12 January - 20 June 2016

Food safety

  • Marinating meat in beer can reduce PAH formation during cooking
  • Accreditation scheme launched to help food allergy sufferers eat out with confidence
  • Laser devices able to detect bacteria on foods
  • Sequencing genome - buckwheat-based foods might get tastier and non-allergenic
  • FSA assessment of food crime in the UK
  • Summary of alerts published by FSA from October to December 2015
  • Researchers trace bacteria origin and resistance to antimicrobials
  • Class of fungicides found to alter gene expression in mice
  • Nanotechnology research including how it can improve food safety funded by USDA
  • New method for detecting pork in beef developed
  • INTERPOL & Europol seizes vast quantities of fake and substandard food and drink globally
  • BPA may lead to premature birth new study finds
  • EFSA offer grant to support key scientific areas related to food safety

Marinating meat in beer can reduce PAH formation during cooking
Research by scientists from the Universities of Porto, Portugal, and Vigo, Spain and recently published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry suggests that marinating meat in beer prior to cooking on a barbeque can reduce the formation of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) during the cooking process. PAHs can form when meat is cooked at very high temperatures and have been associated with cancers in laboratory animals. While this has not been shown in humans the EFSA has classified eight major PAHs, known as PAH8, as “suitable indicators for carcinogenic potency of PAHs in food”. In the current study, the researchers investigated the effect of marinating pork in Pilsner beer, non-alcoholic Pilsner beer, and Black beer prior to charcoal-grilling on the formation of PAHs. Using DPPH assay, the antiradical scavenging ability of each beer was assayed and it was found that the Black beer showed the strongest scavenging ability (68%) followed by the non-alcoholic Pilsner (36.5%) and finally Pilsner (29.5%). While both unmarinated and marinated meat showed the presence of PAH8 following cooking, the marinated meats showed a reduction in PAH8, in line with the scavenging activity of each beer. Black beer inhibited PAH8 production by 53%, followed by non-alcoholic Pilsner at 25% and finally Pilsner at 13% compared to the control. (Science Daily)

Accreditation scheme launched to help food allergy sufferers eat out with confidence
Allergy UK has announced the launch of a new accreditation scheme for catering outlets. The scheme aims is to provide food allergy sufferers with the confidence to know that accredited outlets take food allergies seriously.  In a press release, Allergy UK notes that while the recent EU Food Information Regulations have helped “acknowledging food allergy as a serious medical condition”, a recent survey showed that most people with food allergies don’t feel confident eating in a restaurant (88%) or from a take-away (96%) they haven’t used before. The study also discovered that 76% of food allergy sufferers have had to miss a social event due to their condition and 62% thought they had not been invited out due to their allergies. It is estimated that 6.4 million people suffer from some form of food allergy in the UK. To become accredited on the scheme, which is assured by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH), outlets will have to conduct an internal audit to show allergen best practice across the whole of the operation. An independent review will also be conducted to ensure the standards required have been met.  Successful outlets will receive a window sticker and a premium entry in an online directory entitled Can I Eat There? aimed at the allergic and coeliac community.  Carla Jones, CEO at Allergy UK, is quoted on the Allergy UK web site as saying that “Food allergy can have a huge impact on the lifestyle choices for someone who has allergy. Most of us take eating out for granted but, for someone with a food allergy, eating out is a real concern”.  Jones added that “The Allergy Aware Scheme provides recognition to catering outlets that not only take allergies seriously, but go above and beyond legislation to deliver an exceptional service for those with those affected.”  (AllergyUK)

RSSL are industry experts in allergens, and provide a comprehensive range of testing, training and food allergen consultancy services to help you control and manage allergens within manufacturing and retailing.  For more information please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com  Don’t forget to join our Allergens in a Nutshell LinkedIn group.  Book your place at our FREE event – Free-From Manufacturing Session on 20 April, Leeds

