12 January - 20 June 2016

Food safety

11 Sept 13

**New method developed to detect silver nanoparticles in produce
**Horsemeat scandal - two men arrested on suspicion of fraud
**Undeclared allergens top reason for recalls in the US
**Study develops method which tracks antibiotic-resistant strains of Salmonella
**FDA to publish comprehensive analysis of imported spices
**Low levels of food contaminant exposure during life may lead to metabolic diseases
**More cases reported in US multi-state Cyclospora outbreak
**FSA issues new advice for food allergic consumers
**FSA publishes new plan to tackle campylobacter
**FSA letter to Daily Mail explains rare steaks are safe to eat
**Food Standards Agency invites tenders for research on source attribution of listeriosis
**IFST publishes new information statement on foodborne viral infections
**Animal diseases updates and food poisoning outbreaks
**The Food Safety Network 

**New method developed to detect silver nanoparticles in produce
Scientists from the University of Missouri have reported in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry that that have developed a reliable method for detecting silver nanoparticles in fresh produce and other food products.  Silver nanoparticles are sometimes used by farmers as a pesticide as they can suppress the growth of harmful organisms.  Nanomaterials are also used for water treatment, food packaging and cosmetics, amongst others.  The study reports that there is a growing concern that these particles could cause a potential health risk to humans and the environment.  Lin et al. analysed the residue and penetration of silver nanoparticles on pear skin using a combination of techniques, including transmission electron microscopy (TEM), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), energy dispersive spectrometer (EDS), and inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES).  The pears were immersed in silver nanoparticle solutions (containing two different sizes, 20 and 70 nm in diameter of silver nanoparticles) similar to pesticide application.  The pears were then repeatedly washed and rinsed.  Four day after treatment the scientists found that silver nanoparticles were still attached to the skin and the smaller particles were able to penetrate the skin and reach the pear pulp.  Lin et al state: "The penetration of silver nanoparticles is dangerous to consumers because they have the ability to relocate in the human body after digestion. Therefore, smaller nanoparticles may be more harmful to consumers than larger counterparts. When ingested, nanoparticles pass into the blood and lymph system, circulate through the body and reach potentially sensitive sites such as the spleen, brain, liver and heart.” 

**Horsemeat scandal - two men arrested on suspicion of fraud
According to the popular press two men have been arrested on suspicion of fraud by British Police investigating the horsemeat scandal.  Sky News are reporting that the City of London Police have stated that since launching an inquiry in May it has held two men on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud and interviewed a further two men under caution.  The article quotes Detective Chief Superintendent Oliver Shaw as saying: "This is an extremely complex investigation covering a number of jurisdictions and a variety of businesses. We are working closely with police forces, other law enforcement agencies and regulators to determine whether horsemeat being used in a range of meat products was deliberate and coordinated criminal activity."  The press note that details have only just been released, due to “operational reasons” and the men were arrested in May during initial stages of the enquiry. 

RSSL’s DNA and Protein Laboratory can analyse products for the presence of horse/donkey meat using both ELISA and DNA methods. For more information please contact Customer Services on Freephone 0800 243482 or email enquiries@rssl.com

**Undeclared allergens top reason for recalls in the US
Stericycle ExpertRECALL, which manages recalls for companies in the US, is reporting that undeclared allergens are driving the majority of recalls.  They report that during the second quarter of 2013, 65% of recalls under the US Department of Agriculture jurisdiction and 60 percent of those falling under the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) jurisdiction were due to undeclared allergens.  During the first quarter of 2013, undeclared allergens were the cause of 34 percent of the FDA recalls.  According to Food Safety News, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has recognised that proper labelling and specifically declaring key allergens is directly related to food safety, resulting in this being a top priority for inspectors.

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

**Study develops method which tracks antibiotic-resistant strains of Salmonella
Scientists from Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences are reporting that they are now able to identify and track strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria as they evolve and spread.  Until now it has been impossible to determine where highly resistant strains are coming from. The scientists developed a method for tracking and identifying Salmonella enterica serological variant Typhimurium as they evolve and spread.  The method, published in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy uses virulence genes and novel regions of the bacteria’s DNA, known as clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, or CRISPRs which are found in many foodborne pathogens. The scientists found that CRISPR sequences can be used to identify populations of Salmonella with common antibiotic-resistance.  The scientists analysed 84 unique Salmonella Typhimurium isolates collected from 2008 to 2011 and found that several subtypes of Salmonella Typhimurium showed up repeatedly in the frozen collection of Salmonella samples taken from cows, pigs and chickens in Penn State's Animal Diagnostic Laboratory. (Science Daily

**FDA to publish comprehensive analysis of imported spices
According to the New York Times, the United States Food and Drug Administration will soon be publishing a comprehensive analysis that indicates that imported spices are a potent source of salmonella poisoning.  A study which is occasionally discussed by the FDA and recently published in the journal Food Microbiology analysed over 20,000 food shipments and found that nearly 7 percent of spice lots were contaminated with salmonella, twice the average of all other imported foods. Some 15 percent of coriander and 12 percent of oregano and basil shipments were contaminated, with high contamination levels also found in sesame seeds, curry powder and cumin. Four percent of black pepper shipments were contaminated.  In an interview Michael Taylor, deputy FDA.commissioner for food states: “Salmonella is a widespread problem with respect to imported spices. We have decided that spices are one of the significant issues we need to be addressing right now.” (Food Product Design)

