12 January - 20 June 2016

Food safety

3 July 13

**The Government encourages businesses to research and develop GM technologies in the UK
**Olive powder may combat foodborne pathogens
**EFSA reports on Listeria levels in certain ready-to-eat foods
**UK government to carry out an urgent review on the decline of bees
**Warning issued as toxin is found in surf clams from Anstruther and Pittenweem
**FSA statement on TB risk from meat
**Factors that influence spinach contamination pre-harvest
**Insufficient data stop EFSA from concluding on safety of GM maize 3272
**Non-GMO label for meat approved by USDA
**Children with autism may be more sensitive to gluten
**Studies will investigate safety of shell eggs in the US
**Plans for new food body for Scotland criticised by industry groups
**New patch may help children who suffer with peanut allergy
**New insights in to Salmonella infections
**Animal diseases updates and food poisoning outbreaks
**The Food Safety Network

**The Government encourages businesses to research and develop GM technologies in the UK
Mr Paterson, the Environment Secretary, has given a speech at Rothamsted Research in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, noting that the Government would work with companies to overcome any barriers which prevents them setting up research and developing GM technologies in the UK.  He states: “I want the UK to have a leading role in feeding the world and increasing the resilience of global food supplies, not standing by watching others take the lead and forge ahead. The UK is the natural home for science research. I want companies and research providers to know that the UK is the best place for them to carry out their research. If there are barriers preventing them from setting up their research and development activities here, this Government will help overcome them.”  Mr Paterson acknowledged that there are a variety of views on GM technology saying:  “while I believe that there are significant economic, environmental and international development benefits to GM, I am conscious of the views of those who have concerns and who need reassurance on this matter. I recognise that we – government, industry, the scientific community and others – owe a duty to the British public to reassure them that GM is a safe, proven and beneficial innovation. We must lead this discussion, explaining to the public not only what GM technology is but also how it can help.” (Defra)

RSSL's DNA and Protein Laboratory offers qualitative and real-time quantitative analytical services for GM soya, maize and rapeseed in raw materials and finished products. For more information please contact Customer Services on Freephone 0800 243482 or email enquiries@rssl.com

**Olive powder may combat foodborne pathogens
Researchers from the University of Arizona-Tucson have investigated the potential of using olive powder to keep food safe from foodborne pathogens.  An olive processing co-product, olive powder was one of about two dozen plant extracts, spices, and herbs the team evaluated for their potential to combat Escherichia coli O157:H7 and to retard formation of heterocyclic amines during cooking of hamburger patties. Heterocyclic amines are of concern because they can inadvertently be formed when beef patties are cooked to the doneness recommended for helping kill unwanted microbes, such as E. coli. The two amines monitored in the burger experiment, MeIQx and PhIP, are on the National Toxicology Program’s roster of possible carcinogens.  The scientists added high levels of E. coli O157:H7, along with either the plant extract, spice, or herb to the ground beef patties and then cooked then on a griddle until they reached a temperature of 114°F.  Once they reached that temperature they were flipped and cooked for another 5 minutes until they reached an internal temperature of 160°F.  The scientists found that the olive powder reduced MeIQx by about 80 percent and PhIP by 84 percent.  They note that olive powder was the most effective of the plant extracts (olive, apple, and onion powders) that were tested. (USDA)

**EFSA reports on Listeria levels in certain ready-to-eat foods
The EFSA’s has published its first part of analysis of an EU-wide baseline survey on Listeria monocytogenes, which provides valuable insights into the presence of this bacteria in certain ready-to-eat foods (fish, cold meats and soft cheeses). The proportion of food samples exceeding the legal food safety limit was low. However, given the popularity of these foods and the severe implications that Listeria infections (listeriosis) can have on human health, overall vigilance regarding the possible presence of the bacteria in food is warranted. To prevent listeriosis, EU legislation lays down specific rules for food business operators including the need to follow good manufacturing practices, appropriate food hygiene programmes, and effective temperature control throughout the food chain.  Experts highlighted the importance of these measures as well as proper storage of these foods in the home, keeping refrigerator temperatures low.

