12 January - 20 June 2016

Food Safety and Other News

23 April 2015

Insects as food: Potential hazards and research needs

The International Platform of Insects for Food and Feed (IPIFF) is keen on promoting insects as a source of animal protein for consumption by humans and animals. This is as a result of the estimate by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation that the world will need to increase its food production by 70% to feed the growing global population (expected to reach nine billion by 2050). The global demand for animal-based protein sources are expected to double between 2000 and 2050.

The IPIFF believes that insects are rich in protein and are a natural component of the diet for many animals and may be used to meet the amino acid requirements for humans.

In response to these findings, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is looking into the use of insects for food and asking microbiology questions to clarify whether there would be any problems with Salmonella or pesticide levels.

EFSA reviews chemicals in food and drink

The new report titled ‘Chemicals in Food 2015’ produced by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) aims to give non-specialists a balanced view of the findings of annual EU-wide monitoring of levels of chemicals within food. The Commission had asked EFSA to include snapshots of the important work it does annually on pesticide residues in food and on veterinary drug residues in animal and animal-derived foods as well as chemical contaminants in food. The report summarises recent data collection work on arsenic in food and drinking water, and ethyl carbamate in spirit drinks.

The report found that for all age groups, the main source of dietary inorganic arsenic was grain-based processed products, such as wheat bread and rolls. The report recommends washing off some of the arsenic in rice before cooking. The report also showed that the arsenic levels found in fish and seafood tends to be the less harmful organic arsenic.

Member states are obliged to carry out annual controls to ensure that the food placed on the market does not exceed maximum limits of pesticide residue. Following the analysis of data collected from member states in 2013, EFSA found there was a low short-term risk, while long-term exposure was unlikely to cause chronic health problems.

The EFSA scientific committee indicated in 2007 that naturally occurring ethyl carbamate from stone fruit brandies could be a health concern due to its ability to damage DNA and cause cancer. The recent report highlighted that cancer was only a risk for high consumers of certain types of strong alcoholic spirits. 
The results from the report showed that exceeding official limits is an exception and not the rule. The data provide a scientific basis for decision-making by national and European authorities responsible for food safety and/or public health.     

Natural food colouring growth is as a response to demand

A report by Future Market Insights highlights that the growing demand for natural food colouring in the Western European market will continue into the near future by 6.4% by 2020 as a result of the boost by favourable government policies. However, other factors including price volatility of raw materials, instability of colours at various pH levels, temperature and light intensities will pose a challenge to its growth.  

The Western European market is keen on clean label products and represents the largest share in the global natural food colour marketplace. However, the market is predicted to lose its revenue market share by 50 BPS (0.5%) to North America by 2020. 

The industry is struggling to find an alternative to carmine (because its insect origin can be off-putting to customers). Many companies have researched to find alternatives which include anthocyanin and betalain pigments. The demand for anthocyanin in Europe is set to increase over the next five years. [Food Navigator]

14% of Norovirus outbreaks come from food

A study in the Netherlands from the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, Institute of Environmental Science and Research , Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Erasmus Medical Center has analysed the proportion of foodborne infections caused by norovirus on a global scale. Norovirus transmission and genotyping information from multiple international peer-reviewed literature was used.

The analysis findings resulted in the final group profiles which showed foodborne transmission is attributed to 10% of genotype GII.4 outbreaks, 27% of outbreaks caused by all other single genotypes and 37% of outbreaks caused by mixtures of GII.4 and other noroviruses. When these are applied to global outbreak surveillance data, the results indicated that around 14% of norovirus outbreaks come from food.

Vitamin E rescues the body's immune cells

Research carried out by Manfred Kopf at ETH Zurich’s Institute of Molecular Health Science has reviewed the effects of oxidant stress on immune cells.

The research highlighted that normally, when a foreign body such as a virus or other pathogen enters the body, the T cells react. One T cell subclass, the CB8+T cells, kills the cells the foreign body has affected and eliminates the virus.  CD4+ T cells coordinate the immune response to all kinds of pathogens. However, the immune system does not work if significant oxidative stress damages the T cells and depriving the body of the tools it needs to repair the cells. 

When testing mice whose immune cells lacked the repair enzyme, the researchers were able to save the immune cells from cell death by mixing vitamin E into food. It provided enough antioxidant to protect the T cells’ membranes from damage, so they can multiply to fend off the viral infection. The quantity of vitamin E was ten times more than was present in the the normal mouse diet.

Potatoes New Zealand Inc. announces a major new potato research project

Potatoes New Zealand Inc. has won funding from the Ministry of Primary Industries for a major research project aimed at improving crop yield. The three-year project will be financed through the Sustainable Farming Fund (SFF) and managed by the Foundation of Arable Research (FAR).

The FAR will manage the impact of different potato crop rotations on soil borne disease and quality with the aim to increase potato yield by 12 per cent. [Potato Business]

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