12 January - 20 June 2016

Food safety

  • EFSA nutrient sources guidance – have your say
  • LEAP peanut allergy prevention strategy is nutritionally safe
  • FSA publishes latest Annual Report of Incidents 2015 
  • Extreme weather can cause crops to produce more potential toxins
  • New certified reference materials for detecting enterotoxin A in cheese
  • CDC report multistate outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O121 linked to flour
  • Research suggests microplastics in ocean are killing fish
  • Detecting food fraud – FSA representative notes need for whistleblowers

EFSA nutrient sources guidance – have your say
EFSA’s food additives experts want your input before they revise guidance on submitting scientific information for the safety evaluation of nutrient sources used as ingredients in manufactured food.  EFSA assesses two things in this type of evaluation: the safety of the source and the bioavailability of the nutrient from the source. (EFSA)

LEAP peanut allergy prevention strategy is nutritionally safe
A study funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology is reporting that introducing peanut-containing foods during infancy as a peanut allergy prevention strategy does not compromise the duration of breastfeeding or affect children's growth and nutritional intakes.   The study, led by researchers at King’s College London, compared the growth, nutrition and diets of the LEAP peanut consumers and avoiders (see FeN Edition 622 for more information on LEAP).  Many of the participants were breastfeeding at the beginning of LEAP.  Peanut consumption did not affect the duration of breastfeeding, thus countering concerns that introduction of solid foods before six months of age could reduce breastfeeding duration. The scientists observed no differences in height, weight or body mass index.  This remained the case even when the team compared a subgroup of children who consumed the greatest amount of peanut protein with those who avoided peanut entirely. Those who consumed peanuts are reported to have made some different food choices from the avoiders.  They consumed fewer chips and savoury snacks. Both groups had similar total energy intakes from food and comparable protein intakes, although the peanut consumers had higher fat intakes and avoiders had higher carbohydrate intakes.  (NIH)

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.  

FSA publishes latest Annual Report of Incidents 2015
The Food Standards Agency has published its latest Annual Report of Food Incidents. It shows that in 2015, the FSA and Food Standards Scotland were notified of, investigated and managed 1,514 food, feed and environmental contamination incidents in the UK. The overall number of incidents was similar to those seen in recent years. However, in most categories, the numbers of incidents differ considerably from year to year. The four largest contributors to the total number of recorded incidents in 2015 were

  • Pathogenic micro-organisms (18%)
  • Allergens (14%)
  • Chemical contamination (other) (12%)
  • Residues of veterinary medicinal products (8%)

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, 365 days a year, providing access to scientists who can help identify the problem and provide solutions.  To request an ERS presentation or find out more please contact Customer Services on Freephone +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com

Extreme weather can cause crops to produce more potential toxins
Scientists are warning in a report by the United Nations Environment Programme that extreme weather is causing crops such as wheat and maize to produce more potential toxins.  These chemical compounds can cause health problems for people and livestock who consume them for a prolonged period of time.  In normal conditions plants convert absorbed nitrates into amino acids and protein. Drought can cause this process to slow down or can even prevent this conversion.  This can cause nitrate to accumulate in the plant due to stress. It is reported that too much dietary nitrate can interfere with the ability of red blood cells to transport oxygen in the body.  Some drought-stress crops are reported to, after being exposed to sudden large quantities of rain, experience rapid growth which can cause an accumulation of hydrogen cyanides. Climate change can also cause the spread of aflatoxins.  Consumption of aflatoxins has been reported to increase the risk of liver damage, cancer and blindness.  The report states that Europe may have an increased risk from aflatoxins in locally grown crops if global temperatures rise by at least 2 degrees Celsius.  It suggests eight ideas farmers and agricultural experts can adopt to try to limit damage from crop toxins.

New certified reference materials for detecting enterotoxin A in cheese
The European Commission Joint Research Centre has developed and released the first certified reference materials (CRMs) for testing whether a naturally-occurring toxin, enterotoxin A (SEA), is present in cheese. Staphylococcal enterotoxins (SEs) account for a substantial number of food poisoning outbreaks. In 2014, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reported that bacterial toxins were involved in 843 of 5251 (16%) food poisoning outbreaks, and SEs were involved in 393 of those 843 notified outbreaks (46%). SEA is the SE serotype most frequently involved in food-borne staphylococcal illnesses.  The three new reference materials IRMM-359a-c (a blank and two SEA-containing materials) were developed in accordance with ISO Guide 34 and characterised by laboratories adhering to ISO/IEC 17025.

CDC report multistate outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O121 linked to flour
The Center for Disease Control (CDC), multiple states, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are investigating a multistate outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O121 (STEC O121) infections.  Thirty-eight people from 20 states have been infected.  Ten of these have been hospitalised.  Collaborative investigative efforts indicate that flour produced at a General Mills facility in Kansas City, Missouri is a likely source of the outbreak.

Research suggests microplastics in ocean are killing fish
Scientists are reporting in the journal Science that microplastic particles are killing fish larvae. The larvae prefer to eat the particles rather than their actual food. The amount of plastic in the ocean is causing an increased concern about the effects on the marine environment.  In this current study the researchers report that baby perch chose to consume plastic over plankton.  This caused an increase in mortality and stunted growth. Consumption also appeared to change usual innate behaviour such as losing the ability to smell a predator making them more vulnerable. When a perch exposed to microplastic is placed in a tank with a pike, the perch is eaten four times more quickly than perch that has not consumed plastic.  All plastic-consuming fish died within 48 hours.

Detecting food fraud – FSA representative notes need for whistleblowers
Will Cress, Head of Consumer Protection at the Food Standards Agency, has said at a Westminster Food & Nutrition Seminar that the food industry will always be susceptible to criminal activity, but food fraud is harder to detect.  He notes that the Food Industry Intelligence Network, set up last year after the horsemeat scandal, should however make it easier for manufacturers to report suspected fraud.  However the FSA plan to campaign on human intelligence gathering as a way of getting consumers to understand where vulnerabilities lie and notes the need for whistleblowers to report malpractice. (Food Manufacture)

RSSL can identify DNA from over 20 meat species including chicken, pork and beef in protein extracts and other complex ingredients as well as foodstuffs.   Routine meat speciation is also performed using ELISA techniques to detect pork, beef, lamb, poultry and horse (UKAS accredited).  For more information please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com

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