12 January - 20 June 2016

Food safety

  • Public consultation on GM plant allergenicity guidance – EFSA
  • FSA review of advice on eating raw or lightly cooked shell eggs and their products in the UK
  • Undeclared allergens and microbiological problem cause of major food recalls in 2015
  • Report calls for legislation to prevent the sale and marketing of energy drinks to under 16’s
  • Are oxidised fish oil supplements a food safety risk?
  • Allergy risk in siblings only slightly higher than general population
  • PHE & FSA continue to investigate E.coli O157 outbreak which has now killed two
  • Flavonols in cranberry juice may prevent bacterial infections
  • New polymer surface coating could help prevent food-borne illness
  • NIFA funds development of fast and cheap food safety detector
  • EU Project re-evaluates herb and spice commodity chains

Public consultation on GM plant allergenicity guidance – EFSA
EFSA has launched a public consultation on its draft guidance for the allergenicity assessment of genetically modified (GM) plants.  The new guidance document on allergenicity reflects scientific advances as compared to the current guidance.  The aim of this draft Guidance Document is to provide supplementary guidance on specific topics for the allergenicity risk assessment of GM plants to incorporate new developments in the area. The topics addressed are non-IgE-mediated immune adverse reactions to foods, in vitro protein digestibility tests and endogenous allergenicity. This draft Guidance Document provides proposals supplementing the general recommendations published in the EFSA GMO Panel Guidance Document on the risk assessment of food and feed from GM plants and the Implementing Regulation (EU) No 503/2013. Interested parties are invited to submit written comments by 25th of September 2016.

RSSL offers qualitative and real-time quantitative analytical services for GM soya, and maize in raw materials and finished products. For more information please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com

FSA review of advice on eating raw or lightly cooked shell eggs and their products in the UK
An expert group, set up by the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF), to look at egg safety, has found that there has been a reduction in the risk from salmonella in UK shell eggs since its last report on this issue 15 years ago.  The Group concluded that the risk level for UK hen shell eggs produced under the Lion code, or produced under demonstrably-equivalent comprehensive schemes, should be considered as very low, whilst for other hen shell eggs, including non-UK eggs consumed in the UK, the risk level should be considered low. The report recommends that Lion code eggs (or eggs produced under equivalent schemes) can be served raw or lightly cooked to those in vulnerable groups, including pregnant women, the young and the elderly (but is not intended to include severely immunocompromised individuals).  (FSA)

Undeclared allergens and microbiological problem cause of major food recalls in 2015
A report has found that undeclared allergens and microbiological problems were responsible for major food recalls in 2015.  The report investigated food recalls in the US, Canadian and Europe.  It states “that in the US, recalls by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declined slightly from the previous year, although meat recalls by the U.S. Department of Agriculture increased. Canadian and European food recalls decreased modestly from 2014 levels.” Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella contaminations declined slightly in 2015 from the previous year. However, allergen contaminations increased across the food industry in 2015. In the European market milk led to many recalls, as did chemical contaminations of seafood, grain and produce.  (Yahoo/PRnewswire)

Allergen Services: We provide a comprehensive range of testing, training and food allergen consultancy services to help you control and manage allergens within manufacturing and retailing. To find out more please contact Customer Services telephone 0118 918 4076 or e-mail enquiries@rssl.com

Report calls for legislation to prevent the sale and marketing of energy drinks to under 16’s
A report by the Action on Sugar which investigated worldwide evidence on energy drinks and their impact on health is calling on policy makers to act to reduce energy drinks consumption by children and adolescents.  A survey found that in 16 European countries including the UK, energy drinks are consumed by 66% of children aged 11-18 and 18% of children age 10 and under.  It also found that 11% of 11-18 year olds and 12% of 10 and under, consumed at least 1 litre in a single session.  The paper reports that consumption of energy drinks is associated with health complaints, and risky behaviours such as binge drinking and drug use.  The report states that more research is needed to investigate the interaction of ingredients within the drinks.  It notes that many brands can contain around 160mg of caffeine.  However the EFSA recommend an intake of no more than 105mg of caffeine per day for an average 11 year old.   The authors “propose legislation against the sale of energy drinks to under 16’s and a ban of marketing targeted at children.” 

Are oxidised fish oil supplements a food safety risk?
The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and the Ministry of Health have responded to a recent mouse study published in American Journal of Physiology -- Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology stating that there is no evidence of a food safety risk associated with fish oil supplements currently sold in New Zealand.  The study found that nearly 30 percent of newborn pups born to pregnant rats fed highly oxidized ("off") fish oil died within two days after birth.  In a press release Jenny Reid, MPI Manager Food Science and Risk Assessment says “The fish oil that was given to the pregnant rats in the Liggins Institute’s study was artificially oxidised to an extremely high level, far higher than that found in fish oil supplements currently on the market. It is extremely unlikely that oxidisation of any product on the New Zealand market containing unsaturated fats would reach these levels.”  A recent review of evidence on the toxicity of oxidised fish oil, commissioned by the MPI, did not identify any concern. The Ministry of Health Acting Director of Public Health, Dr Stewart Jessamine, says “There is nothing in the study to suggest there is a risk to pregnant women. Consumers may choose to take dietary supplements, but the best source of omega 3 is from fresh fish. If people do not like fish then I encourage them to talk to a registered dietitian regarding other sources of omega 3.”

Allergy risk in siblings only slightly higher than general population
Scientists have reported that risk of food allergy in siblings of a child with allergies is only slightly higher than in the general population.  The findings published in Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice suggests that “testing might show sensitization to peanuts in a child who has never had peanuts, for example, but that might not mean that eating a peanut will provoke allergic symptoms in that child.” Gupta et al. recruited 1120 confirmed food allergic children aged 0-21 years with at least 1 biological sibling. The study found that 53% of siblings of food allergic children showed food sensitisation, although these children had not experienced food allergy symptoms.  An additional one-third of siblings tested negative and had no allergic reactions to food, while only 13.6% of siblings had a true food allergy. Milk allergy was the most common allergy among siblings (5.9%), followed by egg allergy (4.4%) and peanut allergy (3.7%). 

