12 January - 20 June 2016

Food safety

13 August 14

International Food Safety Violations in 2013

Food Sentry, a global food source monitoring company, has recently released findings from its analysis of food safety incidents across the globe in 2013. Using data from governments, laboratories and regulatory bodies about instances in which foods were tested and found to be in violation of the testing country's regulations, Food Sentry compiled information on over 3400 incidents. This included number of violations per country, the most affected food groups, and most common contaminants.

Points highlighted were:

  • 264 unique contaminants were recorded, with 34.5% of these being pesticides
  • Other common contaminant sources were pathogens, filth/insanitary conditions, mycotoxins and chemicals/additives.
  • 23.5% of incidents involved seafood, and 20% vegetables, making these the categories with most violations.
  • Of the 117 countries contributing to recorded incidents, India was the source of 11.1% of the violations (more than any other country) followed by China, Mexico, France and the USA.

Food Sentry cautioned that countries' rankings were strongly affected by contextual factors such as frequency of testing. It was also noted that these figures provide a snapshot only of the full picture, as most food that is imported into countries is never tested. [FoodProductionDaily, FoodSafetyNews]

Alleged hygiene failings in the poultry industry

A five-month undercover investigation by The Guardian has led the newspaper to allege severe hygiene failings at poultry processing factories. The Guardian reports that their undercover footage, photographs, and the testimony of whistleblowers show widespread unsafe practices which contribute to the high proportion of chicken in the UK contaminated with campylobacter and faecal matter. It describes specific incidents and practices such as chickens that had fallen onto the floor being placed back onto the production line; carcasses passing through three-day-old dirty water in "scald tanks"; and equipment breakdown leading to waste material piling up.

The companies involved have denied the allegations. Nevertheless, three supermarkets (Tesco, Sainsbury's and Marks & Spencer) have announced that they are launching investigations into their poultry suppliers, and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has conducted emergency audits and investigations at the request of the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Egg storage times

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has released a new scientific opinion regarding the potential increased risk of Salmonella food poisoning should sell-by and best-before dates on eggs for either household consumption or use by catering establishments be extended. EFSA experts modelled various different scenarios for extended storage, eventually concluding that even with refrigeration, extending the sell-by and best-before dates past three weeks would lead to increased risks. If the sell-by date, for example, was fixed at 28 days rather than 21, the estimated increased risk of infection was 40%; greater extension would increase this risk still further.

Campylobacter found on 59% of chicken sold in the UK

The FSA has released the first quarter results from its year-long survey of Campylobacter levels present on shop-bought chicken. Fresh, chilled, whole chicken was the subject of the survey, and of the 853 samples tested for Campylobacter 59% of the birds gave a positive result, defined as 10 or more cfu/g (colony forming units per gram), as 10cfu/g is the detection limit. In 4% of cases the bacterium was even present on the outside of packaging. The FSA continues to urge the public to practice good food hygiene, and not to wash raw chicken, in order to help prevent the spread of Campylobactercontamination.

BBC presents list of how restaurant chains performed under local authority food hygiene inspection

The BBC has analysed data collected by the FSA in order to produce a list of the best and worst UK restaurant chains for hygiene. The number of inspections each chain underwent from local authorities was considered, in tandem with the number of these that resulted in an "unsatisfactory" rating (0, 1 or 2 out of 5), so that the proportion of "unsatisfactory" results for different restaurants could be compared. Encouragingly, many chains had only satisfactory results, and the BBC highlights Nando's (284 satisfactory inspections), Pret a Manger (256) and Zizzi (126). At the other end of the scale, meanwhile, a concerning 33% of Dixy Chicken's inspections were unsatisfactory, and 29% of Chicken Cottage's. More poor performers included Pizza Gogo (20.7% unsatisfactory out of 92 overall) and Little Chef (18.2% out of 77 overall), whilst there were plenty of hygiene stars with less than 1% of inspections not being satisfactory: Cafe Rouge, Greggs, Giraffe and Starbucks to name but a few.

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