12 January - 20 June 2016

Food safety

23 Oct 13

**FSA warning - help prevent another DNP death
**Scientists warn over lack of independent research on safety of GM food
**Detector for direct bacteria detection on food surfaces
**BPA and risk of miscarriage
**DNA sequence of newly discovered type of deadly botulinum toxin withheld
**Raw shellfish bacteria now spreading to East Coast US and Europe
**Weight loss supplements, an herbal supplement and an energy drink and severe liver damage
**Scientists makes progress toward treatment for dangerous allergies
**Potential new tool for speedier food pathogen detection
**Study: 1 in 2,000 in Britain carry the protein linked to the human version of mad cow disease
**Man dies after overdosing on caffeine mints
**Researchers report aluminium content of infant formulas remains too high
**Animal diseases updates and food poisoning outbreaks
**The Food Safety Network

**FSA warning - help prevent another DNP death
Following the recent deaths of young people after they have taken the ‘fat burning’ substance 2,4-dinitrophenol, known as DNP, the Food Standards Agency is urgently warning the public not to take any tablets or powders containing this ingredient.

**Scientists warn over lack of independent research on safety of GM food
The Daily Mail is reporting that the Environment Secretary Owen Paterson is trying to encourage consumer acceptance of GM food.  The campaign is “built on an assurance that the food is safe to eat and could defeat a host of ills from malnutrition in the Third World to blindness in children.” However eighty-five scientists are challenging claims that genetically modified food is safe for humans. The scientists warn there is a “serious lack of independent research into the health effects of GM food.”    According to the Daily Mail the researchers have signed a joint statement which concludes: “The claimed consensus on GM organism safety does not exist.”  They note that positive research has been run and paid for by biotech companies.  Professor Brian Wynne, of Lancaster University, said: ‘There is no consensus amongst scientific researchers over the health or environmental safety of GM crops and foods, and it is misleading and irresponsible for anyone to claim that there is.   Mr Paterson is noted for citing the US, where GM food has been eaten for almost 20 years, reporting that this fact demonstrates GM food is safe.

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

**Detector for direct bacteria detection on food surfaces
Scientists have reported in the Journal of Applied Physics, a new approach to detecting food contamination. The biosensor system uses a magnetoelastic biosensor, coated with bacteria-specific recognition layers, which contain particles of “phage,” a virus that naturally recognises, and detects specific type of pathogenic bacteria. Traditional methods require the sensor to be in the coil however this new approach means that measurements of biosensors can now be made outside the coil.  The handheld device can be passed over food to determine if its surface is contaminated, meaning tests can be carried out in agricultural fields or processing plants in real time.

**BPA and risk of miscarriage
A study presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s conference in Boston has reported that bisphenol A could contribute to miscarriage.  Lathie et al analysed blood samples from 115 women who were four to five weeks pregnant.  From this group of women, 68 of the participants suffered from a miscarriage and 47 had successful live births.  The scientists report that the women with the highest BPA levels were 80% more likely to have a miscarriage.  The study failed to conclusively prove that BPA was the cause of miscarriages because other variables may have been at work. (Science World Report)

**DNA sequence of newly discovered type of deadly botulinum toxin withheld
New Scientist is reporting that scientists have discovered a new type of deadly botulinum toxin however its DNA sequence is being withheld from public as it does not yet have an antidote.  The article notes that injecting 2 billionths of a gram, or inhaling 13 billionths of a gram, of the protein botulinum produced by the soil bacterium Clostridium botulinum will kill an adult. Reporting in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, the scientists report that the toxin blocks the release of a chemical secreted by the nerves that makes muscles work, with people who ingest often dying from paralysis.   Seven families of botulinum can be treated with monoclonal antibodies however Arnon et al have discovered an 8th toxin in the faeces of a child who had symptoms of botulism. This new toxic only reacted weakly to standard antibodies, and no antibodies protected mice from the effects of the toxin. 