Allergen Services: We provide a comprehensive range of testing, training and food allergen consultancy services to help you control and manage allergens within manufacturing and retailing. To find out more please contact Customer Services telephone 0118 918 4076 or e-mail enquiries@rssl.com

PHE & FSA continue to investigate E.coli O157 outbreak which has now killed two
Public Health England and the FSA 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 and PHE are stating they are not ruling out other food sources.  PHE report that 151 cases of this strain of E. coli have been identified (figure correct as at 13 July 2016). This is 144 in England, 6 in Wales and 1 in Scotland, with the South West of England particularly affected. 62 of the cases are known to have received hospital care and 2 of the individuals with E.coli O157 infection have died. In a news story, they state "PHE is working closely with the Food Standards Agency to trace, sample and test salad products grown in the UK and other parts of Europe. All food sample results to date have been negative for E.coli O157, but it’s important to be aware that where food has been contaminated with E.coli O157, it is not always possible to identify the bacteria on food testing."  FSA is reminding people of the importance of good hand and food hygiene practices. All vegetables, including salads, intended to be eaten raw should be thoroughly washed unless they are specifically labelled ‘ready to eat’.

Flavonols in cranberry juice may prevent bacterial infections
Scientists from the University of Massachusetts and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) have characterised the role of compounds in cranberry juice that prevent the first step in bacterial infections.  Camesano et al. report in the journal Food & Function that flavonols found in cranberry juice greatly reduced the ability of the bacteria E.coli to stick to a surface.  Previous work by the team found that proanthocyanidins (PAC) are likely to play a role in cranberry juice’s ability to block bacterial adhesion. In this new study, the team separated cranberry juice into its constituent chemical compounds and characterised them. Cultured E.coli cells were then added to the fractionated juice.  Using an atomic force microscope the scientists measured the bacteria’s ability to bond to a surface.  Samples which were found to shows the greatest ability to reduce E.coli were further separated.  This process repeated so the researchers could home in on the key chemical affecting adhesion.  Flavonols on their own, and with proanthocyanidins, were found to significantly reduced E.coli adhesion with flavonol galactosides showing the strongest results.  Camesano et al. suggests that this finding shows that like PACs, flavonols play a role in the plants defence system.

RSSL can analyse food products for polyphenolic components. To find out more please contact Customer Services telephone 0118 918 4076 or e-mail enquiries@rssl.com

New polymer surface coating could help prevent food-borne illness
Researchers from Cornell University are helping the fight against food-borne illnesses and food waste by investigating new polymer coatings for surfaces at food production plants. These new coatings are designed to be more resistant to bacteria and microbes and have been discussed at a recent Institute of Food Technologists symposium. Associate professor Julie Goddard is quoted as saying that "Manufacturers already work diligently to keep their facilities clean, but we are creating materials that are even less likely to harbour bad bugs." Goddard added that "We have designed new polymer coatings that can be applied to food processing surfaces that resist microbial adhesion and can actually inactivate any microbes that do adhere, preventing them from growing and potentially contaminating our food supply." Goddard indicates that the coatings need to be able to withstand the cleaning process including acidic and caustic cleaners which presents additional challenges but notes that the new coating has been shown to “inactivate 99.999% of Listeria monocytogenes” and could also help reduce the amount of food wasted due to microbe spoilage. Goddard also said that while research was still ongoing, she expected the coating to be commercially available within a few years. (phys.org)

NIFA funds development of fast and cheap food safety detector
Research conducted by scientists and engineers from Auburn University and the University of Georgia and funded by a grant from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has led to the development of a new screening tool to test fruit and vegetables for the presence of bacteria that could cause illness. The team has developed biosensors coated with antibodies and phages - viruses that target specific bacteria – that vibrate within an oscillating magnetic field. The sensors are placed directly on the food to be tested and if the specific bacteria are present, they bind to the antibodies and phages and change the vibrating frequency with the change helping indicate the specific bacteria and amount present. Director of Auburn University’s Detection and Food Safety Center, Dr Bryan Chin, is quoted as saying that “the technology gives us a revolutionary new capability to directly detect food pathogens”. The system can reportedly detect as few as five hundred Salmonella cells in a million bacterial cells within 12 minutes. The main system is said to cost around $750 with the disposable sensors costing less than 1 cent per 1000 although the tool is still in the R&D stage. (USDA)

EU Project re-evaluates herb and spice commodity chains
An EU-funded project has developed tools to help protect the Europe’s commodity chains for herbs and spices. The project, SPICED, aims to implement best practice to try and ensure the safety of these previously often overlooked ingredients. Spices are often added to food without direct heating and so can be vulnerable to contamination, especially given the varied nature of their origin. The researchers initially concentrated on those products most susceptible to being contaminated, including pepper, paprika, nutmeg, vanilla, parsley, oregano and basil. They developed tools for detecting and preventing deliberate, accidental and natural contaminations and subsequently developed processes for reducing alterations and ensuring the authenticity of products. The project created an exemplary spice and herb production and processing chain and for some spices, including pepper and paprika, evaluated the entire value chain and made recommendations for current best practice. The team have also developed new techniques for de-spiking dry, microorganism contaminated, spices and herbs and issued standard operating procedures for authenticity checking. While the project officially ended in June this year, the consortium hopes to continue its work via the network created during the project. More information can be found on the SPICED website. (phys.org)

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