12 January - 20 June 2016

Food safety

  • Curry house owner jailed for six years following death of peanut allergic customer
  • French lettuce sickens 400 in Denmark
  • BPA and fungicide chemical may irreversibly weaken children’s teeth
  • Scientists develop method to detect authenticity of parmesan
  • FSA publishes summary of food incidents
  • Curbing food waste – Sainsbury’s giving people fridges with cameras inside
  • EFSA report data on veterinary drug residues in animals and food
  • FSA publish Campylobacter quarter 3 results
  • Campaigners call for mandatory potassium labelling in the UK
  • High Pressure with Temperature technique for persevering food trialled

Curry house owner jailed for six years following death of peanut allergic customer
The last edition of Food e-News included a headline about Mohammed Zaman, 53, who was on trial after 38-year-old Paul Wilson suffered a fatal allergic reaction to the peanuts in his takeaway curry. The trial has now convicted Zaman of manslaughter and he has been imprisoned for six years.  The owner of The Jaipur in Easingwold, North Yorkshire, had substituted almond powder with a cheaper ground nut mix containing peanut in an attempt to reduce cost. However it is alleged he continued to sell meals containing peanuts whilst assuring customers they were safe for nut-allergy sufferers.  (The Telegraph)

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French lettuce sickens 400 in Denmark
Twenty three outbreaks of norovirus affecting over 400 people in Denmark have been traced to Lollo Bionda lettuce grown in France according to work performed by Statens Serum Institut (SSI), The Technical University of Denmark and the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration. Initial studies of the outbreaks pointed towards dishes that included lettuce. Typing of the virus from over 20 patients showed the same norovirus subtype and lettuce from a number of the outbreaks was also found to contain a small number of norovirus particles of the same subtype. The lettuce was tracked back to a single wholesaler, AP Gront, who sourced the product from France. A spokesperson from SSI is quoted as saying that “The outbreak demonstrates that contaminated lettuce sold to catering companies holds a considerable potential for infection of a large number of persons within a very limited time span which, in turn, underlines the importance of rapid investigation, timely sampling of patients and foods, and of willingness to withdraw products on the part of the foodstuffs companies based only on a suspicion with respect to the source of infection.” (Food Navigator)

BPA and fungicide chemical may irreversibly weaken children’s teeth
A rat study, presented at the European Congress of Endocrinology, has indicated that bisphenol A (BPA) and vinclozolin, another endocrine disruptor, may weaken children’s teeth by disrupting hormones that stimulate the growth of dental enamel.  BPA is present in drink bottles and storage containers, whilst vinclozolin is reported to be commonly used as a fungicide.   The scientists from the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research gave rats daily doses of BPA alone or in combination with vinclozolin, equivalent to an average dose a human would experience daily, from birth till they were thirty days old. Using cells collected from the rats’ teeth surface, they found the chemicals changed the expression of two genes controlling the mineralisation of tooth enamel. To investigate the mechanism, the scientists analysed rats’ ameloblast cells and found that the hormones oestrogen and testosterone boosted the expression of genes making tooth enamel, especially male sex hormones, which BPA block.  (Science Daily)

Scientists develop method to detect authenticity of parmesan
Scientists have developed a method to determine the authenticity of PDO-labelled parmesan.  Parmigiano Reggiano, or parmesan, was added to the register of protected designation of origin following a scandal in February where parmesan cheese was found to contain cellulose as a filler as well as less expensive cheese.  The PDO means that the cheese must meet certain requirements including that it must be made using milk from cows that are not fed silage, a fermented cereal product used in animal feed. The study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry used a gas chromatography-mass spectrometry method to analyse 300 samples of cheeses, to see if they could differentiate cheeses from cows fed silage and those that were not. Caligiani et al. report that a cheese similar to parmesan, Grana Padano, which is made from milk from cows allowed to eat silage, contained cyclopropane fatty acids, which were not present in PDO parmesan samples.  Their method was also able to detect a blend of the two cheeses containing 10% or more of Grana Padano.

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FSA publishes summary of food incidents
The FSA has published a summary of food incidents, handled between January and March 2016, that led to an alert being issued by the FSA to recall or withdraw products from sale. This quarterly list also includes information on investigations it supported relating to potential widespread risks from food poisoning and harmful contamination. Over the three month period, the FSA issued 49 food notices, of which 24 were allergy alerts, with the top undeclared allergen being milk. The FSA also supported twelve major investigations linked to possible risks of food poisoning and nine to do with physical contamination.

