12 January - 20 June 2016

Food safety

6 Nov 13

**Endometriosis risk linked to organochlorine pesticides
**Careful and hygienic handling of eggs vital for reducing Salmonella outbreaks
**EU beef imports ban lifted – USA
**FDA publishes draft risk profile on pathogens and filth in spices
**CDC publishes guidelines which aim to improve food safety for food allergens in schools
**Horse DNA detected in canned beef from Romania
**Study investigates Listeria’s resistance to disinfectants
**Bags for life should not be used to carry meat or vegetables covered in soil
**Obesity could be a possible risk factor for Clostridium difficile infection
**Animal diseases updates and food poisoning outbreaks
**The Food Safety Network

**Endometriosis risk linked to organochlorine pesticides
Research published in Environmental Health Perspectives has found that exposure to two organochlorine pesticides, beta-hexachlorocyclohexane and mirex, is associated with a 30-70% increased risk of endometriosis.  Organochlorine pesticides were used for decades but mostly have been banned due to health concerns.   Endometriosis is an estrogen-driven condition and affects up to 10 percent of reproductive-age women.  Holt et al. were interested in the role of environmental chemicals which have estrogenic properties and the risk of the disease.  The study states: “Organochlorine pesticides have generally demonstrated estrogenic properties in laboratory studies of human tissue and adverse reproductive effects in laboratory studies of other model organisms, altering the function of the uterus and ovaries, as well as hormone production.”  The study compared blood samples from 248 women who were newly diagnosed with endometriosis, with blood samples from 538 women without the disease.  The samples were analysed for traces of 11 organochlorine pesticides and byproducts.  Women in the second-highest exposure group for beta-hexacyclochlorohexane (beta-HCH), a byproduct of lindane, had a 70 %greater risk of endometriosis than women with the lowest levels. Women with the highest levels of mirex had a 50 % greater risk of endometriosis than women with the lowest levels.

**Careful and hygienic handling of eggs vital for reducing Salmonella outbreaks
 Scientists from the University of Adelaide are indicating that careful and hygienic handling of eggs is vital for reducing Salmonella outbreaks in Australia. Chousalkar et al. sampled eggs from poultry farms with caged chickens and found no instance of Salmonella typhimurium within the internal egg contents.  This, they said, indicates that handling and storage may be the cause of Salmonella in eggs, as the bacteria can penetrate through the shell if not stored properly. The scientists are now investigating the journey of Salmonella “from farm to fork” and are looking at potential sources of infection including rodent, people handling eggs, poultry feed or dust.  They are going to carry out a further research which will investigate different potential sources of contamination on egg farms and in the food supply chain.

**EU beef imports ban lifted – USA
Farmers Weekly is reporting that the US Department of Agriculture has lifted its 16 years ban on beef imports from EU countries.  The ban was initiated on 1 January 1998 over concerns of BSE disease in cattle.  It covered any EU beef and beef products.  According to Farmers Weekly, the EU have welcomed the move however they are frustrated about the amount of time the USA has taken to reopen markets.  A statement states that “It is an important step, albeit late, to abolish the unjustified ban and to re-establish normal trading conditions.  This market opening also sends an important signal to the EU’s trading partners worldwide that EU beef is safe, and that imports of EU beef should resume quickly. In addition, the OIE has evaluated the BSE risk status of EU member states. In recognition of the EU’s enormous efforts and investment to control and eradicate BSE, almost all EU member states have the same or a better risk status than most countries in the world. EU beef is safe.”  The ban also covered sheep and goats and their products however this is still in place, although the Commission expect the restriction to be lifted as soon as possible.

**FDA publishes draft risk profile on pathogens and filth in spices
The FDA has published a draft risk profile on pathogen and filth in spices.  The report was compiled after recent outbreaks of illness caused by the consumption of Salmonella-contaminated spices in the US.  The FDA has identified microbial hazards and filth in spices and quantifies, where possible, the prevalence and levels of these adulterants at different points along the supply chain. It also discussed potential new mitigation and control option and concludes with a list of knowledge and research gaps that need to be filled.  The study identified 14 spice/seasoning-associated outbreaks worldwide that occurred from 1973 to 2010, resulting in less than 2,000 reported human illnesses and 128 hospitalisations worldwide.  It notes that the small number of identified outbreaks may be due to preventative controls by the industry and cooking during food preparation. Also spices are eaten in relatively small amounts with meals, which mean it is possible that illnesses caused by contaminated spices are underreported.  The 213 page report reviews import testing data, which found a 6.6% Salmonella prevalence in spice shipments.  This is higher than other imported foods subject to the same FDA regulations and testing. More than 80 different Salmonella serotypes were found in the 3year testing period that the FDA examined.  The most common filth adulterants were insect parts, whole insects, and animal hair. Nearly all the insects found in the spices were those commonly found in stored items, which the agency states could indicate issues with packing and storage. 

