12 January - 20 June 2016

Food safety

9 Oct 13

**U.S. salmonella outbreak linked to raw chicken
**Rising ocean surface temperatures could make fish accumulate more mercury
**FSA call for new research on allergy and intolerance
**FSA research call: official meat controls
**Potential alternative butter flavours may also carry risk
**French agency warns against the dangerous consumption of energy drinks
**Cantaloupe farm owners are charged over 2011 food poisoning incident
**FSA statement on Salmonella Gold-coast incident
**Do guidelines concerning fish consumption and mercury in pregnancy need reviewing?
**Poisonous mushrooms pose danger as more people forage for locally grown food – New Jersey
**Low to moderate arsenic exposure associated with CVD and mortality
**Animal diseases updates and food poisoning outbreaks
**The Food Safety Network

**U.S. salmonella outbreak linked to raw chicken
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is reporting that around 278 people in 18 states in America have become sick from a salmonella outbreak linked to raw chicken products made at three California plants owned by Foster Farms.  According to Reuters, the illnesses were caused by strains of Salmonella Heidelberg, with most of the illnesses occurring in California.  The chicken products were distributed mostly to retail outlets in California, Oregon and Washington states. A statement by Livingston, California-based Foster Farms said it was working with authorities to reduce the incidence of Salmonella Heidelberg on raw chicken products. At this point in the investigation, FSIS is reporting that they are unable to link the illnesses to a specific product and a specific production period.

**Rising ocean surface temperatures could make fish accumulate more mercury
Using laboratory and field experiments, Dartmouth researchers, have reported in the journal PLOS ONE, that climate change is causing rising ocean surface temperatures which could make fish accumulate more mercury.  This increase could be a health risk to people who consume seafood.  Previously scientists have also indicated that global warming may increase fishes' metabolism and accumulation of toxic metals.   The researchers note that industrial pollution releases mercury into the air which can accumulate in streams and oceans and is turned into methylmercury in the water. The team investigated killifish exposed to different water temperatures in the laboratory and salt marsh pools.  The fish in the marshes ate insects and other natural food sources, while the laboratory fish were fed mercury enriched food.  The fish in the warmer water ate more, grew less and had higher methylmercury levels in their tissues. (Eurekalert)

RSSL's Metals Laboratory can determine the mercury content of food products, including fish and shellfish, to a limit of 20 parts per billion. For more information on metals analysis please contact Customer Services on Freephone 0800 243482 or email enquiries@rssl.com

**FSA call for new research on allergy and intolerance
The Food Standards Agency is inviting applications for a new research project to investigate the preferences of people with food allergies and/or intolerances when eating outside of the home.  This work will inform the implementation of the new allergy requirements under the EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation (No. 1169/2011) (EU FIC) before the rules apply in December 2014.  The EU FIC will require that information on the presence of 14 allergens when used as deliberate ingredients should be provided for foods that are not pre-packed. There is a three year transition period – from December 2011 to December 2014 – to allow food business operators to take the necessary actions in order to comply with the provisions.

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.

**FSA research call: official meat controls
FSA is commissioning new research into official controls on meat. They are seeking a contractor to carry out a study that would provide evidence on what constitutes key food chain information (FCI) data and collection and communication of inspection results (CCIR) data that would support a more risk-based and effective meat inspection system.  FCI refers to the information on the health status of the animal consigned for slaughter and the holding of origin. CCIR refers to information that is collected during post-mortem inspection by officials and sent back to farmers to improve animal health and welfare and ultimately food safety.

**Potential alternative butter flavours may also carry risk
Reporting in Food and Chemical Toxicology scientists have investigated the dermal irritation and sensitisation potential of diacetyl alternatives (popcorn butter flavour) such as 2,2-pentanedione, 2,3-hexanedione, 3,4-hexanedione and 2,3-heptanedione in mice.  Previous work by the same laboratory in 2002 found safety issues with diacetyl.  Diaceytl gives food products a buttery odour and flavour.  The ingredient was associated with an increased risk of lung disease in food manufacturing workers, whilst further reports indicate that the compound may be linked to Alzheimer’s disease.  This recent study using mice has reported that all of the structurally similar alternatives may be an inhalation hazard and could present similar sensitisation risk to diacetyl.  

**French agency warns against the dangerous consumption of energy drinks
The French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety (ANSES) have published a report which warns children and pregnant women about consuming energy drinks.  It also reports that these drinks should not be consumed with alcohol or during exercise.  ANSES report that the high caffeine intake can cause children and adolescent to have sleep disorders, feel drowsy during the day and to developed addictions to other psychoactive substances.  It highlights hundreds of cases of people who suffered from adverse reactions after consuming energy drinks; some 257 cases were reported, of which 212 could be analysed.  "The role that caffeinated energy drinks [played] in 25 of these cases, or 12 % of the reports, was considered likely or very likely," ANSES Deputy Director of Health and Nutrition Franck Fourès told AFP. ANSES is calling for moderate consumption of caffeinated drinks.  It also notes that promotion should be regulated.  A recent poll for the Make Mine Milk campaign, cited by the BBC, has found that in the UK one in 20 teenage pupils goes to school on a can of energy drink instead consuming breakfast. 

