12 January - 20 June 2016

Food safety

  • Survey reports quarter of people with food allergies suffer reactions when eating out
  • H5N1 outbreak stops foie gras production
  • Rice and rice product consumption contribution to infant’s arsenic exposure
  • 10-year-old from India dies from vitamin D overdose
  • Cheese-maker banned from making cheese for life
  • ‘EFSA Strategy 2020 – Trusted Science for Safe Food’
  • EFSA report apricot kernels pose risk of cyanide poisoning
  • New packaging safety checks may be introduced by Food Safety and Standards Authority of India
  • EFSA to review Bisphenol A immune system safety
  • 18% of young children in Netherlands exceed maximum daily tolerable level for 3-MCPD
  • Soy derivatives found to have anti-microbiological properties
  • Food Hygiene inspections dropped by 15% since 2003

Survey reports quarter of people with food allergies suffer reactions when eating out
A survey by the FSA and Allergy UK has shown since new labelling rules came in, there have been improvements for those with allergies but more needs to be done.  The survey found one in four has suffered a reaction while eating out in a restaurant or cafe since new allergen labelling legislation came in a year ago. It also found that nearly one in five (19%) of those allergic reactions resulted in a hospital visit.  The survey, which was carried out to mark Allergy Awareness Week 2016, found that overall 83% of respondents reported noticing an increase in measures designed to make life easier for allergic consumers.  More than half (58%) of allergic consumers said that their overall experience of eating out has improved; just 6% said it has got worse. As a result, a similar proportion (52%) say they now feel more confident eating out than they did before the legislation was introduced. However, people with allergies still report a number of problems when eating out. More than two-thirds (69%) have experienced staff not understanding the severity of an allergy, and how easily a mistake can cause a reaction. A similar number (68%) have seen staff with a lack of knowledge of what’s on the menu or in the food – including staff confusing eggs with dairy, or assuming that the customer was asking for gluten-free rather than avoiding lupin (a grain commonly used in place of wheat). Over half of allergic consumers (56%) said they have been made to feel like an inconvenience due to their allergy. In total, around a third of those with a food allergy have suffered a reaction in the last year when eating out of the home. The vast majority of these (25%) took place in a restaurant or cafe, with 9% being a result of takeaway food. In most cases (88%) the reaction was self-treated, with 19% of reactions resulting in a hospital visit.  (FSA)

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

H5N1 outbreak stops foie gras production
An outbreak of H5N1 bird flu at a chicken farm in Dordogne last year and a subsequent investigation has led to the French government imposing a 3-month ban on the slaughter of ducks and geese in 18 departments in south west France. This in turn has led to producers of foie gras, fattened duck or goose liver, being unable to produce the delicacy. The French Ministry of Agriculture will compensate breeders to the tune of €130m (£102m) but a breeder’s association spokeswoman is quoted as saying that “this interruption to our business will cause cash flow problems, additional wage costs linked to the temporary unemployment of around 4,000 workers, and fixed costs that will have to be paid despite us not having any income". It has been estimated that France produces around 75% of the world supply of foie gras, which has been denounced as cruel by animal rights campaigners due to the force feeding of the birds involved. (The Independent)

Rice and rice product consumption contribution to infant’s arsenic exposure
A study published in JAMA Pediatrics has sought to investigate the extent of arsenic exposure from various infant foods containing rice. The study notes that rice is often a first food for infants and that rice contains inorganic arsenic but that exposure has not been studied in depth for infants. The study also notes that arsenic exposure is of particular importance to infants as “epidemiologic evidence suggests that arsenic exposure in utero and during early life may be associated with adverse health effects on foetal growth, infant and child immune and neurodevelopmental outcomes”. The researchers, from Dartmouth College, New Hampshire and University of North Carolina, sought to determine the amount and frequency of rice containing products consumed in the first year of life. Data on infant’s intake of rice and rice products was collected from parents enrolled in the New Hampshire Birth Cohort Study (2011 – 2014) via interviews at 4, 8 and 12 months and using a 3-day food diary collected at 12 months. Arsenic was measured in urine and typically-consumed rice products. The researchers collected data on diet for 759 infants of whom around 80% had been given rice by 12 months of age and at 12 months around 32% were being fed rice snacks. The scientists discovered that at 12 months of age, for those infants who did not eat seafood, total urinary arsenic concentrations were higher amongst those who ate rice cereal (average 9.53 53 µg/L) or rice snacks (4.97 µg/L) than those who ate no rice or rice snacks (2.85 µg/L). The study states that these findings show that consumption of rice and rice containing products contribute to infant’s arsenic exposures and “suggest that efforts should be made to reduce arsenic exposure during this critical phase of development.”