**UK government to carry out an urgent review on the decline of bees
The government will carry out an urgent and comprehensive review of the decline of bees.  The review will lead to a “national pollinator strategy.”   Although the European Commission wants a ban on pesticides associated with the decline, the UK is opposing the move, stating that the science is inconclusive.  The reviews will examine current policies, the evidence on what is happening to bees and other pollinating insects.  It will also look at actions that charities and businesses are taking to help the insects. Lord de Mauley spoke about bee health at the Friends of the Earth conference on 28 June 2013 saying "We must develop a better understanding of the factors that can harm these insects and the changes that government, other organisations and individuals can make to help. I do not deny for a moment that it is important to regulate pesticides effectively and to avoid unnecessary pesticide use. Changes in land use, the type of crops grown, alien species, climate change - these all have an impact. The relative importance of these factors and their interactions is not well understood.”

**Warning issued as toxin is found in surf clams from Anstruther and Pittenweem
According to Fifetoday, Fife council is warning the public not to consume clams and mussels from Anstruther and Pittenweem.  This warning comes after high levels of paralytic shellfish poisoning, commonly known as PSP, were found during routine sampling of surf clams. Consuming the toxin, can cause paralysis of the muscles used for breathing and in severe cases can cause death.  The article states that the fisheries have now been temporarily closed and steps are being taken to trace and destroy the affected products.  Although only surf clams have been affected the council notes that other species such as mussels are likely to be affected and should not be picked from beaches in the area. They also report that guts from crabs should also be removed before eating.

**FSA statement on TB risk from meat
The Food Standards Agency is highlighting its meat inspection process following reports in the media about TB risks from meat.  The Agency's meat hygiene inspectors check all meat before it enters the food chain to make sure it is fit for people to eat. Where inspection reveals any lesions caused by TB in more than one organ or region of a carcass, it is declared unfit for human consumption and destroyed.  When a TB lesion has been found in the lymph nodes of only one organ or part of the carcass, that organ or part of the carcass and the associated lymph nodes are removed and destroyed. The remaining meat is considered safe to enter the food chain.  The FSA is confident that the inspection systems in place are robust, otherwise we would not allow this meat into the food chain.  According to the European Food Safety Authority, the risk of anyone catching bovine TB through eating meat is 'negligible'. When people do contract bovine TB, it is usually through drinking unpasteurised milk or through prolonged contact with an infected animal. (quoted direct)

**Factors that influence spinach contamination pre-harvest
A study by a team of scientists from Texas and Colorado is reporting on a number of factors which can influence the likelihood of E. coli contamination of spinach on farms prior to harvest.  The findings published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology indicate that the time since the last irrigation, the workers’ personal hygiene and the field use prior to planting are all factors which can affect the microbial contamination of produce.  They report that these factors, along with the role of weather in produce contamination are targets of future research.  They found that E. coli contamination of spinach on farms in Colorado and Texas was 172 times more likely if the produce field was within 10 miles of a poultry farm, and 64 times more likely if irrigated by pond water.  They report that as E. coli is commonly used as an indicator of faecal contamination with food-borne pathogens, the practice of hygiene, availability of portable toilets and hand-washing stations for workers in the fields, and the absence of grazing or hay production on the fields prior to planting spinach, reduced the risk seven-fold.

**Insufficient data stop EFSA from concluding on safety of GM maize 3272
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said it cannot reach a conclusion on the safety of genetically modified (GM) maize 3272 after the applicant failed to provide key information to allow a full risk assessment to take place. The Authority was therefore prevented from concluding on the safety of GM maize 3272 with regard to human and animal health as the application did not meet a number of minimum standards set out in EFSA’s guidance documents.

**Non-GMO label for meat approved by USDA
The USDA has approved a non-genetically modified food label for meat and liquid egg products.  The label certified by the Non-GMO Project, a non profit organisation, will state that the meat is from animals which have not eaten feed containing genetically modified ingredients. In a statement to the New York Times, Catherine Cochran, a USDA spokeswoman with the agency's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), said FSIS "allows companies to demonstrate on their labels that they meet a third-party certifying organization's standards, provided that the third-party organization and the company can show that the claims are truthful, accurate and not misleading." (Food Product Design)

**Children with autism may be more sensitive to gluten
A study published in PLOS ONE by Alaedini et al. from Columbia University Medical Center has discovered that children with autism may be more sensitive to gluten, in a different way to those who suffer with celiac disease, and also may be more susceptible to adverse gastrointestinal symptoms.   The scientists recruited 140 children and analysed blood samples and medical records.  Of these children, 27 were diagnosed with autism; the others were unaffected siblings and healthy control. The scientists found that those who had autism had higher levels of the IgG antibody to gliadin compared to the other children.  In addition, among patients with autism, the antibody response to gliadin was greater in those with gastrointestinal symptoms (GI). However there were no differences in levels of IgA, nor in levels of markers specific to celiac disease.  The authors conclude by stating: “the increased anti-gliadin antibody response in autism and its association with GI symptoms points to a potential mechanism involving immunologic and/or intestinal permeability abnormalities in a subset of patients. The observed antibody reactivity to gliadin in most children with autism appears to be unrelated to celiac disease.”