**Raw shellfish bacteria now spreading to East Coast US and Europe
According to a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the bacteria Vibrio parahaemolyticus, found in raw shellfish such as oyster and clams, is now showing up in East Coast shellfish and in Europe. It previously was limited to the Pacific Northwest United States. This year and in 2012 there have been outbreaks on the Atlantic coast in the United States and Spain, with 28 cases from nine states linked to shellfish from Oyster Bay Harbour in New York and another 51 people sickened on a cruise ship in Spain.  The researchers are not certain why or how Vibrio has spread but suggest it may be due to human interference. It's possible that ships' ballast water or long-distance shipping carry the bacteria to new regions.  It also reports that global warming may play a part with higher than normal seawaters attributing to the increase.  The bacteria can be killed through cooking.  (Medical Xpress)

**Weight loss supplements, an herbal supplement and an energy drink and severe liver damage
According to four separate reports presented at the American College of Gastroenterology's 78th Annual Scientific Meeting consuming weight loss supplements, an herbal supplement and an energy drink can cause severe liver damage and even failure. The first report by Halegoua-De Marzio et al. reports a rare case of fulminant liver failure associated with the ingestion of SlimQuick™, a weight loss supplement containing green tea extract.  Another case of drug-induced liver injury was found in the advanced weight loss supplement, Ripped Fuel®. The supplement contains herbal extract with 60 percent flavoids, caffeine and cacao.  A report by Chaudrey et al. notes a case where black cohosh-induced hepatotoxicity lead to early cirrhosis and another reports a case of acute liver failure following consumption of a popular sugar-free energy drink for a year.  (Science Daily)

**Scientists makes progress toward treatment for dangerous allergies
A study led by the University of Notre Dame and published in Nature Chemical Biology has investigated the development of the first-ever inhibitory therapeutic for Type I hypersensitive allergic reactions. Bilgicer et al. designed a special molecule called a heterobivalent inhibitor (HBI), which when introduced into a person's bloodstream can, in essence, out-compete allergens like egg or peanut proteins in their race to attach to mast cell receptors.  Bilgicer states "Unlike current treatments, such as epinephrine, which help a body endure through an allergic reaction, our HBIs, if introduced into the bloodstream, would actually stop further progression of the allergic reaction from taking place. We are figuring out the optimum binding sites on the mast cell receptors to attach to, in order to prevent allergens from interacting with them and to prevent the allergic reaction before it even starts in the first place."  The team has demonstrated the effectiveness of their inhibitor molecule on allergic reaction using animal models of allergy. Their next set of targets are a variety of allergens that affect humans -- including peanuts, penicillin and dust mites -- and they will design HBIs that would be successful inhibitors for each. (Science Daily)

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

**Potential new tool for speedier food pathogen detection
 Purdue University scientists have developed a system that concentrates foodborne salmonella and other pathogens faster than conventional methods.  The new method uses hollow thread-like fibres that filter out the cells, representing a potential new tool for speedier detection. Ladisch et al. report in a research paper, published in the journal Applied Environmental Microbiology, that the continuous cell concentration device could screen food or water samples for pathogens within six hours or less.  Ladisch states that the first step in detecting foodborne pathogens is concentrating the number of cells in test samples. The concentration step using the new system can be carried out within one hour, compared to a day for the standard method. It concentrates inoculated salmonella by 500 to 1,000 times the original concentration in test samples, a level required for accurate detection. Another finding showed the system recovered 70 percent of the living pathogen cells in samples.

