12 January - 20 June 2016

Food safety

  • BPA replacement shows similar effects to BPA
  • FSAI publishes results of Total Diet Study which assesses chemical dietary exposure
  • Green tea extract and liver damage
  • Lead exposure in early life may alter gut microbiota which could lead to obesity in adulthood
  • Using lasers to detect bacterial growth in packaged food
  • Education could help limit caffeine consumption in adolescents
  • FSA pledge support to WRAP to cut food waste
  • Conclusions and recommendations from EFSA and WHO workshop on the TTC approach
  • Consultation on the safe preparation and service of burgers
  • Recommendations on how to communicate during a food related crisis published

**BPA replacement shows similar effects to BPA
A recent study published in Endocrinology by researchers from Health Canada suggests that bisphenol S (BPS), a chemical typically used to replace bisphenol A (BPA) in plastics, can have similar effects to bisphenol A on fat cells. BPA is a known endocrine disruptor and health concerns have led some consumers to purchase plastic food containers noted as ‘BPA free’, with such products often containing BPS or other substitutes.  Researchers for the current study took undifferentiated cells that can develop into fat cells (preadipocytes) from female volunteers and exposed these to BPS at various concentrations over a 2 week period. It was found that cells exposed to the smallest and largest concentrations showed the largest accumulation of lipids but that exposure to moderate concentrations showed smaller lipid accumulations.  Senior author of the study, Ella Atlas, is quoted by Science Daily as saying that "Our research indicates BPS and BPA have comparable effects on fat cells and their metabolism.” Atlas added that "Since BPS is one of the replacement chemicals used in consumer products that are marketed as BPA-free, it is important to examine whether BPS acts as an endocrine-disrupting chemical. This study shows that BPS and BPA have similar effects on fat cell formation, lipid accumulation and expression of genes important for lipid metabolism." (Science Daily)

**FSAI publishes results of Total Diet Study which assesses chemical dietary exposure
Findings from the Total Diet Study, which assessed 147 foods and beverages representative of the normal diet consumed by the population in Ireland during the period 2012-2014, have been published by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI).  The study assessed the dietary exposure of the Irish population to a number of chemicals, including contaminant metals, essential nutrients, food contaminants, pesticides residues and bisphenol A and phthalates. Findings indicate that the Irish population is generally not at risk from chemical contaminants in the diet, however in line with international findings, there is potential concern in relation to acrylamide, aflatoxins and, to a lesser degree, lead.  The Authority notes that continuous efforts need to be made internationally and nationally to reduce exposure to these chemical.  This includes continuous review of legislation and best practice. Dr Pamela Byrne, Chief Executive, FSAI states:  “While the results of the study do not give rise to any immediate concerns, we have identified a number of potential areas for further monitoring and action. These risks are of a global nature and are being addressed through legislation and other targeted measures by the European Commission, working in conjunction with European food safety agencies, including the FSAI.” (FSAI)

RSSL can resolve chemical contaminant issues, using a range of chemical analysis and technical expertise to identify both the contaminant and its root cause.  For more information please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com

**Green tea extract and liver damage
There have been a number of incidents reported by the press recently about green tea extract in supplements and liver disease.  Nutra Ingredients has reported that the Norwegian Food Safety Authority is warning consumers against taking green tea supplements, following reports of liver damage.  This is due to high levels of epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) in the products which are at higher levels than those found in green tea.  The authorities are recommending consumers avoid consumption of the supplements on an empty stomach as “concentrated catechins that hit the liver in a fasting state might have an effect that is different than when the liver is metabolising food.”  ABConline are reporting that at least six Australians have needed organ transplants in the past five years after taking herbal supplements.  The article notes that in the majority of these cases the patients had consumed green tea extract. 

RSSL can analyse green tea for catechins, including epigallocatechin-gallate (EGCG) and epigallocatechin (EGC). For more information please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com

**Lead exposure in early life may alter gut microbiota which could lead to obesity in adulthood
Researchers from the University of Michigan School of Public Health are reporting that lead exposure during early development can alter the gut microbiota.  The mouse model study published in Toxicological Sciences states that this could increase the chances for obesity in adulthood. Lead was added to the drinking water of female mice prior to breeding and weaning of their offspring.   The levels added were reported to have been carefully designed to be within human population exposure levels.   Once weaned the offspring were raised to adulthood without additional exposure.  Chuanwu et al. report the lead-exposed adult male mice were 11% larger than the mice not exposed due to differences in their gut microbiota.   The team used deep DNA sequencing of bacterial specific genes and report the guts of both males and females exposed to lead had all of the similar complexity in microbiota as those not exposed however the balance of the different groups of microorganisms was different.  For example, both adult males and females exposed to lead during early development had fewer aerobes and significantly more anaerobes, suggesting a changing microenvironment of the gut.

RSSL can determine lead concentrations. For more information please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com

**Using lasers to detect bacterial growth in packaged food
Scientists from a number of Swedish Universities have developed a new technique that can monitor bacterial growth in packaged foods.  The study published in Applied Optics notes that microorganism growth is always associated with the production of carbon dioxide (CO2).  By assessing the levels within packaged food items, the levels of microbial growth can be determined. Currently there are number of techniques which are capable of producing rapid and accurate measurement of gas composition, the most appealing being optical spectrometry due to its non-invasive, high sensitivity, instant response.  Tunable diode laser absorption spectrometry (TDLAS) combines all these properties, state the researchers and is easy to use, low cost and has low detection limits. With this in mind, the scientists decided to develop a tool based on TDLAS that can assess bacterial growth in various types of samples under a variety of conditions.   The team’s set up simply comprised of a tunable laser diode as the light source, beam-shaping optics, a sample, plus receiving optics and one or more detectors. Shao et al.’s technique uses the principle that when light is shined on a sample, different gases will each absorb a particular wavelength.  By measuring the reduction in signal intensity, the amount of gas present can be determined by the device.  Combining the technique with “wavelength modulation” can increase TDLAS sensitivity, a technique known as “WM-TDLAS”.  The team state that the technique is capable of measuring the concentrations of specific gaseous species including CO2, water or methane and can determine other properties of gas such as temperature, pressure, velocity and mass flux.   Shao et al. used the technique on two types of bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans and report it can produce “high signal-to-noise-ratio data from bacteria grown in confined spaces and exposed to limited amounts of nutrients.”   They state: "although we anticipated that the WM-TDLAS technique would be suitable for assessing bacterial growth, we didn't expect this level of accuracy."

