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Food Safety and Other News

12 March 2015

Flinders University develops quick test for fish toxin

Researchers from Flinders University in Australia have developed a new method to test for potential food poisoning in fish using microchip electrophoresis with capacitively coupled contactless conductivity detection. This offers a way to test for histamine, a known allergen found in a range of products including fish and wine which increases in concentration as food spoils.

The process involves a purpose-built microfluidic chip about the size of a credit card, fitted with electrodes to detect histamine levels as the extracted fish sample passes through a tiny pipe in the plastic device.
The researchers said that this method is a more efficient and cost-effective way to test for toxic histamine levels in fish than current chemical analysis and could be used by consumers.

Extending Product Life Can Cut Food Waste and Save Millions

A recent report from WRAP named ‘Reducing food waste by extending product life’ has assessed the product life of food products and reviewed how product life codes are set for a range of popular foods that typically have high levels of waste. It is estimated that an increase of just one day on product life across a range of foods could prevent around 250,000 tonnes of food waste each year.

The report set out five recommendations for retailers and manufacturers which do not compromise product safety or quality in any way. These do not require any changes to the existing packaging or product formulations. The report has been endorsed by the Food Standards Agency 

These recommendations included:

1) Challenging quality and safety buffers to identify opportunities to extend the product life;

2) Using a standardised approach to ‘Open life’ guidance which should be used only for food safety not where quality is the limiting factor;

3) Reviewing supply chain practices such as stock rotation to increase the available shelf life for consumers;

4) Assessing delivery times to improve performance;

5) Removing ‘Display-until’ dates and using only Use-by’ or ‘Best before’ dates.

Co-encapsulation study shows potential for stable omega-3 and probiotic mix

Researchers from the Federation University Australia have found that omega-3 fatty acids and probiotic bacteria can form a stable co-encapsulate using a Whey Protein Isolate – Gum Arabic (WPI-GA) coacervate microcapsule which could be either spray dried or freeze dried to produce a powder. 

The researchers compared the microencapsulation of the probiotic (P) bacteria L. casei 431 in a WPI-GA complex coacervate matrix forming WPI-P-GA microcapsules, as well as the co-encapsulation of L.casei  and omega-3 rich tuna oil (O) in a WPI- GA matrix forming WPI-P-O-GA microcapsules through complex coacervation.

The findings showed that the viability of the L. casei was significantly higher when co-encapsulated with tuna oil in WPI-GA complex coacervate rather than being encapsulated on its own in the same shell matrix. The oxidative stability of tuna oil was significantly higher in spray dried capsules than those that were freeze dried.

EFSA GM guidance may require more data from biotech firms

The European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) GMO unit may propose changes to ask organisations for more date on GM crop safety in applications for reauthorisation which take place after 10 years. This is suggested in a draft guidance document for the risk assessment of the renewal of authorization of GM plant products as required by regulation EC no 1829/2003. The updated 2006 guidance was self-tasked by EFSA as a way to provide clarity and to reflect the now greater availability of plant data.

New Ultrasensitive Test Developed To Detect Peanut Allergies

James Rusling, Mark Peczuh and Challa Vijaya Kumar at the University of Connecticut are developing a peanut allergy test that is more sensitive than current tests.

When a person allergic to peanuts is exposed to peanuts, an antibody protein known as immunoglobulin E or IgE is released by the immune system. Existing peanut allergy tests measure IgE antibodies to entire peanut protein in blood samples, but the presence of other biomolecules can distort the results and they are not always accurate.

The new allergy test measures the presence of antibodies that bind only to very specific protein fragments (peptides), and to carbohydrate residues found in peanut glycoproteins. In the preliminary work , three such components from the most potent peanut allergen were used.
Using magnetic beads attached to the allergen samples further concentrates the IgEs and provides the test with even greater sensitivity. The test results correlated with the patients' known allergy levels from other tests.

Although the initial tests were very promising, the time frame for clinical use of this test is still years away.

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