12 January - 20 June 2016

Food safety

17 July 13

**FDA proposes “action level” for arsenic in apple juice
**Two star Michelin restaurant given a one star hygiene rating
**Infrared light allows characterisation of pathogens
**US study finds whole chickens from farmers markets found to contain more pathogenic bacteria
**Latest research published by the FSA
**FSA - Research needed on providing safe food to vulnerable people in hospitals
**Research shows more businesses displaying top food hygiene ratings
**Tighter controls are needed to prevent children consuming high-caffeine energy drinks
**FDA's Team Tomato investigates contamination
**Multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes linked to Crave Brothers Les Frères cheese
**Restoring the use of drinking water networks following a deliberate contamination event
**Research finds insecticide causes changes in honeybee genes
**Guide for sandwich bars published
**Animal diseases updates and food poisoning outbreaks
**The Food Safety Network

**FDA proposes “action level” for arsenic in apple juice
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has proposed an “action level” of 10 parts per billion (ppb) for inorganic arsenic in apple juice. This is the same level set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for arsenic in drinking water.  “While the levels of arsenic in apple juice are very low, the FDA is proposing an action level to help prevent public exposure to the occasional lots of apple juice with arsenic levels above those permitted in drinking water,” said Michael R. Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine. The FDA is establishing this threshold to provide guidance to industry.   The FDA has been monitoring arsenic levels in apple juice for the last 20 years, and has found that the majority of samples tested contain low levels of arsenic apart from a few exceptions.  The FDA states that the new tool will allow them to better understand the breakdown between organic and inorganic arsenic levels.

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 

**Two star Michelin restaurant given a one star hygiene rating
The Daily Mail is reporting that Marcus Wareing’s two-star Michelin restaurant located at the Berkeley Hotel in London, has failed a routine hygiene inspection. The celebrity chef’s restaurant was criticised over the presence of flies, and was told to buy a new vacuum-packing machine.  The restaurant was given a one star rating, which translates as ‘major improvement necessary.’  However, the chef is insisting that the Westminster City Council report highlighted a “technicality” and that he would appeal against the rating.  The Daily Mail states the chef as saying “We simply needed a vacuum-packing machine as we only had one. The FSA [Food Standards Agency] Guidance recommends two. We weren’t aware the regulations had changed last year. It was a technicality and we hold our hands up to it and purchased the new machine within a week. To go from five stars to one star just for that seems too radical, given my 25 years of kitchen experience.”

**Infrared light allows characterisation of pathogens
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology by scientists from the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, has developed a technique to distinguish between the different strains of Staphyloccus aureus, those that can cause chronic infections and those that cannot.  S. Aureus is found in nature and is naturally found on the skin, however S.aureus produces toxins in food and can cause food poisoning in humans and inflammation in the udders of cattle.  Using infrared light the scientists were able to distinguish between capsule types.  Aggressive types of S.aureus form capsules and multiply rapidly, however these are recognised by the immune systems, whereas capsule-free forms are able to survive within cells and are not recognised by the immune system, leading to chronic infections that are harder to treat, with some even surviving antibiotic treatment. The new technique which has been developed by Grunert et al, uses a method whereby capsules can quickly and clearly be distinguished, relying on a physical procedure known as FTIR.  As Grunert says, "With the new method we can routinely test patient samples with a success rate of up to 99 per cent."

**US study finds whole chickens from farmers markets found to contain more pathogenic bacteria
Scientists from Penn State’s College of Agricultural Science have compared the level of foodborne illness bacteria in raw whole chickens purchased from farmers markets throughout Pennsylvania with those purchased from grocery stores in the region.  The study published in the Journal of Food Safety found that of the 100 whole chicken purchased from farmers markets, 90 percent tested positive for Campylobacter and 28 percent harboured Salmonella. However, 20 percent of raw, whole, organic chickens purchased from grocery stores were found to contain Campylobacter bacteria, and 28 percent tested positive for Salmonella. Just 8 percent of raw, whole, nonorganic, conventionally processed chickens from the grocery stores tested positive for Campylobacter and 52 percent of those contained Salmonella.  Catherine Cutter, the lead researcher, reports that these results shed some doubt on the widely held belief that locally bought poultry is safer.

**Latest research published by the FSA
The Food Standard Agency has produced a summary of its research published in April to June 2013. Several areas of research were covered.   These include: FSA salt targets: Monitoring progress in Scotland; Consumers’ attitudes: Raw meat decontamination treatments; Wideband radar: Detection of foreign contaminant objects in food; Aluminium and manganese; Assessing the bio-availability in food products; Risk assessment: Dietary dioxins and Evaluation; and Freezing to reduce campylobacters in chicken liver.

**FSA - Research needed on providing safe food to vulnerable people in hospitals
The Food Standards Agency is commissioning work to develop guidance that focuses on best practice in relation to providing food to vulnerable patients.  The focus is on patients who are at increased risk of contracting listeriosis within NHS hospitals, private hospitals, nursing homes and similar healthcare settings. The work forms part of the Listeria Risk Management Programme, which aims to reduce the number of cases of listeriosis in the UK.  It will help staff to identify and manage the critical control points specific to controlling Listeria monocytogenes in the food supply chain. (quoted directly)

**Research shows more businesses displaying top food hygiene ratings
New research shows the number of food businesses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland displaying Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) stickers and certificates has increased significantly for those with the top two ratings. For those with the bottom ratings of 0 to 2, the number displaying these remains low. The research, which involved an audit and telephone survey, was commissioned by the FSA. (quoted direct)