Laser devices able to detect bacteria on foods
The popular press, both in the UK and worldwide, is reporting on a laser-based device that could be added to fridges to detect dangerous food.  The basis of the story is a research paper by scientists from the Korea Advanced Institutes of Science and Technology, South Korea which described a method for detection of living microorganisms in food using a technique called laser speckle decorrelation. When lasers are shone at biological material, light is scattered and a laser speckle pattern is produced by light interference. While these patterns can be complex, if the tissue is static, they do not change over time. The researchers in the current study use the fact that where living microorganisms exist on the food surface, the speckle pattern will change as the microorganisms move and so change the light path through the material. The researchers therefore took photographs of the speckle patterns at a rate of 30/s and compared speckle patterns over a period of time.  The study notes in conclusion that the technique can be used to detect the “activity of live bacteria in a few seconds” and that as the equipment can be integrated in to a small compact module and is simple and cost-effective, it does have potential applications both in home fridges and in food manufacturing plants. The research notes that while the technique cannot distinguish between different bacterial strains, it does suggest that it could be used where the “detection of bacterial activity is more important”.  (Technology Review)

Sequencing genome - buckwheat-based foods might get tastier and non-allergenic
Researchers from Japan have sequenced the buckwheat genome, a gluten-free flour alternative, and are reporting that identifying the gene which could be modified could lead to improvements in cultivation and taste.  The study published in DNA Research by Yasui et al. notes that currently buckwheat plants can’t self-fertilise and the grains contain allergens which can cause reaction in some people.  Yasui states: "Buckwheat flour can replace wheat flour in a gluten-free diet. One of our next goals is to make buckwheat less allergenic so that buckwheat-based foods become an option for more people." The Buckwheat Genome DataBase is now available publicly from Kazusa DNA Research Institute. Genes that affect the soft chewy texture of buckwheat and those that synthesise “proanthocyanidins” which make buckwheat turn a darker colour when oxidised have been identified.  The scientists hope that the discovery of these will lead to improved foods. (Science Daily)

FSA assessment of food crime in the UK
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has published the first assessment of food crime in the UK.  The Food Crime Annual Strategic Assessment (FCASA), carried out by the FSA’s National Food Crime Unit (NFCU) on behalf of the FSA and Food Standards Scotland, examines the scale and nature of the food crime threat to the UK’s £200 billion food and drink industry. The assessment will inform the NFCU’s priorities over the next year.  The report takes a two-stage approach to its assessment of food crime. It first highlights the broad current understanding of food-related criminality in the UK, exploring the range of harm to consumers, industry and other UK interests. The second stage is a review of reported threats and an assessment of the risk they pose.  Food crime is defined as dishonesty in food production or supply, which is either complex or results in serious harm to consumers, businesses or the public interest.  Fraud is by definition a hidden activity and the parties involved may be skilled at cloaking their criminality.  FSA note “our assessment suggests that organised crime groups haven’t made substantial in-roads into UK food and drink in the way they have in other countries. The barriers to gaining a foothold in the food economy still make food a challenging choice for criminals. Food supply can, however, provide a vehicle for other criminal activities. A small number of food businesses are believed to have links to organised crime groups whose main activity isn’t in itself food crime. As a cash-rich sector, food services can provide opportunities to launder the proceeds of other criminality while other sectors can offer a legitimate front to activities such as smuggling of contraband.”

RSSL's Emergency Response Service (ERS) helps customers deal with a wide range of product emergencies and offers advice on crisis management. It operates 24 hours a day and 365 days a year.  To request an ERS presentation or find out more please contact Customer Services telephone 0118 918 4076 or e-mail enquiries@rssl.com

Summary of alerts published by FSA from October to December 2015
FSA has published a list of incidents for October to December 2015.  This list, which is the first quarterly publication, summarises alerts issued by the FSA to recall or withdraw products. It also includes information about where foodborne outbreak investigations were supported. Over the three month period, FSA issued 38 food notices, of which 26 were allergy alerts, with the top three undeclared allergens being cereals, milk and mustard. The FSA also supported three foodborne outbreak investigations. The FSA has also publishing a review of an investigation handled in September 2014 where there were reports of the presence of soya in wheat flour. (Food Standards Agency)