**Study: 1 in 2,000 in Britain carry the protein linked to the human version of mad cow disease
A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition reports that around one person in 2,000 in Britain carries the protein linked to the human version of mad cow disease, a figure higher than previous estimates.  Brandner et al. note that it is unknown how many people will develop the disease and warns Britain to fight the risk of wider contamination through blood transfusions and surgical instruments.  The article in Medical Xpress states that experts have struggled to calculate the risk for people exposed to the rogue prion protein, called abnormal PrP. The team analysed 32,441 appendixes which were removed between 2000 and 2012 at 41 British hospitals for PrP.  Sixteen samples were positive, a figure that, when extrapolated across the United Kingdom's population equates to around one in 2,000, where as previously the figure averaged one in 4000. Brandner states: “Our study detected the presence of abnormal prions in the population. However, it is not possible to predict how many will ever develop the disease. Should anyone develop a disease, it may present differently from vCJD."  David Brown, a professor of biochemistry and former member of the British advisory panel on BSE  who cautioned against over-reaction states: “This abnormal protein is not only present in vCJD but in all CJD - i.e. even that which has nothing to do with BSE. At most the report suggests that a broad range of people could be carriers of a prion disease, which was suspected anyway."

**Man dies after overdosing on caffeine mints
The Independent is reporting that a forty year old man has died after consuming Hero Instant Energy Mints. The coroner reported accidental death, and is now calling on the Department of Health to highlight the dangers of consuming energy sweets.   He states:  “It seems to me to be something the authorities need to know about. It is up to them to take any action. This is potentially a dangerous situation. I am as certain as I can be that Mr Jackson did not know he was exposing himself to danger.” The sweets, which are sold alongside normal mints, contain large amounts of caffeine, with one mint containing 80 mg of caffeine, the equivalent of a can of Red Bull.  A post mortem found that Mr Jackson has 155 mg of caffeine in his system when he died. According to a pathologist 79 mg of caffeine has been known to cause death.  The pathologist noted that Mr Jackson was a heavy drinker and had cirrhosis of the liver which would have limited his liver’s ability to process toxins but it was the caffeine overdose that killed him.  Director Paul Hayes and Steve Hones of Hero Energy report that there are warnings on packaging and shelves, and note that the pack advises no more than five mints to be consumed in 24 hours.  The manufacturers said that Mr Jackson would have had to have eaten over 300 of their mints to have the levels of caffeine he had in his blood.

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

**Researchers report aluminium content of infant formulas remains too high
The popular press is reporting that a study has claimed that high levels of aluminium found in infant formulas could pose a threat to health, a claim which the Food Standard Agency disputes, as the levels found were within current health and safety regulations.  The study by researchers from Keele University and published in BMC Pediatrics analysed the aluminium content of 30 infant formulas in the UK. The levels of aluminium in ready-made infant formula milks ranged from 155 mircograms per litre (SMA Toddler) to 422 mircograms per litre (Aptamil Toddler Growing Up). The researchers used the manufacturers’ recommendations for feeding, along with the average concentrations of aluminium to estimate daily exposures to aluminium from each product. These ranged from 86 (Hipp Organic First) to 127 (Cow & Gate First) micrograms of aluminium per 24h period at birth, and 134 (Hipp Organic First) to 350 (Aptamil Follow-On) micrograms of aluminium per 24h period at six months of age. In powdered milk infant formulas aluminium levels ranged from 0.69 micrograms per gram (Hipp Organic Growing Up) to 5.27 micrograms per gram (Cow & Gate Soya Infant Formula). The estimated exposure ranged from 64 (Aptamil Hungrier) to 408 (Cow & Gate Soya Infant Formula) micrograms of aluminium per 24h period at birth, and 80 (Hipp Organic Follow-On) to 725 (Cow & Gate Soya Infant Formula) at six months of age.  The study concluded that “all 30 infant formulas were contaminated with aluminium. There was no clear evidence that, subsequent to the problem of aluminium being highlighted in a previous publication in this journal, contamination had been addressed and reduced. It is the opinion of the authors that regulatory and other non-voluntary methods are now required to reduce the aluminium content of infant formulas and thereby protect infants from chronic exposure to dietary aluminium.”  NHS Choices state “The bottom line is that the study does not provide any evidence that the current regulations are wrong, or that current levels of aluminium in infant foods are in any way harmful to health. “

RSSL' s Metals laboratory is equipped with AAS and ICP-MS to analyse for a wide range of concentrations of metals in foods, drinks and dietary supplements. Aluminium can be determined down to 0.01 mg/litre (10 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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