12 January - 20 June 2016

Food safety

19 June 13

**Sucralose downgraded by CSPI from “safe” to “caution” pending a review of an unpublished study
**Commission publishes annual report on EU’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed
**BPA and obesity risk in puberty-age girls
**Some apple juices and cereals found to exceed permitted levels of mycotoxins
**Are we putting ourselves at risk from food poisoning?
**FSA - research call: sequencing the whole genome for campylobacter
**BPA might damage young children’s teeth enamel
**Study to investigate factors affecting how much peanut is safe to eat
**Is honeybee food contributing to U.S. colony collapse?
**BfR report food safety Criteria for listeria in some foods not always met
**Animal diseases updates and food poisoning outbreaks
**The Food Safety Network

**Sucralose downgraded by CSPI from “safe” to “caution” pending a review of an unpublished study
In a press release the Center for Science in the Public Interest has downgraded sucralose from “safe to “caution”, pending a review of an unpublished study by an independent Italian laboratory, which claims that the sweetener caused leukaemia in mice.    CSPI's Chemical Cuisine gives the artificial sweeteners saccharin, aspartame, and acesulfame potassium "avoid" ratings, the group's lowest. CSPI considers rebiana, a natural high-potency sweetener obtained from stevia, to be "safe," though deserving of better testing.  CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson states: “Sucralose may prove to be safer than saccharin, aspartame, and acesulfame potassium, but the forthcoming Italian study warrants careful scrutiny before we can be confident that the sweetener is safe for use in food." However, although they express concern about artificial sweeteners, CSPI state that consumers who drink soda are still probably better off drinking diet soda than sugar-sweetened soda, which poses the greater and demonstrable risks of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, gout, tooth decay, and other health problems.

RSSL's Product and Ingredient Innovation Team, has considerable expertise in the selection of sweeteners (both carbohydrate and high potency) to optimise sweetness profiles to cost requirements in a broad range of product categories.  Evaluation of new sweeteners for their market potential is also available.  For more information please contact Customer Services on Freephone 0800 243482 or email enquiries@rssl.com

**Commission publishes annual report on EU’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed
According to an annual report published by Europe’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF), almost 50% of notifications related to food and feed rejections at European Union borders were due to the risk they posed to food safety.  In brief the report indicates that in 2012 the number of RASFF notifications reached a total of 8,797, which is a 3.9% decrease compared to 2011. Of these, 3,516 were original notifications (40 %) and 5,281 were follow-up notifications (60%). These figures represent a 7.8% decrease in original notifications and a 1.2% decrease in follow-up notifications. A total of 526 alert notifications reported on serious risks found in products on the market, which marked a decrease of 14% compared to 2011. Of the 3,516 original notifications transmitted in RASFF in 2012, 332 concerned feed (9.4%) and regarding food contact materials, 299 notifications were counted (8.5%). The figures are in line with what was reported in 2011. 2,885 original notifications were related to food.

**BPA and obesity risk in puberty-age girls
According to a study published in PLOS ONE, BPA may be linked to obesity risk in puberty-aged girls.  The study confirms findings from animal studies which have reported that high BPA exposure levels could increase the risk of overweight or obesity.  Li et al. recruited 1326 males and female children, who attended either an elementary, middle or high school.  The scientists analysed urine samples and collected information on other risk factors for childhood obesity, including dietary patterns, physical activity, mental health and family history.  Li et al found that in girls between 9 and 12 years old, a higher-than-average level of BPA in urine (2 micrograms per litre or greater) was associated with twice the risk of having a body weight in the top 10th percentile for girls of their age in the same population.  The impact was particularly pronounced among 9- to 12-year-old girls with extremely high levels of BPA in their urine (more than 10 micrograms per litre): their risk of being overweight (in the top 10th percentile) was five times greater.

**Some apple juices and cereals found to exceed permitted levels of mycotoxins
A number of studies, by researchers from the University of Granada, have analysed apple juices and cereals for mycotoxins, which are toxic, natural contaminants.  The scientists developed a number of new techniques, which found that some foodstuffs exceed permitted levels of these harmful compounds.  The scientists used their own method of 'microextraction and capillary electrophoresis' to analyse concentrations of a kind of mycotoxins, patulin, in 19 batches of eight brands of commercial apple juice. They differentiated between conventional juice, organic juice and juice designed specifically for children.   Their results, published in Food Control, found that 50% of the samples tested exceeded the maximum contents (50 micrograms per kilogram of product (μg/kg) for fruit juices and nectars, 25 μg/kg for compotes and other solid apple products and 10 μg/kg if those foodstuffs are aimed at breast-fed babies and young children) laid down by European law.  However some samples of conventional apple juices had as much as 114.4 μg/kg and one batch labelled as baby food had 162.2 μg/kg, more than 15 times the legal limit. A team from another university in Spain has used a new technique – called HLPC-LTQ-Orbitrap – to detect the presence of fumonisins and ochratoxins in samples of beer in Germany, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Italy, Ireland, Poland and Spain. The study is also published in Food Control.   Josep Rubert, UV researcher and co-author of the study found minute quantities of mycotoxins.  They note however that they cannot determine whether these quantities are important because beer is one of the drinks which are not directly included in European law on mycotoxins. Another study by the same Valencian team analysed 1250 samples of cereal-based products from Spain, France and Germany to see whether there are differences between organic and conventional foodstuffs in the case of fumosins. The results published in Food and Chemical Toxicology show that almost 11% of the organic products examined contain fumosins, whereas in conventional products this percentage is reduced to around 3.5%.