**Low levels of food contaminant exposure during life may lead to metabolic diseases
According to a mice study published in The FASEB Journal, low levels of food contaminants may lead to metabolic diseases.  The scientists used two groups of obese mice and fed both groups a high fat high sucrose enriched diet however one group also received a number of pollutants added to the diet at very low levels, which was given to the mice from pre-conception to adulthood.   Pollutant-exposed mice exhibited significant sex-dependent metabolic disorders in the absence of toxicity and weight gain. The females were found to have a deterioration of glucose tolerance indicating a defect in insulin signalling. The mixture of pollutants also reduced estrogen activity in the liver through enhancing an enzyme in charge of estrogen elimination. In contrast to females, glucose tolerance was not impacted in males exposed to the cocktail of pollutants however the males did show some changes in liver related to cholesterol synthesis and transport. 

**More cases reported in US multi-state Cyclospora outbreak
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Texas Department of State Health Services, there have now been a total of 658 cases of Cyclospora cases among people in 23 states in the US.  The investigation is continuing however the CDC notes that not all of the cases in the various states are directly related to each other. The lettuce grower Taylor Farms de Mexico which was linked to outbreaks in Iowa and Nebraska has resumed operation.  Its products were identified as the source of Cyclospora cases among customers of both Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants. No deaths have been associated with the outbreaks however, 45 people were hospitalised. 

**FSA issues new advice for food allergic consumers
Advice for people with food allergies has been updated, prior to new rules on allergen labelling being introduced. New regulations will mean that information about allergenic ingredients will be made available for non-prepacked as well as prepacked foods. This is to make information clearer and more consistent for consumers. These new rules on food allergen labelling will apply from 13 December 2014. To help consumers understand these changes, the Food Standards Agency has reissued its advice for food allergic consumers, after working in collaboration with Allergy UK, the Anaphylaxis Campaign, British Dietetic Association, British Retail Consortium, British Nutrition Foundation, Coeliac UK and the Food and Drink Federation.

**FSA publishes new plan to tackle campylobacter
The FSA has outlined a refreshed strategy to reduce the number of people getting ill from campylobacter. The strategy will be discussed by the FSA Board at its meeting in Aberdeen on Wednesday, 11 September.  The Board paper outlines how the FSA will:

  • improve the amount and quality of information about campylobacter levels that is available at all stages of the supply chain, to support and incentivise more effective risk management
  • address regulatory barriers to the adoption of safe and effective technological innovations for reducing campylobacter risks at all stages in the food supply chain
  • work with local government partners and others to raise awareness of campylobacter and ensure that food businesses using chilled chicken are aware of the risks and managing them appropriately
  • continue and increase our support to research programmes into vaccination and other possible long term interventions to address the issue
  • drive changes in behaviour and approach, using tools including regulation if appropriate

The FSA expects industry to focus its actions to:

  • continue to improve the effectiveness of biosecurity measures on farms to prevent flock colonisation with campylobacter
  • ensure that steps involved in slaughter and processing are effective in preventing contamination of carcasses
  • continue to work on packaging and other initiatives that reduce cross contamination in the consumer and food service kitchen
  • develop and implement new interventions that reduce contamination when applied at production scale

**FSA letter to Daily Mail explains rare steaks are safe to eat
Following an article published by the Daily Mail, which states that the FSA has 'issued "guidance" that meat in restaurants should be cooked until no pink remains,” a letter has been sent to Charles Campion explaining that rare steaks are safe to eat.  The letter from Stephen Humphreys, the Director of Communications states: “You write passionately about the delicious Basque Sagartoki steaks and how they are served crusted outside and very rare in the middle. You then say that the Food Standards Agency may be about ‘to put a stop to such delectable pleasures’ by issuing guidance which says that ‘meat in restaurants should be cooked until no pink remains.’ This is simply untrue. We have issued no guidance that would prevent steaks being served rare, we have no plans to do so and why would we? Steak is safe to eat ‘rare’. Whole cuts of beef or lamb, steaks, cutlets and joints only have germs on the outside, so as long as the outside is cooked any potentially harmful germs that could cause food poisoning will be killed.”

**Food Standards Agency invites tenders for research on source attribution of listeriosis
The Food Standards Agency is inviting tenders for research that will help identify the key sources of listeria and help with the FSA’s Listeria Risk Management Programme to reduce the risk of listeria to humans. The proposed work will sequence the genomes of clinical isolates of confirmed Listeria monocytogenes collected in the UK with possible source isolates from a wide range of foodstuffs (meat, fish, dairy, fresh produce etc.), animals, and the environment – including food factories. It is expected that strategies will be developed to compare the diversity of the listeriosis clinical cases with those from foodstuffs and to pinpoint common lineages between the food and clinical strains as a basis for apportioning source attribution of infections. The information will assist the Listeria Risk Management Programme in prioritising resources towards addressing the key source of listeriosis.  This is an open research call that is seeking ideas to address this research area. Collaborative applications are encouraged to promote well-balanced, innovative proposals that offer value for money and make use of the best available research and analytical approaches. (quoted directly)

**IFST publishes new information statement on foodborne viral infections
A new IFST information statement on foodborne viral infections  has been published.  It gives a scientific overview of foodborne viral infections, including detections methods and good industry practice for reducing the risk of foodborne transmission. The statement discusses the viruses, norovirus, rotavirus and hepatitis A.  It also includes information on recent outbreaks.

**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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