12 January - 20 June 2016

Food safety

31 July 13

**High levels of arsenic in rice can cause elevated genetic damage in humans
**CDC and FDA investigate multi-state outbreak of cyclosporiasis
**IFST updates its information statement on Cyclospora
**EFSA launches BPA consultation
**FSA - Call for fresh produce research
**Copper nanoparticles could protect food from bacteria
**Imported sauces from Mexico and sold in the US found to contain high levels of lead
**FDA to assess risk of salmonellosis associated with eating tree nuts
**Indian school headteacher finally arrested after food poisoning kills 23 children
**Bumblebees imports found to carry parasites which could be harmful to honeybees
**Ice cubes found to contain more bacteria than “toilet water” – China
**Treatment for children allergic to milk may protect some however others may lose tolerance
**Chinese purchasing baby milk home testing kits
**Consumers are confused about safety the seafood
**Danes have no reason to worry about unwanted chemical contaminants in their food
**Animal diseases updates and food poisoning outbreaks
**The Food Safety Network

**High levels of arsenic in rice can cause elevated genetic damage in humans
Scientists from the University of Manchester, working in collaboration with scientists at CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Biology in Kolkata and reporting in Scientific Reports, have found that high levels of arsenic in rice can cause elevated genetic damage in humans consuming rice as a staple, as measured by micronuclei in urothelial cells. The researchers discovered that people in rural West Bengal eating rice as a staple with more than 0.2 mg/kg arsenic showed higher frequencies of micronuclei, a sign of chromosomal damage, than those consuming rice with less than this concentration of arsenic. The participants were not otherwise exposed to arsenic, for example through drinking water. The scientists screen more than 400,000 individual cells extracted from urine samples from volunteers.  In a press release the authors state that “how directly relevant the results are to people in the UK, with a generally lower consumption of rice and better nutritional status, remains to be fully determined but is an obvious focus for further research.” Dr Ashok K Giri, who led the Indian research team, added: “Although high arsenic in rice is a potential threat to human health, there should not be any panic about the consequences, particularly as the health risks arise from long-term chronic exposure. We can avoid high arsenic rice by taking proper mitigation strategies for rice cultivation; moreover, one CSIR institute in India has already identified a number of Indian rice varieties which accumulate lower concentrations of arsenic, so we can easily address future human health risks with proper mitigation strategies Results of this study will not only help to understand the toxic effects caused by this human carcinogen but also these results will help the scientists and regulatory authorities to design further extensive research to set improved regulatory values for arsenic in rice, particularly for those billions of people who consume 10 to 50% rice in their daily diet.”

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

**CDC and FDA investigate multi-state outbreak of cyclosporiasis
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US (CDC) has been collaborating with public health officials in multiple states and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate an outbreak of cyclosporiasis. CDC has been notified of 353 cases of Cyclospora infection from the following 15 health departments: Iowa, Texas, Nebraska, Florida, Wisconsin, Illinois, New York City, Georgia, Missouri, Arkansas, Connecticut, Kansas, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Ohio.  Most of the illness onset dates have ranged from mid-June through early July. At least 21 persons reportedly have been hospitalised in three states. No food items have been implicated to date, but public health authorities are pursuing all leads. Previous outbreak investigations have implicated various types of fresh produce. It is not yet clear whether the cases from all of the states are part of the same outbreak.

**IFST updates its information statement on Cyclospora
IFST has updated its information statement Cyclospora, which examines the biology of Cyclospora, detection, outbreaks and industry guidance to reduce occurrence.  Cyclospora cayetanensis is an emerging infectious disease agent that causes a prolonged and severe diarrhoeal illness known as cyclosporiasis. This infection was first reported in 1979 in Papua New Guinea where an oocyst-like body was found in 3 patients with intestinal infections. It emerged in North America in 1995 and again in 1996 when it was the cause of over two thousand cases of foodborne disease, with no reported deaths. The most recent Cyclospora outbreak has been reported in the United States this month, with 275 cases reported so far.

**EFSA launches BPA consultation
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has started the first part of a two-stage public consultation on its draft opinion on the possible risks to public health from bisphenol A (BPA).  The first stage of the consultation looks at EFSA’s updated and comprehensive assessment of exposure to BPA in Europe. All stakeholders are invited to provide comments from 25 July to 15 September 2013.  In the second stage of the consultation scheduled for early 2014, EFSA will consult publicly on the human health aspects of its risk assessment.  When EFSA publishes its opinion on BPA – following consideration of comments received from these consultations – the Food Standards Agency will consider, along with the European Commission and EU Member States, whether action is necessary to protect consumers.