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

**Cantaloupe farm owners are charged over 2011 food poisoning incident
Food Product Design  states that U.S. Marshalls and the U.S. Attorney's Office in Denver have announced that Eric Jensen and his brother Ryan, who operated a now bankrupt Colorado cantaloupe farm that was implicated in the 2011 Listeria outbreak have turned themselves in and have been taken into custody. The incident led to 33 deaths. The brothers have been charged with six counts of adulteration of a food and aiding and abetting.  The BBC states the brothers’ face up to six years in prison and up to $1.5m (£936,856) in fines. The outbreak was cause by a number of factors including that Jensen Farms failed to use a chlorine spray that would have reduced the risk of microbial contamination of the cantaloupes.  The brothers’ recently appeared in a federal court where they pleaded not guilty to misdemeanour charges and were released pending trial in December.

**FSA statement on Salmonella Gold-coast incident
The Food Standards Agency, with Public Health England and local authorities, is investigating an outbreak of a particular strain of salmonella, called Salmonella Gold-coast, which is known to have caused 18 cases of illness.  The investigation has identified potential links between the outbreak and the consumption of whelks from independent shops, market stalls and mobile seafood vans, largely in the East Anglia area. As part of this investigation, Lynn Shellfish Ltd of King’s Lynn (formerly known as Heiploeg or Heiploeg and Lynn Shrimpers) has issued a recall of all batches of frozen and chilled whelks.

**Do guidelines concerning fish consumption and mercury in pregnancy need reviewing?
Research by scientists from the University of Bristol is indicating that fish accounts for only 7% of mercury levels in the human body, suggesting that guidelines concerning consuming fish during pregnancy may need to be reviewed.  Guidelines take into account the negative effect of mercury on foetal development. The study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives analysed 103 food and drink items consumed by 4,484 women during pregnancy and found that the 103 items together accounted for less than 17 per cent of total mercury levels in the body. Research by Children of the 90s has shown that eating fish during pregnancy has a positive effect on the IQ and eyesight of the developing child, when tested later in life. Exactly what causes this is not proven, but fish contains many beneficial components including iodine and omega-3 fatty acids. After white fish and oily fish the foodstuffs associated with the highest mercury blood levels were herbal teas and alcohol, with wine having higher levels than beer.  Golding et al. report that the women with the highest mercury levels tended to be older have attended university, to be in professional or managerial jobs, to own their own home, and to be expecting their first child. Overall less than one per cent of women had mercury levels higher than the maximum level recommended by the US National Research Council. There is no official safe level in the UK.  Golding et al. conclude that advice to pregnant women to limit seafood intake is unlikely to reduce mercury levels substantially.

RSSL's Metals Laboratory can determine the mercury content of food products, including fish and shellfish, to a limit of 20 parts per billion. For more information on metals analysis please contact Customer Services on Freephone 0800 243482 or email enquiries@rssl.com

**Poisonous mushrooms pose danger as more people forage for locally grown food – New Jersey
Experts from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey are reporting that more people are foraging for locally grown food however mushrooms growing in New Jersey may look like edible varieties from other part of the country or world, but they are actually toxic.  They advise that if a person is unsure, to take a digital photograph of it next to an object to show scale, and save mushroom fragments in a paper bag.  New Jersey Poison Control will arrange for an identification of the mushroom by a mycologist via photo or a home visit. Bruce Ruck, director of drug information and professional education for New Jersey Poison Control, based at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School in Newark states: “There is a saying, ‘there are old mushroom pickers and bold mushroom pickers, but there are no old, bold mushroom pickers.” New Jersey Poison Control fielded 141 calls last year about potential poisonings, with 41 of these leading to hospital treatment.  This year 113 cases of mushroom poisonings have been reported in New Jersey.

**Low to moderate arsenic exposure associated with CVD and mortality
Research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine has evaluated the association between long-term exposure to low to moderate arsenic levels and incident cardiovascular disease. Long-term exposure to high levels of arsenic is associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease, whereas risk from long-term exposure to low to moderate arsenic levels (<100 µg/L in drinking water) is unclear. The scientists analysed urine samples from 3575 American Indian men and women living in Arizona, Oklahoma, and North and South Dakota who are exposed to low to moderate levels of arsenic from drinking water to evaluate the prospective association of chronic low to moderate arsenic exposure with incident cardiovascular disease over almost 20 years follow-up. The participants were divided into four groups based on the concentration of inorganic arsenic in their urine.  A total of 1184 participants developed fatal and nonfatal cardiovascular disease and 439 developed fatal cardiovascular disease. Those in the group with the highest urine arsenic concentrations were 32 percent more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, and 65 percent more likely to die from the condition over the nearly 20-year period, compared to the people in the group with the lowest arsenic urine concentrations. The researchers conclude that low to moderate arsenic exposure is an important risk factor for cardiovascular disease with no apparent threshold.

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

**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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