RSSL's Microscopy Laboratory has industry leading expertise in the detection and identification of foreign bodies in a wide range of food and pharmaceutical products. For more information please contact Customer Services on Freephone 0800 243482 or email enquiries@rssl.com

View our You Tube Video on the Science behind Foreign Body Investigations - Food Contamination under the Microscope

**CDC publishes guidelines which aim to improve food safety for food allergens in schools
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published guidelines for food allergies in schools.  The guidelines which were developed in consultation with the US Department of Education were developed in response to Section 112 of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, which was enacted in 2011.  They provide practical information for parents, district administrators, school administrator and staff and include five priority areas which need addressing.  These include ensuring the daily management of food allergies in individual children, preparing for food allergy emergencies, provide professional development on food allergies for staff members, educating children and family members about food allergies and creating and maintaining a healthy and safe educational environment.

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.

**Horse DNA detected in canned beef from Romania
 FSA has been informed that a batch of canned sliced beef that was found to contain horse DNA has been withdrawn from sale. Horse meat is not identified in the ingredients list and therefore it should not have been present in the product.  The canned beef was manufactured in Romania in January 2013 and supplied to Home Bargains (TJ Morris Ltd) and Quality Save stores in the UK. The 320g packs are described on the label as ‘Food Hall Sliced Beef in Rich Gravy.’  The presence of horse DNA in the product was identified during routine testing carried out by Lincolnshire County Council trading standards officers. The product was found to contain horse DNA at a level of between 1 and 5%. It also tested negative for the presence of the drug phenylbutazone, known as 'bute'. (quoted directly)

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

**Study investigates listeria’s resistance to disinfectants
A study published in the journal PLOS one has uncovered the mechanisam for Listeria resistance to the disinfectant agent, benzalkonium chloride.  The team of scientists from Stephan Schmitz-Esser at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna note that prevention of listeriosis relies on killing the causative agent, normally the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, in dairies and other food-processing facilities.   Many disinfectants are used including benzalkonium choloride (BC) however many strains of Listeria seem to be developing resistance to these agents.  The team have discovered a novel piece of DNA in the bacteria which may be involved in this resistance.  Using next generation sequencing techniques the scientists determined the DNA sequence of two strains of Listeria known to be resistant to BC.  They noticed a region of DNA of ca. 5 kb that was significantly different in composition from the remainder of the genome. The bacteria seem to have acquired this novel element fairly recently and Schmitz-Esser termed it Tn6188 (so-called transposons are frequent in bacterial genomes, explaining the high number). Using an additional 90 strains of Listeria, the scientists screened these for the element and found it in ten of them.  The ten strains harbouring Tn6188 turned out to be far less sensitive to benzalkonium chloride.  In a final experiment, the scientists could show that deleting the QacH gene made listeria once again sensitive to the drug.

**Bags for life should not be used to carry meat or vegetables covered in soil
The Daily Mail is reporting that Professor Hugh Pennington from the University of Aberdeen is stating that “bags for life” should not be used to carry meat or vegetable covered in soil as bacteria can be transferred from the meat onto food which is eaten raw.  He notes that raw meat should be carried in plastic bags with are binned, as washing the bags or cleaning them with antibacterial spray is not sufficient to remove the bacteria. Plastic, hessian or cotton reusable bags are suitable for carry products such as boxes of cereal and jars of jam.  The article states that “using a ‘bag for life’ might make you feel virtuous, but it could harm your health, experts are warning.”  The comments have been made following the publication of study by University of Pennsylvania which found that since San Francisco banned the use of plastic bags in 2007, hospitalisations and deaths from foodborne illnesses have nearly doubled.  Penn Law Professor, Jonathan Klick, found that eight per cent of reusable shopping bags contain E.coli and that 97 per cent of people admit to never washing their reusable bags.

**Obesity could be a possible risk factor for Clostridium difficile infection
A paper published in Emerging Infectious Diseases is reporting that researchers from Boston Medical Center (BMC) and Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have discovered that obesity could be a possible risk factor for Clostridium difficile infection (CDI), a bacterial infection of the gut. The annual number of hospital discharge diagnoses of CDI has almost doubled from approximately 139,000 to 336,600.  The researchers investigated three groups of patients with CDI.  The first group were those who were from the community, who had no risk factors, the second group were those who had prior exposure to hospitals or clinics and the third group was those who had onset of disease in the hospital.  The scientists report that participants with community onset infection were four times more likely to be obese compared to those who had prior known exposure to a healthcare facility. These patients were also five times more likely to have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). One of the researchers, Bhadelia states: "We were also surprised to note that our patients who were presenting from the community were almost twice as likely to be obese as the general population in Massachusetts (34 percent compared to 23 percent). Hence, like IBD, obesity may be associated with higher risk of CDI."

**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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