**Tighter controls are needed to prevent children consuming high-caffeine energy drinks
A programme aired on BBC Scotland entitled “Caffeine Nation” has indicated that tighter controls are needed to prevent children consuming high-caffeine energy drinks.  Professor Mike Lean, from the University of Glasgow states that children should be banned from buying these drinks in a similar way to alcohol.  Prof Lean notes: "If we're serious about recognising the potential hazard of high-caffeine drinks for children, then we should certainly be putting obstacles in the way of children getting them.  The BBC reports that research for the European Food Safety Agency suggested more than two-thirds of the UK's 10 to 18-year-olds have drunk high-caffeine energy drinks.   Gavin Partington, of the British Soft Drinks Association, told BBC Scotland Investigates: "Well, our guidelines are very clear. The guidelines relate to products that contain high caffeine content, that is over 150 milligrams per litre of product, and they stipulate that they should not be sold to or consumed by 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 

**FDA's Team Tomato investigates contamination
FDA scientists nicknamed “Team Tomato” are investigating the mystery of the tomato and its vulnerability to contamination by Salmonella.  In a press release the FDA notes that from 1973 to 2010, there were 15 multistate outbreaks of illnesses attributed to Salmonella contamination of raw tomatoes, with 12 of these outbreaks taking place since 2000.  The team have been investigating the conditions in which Salmonella thrives.  They note that the tomato “presented an extra challenge because it is so short lived.  By the time it looked like contaminated tomatoes could be causing illnesses, the harvest would be gone."  The focus now is to reduce contamination early in tomato production, and investigate ways to intervene and prevent this contamination from happening in the first place.  The team have been carrying out new research on an experimental farm at Virginia Tech’s Agriculture and Research Extension Center. The land is next to farms that have been the source of Salmonella contamination, giving the researchers access to real conditions and real threats.  They have also published two studies.  The first in the Journal of Applied and Environmental Microbiology explains how they set out to better understand how fresh tomatoes become contaminated with Salmonella. In a study published in the journal BMC Microbiology, microbiologist Andrea Otteson, Ph.D., and FDA colleagues compared the tomato-growing environments of California, Virginia and Florida.  Team Tomato is also researching the genes of the disease-causing bacteria.

**Multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes linked to Crave Brothers Les Frères cheese
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the US Food and Drug Administration are investigating a multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes which has infected a total of five persons.  All five were hospitalised and one death was reported in Minnesota. One illness in a pregnant woman resulted in a miscarriage.  The outbreak is being linked to Crave Brothers Les Frères cheese sold at Whole Foods Markets.  The CDC and FDA indicate that Les Frères, Petit Frère and Petit Frère with Truffles cheeses made by Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese Company are the likely source of this outbreak. On July 3, the company, based in Waterloo, Wis., recalled the cheeses with make dates of July 1, 2013 or earlier. The recalled cheeses were distributed nationwide through retail and foodservice outlets as well as by mail orders. Among persons for whom information is available, dates that illness was diagnosed range from May 20, 2013 to June 17, 2013.

**Restoring the use of drinking water networks following a deliberate contamination event
An international project, involving 12 partners, has developed a response programme for rapidly restoring the use of drink water networks following a deliberate contamination event, including terrorism and chemical,  biological and radionuclide contamination. One of the main security challenges is reducing the vulnerability of drink water systems.  The toolbox development includes tools for detecting water quality changes, methods for rapidly identifying the source(s) of intentional contamination, multi-step strategies for cleaning distribution systems, and analytical methods for confirming cleaning procedure efficiency. Researchers from the University of Southampton, the UK Partner in the project, have developed new methods and technologies for detecting low levels of microbial and radiological contaminants and improving the efficiency of decontamination protocols, with special attention to the role of biofilms.  The SecurEau team developed water quality sensors to be installed in a drinking water system, which allows an alert to be issued rapidly when abrupt changes in the quality of water are detected. These were confirmed by development of specific molecular tools by Southampton and several other partners.  Other developments include 'sentinel coupons' of polymeric materials (HDPE, EDPME, etc.) to be installed in water distribution systems for deposits and biofilms to form on their inner surface and mathematical models to determine the areas which have been contaminated and the sources of contamination, and various cleaning methods, both traditional and new ones, to be applied to decontaminate the network. (Eurekalert)

**Research finds insecticide causes changes in honeybee genes
Research published in the journal PLOS ONE by scientists from the University of Nottingham and funded by The Co-operative Group, as part of its Plan Bee campaign, has added to the evidence that the neonicotinoid insecticide causes changes to the genes of the honeybee.  Stöger et al investigated imidcloprid, one of the banned neonicotinoids. The activity of some of the honeybee genes were impacted at very low exposure of just two parts per billion. The researchers identified that cells of honeybee larvae had to work harder and increase the activity of genes involved in breaking down toxins, most likely to cope with the insecticide. Genes involved in regulating energy to run cells were also affected. Such changes are known to reduce the lifespan of the most widely studied insect, the common fruit fly, and lower a larva's probability of surviving to adulthood.

**Guide for sandwich bars published
A new industry guide to good hygiene practice for sandwich bars and similar food service outlets is available to order from The Stationery Office (TSO). Produced by industry, on behalf of the sandwich catering sector, the guide aims to help processors to comply with food safety and hygiene law. The guide is recognised by the Food Standards Agency.  The guidance applies to all businesses – small, medium and large-scale – with multiple branches. It gives comprehensive information to sandwich manufacturers on: product handling, temperature control, pest control, staff training and the principles behind hazard analysis.  It also includes details of current legal requirements, how to comply with the legislation and practical advice on good practice.

**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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