View previous Food e-News Editions to browse through product recalls from UK, Ireland, Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand

Curbing food waste – Sainsbury’s giving people fridges with cameras inside
Can a fridge with cameras inside help curb food waste?  Sainsbury have given 20 families a “smart fridge” for a six month trial, so that families can see what food they’ve got at home when they are out shopping.  The fridge has two cameras that takes photos of the content every time the fridge door is shut.  Participants will be able to check the content from an app on their phone. The supermarket reports that every year, a quarter of households waste £235 worth of food due to buying products they already have in the fridge, noting that fruit and veg are the most overbought items, with 38% and 35% respectively of shoppers regularly buying more than they need. Sainsbury’s is using Swadlincote as its  ‘trial town’ and investing £1 million in making the town the official “test-bed” for ideas, with a target of cutting the town’s food waste by 50% over 12 months. Sainsbury’s is working with sustainability group WRAP to monitor the results.  (Huffington Post)

EFSA report data on veterinary drug residues in animals and food
EFSA’s data report summarises the monitoring data from 2014, including compliance rates with EU residue limits, for a range of veterinary medicines, unauthorised substances and contaminants found in animals and animal-derived food. Overall, 730,000 samples were reported in 2014 – a drop from the 1 million plus samples in last year’s report on 2013 data – from the 28 EU Member States. In 2014, the level of non-compliance in targeted samples (i.e. samples taken to detect illegal use or check non-compliance with the maximum levels) rose slightly – to 0.37%, compared to 0.25%-0.34% over the previous seven years. There was slightly higher non-compliance for resorcylic acid lactones (hormonally active compounds produced by fungi or man-made) and contaminants such as metals and mycotoxins (toxins produced by fungi).

FSA publish Campylobacter quarter 3 results
The FSA have published the latest results from their survey of campylobacter on fresh shop-bought chickens. The results for January to March 2016 continue to show a decrease both in the number of birds with campylobacter on them and those with the highest level of contamination from the equivalent quarter last year. The latest data shows 9.3% of chickens tested positive for the highest level of contamination in this quarter, down from 21.8% for the three months from December 2014 to February 2015 (no data was available for March 2015). Campylobacter was present on 50% of chicken samples, down from 71% in the equivalent quarter of the previous year. The FSA tested 1,009 samples of fresh whole chilled UK-produced chickens and packaging this quarter. Steve Wearne, Director of Policy at the FSA, said: "These results are moving in the right direction and I am delighted with progress. It shows what can be done by a real commitment to tackle this bug and I am encouraging industry to go even further, more quickly, to continue to get the numbers down. 'One of the reasons the survey results are lower this quarter is because of the decision taken by a number of retailers and their suppliers to remove neck skin from the bird before it goes on sale. This is good news for the consumer because the neck skin is the most contaminated part of the chicken. However it is also the part of the bird that we have been testing in our survey and this means that comparisons with previous results are not as reliable as we would like. Therefore, this quarter, we are giving an overall figure for the amount of campylobacter on chicken and not breaking the figures down by retailer as we normally do. We have also stopped this survey and will begin a new one in the summer, with a different method of testing campylobacter levels on chicken. First results from this survey, which will rank retailers, are due in January 2017."

Campaigners call for mandatory potassium labelling in the UK
The US FDA has released its finalised Nutrition facts label for packaged foods guidelines which now require the inclusion of potassium and vitamin D in ingredients listings.  This is due to the fact that both these are deficient in the American diet. In the UK however, no such requirement exists but campaigners are calling for mandatory potassium labelling for a different reason. In the UK there are nearly 1.8M sufferers of chronic kidney disease (CKD) who are unable to manage potassium levels in the blood and so are at risk of heart failure and death. Two petitions have been started by Nicholas Jones, whose 15-year-old son Matty suffers from CKD. The first on change.org has over 200,000 signatures while the second, a parliamentary petition to which the government must respond if it reaches 10,000 signatures, currently has nearly 4,000 and will run until October this year. Jones is quoted by Food Navigator as saying that “Without food labelling including potassium levels, every time we pick up any food other than raw ingredients we are faced with a dilemma because we can’t know what’s in it. This is made worse because the food industry has a habit of adding potassium chloride instead of sodium chloride to keep down salt levels on their labelling”. Jones added that “prepared food of any kind is a nightmare”. (Food Navigator)

High Pressure with Temperature technique for persevering food trialled
Much research has been conducted in recent years to find effective ways to keep food safe without the need for chemical preservatives and to preserve or improve the nutritional properties of food. High temperature has often been used to sterilise foods but this can destroy nutrients and protein if the temperature is too high for too long. A new technique however is being trialled in the Netherlands and Spain which uses high pressure with temperature (HPT). Food is heated to between 70 and 80 o C and then pressurised to between 500 and 600 megapascals (72,000 – 87,000 psi) which raises the temperature to over 100oC. The technique provides the stability of heat treatments but with less damage done to food but is not currently being applied on an industrial scale. Karsten Olsen, Associate professor at the University of Copenhagen is quoted as saying that “Applying high pressure is a way to conserve food in a cold chain. It saves the energy, and all the nutrients and vitamins. Colour is kept in a so-called native state, without any spoiling". Olsen noted however that “it is quite sophisticated and expensive. It requires a lot of steel”. Researchers though hope to start selling the technology on a large scale by 2019. (phys.org)

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