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.

**Studies will investigate safety of shell eggs in the US
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is establishing a Cooperative Agreement with the North Carolina State University, Prestage Department of Poultry Science and the Piedmont Research Station Poultry Unit to conduct studies to further progress on the safety of shell eggs in the U.S. market.  In 2009, FDA issued the Egg Safety Rule1, which was designed to prevent foodborne illnesses and deaths caused by consumption of eggs contaminated with Salmonella Enteritidis (SE). This regulation requires industry to implement measures to prevent eggs from becoming contaminated with SE during their production in poultry houses and requires subsequent refrigeration of the eggs during storage and transportation. The goal of the cooperative agreement is to research routes of transmission for Salmonella species, including but not limited to SE, found within the egg production industry and to investigate how alterations in physical feed characteristics and housing may influence the transmission of Salmonella. Of particular interest is determining whether other Salmonella serotypes, such as Salmonella Heidelberg (SH), behave similarly to SE, since outbreaks have been caused from consumption of eggs contaminated by SH. Findings from the studies will help FDA and members of the egg industry better understand routes of Salmonella transmission and the food safety controls necessary to prevent illnesses from consumption of shell eggs. (quoted direct)

**Plans for new food body for Scotland criticised by industry groups
According to the website Scotman.com the plan for a new food body for Scotland has been criticised by industry groups, who state that it could undermine food safety, and reduce the effectiveness of the current UK-wide regime.  The industry groups, including the Scottish Retail Consortium and Scottish Food and Drink Federation report that this could also divert resource away from research.  The new organisation will take on the role currently covered by the Food Standard Agency.  The Scottish Government report in a consultation document that the horsemeat incident highlighted the need for a single independent body in Scotland, with the responsibilities of the organisation focused on food safety and standards. However some groups have questioned whether a separate body would have detected the horsemeat incident any earlier and believe the new agency could conflict decisions made by the UK FSA.  The Royal College of GPs Scotland, who are not an industry group, has also criticised the plans saying it did not believe a new body would be required “unless Scotland became independent at some point in the future, and this led to a lack of access to the UK-based resources we currently use”.

**New patch may help children who suffer with peanut allergy
A researcher from the Necker Hospital in Paris has developed a patch called “Viaskin Peanut” which could be used to help children who suffer with peanut allergy.  The patch releases traces of peanut proteins into the skin.  The Daily Mail reports that this can help the immune system get use to these proteins.  The patch doesn’t cause anaphylactic shock because the proteins stay in the skins and do not penetrate as far as the bloodstream.  Professor Christophe Dupont, carried out trials involving children aged between five to seventeen and found that some children who suffer with severe allergies were able snack on peanuts after wearing the patch for 12 to 18 months. At least 20% of the children involved in the trial were able to consume more than 10 times the amount of peanut protein compared to baseline. The patch is also being used in a trial involving 200 patient with severe peanut allergy.

**New insights in to Salmonella infections
A study by scientists from the US Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and published in PLOS ONE, has investigated Salmonella infection in mice “as-it happens” and has found new insights into the infection which may help prevention or lead to new treatments. Mice sensitive to Salmonella Typhimurium were infected orally and the researchers followed the course of the infection by analysing excretions. Team lead Josh Adkins is quoted as saying "We're trying to tease apart a largely unknown area of biology. Infection changes the populations of bacteria in the gut with resulting inflammation. We want to understand the interplay between these events." During the study, the scientists followed the rise and fall of the infecting bacteria as well as the opposite effect on gut bacteria and other changes in the gut such as inflammation. Results showed that Salmonella usurps resident gut bacteria which perform tasks such as breaking down sugars the body can’t otherwise do. Many of the findings were expected but the study also found that the types of sugars available for bacteria changed during the course of the infection. Sugars which resident bacteria normally ate were left untouched while, for the first time, evidence suggested that Salmonella produced proteins that specifically help it digest fucose, Adkins noted that “We were taken completely by surprise with the fucose results” but added that "By knowing what the bacteria eat, we can try to promote the good bacteria and throw off the battle." (Eureka Alert)

**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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