RSSL are industry experts in allergens, and provide a comprehensive range of testing, training and food allergen consultancy services to help you control and manage allergens within manufacturing and retailing.  For more information please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com.  Don’t forget to join our Allergens in a Nutshell LinkedIn group.  Book your place at our FREE event – Free-From Manufacturing Session on 20 April, Leeds

Researchers trace bacteria origin and resistance to antimicrobials
Researchers from the National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark have developed a new technology to trace the bacteria Salmonella Typhimurium DT104 back to its origin and work out when it developed resistance.   The study published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology notes that Salmonella Typhimurium DT104 is an aggressive bacteria and has quickly spread around the world, however its origin, until recently, was unknown.  The scientists analysed 315 samples from both animals and humans which had been collected between 1969 and 2012 from 21 countries on six different continents.  Using whole genome sequencing to detect mutations that have occurred over time, Leekitcharoenphon et al. constructed a phylogenetic tree.  From this they estimated that DT104 originated in 1948 from an unidentified source and in 1972 the bacteria developed resistance to a number of antimicrobials. They also used the tree to examine how the bacteria spread both between animals and to humans. Leekitcharoenphon et al. state “this knowledge can be used to tackle the current problems with antimicrobial resistance, and the technology can be used to monitor new bacterial variants in order to prevent new infectious diseases.”

Class of fungicides found to alter gene expression in mice
According to a mouse study published in Nature Communications, a class of commonly used fungicides have been found to produce gene expression changes similar to those in people with autism and neurodegenerative conditions, including Alzheimer's disease and Huntington's disease. The animal study by scientists from UNC School of Medicine exposed mouse neurons to approximately 300 different chemicals, and subsequently used sequence RNA from these neurons to investigate which genes were misregulated after treatment.  Zylka et al. state that “Based on RNA sequencing, we describe six groups of chemicals. We found that chemicals within each group altered expression in a common manner. One of these groups of chemicals altered the levels of many of the same genes that are altered in the brains of people with autism or Alzheimer's disease.” These chemicals includes the pesticides rotenone, pyridaben (usage has decreased since 2000), and fenpyroximate, and a new class of fungicides that includes pyraclostrobin, trifloxystrobin, fenamidone, and famoxadone. Azoxystrobin, fluoxastrobin, and kresoxim-methyl are also in this fungicide class.  The chemicals were also found to aid the production of free radicals and disrupt neuron microtubules which can impair the movement of cells as the brain develops.   Zylka et al. note that they do not know how these chemicals would affect people, stating further research is needed.

Nanotechnology research including how it can improve food safety funded by USDA
According to an article published in Food Engineering Magazine, USDA is investing more than $5.2million to support nanotechnology research at 11 Universities including how it can improve food safety. The investment will also support ways nanotechnology can increase crop yields, manage agricultural pests and more.  USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack is quoted as saying “Nanoscale science, engineering, and technology are key pieces of our investment in innovation to ensure an adequate and safe food supply for a growing global population.”  Auburn University, a recipient of the funding, propose to use the investment to develop a user-friendly system that can detect multiple foodborne pathogens, whilst the University of Wisconsin will developed nanoparticle–based poultry vaccines, to help prevent poultry infection.

RSSL can assist in the evaluation of nano-sized particles to aid quality control and development of food products and ingredients.  For more information please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com

New method for detecting pork in beef developed
Research conducted at the University of Manchester has led to a new method of detecting pork in beef mince. While not dangerous, mixing pork into beef mince has become more common and does raise a number of issues including religious ones. The newly developed method uses Metabolomics - the study of molecules involved in metabolism in a living organism by evaluating tissues for changes. The team combined different grades of beef and pork mince in various different quantities and the mixes were then analysed for metabolites. Analysis of the data then showed a method of identifying the different meats. The researchers were also able to detect metabolites precisely enough to allow correlation to the percentage of fat, thus offering a quantitative result and hope they may be able to create a portable device for the detection of pork adulteration. Dr Drupad K Trivedi, one of the team, is quoted by the University of Manchester as saying that “This research is promising, as it could lead to easier, quicker, cheaper ways of analysing meat qualities. We are currently investigating how different diets fed to animals and methods of meat preparation affect the metabolites and primary metabolic pathways - this further research will help us confidently eliminate factors that may affect metabolic signature of a meat species.” (University of Manchester)