**FSA - Call for fresh produce research
The Food Standards Agency is inviting tenders for research that will improve our understanding of the interactions between pathogens and fresh produce. The research should also help identify the controls that will improve microbiological safety of ready-to-eat fruit and vegetables.  The agency is seeking outputs from these projects that can be applied to help us understand how pathogens interact with produce throughout the food chain – from field to kitchen. Strengthening the evidence base in this area will help us to better target interventions for controlling contamination and develop methods that are capable of removing pathogens from contaminated produce.  Applications should be submitted online using our electronic procurement system by the closing date of 5pm Wednesday 25 September 2013. (Quoted directly)

**Copper nanoparticles could protect food from bacteria
A Michigan Technological University scientist has discovered how to embed nanoparticles of copper, an element valued for centuries for its antibiotic properties, into vermiculite sometimes used in potting soil to kill e.coli bacteria.  Drelich has also found that it is effective in killing Staphylococcus aureus.  The scientist notes that the copper-vermiculite material mixes well with many other materials, like cardboard and plastic, so it could be used in packing beads, boxes and even cellulose-based egg cartons.  It is also very inexpensive and could be used an effective way to improve the safety of the food supply, especially fruits and vegetables and could be used to treat drinking water.  The scientist has already received enquiries from companies interested in using the copper nanoparticles to purify water. (Science Daily)

**Imported sauces from Mexico and sold in the US found to contain high levels of lead
A new study published in the Journal of Environmental Science and Health Part B, has discovered that hot sauces, imported from Mexico, contain high levels of lead.  In a pilot study the scientists from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and the Southern Nevada Health District analysed 25 bottles of imported hot sauces from Mexico and South America sold in local ethnic markets, grocery stores and a swap meet, in America for lead concentrations and pH levels.  The scientists also investigated the packaging, which they note could leech lead into food and contaminate it.  The scientists found that 4 of the brands tests exceeded 0.1 ppm lead which is the current FDA standard for unsafe levels of lead in candy. All four brands were imported from Mexico and were from different manufacturers.  The scientists reports that their “results indicate the need for more rigorous screening protocols for products imported from Mexico, including an applicable standard for hot sauce.”  Damaging effects of lead poisoning in children include learning disabilities, behavioural problems, seizures, comas and even death in extreme cases. (Food Product Design)

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

**FDA to assess risk of salmonellosis associated with eating tree nuts
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is requesting comments, scientific data and other information to use in an assessment of the risk of human salmonellosis associated with the consumption of tree nuts.  The planned risk assessment seeks to quantify the public health risk associated with eating tree nuts potentially contaminated with Salmonella, the bacterium that causes salmonellosis, and to evaluate the impact of interventions to prevent contamination with this bacterium or to reduce its contamination levels.  The need for a risk assessment is underscored by outbreaks of human salmonellosis linked to tree nuts over the past decade, by product recalls, and by Salmonella isolation from tree nuts during surveys. In recent years, contamination with Salmonella has been found in almonds, cashews, pistachios, pine nuts, Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts and walnuts, among other types of tree nuts destined for human consumption.

**Indian school headteacher finally arrested after food poisoning kills 23 children
A headteacher of a school in India, where 23 children died after eating a meal contaminated with a pesticide, has been detained after she went missing for over a week. The children became ill after eating a free school lunch of rice and soya-bean and potato curry.  The meal scheme, which feeds 120 million children, has already drawn many complaints over food safety.  The children suffered with convulsions and stomach cramps.  Some children died on the floor of the hospital within hours of consuming the food.  The meal was contaminated with moncrotophros, a pesticide banned in many countries.  (Guardian)

**Bumblebees imports found to carry parasites which could be harmful to honeybees
Scientists are warning in research published in the Journal of Applied Ecology that stricter controls need to be put in place over bumblebee imports to the UK.  The researchers from the universities of Leeds, Stirling and Sussex bought 48 colonies of buff-tailed bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) from three European producers.  They found that although the colonies were meant to be disease free, over three-quarters of the imported bumblebee colonies were found to be carrying parasites.   These included the three main bumblebee parasites (Crithidia bombi, Nosema bombi and Apicystis bombi), three honeybee parasites (Nosema apis, Ascosphaera apis and Paenibacillus larvae), and two parasites which infect both bumblebees and honeybees (Nosema ceranae and deformed wing virus). Lead author of the study, Peter Graystock of the University of Leeds explains: "We found that commercially-produced bumblebee colonies contained a variety of microbial parasites, which were infectious and harmful not only to other bumblebees, but also to honeybees."