RSSL can analyse a wide range of concentrations of trace elements in foods, drinks and dietary supplements and including arsenic.  For more information please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com 

10-year-old from India dies from vitamin D overdose
The death of a 10-year-old boy in AIIMS hospital, Delhi, India, has been attributed to an overdose of vitamin D. Doctors at the hospital state that the boy was advised to take vitamin D supplements to aid physical development. However, it appears that the boy took too many tablets for 21 days consecutively, which caused the vitamin D levels in his body to be 30 times the normal level and resulted in a heavy accumulation of calcium in the intestine which led to his death. Senior Medical Consultant Dr ML Vali is quoted as saying that "excess usage of vitamin D leads to accumulation of calcium in arteries which in turn obstruct the blood flow. This leads to heart attack or brain haemorrhage.” Vali also noted however that around 80% of people in India suffered from vitamin D deficiency and so that while an overdose is clearly dangerous, its importance for overall human health cannot be denied. (India Today)

RSSL provides vitamin analysis in a wide range of matrices including drinks, fortified foods, pre-mixes and multi-vitamin tablets, including the analysis for Vitamin D2 and Vitamin D3.  For more information please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com

Cheese-maker banned from making cheese for life
Frances Wood has been banned by a district judge from cheese-making after her mozzarella was found to contain salmonella, E.coli and listeria. Wood ran Alham Wood Cheeses at Higher Alham Farm, West Cranmore, Somerset and since 1997 kept a herd of 200 buffalo from whose milk she made mozzarella cheese. The cheese was sold to local restaurants and also at a stall in London's Camden Market. Inspectors from Mendip District Council discovered Wood’s dairy to be in a very poor state and despite several visits, saw no change in conditions so legal action was taken. Wood pleaded guilty to two offences under food safety and hygiene regulations and was fined £787 and made to pay £6,000 in prosecution costs. The judge involved said Wood’s operation was 'shoddy' and 'amateurish' and took the additional step of imposing a Hygiene Prohibition Notice. This bans Wood from 'participating in the management of any cheese production or processing business in the future'. Head of Mendip District Council, Stuart Cave is quoted as saying that he was ”delighted that after so much work by council officers the judge agreed that Mrs Wood should no longer be involved in any cheese production or processing business.” Cave added that “despite repeated attempts by the council's environmental health officers to work with Mrs Wood to ensure she produced a good quality, safe product, she continued to produce cheeses which posed a danger to public health. Prosecution is always a last resort, but we will not hesitate to take legal action against food manufacturers who do not take their responsibilities seriously and repeatedly put public health at risk.” (Daily Mail)

‘EFSA Strategy 2020 – Trusted Science for Safe Food’
The EFSA has published its Strategy 2020. The document lays out the context for EFSA’s Strategy 2020 – the environment in which EFSA operates, the main drivers that are expected to influence the direction the Authority takes between now and 2020, and the challenges and opportunities that EFSA will encounter during that period – and then describes five strategic objectives and expected outcomes that will guide EFSA through the next five years. The document also presents the key values that will be enablers for the realisation of these strategic goals.  The five strategic objectives discussed are:

  • Prioritise public and stakeholder engagement in the process of scientific assessment.
  • Widen EFSA’s evidence base and optimise access to its data.
  • Build the EU’s scientific assessment capacity and knowledge community.
  • Prepare for future risk assessment challenges.
  • Create an environment and culture that reflects EFSA’s values

EFSA report apricot kernels pose risk of cyanide poisoning
EFSA are reporting that consuming more than one large or three small raw apricot kernels in a serving can exceed safe levels. Toddlers consuming even one small apricot kernel risk being over the safe level. Amygdalin, a naturally-occurring compound present in apricot kernels converts to cyanide after eating.  Symptoms of cyanide poisoning including nausea, fever, headaches, insomnia and thirst amongst others. Research has reported 0.5 to 3.5 milligrams (mg) cyanide per kilogram of body weight can be lethal. EFSA’s Scientific Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain set a safe level for a one-off exposure (known as the Acute Reference Dose, or “ARfD”) of 20 micrograms per kilogram of body weight. This is 25 times below the lowest reported lethal dose. Based on these limits and the amounts of amygdalin typically present in raw apricot kernels, EFSA’s experts estimate that adults could consume one large or three small apricot kernels (370mg), without exceeding the ARfD. For toddlers the amount would be 60mg which is about half of one small kernel.  Normal consumption of apricot fruit does not pose a health risk to consumers. The kernel is the seed from inside the apricot stone. It is obtained by cracking open and removing the hard stone shell and, therefore, has no contact with the fruit.

