12 January - 20 June 2016

Food Safety and Other News

1 July 2015

Berry research projects win funding

£1.3 million has been awarded to two Scottish institutes from the government’s £70 million Agri-Tech Catalyst fund. The money will go towards projects led by the James Hutton Institute and James Hutton Ltd to help Scottish producers meet the growing demand for home grown berries and produce fresh berries all year round. 

The aim of the project will be to identify traits in raspberries to make them more resilient to pests and diseases and traits in blueberries to make them better adapted to growing in the colder climates in Scotland using the latest advances in plant genetics.

This programme follows the three fold increase of UK berry exports over the last 3 years from £1.8 million in 2012 to £5.3 million in 2014 brought on by the combination of fertile soils, better protection and dry summers particularly from Scotland where raspberry and strawberry production has doubled over the last ten years.

Research yields natural dairy thickener with probiotic potential

After decades of research, microbiologists at the Oregon State University have discovered a new Polymer called Ropy 352 which can be used as a dairy thickener as well as adding probiotic characteristics to the product.

Ropy 352 has been produced by a non-disease causing bacterium and has given fermented foods a smooth, thick, creamy property and may be used in sour cream, buttermilk, cream cheese, kefir and artisan soft cheese. With its ability to impact food texture and taste, the polymer can be used to impact the dairy and non-dairy alternative industries. The polymer can also offer a sweet property and can improve the sensory characteristics of low fat or no-fat foods to change attitudes to such foods.

Meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) found in UK retail meat products

A survey conducted in February 2015 and published in Eurosurveillance has detected Meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in retail meat products from supermarkets in the UK. 103 (52 pork and 51 chicken) pre-packed fresh meat products labelled as being of UK farm origin were sent to the University of Cambridge Department of Veterinary Medicine for testing.

The results found that 2 pork samples tested positive for MRSA – one from minced pork and one from sausages. The sausage sample contained two strains of MRSA. 

Analysis of the genetic makeup of the bacteria indicated that it belonged to the LA-MRSA CC398 type of bacteria. The presence of these bacteria has emerged over the recent years in Europe but was not believed to be present in the UK.

The researchers advised that good hygiene precautions and adequate cooking be exercised to minimise any risk to health.

Scientists find rising ocean temperatures affect oyster toxicity

A study from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) along with the New South Wales Government has found that the way that shellfish take up naturally occurring paralytic shellfish toxins can be affected by warmer climates.

A large-scale study looked at the effects of temperature on the uptake of and depuration of paralytic shellfish toxins in three commercial oyster species (Saccostrea glomerata and diploid and triploid Crassostrea gigas, n=252 per species/ploidy level). Oysters were exposed to two constant temperatures (22° and 27°) and were given a diet of paralytic shellfish toxin-producing alga Alexandrium minutim.

The results showed that detoxification rates were reduced in warm-acclimated oysters but that rising ocean temperatures may reduce paralytic shellfish accumulation in two of the three oyster types.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issue guidelines on food allergen labelling exemptions

The United States FDA has released its guidelines documenting the data that the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition will consider when evaluating notifications and petitions seeking exemptions from labelling requirements of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act Section 403 regarding ingredients derived from major food allergens.

Section 201 of the FDA Act (21 U.S.C. 321) has defined a ‘major food allergen’ as milk, egg, fish (e.g. cod, flounder). The Food Allergen Labelling and Consumer Protection Act provide two mechanisms where some ingredients can become exempt from the labelling requirements of section 403 of the act via a submission and scientific evidence.

Novel Foods in the EU

Plans to encourage good innovation via a simplified authorisation process for novel food which has been informally agreed by the EU Council of Ministers has been promoted by its Environmental Committee. The plans will be voted by the European Parliament as a whole later this year.

MEP’s have insisted that foods from cloned animals must be clearly indicated within the scope of the regulation as well as the precautionary measures to keep nanomaterials under scrutiny and animal testing under restriction. The scope also includes food consisting of or produced from cell or tissue from plants, algae, fungi, animals or micro-organisms.

The authorisation procedure within the plan states that the European Commission should apply the precautionary principle in the event of a scientific uncertainty or if the safety cannot be assessed.  It is also suggested that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) should carry out an assessment whenever the food is claimed to have an effect on human health. The amount of time for the Commission to decide whether a novel food should be sold will be reduced from 9 months to 7 months.

It is also proposed that animal testing should be reduced, refined or replaced and the commission will have to publish a summary of every application.

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