**Education could help limit caffeine consumption in adolescents
Recent research, which has suggested that the fastest growing group of caffeine consumers are adolescents, has prompted researchers at Brescia University College to perform a study investigating attitudes and other factors which may influence consumption amongst this group. The study, published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, questioned 166 subjects (42% male and 72% in grades 9 and 10) on their caffeine consumption as well as their attitudes towards caffeinated beverages. The study indicates that while nearly 45% of those questioned consumed caffeinated drinks between one and six times per week, 11.4% were having a caffeinated drink daily. When asked about why they drank these beverages, the study notes that perceived alertness helping study, a sign of being grown up and easy availability were all stated as factors by those questioned. The research does also suggest however that the numbers aware of the potential health effects of caffeine consumption were high. Senior author of the study, Danielle S. Bartram, is quoted in a press release as saying that "Caffeine overconsumption and caffeine intoxication have serious health effects, even in moderate doses. With that in mind, we need to correct the misconceptions adolescents have regarding certain aspects of caffeine”. The study suggested that education, including making recommended daily intake amounts memorable, might help curb caffeine intake amongst this group. Bartram added that "by developing more comprehensive educational strategies and enhancing policies, it may be possible to decrease caffeine use in adolescents and mitigate the potential health risks”. (EurekAlert)

RSSL can quantify caffeine in foods and beverages.  For more information please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com

**FSA pledge support to WRAP to cut food waste
The Foods Standards Agency has pledged its support to the UK’s resource efficiency charity WRAP.  The charity brings together organisations from across the food system to make food and drink production and consumption more sustainable for the future. 

The Food Standards Agency is a founding signatory in WRAP’s Courtauld 2025 campaign which will:

  • Reduce the resource intensity of the UK’s food and drink by one-fifth, saving £20 billion in 10 years.
  • Bring together leading organisations from across the food chain to work together to tackle food and drink waste, greenhouse gas emissions and water intensity.
  • Gather signatories including all major UK food retailers, brands, food service companies, trade bodies and local authorities (90 are already signed up).

The FSA will build on the work it has done with WRAP and Love Food Hate Waste already to help people reduce food waste and get more value from the food and drink they buy.  For its annual Food Safety Week (June 2016) the FSA is focusing on food waste.   

**Conclusions and recommendations from EFSA and WHO workshop on the TTC approach
EFSA and the World Health Organization (WHO) have published a report entitled Outcome of a public consultation on the conclusions and recommendations of the EFSA–WHO workshop on the TTC approach.   The Threshold of Toxicological Concern (TTC) approach is a screening tool that has been developed to assess substances of unknown toxicity present at low levels in the diet. EFSA and WHO initiated a project that intends to provide recommendations as to how the existing TTC framework may be improved and expanded.   The experts who attended the meeting in Brussels agreed that the TTC approach is fit for purpose as a screening tool to assess low-dose exposure to chemical substances and identify chemicals for which further data are necessary to assess risks to human health.  A number of proposals were made at the meeting to improve and expand the TTC approach.  These included a revised decision tree based on the current state-of-the-science and available toxicological databases, and setting a permanent repository for data supporting TTC and the Cramer classification scheme by merging existing databases, using clear inclusion criteria for studies.

**Consultation on the safe preparation and service of burgers
The FSA has published draft advice for caterers and local authorities on a number of controls that food businesses serving burgers pink will need to have in place to demonstrate that they are maintaining customer safety.  It is aimed at helping businesses meet consumer demand for rare burgers while keeping customers protected. Burgers that aren’t thoroughly cooked can contain bacteria that cause food poisoning if the right controls aren’t in place. The consultation on the new advice runs until Thursday 31 March 2016.  The FSA note it is not changing its advice to consumers as people preparing burgers at home are not in a position to carry out the same strict procedures that are expected of food businesses. Burgers prepared at home should be cooked thoroughly.  In the press release the FSA note the time and temperatures combinations that consumers should follow when cooking burgers. (FSA)

**Recommendations on how to communicate during a food related crisis published
EFSA has published recommendations for communicating during a food related crisis.  The document is based on best practice gained from previous incidents.  The guidelines can be used as a reference for the national food safety authorities of EU Member States.  It describes the different phases of an incident and step-by-step guidance for effective communication activities as well as the role and responsibilities of EFSA and Member State organisation during each stage. The advice centres on a number of key principles.  Namely taking control of communicating about a situation, communicating quickly to protect human health, identifying target audiences and the tools to reach them, communicating clearly and transparently and collaborating with partners because food-related crises do not stop at international borders. EFSA note that preparedness for effective crisis communication is crucial and state that this is why the guidelines include recommendations on how to prepare.  This includes identifying and agreeing rules and procedures well before a possible crisis emerges as well as training potential spokespersons.

RSSL's scientists are able to assist food businesses to manage food safety issues more effectively. The laboratories have considerable experience in the detection and identification of foreign bodies, heavy metals, allergens, toxins and chemical residues. For more information on any of these services and RSSL's Emergency Response Service, please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com

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