12 January - 20 June 2016

Food safety

  • Is there a link between the synthetic food additive tBHQ and food allergies?
  • Thumb suckers and nail biters less likely to develop allergic sensitivities
  • Findings may lead to better prevention practices for E.coli
  • How a shellfish food poisoning bacteria causes food poisoning
  • FDA warn consumers not to consume raw cookie dough
  • EFSA to release online version of Compendium of Botanicals
  • E. coli outbreak may be associated with eating leafy salad
  • Misconceptions about how to freeze food safely are contributing to food waste
  • FSA publish Listeriosis guidance

Is there a link between the synthetic food additive tBHQ and food allergies?
Medical Xpress is reporting that a Michigan State University researcher has found a link between the synthetic food additive tert-butylhydroquinone, or tBHQ, and food allergies.  Cheryl Rockwell, an assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology in the College of Human Medicine, started her investigation nine years ago.  She has found that tBHQ causes T cells to release a set of proteins that can trigger allergies to foods such as nuts, milk, egg, wheat and shellfish. Normally T cells release proteins known as cytokines, but when she introduced tBHQ in laboratory models, the T cells started behaving differently and released a different set known to trigger allergies to food.

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

Thumb suckers and nail biters less likely to develop allergic sensitivities
Findings published in the journal Pediatrics indicate that children who are thumb-suckers or nail-biters are less likely to develop allergic sensitivities.  The study tested the “hygiene hypothesis” that sucking and nail-biting would increase microbial exposures, affecting the immune system and reducing the development of allergic reactions.  Using a longitudinal birth cohort of more than 1,000 New Zealand children the team assessed and recorded thumb-sucking and nail-biting at ages five, seven, nine and eleven, and tested for allergies using a skin prick test at age 13 and 32.  Thirty one per cent of children were frequent thumb suckers or nail biters. At 13 years old 45% showed atopic sensitisation, but among those with one oral habit, only 40% had allergies. Among those with both habits, only 31% had allergies. No association was found between oral habit and asthma and hay fever. The BBC quote Holly Shaw, of Allergy UK, as saying: "Research that has been carried out in other countries also adds weight to this theory of the role the environment and gut microbiota play in shaping an individual's potential to develop a food allergy.  Having pets at home, older siblings and living on a farm have also been identified as environmental influences that may have a role in the development of allergic disease.” NHS choices state: “Overall the results give a mixed picture.”  They continue by reporting that “this study does not provide good evidence that thumb sucking or nail biting have any effect on a child's likelihood of developing allergies.”

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

Findings may lead to better prevention practices for E.coli
A collaboration of microbiologists, epidemiologists, animal scientists, veterinarians, graduate students, undergraduates and farmers have documented in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology better prevention practices to limit dangerous E. coli bacteria transmissions. The team found, after sampling over 1000 cattle from a number of farms, that dairy cattle under stress from hot weather and energy loss from milk production were significantly more likely to shed Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli -- or STEC.  Shedding was through the respiratory tract, the genital tract, or in the case of cattle, the intestinal tract through their faeces. The scientists report that the findings will aid those targeting prevention practices to reduce the prevalence of E.coli.  However further investigation is needed on the diversity of different STEC strains that are shed and to determine the rate at which animals acquire new STEC strains over time

How a shellfish food poisoning bacteria causes food poisoning
Scientists have investigated the mechanism by which vibrio parahaemolyticus, a globally spread, Gram-negative bacterium that contaminates shellfish in warm saltwater during the summer, causes food poisoning in humans.  The UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers report that the bacteria can detect when it is in the human gut by identifying and capturing bile salts, which signals the release of toxins from the bacteria.    The scientists discovered two proteins that are on the surface of the bacterial membrane which create a barrel-like structure that binds to the bile salts. They note that using this knowledge may help with the design and development of pharmaceuticals that could prevent toxin production.  Further experiments are needed to understand how binding of bile salt by this protein complex induces the release of toxins.

FDA warn consumers not to consume raw cookie dough
Following an E. coli outbreak linked to flour manufactured by General Mills, the FDA are warning Americans not to consume raw cookie dough, or other raw batters.  The FDA state that the flour is derived from a grain that comes directly from the field and typically is not treated to kill bacteria “so if an animal heeds the call of nature in the field, bacteria from the animal waste could contaminate the grain, which is then harvested and milled into flour.” Risk of becoming infected is nearly nullified through boiling, baking, roasting, microwaving or otherwise heating and cooking with flour.

EFSA to release online version of Compendium of Botanicals
EFSA will release a web-based version of its Compendium on Botanicals.  The searchable database, which will include non-European botanical species, is still under development and is expected to be completed early 2017.  The Compendium of Botanicals is a database which contains naturally-occurring substances of possible concern for human health when present in food. The EFSA report it is intended to help with the safety assessment of botanicals and botanical preparations that may be used in food, including supplements, by facilitating hazard identification.

E. coli outbreak may be associated with eating leafy salad
Public Health England are continuing to investigate an E.coli O157 outbreak which is currently being linked to eating leafy salad, although the exact source is yet to be identified.  So far 84 cases have been identified (77 in England, 5 in Wales, 1 in the Channel Islands, and 1 in Scotland).  The majority of cases have been in South West England. In response to the current outbreak, PHE is reminding people to maintain good hygiene and food preparation practices.

Misconceptions about how to freeze food safely are contributing to food waste
As part of Food Safety Week (4 - 10 July) the Food Standards Agency published food waste research which has identified a number of freezing 'myths' that are preventing people from using their freezers to make food go further. The research reports that 43% of those interviewed think that food should only be frozen on the day of purchase to be safe; 38% incorrectly said it is dangerous to refreeze meat after it has been cooked; and 36% wrongly believe that food can become unsafe to eat while in the freezer. Over two thirds (68%) of the people surveyed have thrown food away in the past month, with bread (36%), fruit (31%), vegetables (31%) and leftover meals (22%) topping the list. The most common reason given for throwing food away is that it is past its ‘use by’ day, cited by over a third (36%) of respondents. 30% admit to throwing food away as they had bought too much and didn’t eat it, and over half (54%) say they feel guilty when they throw food away. However, the FSA state that the reasons given can all be avoided by making better use of the freezer. In response, the FSA is focusing this year's Food Safety Week on helping people to understand how to waste less food safely by making more of their freezers. Furthermore, the FSA, working with Defra and WRAP, has announced that it will be launching a review of the guidance provided to the food industry on date marking on food. This will include consideration for whether the remit of the guidance should be expanded to cover food storage and freezing advice for consumers.

FSA publish Listeriosis guidance
New Listeriosis guidance has been published, aimed at healthcare and social care organisations, to help reduce the risk of vulnerable groups in their care contracting listeriosis. The guidance is intended to help these organisations determine what steps can be put in place to reduce the risk of Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat foods and to complement good practice in the food industry.  The main audiences for this guidance are all types of healthcare and social care organisations that provide food for vulnerable groups. The guidance is also intended for Environmental Health Practitioners and procurement partners.

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