12 January - 20 June 2016

Food Safety and Other News

7 May 2015

Initiative to improve sustainable fish labelling to be launched

The labelling of sustainable fish is to be made clearer and more consistent for consumers with the launch of a new initiative by industry and retailers.  Currently, fish products only need to be labelled with the species name, approximate catch area, and whether it was caught or farmed in fresh or sea water.  Terms such as ‘sustainable’ or ‘responsible’ are not required. Whilst EU legislation regulates the use of the term ‘organic’, there are no specific laws that deal with environmental claims of this nature on seafood.  The Sustainable Seafood Coalition (SCC) whose supplier and supermarket members represent over 80% of UK fish sales have developed a voluntary code of practice aimed at ensuring sustainability claims are clear for consumers across products, retailers and brands. [Food Navigator]

Maple syrup could help cut the use of antibiotics

A research team within the Department of Chemical Engineering at McGill University has found that combining maple syrup extract with common antibiotics could increase the susceptibility of microbes to the drugs, leading to lower dosage requirements.  Components of the syrup were also found to have other effects on the bacteria to reduce their virulence.

A concentrated extract of maple syrup that consisted mainly of phenolic compounds was prepared from ordinary maple syrup.  Organic solvents were used to extract the six main polyphenols found in maple syrup – gallic acid, 1-2-dihydroxybenzene (catechol), 3, 4-dihydroxybenzaldehye (cathechol), 3,4-dihydroxybenzaldehyde (catechaldehyde), springaldehye, vanillin, and 3-hydroxybenzoic acid.

The researchers tested the extract’s effect on infection-causing strains of certain bacteria, including E.coli and Proteus mirabilis (a common cause of urinary tract infection). By itself, the extract was mildly effective in combating the bacteria. The researchers also found that the maple syrup was particularly effective when applied in combination with antibiotics. The extract acted with the antibiotics to destroy protective barriers formed by microbes on the surface of bacteria known as biofilms, and in some cases were observed to prevent their formation.

The scientists found that the maple syrup extracts potentially also had an effect on the gene expression of the bacteria by repressing a number of genes linked with antibiotic resistance and virulence.

The team concluded that further research was required to fully understand the mechanism by which the syrup extract has these effects.

Novel functional food ingredients from marine sources

Researchers from the Pukyong National University, South Korea have published a review in the journal Food Research International exploring the prospective applications of marine microorganisms and their metabolites in nutraceuticals and functional foods.

The review highlighted the fact that the marine environment offers unique and diverse bioactive compounds with an array of health promoting abilities, some of which are already being used as food and food supplements such as omega-3 oil from Schizochyrium sp. and astaxanthin from Spirulina platenis. Dewapriya and Kim concluded that the marine environment is an ideal source for exploring new functional materials and that in the search of novel biologically active metabolites, marine microorganism-derived ingredients differ from those found in terrestrial counterparts. Whilst it is clear that research has started on looking at the applications of marine microorganisms active metabolites it is in the early stages.

Peanut-allergic children more at risk of exposure at home than at school

Researchers at the University of Montreal discovered that peanut allergic children are more likely to be exposed to them in their own homes than at school.  The study published in Clinical and Molecular Allergy, looked at 1,941 children who had been diagnosed as being allergic to peanuts to determine how exposure occurred, how serious the outcomes of the exposure were and what treatment was given.  The children in the study were all recruited from Canadian allergy clinics and allergy advocacy organisations from 2004 - 2014 and had suffered allergic reactions to peanuts in the past.

Over the period of the study, 567 accidental exposures occurred in 429 children, giving an annual incidence rate of 12.4%.  11.3% of reactions were classified as ‘severe’ and 50.1% as ‘moderate’.  Of 377 accidental exposures with moderate/severe peanut allergic reactions recorded in the study, only 28.9% sought medical attention and only 40 received epinephrine.  Of the 181 moderate/severe accidental exposures treated outside a health care facility only 11.6% received epinephrine.  37% of the accidental exposures occurred in the home.

Researchers concluded from the data that accidental exposures continue to occur mainly in the home but also in peanut free schools/day-cares despite increased efforts to provide information on food allergy management.  They highlighted that most moderate/severe exposures are managed inappropriately by physicians and carers.  Consequently more education on the importance of strict allergen avoidance and the correct and prompt management of anaphylaxis is needed.

EFSA adopts caffeine opinion

The European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) Panel on Diatetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) has released its opinion on the safe consumption of caffeine. This draft has been produced following a feedback period with stakeholders including national authorities, trade associations and consumer groups. The final opinion is to be published shortly.

The conclusions outlined in the draft include:

  • Single doses of caffeine up to 200 mg (roughly 3 mg/kg for a 70 kg adult) are unlikely to induce clinically relevant changes in blood pressure, myocardial blood flow, hydration status or body temperature, or to reduce perceived levels of effort required for exercise.
  • Daily caffeine intake of up to 400 mg does not raise safety concerns in adults, except for in pregnant women, who should not exceed 200 mg per day.
  • There is currently insufficient data available to be able to comment on safe caffeine intake levels of children and adolescents.
  • Common constituents of ‘energy drinks’ such as taurine are unlikely to adversely interact with caffeine.

The final edit is expected to be published at the end of May.

World Health Organisation research shows contaminated food is a problem worldwide

The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Food Disease Burden Epidemiology Reference Group (FERG) has released new research findings analysing the global burden of foodborne diseases.

The findings showed that:

  • There were an estimated 582 million cases of 22 different foodborne enteric diseases and 351,000 associated deaths in 2010
  • The enteric disease agents responsible for most deaths were Salmonella typhi (52,000 deaths), enteropathogenic E.coli (37,000) and norovirus (35,000)
  • The African region recorded the highest disease burden for enteric foodborne disease, followed by South-East Asia
  • Over 40% of those suffering from enteric diseases caused by contaminated food were children under the age of 5

The most recent WHO data underscores the global threat of unsafe food and the need for co-ordinated, cross-border action across the whole supply chain. The full results of the research are due to be released in October 2015. To highlight the challenges and opportunities associated with food safety, the WHO is running the ‘From farm to plate, make food safe’ campaign which was presented as part of World Health Day on the 7th April 2015.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) shows raw fish production has lower than average food safety standards

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has published a report presenting findings from data collated during the first half of 2014.  The report summarises findings based on the Consortium’s annual audits of 17,113 food production sites in 120 countries around the world.  The idea is to present a global view of food safety.

Eighteen food categories were analysed, including raw poultry, vegetables and nuts, fruit and raw fish. Of all the raw fish production sites audited, less than 70% achieved an A grade rating.  This was the joint lowest result among all 18 food categories and 10% lower than the global average of all the categories. Most of the sites which fell into the raw fish category were based in China, Vietnam and the UK.
The collated findings showed that a quarter of all Chinese audits did not conform to the BRC’s Chemical Control Processes standard, and that failure in identification of raw materials and testing traceability systems was above average.

The UK achieved the highest BRC A-grade rating across all categories (average score of 88.9% of new sites and 93.3% for renewal sites) followed in second place by the US with an average score of 87.8%. China performed the worst in terms of A-grade ratings with only 12.5% of new sites and 39.3% of renewal sites being graded A across the categories.

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