New packaging safety checks may be introduced by Food Safety and Standards Authority of India
Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) currently test food packaging however safety checks may soon be also carried out by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).  The authority is set to have its own packaging standards and test for toxin release from packaging under different temperatures and conditions.  Pawan Agarwal, CEO, FSSAI states: “We don’t know how much ground-level testing is actually being done on food packets, so primarily, we need to do that before finalising our own set of guidelines.  Today, the food packet has no label to tell us what material and grade it is using. We want manufacturers to make the packaging process more transparent. Migration of toxins into food due to bad packaging is a serious concern.” The FSSAI are in consultation with a panel of scientists from the Indian Institute of Packaging.  The authority notes that it wants to match global standards, the current norms followed in Europe, the US and other developed nations. (Hindustan Times)

EFSA to review Bisphenol A immune system safety
EFSA is setting up a working group of international experts to evaluate new scientific evidence on the potential effects of bisphenol A (BPA) on the immune system. EFSA is conducting the review following publication of a report by the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) that raises concerns about the effects of BPA on the immune system of foetuses and young children. The report critically examines two studies describing pre- and perinatal effects of BPA on the immune system by Menard et al. (2014) that were unpublished when EFSA reviewed the available scientific literature for its 2014 risk assessment of BPA.  EFSA accepted a request from the Dutch Ministry of Health to examine the results of the RIVM report and specifically will review the toxicity of BPA on the immune system in light of this new evidence. EFSA’s expert Panel on Food Contact Materials, Enzymes, Flavourings and Processing Aids (CEF Panel) aims to issue a statement in the next few months.

18% of young children in Netherlands exceed maximum daily tolerable level for 3-MCPD
A study by the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) has calculated how much 3-MCPD people may ingest via food, to assess if the intake exceeds the health-based guidance value.  Findings, based on the available concentration data, indicate that “on average 18 percent of young children aged 2 to 6 have an intake exceeding the health-based guidance value for 3-MCPD. Seven-year-olds have the highest intake per kilogramme of body weight, and 35 percent of this age group has an intake above the health-based guidance value. Thereafter, the intake decreases: from the age of 17 less than 5 percent of the population has an intake above the guidance value. Due to the limited concentration data available, it is not possible to indicate whether possible detrimental effects to health occur”.

RSSL has expertise in analysing food and drinks for a wide range of contaminants including heavy metals by ICP-MS and 3-MCPD (to 10 ppb) by GCMS. For more information please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com

Soy derivatives found to have anti-microbiological properties
Soya derivatives are already used in food products however scientists have reported that soy could be used as a natural anti-microbial agent.  The University of Guelph researchers found that soy isoflavones and peptides inhibit the growth of microbial pathogens and could benefit the food industry who currently use synthetic additives to protect foods.  The study published in the journal Biochemistry and Biophysics Reports found that the soy peptides and isoflavones limited the growth of some bacteria including Listeria and Pseudomonas pathogens.

RSSL can determine daidzein, genistein and other soya isoflavones.  For more information please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com

Food Hygiene inspections dropped by 15% since 2003
Data obtained from the Food Standards Agency under freedom of information requests indicates that the number of food hygiene inspections has fallen by 15% since 2003. The requests were made by Prof Steve Tombs, professor of criminology at the Open University, and show that there were nearly 47,000 fewer local authority inspections in 2003/4 than in 2014/15. The number of food businesses prosecuted also fell from 552 to 361, a drop of 35%, over the same period. Tombs is quoted by the BBC as saying that “policymakers need to urgently address the radical reduction in local authority inspections and enforcement." A spokesman for the Local Government Association, Cllr Simon Blackburn, is quoted as saying that “Councils are doing everything possible to maintain checks in this area despite budgetary pressures, and a reduction in inspections does not necessarily mean an increased safety risk.” Blackburn added that "Councils know their local areas best and target reduced resources at the riskiest businesses, while national coordination through the Food Standards Agency also helps to ensure that areas of the food industry most at risk are generally targeted accordingly.” A Food Standards Agency statement indicates that helping local authorities protect consumers was a top priority. The statement said that “Our data and intelligence from over the last five years shows that local authorities are continuing to target their activities on food businesses that are most likely to be committing food fraud or where food safety risks are high so that public health protection is maintained. We are reviewing the way enforcement is carried out and how food businesses are regulated to develop a more sustainable and future-proofed system that deals with the many and varied challenges posed by an increasingly complex food industry." (BBC)

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