foodborne diseases in the EU, found in humans, food-producing animals and food was resistant to the critically important antimicrobial ciprofloxacin whereas low resistance was recorded for erythromycin, a second critically important antimicrobial. Overall in the EU, co-resistance to critically important antimicrobials was low, which indicates that treatment options remain available so far for severe infections with these bacteria. In addition, high resistance was recorded for commonly used antimicrobials.  In Salmonella multidrug resistance, or resistance to at least three different antimicrobial classes, was high overall in the EU. In humans, a high proportion of Salmonella was found to be resistant to commonly used antimicrobials and this was also the case for animals, especially pigs and turkeys. High resistance to ciprofloxacin in isolates from poultry was also observed. Nonetheless, there were low levels of co-resistance to critically important antimicrobials among Salmonella from humans, food-producing animals and food. (quoted directly)

**Keeping fruit, vegetables fresh for longer
According to an article in the ACS journal Chemical Reviews by Keller et al, photocatalysis offers the greatest potential for removing ethylene and preserving produce.  The scientists reviewed and compared nearly 300 published studies on ethylene control/removal methods and technologies.  Ethylene is produce by fruits and vegetables and speeds up ripening.   Photocatalysis removes ethylene by transforming it into carbon dioxide and water.  The study concludes that "Worldwide food technology could take advantage of photocatalysis technology for providing health and economical benefits and for globally contributing to both increased food quality and availability by reducing postharvest losses of fresh produce.  Thus, through this multidisciplinary review, we hope to be successful in illustrating photocatalysis as a really promising technology, within a sustainable development approach, for replacing current ethylene removal technologies during the storage and the transfer of fresh fruits and vegetables.”

**Nematode-resistant wheat can benefit crops grown after it
A study published in Crop Science by Williamson et al. has described a nematode-resistant (roundworm resistant) wheat which can also benefit crops grown after it.  Root-knot nematodes can be difficult to control and once present in the soil they can survive winter in a fallow field and infect plants grown in the next growing season.  Trap crops can reduce the number of parasites in the soil and lessen the effects of the pests on the next crop in the rotation. But crops resistant to nematodes can be hard to find due to the pest's wide range of hosts, and trap crops are often plants that are less valuable to farmers.  The scientists tried a number of different rotation crops before they turned to wheat.  They discovered that Lassik, which is similar to wheat commonly grown, was more resistant to nematodes than the wheat normally grown.  The research team validated the source of the resistance by comparing pairs of strains with and without the relocated segment. The team used some of the soil from the Lassik grown wheat to plant tomato seedlings and found that the tomato plants grown in the soil from the resistant wheat plots were less damaged by nematodes. 

**IFST publishes new information statement on Campylobacteriosis in food
A new information statement on Campylobacteriosis in Food has been published by Institute of Food Science and Technology.  Campylobacter is the most commonly reported bacterial cause of infection in England and Wales.  Evidence indicates that the most important risk factors for food-borne infection are consumption of undercooked poultry (particularly chicken) and other meat, unpasteurised milk and food that has been cross-contaminated.  The new information statement summarises the background, risk factors, isolation of Campylobacter and Good Industry Practice.

**Understanding the risk of foodborne illness associated with eating food from retail delicatessens
The USDA and US FDA have conducted a study to understand the risk of foodborne illness associated with eating certain foods prepared in retail delicatessens including meats, cheese and other ready to eat foods.  The quantitative risk assessment investigated the survival growth and transmission of Listeria monocytogenes, which causes listeriosis. FDA have developed a number of recommendations for changes in current practice including keeping refrigerated foods stored at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or below, reformulating all deli products that support Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) growth to include a growth inhibitor, performing proper cleaning and personal hygiene practices to avoid cross contamination, and continuing efforts to prevent low levels of Listeria monocytogenes contamination during processing, even on products that do not support growth of the pathogen. USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen said "Essential information has been gained from these findings, including the fact that once Lm enters a retail environment, it has the potential to spread due to cross contamination. This assessment highlights the importance of our work to prevent Lm from entering the retail environment in the first place, and provides a significant tool towards this effort to protect consumers and prevent foodborne illness."