**Are we putting ourselves at risk from food poisoning?
In a press release published for Food Safety Week last week, the Food Standards Agency has reported on the results of a poll on food hygiene habits.  The survey reports that UK consumers are putting their health at risk, with more than 80% of those asked admitting to one or more habits that put them at risk.  Habits include 1 in 3 admitting they would eat food that has been dropped on the floor and 1 in 5 not washing their hands properly before preparing food.  The survey also found that 1 in 3 don’t check ‘use by’ dates, with 85% of them instead wrongly using the ‘sniff test’ and 68% just checking the colour – even though this will not always reveal whether food is safe to eat. Unlike ‘best before’ dates, ‘use by’ dates relate to safety and are based on scientific testing, yet more than 40% of those questioned said they would eat food after its ‘use by’ date – the most frequent food safety gamble admitted.  The survey also reports that 80% said they are confident they get things right with food hygiene all or most of the time and 90% believe they’ve never given family or friends food poisoning. If they do fall ill themselves, only 5% consider whether the cleanliness of their own kitchen is the cause.  However the good news is that more than 95% of people survey said they wash the chopping board in between cooking raw and cooked food and nearly 80% stick to the recommended 48 hours for keeping leftovers in the fridge.

**FSA - research call: sequencing the whole genome for campylobacter
The Food Standards Agency is inviting tenders to sequence the whole genome for campylobacter isolates archived from the Infectious Intestinal Disease 1(IID1 1993-1996) and Infectious Intestinal Disease 2 (IID2 2008-2009) studies.   Researchers will be expected to characterise these human isolates in detail by next generation sequencing, using an appropriate platform. The resulting sequence data must be analysed to derive multi locus sequence types and identification of other genes, which may be relevant to characterising the genomic diversity of campylobacter in the UK population. The resulting data will be placed in the public domain for use by other researchers.  Applications should be submitted online, using our electronic procurement system, by noon on Thursday 8 August 2013. (quoted directly)

**BPA might damage young children’s teeth enamel
Berdal et al. have indicated in the American Journal of Pathology that bisphenol A (BPA) may damage the enamel of teeth.  The scientists came to these conclusions having fed rats with low daily doses of BPA (5 microgrammes/kg/day).  The team reported that analysis showed numerous characteristics that are common with a tooth enamel pathology known as MIH (Molar Incisor Hypomineralisation) that selectively affects first molars and permanent incisors.  Eighteen per cent of children aged between 6 and 8 are affected by this enamel pathology, which can cause hypersensitivity to pain and make the teeth more liable to cavities.  The study claims that the period during which these teeth are formed (the first years of life) correspond to the period during which humans are most sensitive to bisphenol A.  Earliest observation reveals “white marks” on the incisors of rats treated with endocrine disruptors including BPA.  On comparison with human teeth which suffer from MIH, the scientists found similarities including fragile and brittle enamel.  Microscopic observation of the enamel showed a significant reduction of the Ca/P and the Ca/C ratios in affected teeth. This leads to mineral depletion, making the teeth more fragile and more liable to cavities.  Berdal et al found when they analysed the protein present in the tooth matrix of rats, an increased quantity of enamlein, a key protein for enamel formation, and a buildup of albumin leading to hypomineralisation.  Analysis of the expression of key enamel genes highlighted two BPA target genes: enamelin and kallicrein 4.

**Study to investigate factors affecting how much peanut is safe to eat
A study by researchers from Cambridge University Hospitals, Imperial College London and the University of Manchester, will investigate whether exercise and stress may change how much peanut can cause an allergic reaction in the UK population.  A call for applicants for the study was published on the Food Standards Agency website on 17 May and reported in FEN 563.  In a Press Release the scientists state that the three year study will investigate the amount of peanut needed to cause an allergic reaction and how sensitivity to peanut is altered by external factors including exercise and stress which in this case is caused by sleep deprivation.  It is hoped that this will help improve ‘may contain traces…’ type labelling. Dr Clark, one of the researchers involved, states: “This study is the first of its kind in the UK, and globally, to find what external factors influence whether someone has an allergic reaction and to find out the amount of peanut that is safe for the population to consume, even after they have exercised or when they are stressed. 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.”  Professor Clare Mills, from The University of Manchester, is studying the peanuts used in the study and is working with Professor Iain Buchan and Dr Matt Sperrin from The University to compare UK data with European data being used in her current study into food allergies across the world, known as the Integrated Approaches to Food Allergen and Allergy Risk Management study (iFAAM). The final results of the study will be published in the summer of 2016.

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.

**Is honeybee food contributing to U.S. colony collapse?
According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the use of corn syrup and other honey substitutes as bee feed may be contributing to US colony collapse.  The scientists report that this may be depriving the insects of compounds such as p-coumaric acid which strengthen their immune system.   The scientists’ state: “The widespread apicultural use of honey substitutes, including high-fructose corn syrup, may thus compromise the ability of honey bees to cope with pesticides and pathogens and contribute to colony losses.”   Studies have indicated that pesticides play a key role in the collapse of bee colonies, as well as disease-carrying parasites such as the Varroa mite.  (Reuters)

**BfR report food safety Criteria for listeria in some foods not always met
As part of an EU-wide baseline study, the BfR has investigated the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in smoked and gravad fish, soft and semi-soft cheese and also in heat-treated meat products, which are potential carriers of elevated quantities of listeria.  The study assessed 2540 study results on the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in the three product groups.  The samples were tested by the competent authorities in the federal state in the period from 1 January 2010 to 31 December 2011.  The study reports that overall results showed that the prescribed microbiological criteria for Listeria monocytogenes are not always strictly adhered to in ready-to-eat foods. When limits are exceeded there is a risk of consumers contracting a Listeria monocytogenes infection. It is therefore imperative for food producers to ensure that the regulations are consistently met.

**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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