**Ice cubes found to contain more bacteria than “toilet water” – China
According to an article on the Global Times website, China Central Television is reporting that ice cubes served at KFC in Beijing contain 13 times the amount of bacteria found in toilet water.   Ice cubes were tested from three fast-food restaurant in Beijing: KFC, McDonald's and Zkungfu.  All the ice cubes tested were reported to exceed national standards, with KFC measuring the highest and Zkungfu testing six times higher.  Critics of the reports say that CCTV tried to prime the story through word choice by using toilet water instead of tap water, which are the same. Some added that the method used to test the samples may have influenced the results and might not be reliable.  Xinhua state that KFC have apologised for the claim and said they would look into the case. The other two restaurants have yet to respond.

**Treatment for children allergic to milk may protect some however others may lose tolerance
Researchers from John Hopkins Children’s Center have carried out a long-term study of children allergic to milk, using an experimental approach, which gives them progressively higher doses of milk over time.  However they report that the treatment is not ready for “prime time”.  The findings published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology indicate that while the treatment offered long-term protection for some children, others lost their tolerance to milk over time. In addition, many continued to have intermittent symptoms, and some had severe reactions even after experiencing improvement early on. The study involving 32 children found that by the end of the original treatment, all but three children had experienced some improvement and were able to consume at least some milk in their diet. Follow-up discovered that eight children remained symptom-free long term, while 12 had frequent symptoms with milk consumption. Seven children eventually ceased milk consumption altogether or consumed only very small amounts, including some who initially had been able to tolerate significant amounts of milk. The scientists found six children went on to have serious allergic reactions, and three of them reported having to use injectable epinephrine at least once to interrupt a life-threatening allergic reaction.

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.

Download our Quantitative Allergen Risk Assessment The Way Forward White Paper

**Chinese purchasing baby milk home testing kits
In 2008 six infants died and 300,000 babies suffered with painful kidney stones after drinking tainted milk powder in China. Five years on, sales of home food safety tests are soaring online in the country. The paper test can be used to test baby milk to see if it contains any contaminants.  The three minute test is similar to a pregnancy test kit, but instead three drops of formula are added to the stick.  Two lines indicate that milk is safe to drink, whilst one indicates the presence of melamine (BBC)

**Consumers are confused about the safety of seafood
A panel discussion at the 2013 Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting & Food Expo has indicated that although seafood is a strong nutrient rich food containing essential vitamins and minerals and omega-3 fatty acids, consumer and toxicologists are concerned about its safety. Roger Clemens, Ph.D., CSO at Horn Company, Chatsworth, Calif., and adjunct professor at the University of Southern California School of Pharmacy states that “moderate, consistent evidence shows that health benefits derived from the consumption of a variety of cooked seafood in the U.S. in amounts recommended by the (2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, U.S. Department of Agriculture) Committee outweigh the risks.  Consumers can safely eat at least 12 ounces of a variety of cooked seafood per week provided they pay attention to local seafood advisories and limit their intake of large, predatory fish like shark.”  According to the toxicologists, current research is focusing on improving food safety, especially for those predatory, saltwater fish like shark, tile, swordfish, and king mackerel.  The scientists also discussed levels of mercury in fish, noting that the bigger the fish the greater the potential for higher levels of mercury.  They note that mercury during the third trimester of pregnancy can impact the development of the foetus brain.

**Danes have no reason to worry about unwanted chemical contaminants in their food
A report prepared by the National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark has investigated compounds such as inorganic arsenic and acrylamide in Danish food and concluded that in general, Danes have no reason to worry about unwanted chemical compounds in the food they put on their table - especially if they eat a varied diet. The report requested by the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration evaluated chemical contaminants in food during 2004-2011.  It notes that it would be an advantage to focus efforts on reducing Danes’ intake of inorganic arsenic, acrylamide, the metals lead and cadmium as well as the environmental toxicants PCB and dioxin. The intake of lead and cadmium remains more or less unchanged since the last monitoring survey in 2003. In contrast, the intake of dioxin and PCB shows a falling tendency however focused efforts are still necessary.  On average Danish adults consumed around 16 micrograms acrylamide per day, a decline since 2007, which the report says is due to a reduced intake of fried potatoes.  The research found that rice is a significant source of inorganic arsenic for all age groups, noting that after a long period of intake this may increase the risk of developing cancer.

**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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