**Investigating how Clostridium botulinum survives, multiplies and causes harm
Research funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and published in the journal Genome Biology and Evolution Advance has investigated how Clostridium botulinum survives, multiplies and causes harm.  Eating an amount of toxin just 1000th the weight of a grain of salt can be fatal.  Using genetic analysis, scientists from the Institute of Food Research, discovered how C.botulinium bacteria evolves.  There are seven distinct but similar types of botulinum neurotoxin, produced by different strains of C. botulinum bacteria. Different sub-types of the neurotoxin appear to be associated with different strains of the bacteria. On comparing genome sequences of five different C. botulinum strains, Carter et al initially found that the strains were remarkably similar in the area of the genome containing the neurotoxin gene, suggesting that the bacteria picked up the gene cluster in a single event, sometime in the past. The scientists note that bacteria commonly acquire genes or gene clusters from other bacteria through this horizontal gene transfer.  To investigate how C.botulinum acquired its own “deadly weapon” Carter et al delved deeper into the genome sequence and found in the same region of the genome, two other genes responsible for producing two of the other types of neurotoxin. Although these gene fragments are completely non-functional, finding them in the same place in the genome as the functional neurotoxin gene cluster is significant as it suggests that this region of the genome could be a 'hotspot' for gene transfer.  In examination on the other side of the neurotoxin gene cluster, the scientist discovered more evidence to support that idea.  When the gene cluster was inserted into the C. botulinum genome, it cut into another gene. This gene is essential for the bacteria to replicate its DNA. C. botulinum was unaffected by this because contained in the segment of imported DNA was another version of the chopped-up gene.

**Study finds US processed and fast foods still have a high salt content
A new Northwestern Medicine study conducted with the Center for Science in the Public Interest and published in the JAMA Internal Medicine has assessed the sodium content of selected US processed foods and US fast food restaurant products in 2005, 2008 and 2011.  The research found that there are still dangerously high levels of salt in both processed foods and fast foods, even though there have been calls by public and health agencies for the food industry to voluntarily reduce sodium levels.  Havas er al states "The voluntary approach has failed.  The study demonstrates that the food industry has been dragging its feet and making very few changes. This issue will not go away unless the government steps in to protect the public. The amount of sodium in our food supply needs to be regulated. High salt content in food benefits the food industry. High salt masks the flavour of ingredients that are often not the best quality and also stimulates people to drink more soda and alcohol, which the industry profits from. The only way for most people to meet the current sodium recommendation is to cook from scratch and not use salt but that's not realistic for most people." The research found that between 2005 and 2011, the sodium content in 402 processed foods declined by approximately 3.5 percent, while the sodium content in 78 fast-food restaurant products increased by 2.6 percent. Although some products showed decreases of at least 30 percent, a greater number of products showed increases of at least 30 percent.

RSSL can determine the composition of food and drink products, including the sodium content (UKAS accredited). For more information please contact Customer Services on Freephone 0800 243482 or email enquiries@rssl.com

**Poultry drug found to increase levels of organic arsenic in US poultry
According to a study led by researchers from Johns Hopkins Center and published in Environmental Health Perspectives, chickens given arsenic based drugs such as roxarsone, were found to have high levels of inorganic arsenic in their meat.  Cooking was found to decrease the levels of the roxarsone and increase the levels of inorganic arsenic. Although the drug, which is used to treat and prevent parasites in poultry, was voluntary removed from the US market in 2011 by Pfizer, the drug could be used overseas and could resume marketing in the US at any time.  Pfizer still domestically markets the arsenic drug nitarsone, which is chemically similar to roxarsone. The researchers purchased conventional, antibiotic-free, and USDA Organic chicken samples from 10 U.S. metropolitan areas between December 2010 and June 2011.  They found levels of inorganic arsenic were four times higher in conventional samples than in USDA Organic chicken (in which roxarsone and other arsenicals are prohibited from use).  Currently the FDA has not stated safety standards for inorganic arsenic in foods, although it did suggest, for a brief time in 2011, that concentrations should be well below 1 microgram per kilogram of meat. The levels of inorganic arsenic discovered in the meat where roxarsone was detected were two to three times greater than that level.

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

**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

Remember to book your FREE place at Allergens in a Nutshell, 6 June 2013, St Neots

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