Using DNA meat testing, RSSL can detect species adulteration in food.  We can identify meat from over 20 different species and fish from over 30 species. For more information please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com

INTERPOL & Europol seizes vast quantities of fake and substandard food and drink globally
Operation Opson V, a collaborative effort between INTERPOL and Europol, has resulted in the seizure of over 10,000 tonnes and 1,000,000 litres of potentially dangerous fake and substandard food and drink. Opson operations were launched in 2011 and have now grown from just 10 countries in Europe to 57 countries in all regions of the world. The aims of the latest operation, run between November 2015 and February 2016, were to identify and disrupt the groups trafficking in fake food and goods and to increase cooperation between law enforcement and regulatory authorities.  During the operation, checks were made at a variety of locations including shops, markets, ports and airports. The finds made by Opson V were global and included: counterfeit sugar contaminated with fertiliser found in Sudan, 85 tonnes of olives ‘painted’ with copper sulphate solutions to enhance colour recovered in Italy, nearly 10,000 litres of fake or adulterated alcohol seized in the UK, more than 36,000 litres of illicit alcohol (and nine Kalashnikov rifles) discovered in Burundi, several kilogrammes of monkey meat found in Belgium and more than 310,000 illegal food products discovered hidden behind tiles in an Indonesian warehouse. The head of INTERPOL’s Trafficking in Illicit Goods unit, Michael Ellis is quoted on the INTERPOL website as saying that “fake and dangerous food and drink threaten the health and safety of people around the world, who are often unsuspectingly buying these potentially dangerous goods”. Ellis added that “with Operation Opson V resulting in more seizures than ever before, we must continue to build on these efforts to identify the criminal networks behind this activity whose only concern is making a profit, no matter what the cost to the public.” (Interpol)

Contaminants in food is often an emergency situation, where speed in resolution could be imperative. You may wish to consider membership of our 24/7 Emergency Response Service (ERS) for guaranteed technical support whenever you need it. For more information please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com

BPA may lead to premature birth new study finds
A study by researchers from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, Winthrop University Hospital and Kaiser Permanente Southern California and recently published in the Journal of Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine suggests that higher concentrations of Bisphenol A (BPA) in the blood of pregnant women may be a factor in premature births. BPA is structurally similar to oestrogen and is a known endocrine disrupter. It is commonly found in plastics and its use in food containers has been the subject of many research studies over the past few years. The current study however claims to be the first to investigate BPA levels in the blood and premature births. The researchers analysed blood samples and amniotic fluid, which were collected from women when admitted to hospital for labour, and found that those with the highest BPA levels were more likely to give birth prematurely than those with the lowest BPA levels. The study also found nearly all the women tested had some level of BPA in their blood.  Study leader Prof. Ramkumar Menon states "Widespread use of BPA in materials of our daily life and our findings that all patients have some level of exposure, suggests that contact with these materials is unavoidable.” Menon added that "This suggests that a better understanding of how BPA may alter maternal physiology is needed to minimize the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes." (Medical News Today)

EFSA offer grant to support key scientific areas related to food safety
EFSA has launched its second thematic grant call for proposals on methodology development in risk assessment. The thematic grant scheme aims to facilitate scientific cooperation in the EU, boost innovation and support the exchange of expertise and best practice in areas relating to EFSA’s work. To ensure scientific excellence in its work, EFSA constantly reviews existing risk assessment methods and develops new methods in key scientific areas related to food safety. EFSA designed its second thematic grant call to support this process.  EFSA is looking for innovative projects whose results would further enhance the sharing of knowledge and expertise. The call covers three lots: methods and systems for the identification of emerging food risks; integrated methodologies for the risk assessment of mycotoxin mixtures in food and feed; and output-based methods for the assessment of the freedom of animal disease/infection. Eligible applicants from the list of competent organisations designated by Member States are requested to submit their proposals by 6 October 2016.

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