12 January - 20 June 2016

Food safety

  • Diluted Manuka honey may help to keep medical equipment clean
  • Eggs from small flocks of chicken are more likely to be contaminated with Salmonella enteritidis
  • Sucralose not linked to cancer
  • Changing what you eat when you are sick may be crucial to recovery
  • Coffee grounds could be used to remove lead and mercury from water
  • Faster more accurate way to detect salmonella in beef and chicken
  • Can MRSA be spread through contaminated poultry?

Diluted Manuka honey may help to keep medical equipment clean
Diluted Manuka honey could be used as an antibacterial to clean medical equipment, according to scientists from Southampton University.  Reporting in the Journal of Clinical Pathology the scientists’ state that Manuka honey is known to have antibacterial properties. The team added honey to distilled water at concentrations ranging from 2.3 to 16.7% and applied the solutions to bacteria cultures.  They found that even at a low concentration of 3.3% the honey inhibited the “stickiness” of the bacteria and prevented the development of biofilm that could attach to medical equipment. The BBC note that “in theory, a honey solution might be useful for flushing urinary catheters to keep them clean while they remain in the bladder.” The researchers note however that more trials would be needed to check its safety and that it doesn’t irritate the bladder.

Eggs from small flocks of chicken are more likely to be contaminated with Salmonella enteritidis
Penn State University researchers are reporting that eggs from small flocks of chicken are more likely to be contaminated with Salmonella enteritidis than eggs sold in grocery stores.  They report that eggs in grocery stores typically come from larger flocks (over 3,000) that are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The team analysed over 60,000 eggs from more than 200 selling points including selected farmer’s markets, and roadside stands.    Of the 240 selling points tested, eggs from 5 tested positive for Salmonella enteritis (1 was found to contain bacteria in the egg shell, and the other four containing Salmonella enteritis in the internal contents), which is a higher prevalence of the pathogen than that found in studies of eggs from large flocks.  The scientists state that Salmonella enteritidis, like other foodborne bacteria, is destroyed by proper cooking.  They note that their “findings emphasise the importance of small-producer education on Salmonella enteritidis control measures and perhaps implementation of egg quality-assurance practices to prevent contamination of eggs produced by backyard and other small layer flocks." (Science Daily)

Sucralose not linked to cancer
A review published in Nutrition and Cancer: An International Journal has concluded that sucralose isn’t linked to cancer.  The scientists conducted a review of studies assessing the safety and carcinogenicity of sucralose and report that many studies observe the results of dosages hundreds to thousands of times greater than any reasonable level of consumption. For example, some studies include observations on consumption of sucralose in quantities equivalent in sweetness to 74 to 495 pounds of sugar per day for an average weight (e.g., 75 kg) adult. The authors’ note that in the studies reviewed, even when exposure levels were several orders of magnitude greater than the recommended ADI, sucralose did not demonstrate carcinogenic activity.  They continue by reporting that “Physiochemical and pharmacokinetic/toxicokinetic studies confirm stability under conditions of use and reveal no metabolites of carcinogenic potential.”

Changing what you eat when you are sick may be crucial to recovery
Yale scientists, reporting in Cell, have discovered that giving glucose to mice who had flu saved their lives, however if they gave glucose to mice who were infected with bacteria, they died.  Similar to humans the mice were found to lose their appetite although the mice with flu resumed eating.  This the New Scientist states could suggest that “bacteria and viruses trigger different inflammatory responses and feeding is helpful for surviving the viral response, but harmful when fighting off bacteria”.  The team investigated this further finding that the glucose protected the brain cells in the mice who had flu from being damaged by inflammation.  Lack of sugar causes the body to metabolise fat which generates ketones which benefit bacterial inflammation.  Giving the mice glucose blocked this process and caused the mice to die from epileptic-like seizures.  The digestion of glucose and inflammation due to bacteria were suggested by the team to cause too many highly reactive free radicals and these radicals damaged the neurons.  Viruses don’t produce radicals. 

Coffee grounds could be used to remove lead and mercury from water
In the last edition of Food e-News scientists were looking at using coffee waste to add nutritional content to other food. Now a new team of scientists reporting in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering have discovered that grounds could be used in a foam filter to remove harmful lead and mercury from water.  Fragouli et al. fixed spent coffee powder in a bioelastomeric foam, which acted as a filter and removed up to 99% of lead and mercury ions from water over 30 hours.  They also carried out a more practical test in which lead-contaminated water flowed through the foam, it cleaned the water by up to 67 percent of the lead ions.

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Faster more accurate way to detect salmonella in beef and chicken
A team of scientists led by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has found a faster and more accurate way to detect salmonella in beef and chicken. The scientists tested food that had been artificially contaminated with salmonella using salmonella-specific antibodies combined with a unique signal amplification technique.  After 15 hours, the test indicated that salmonella was present in the food. Ahn et al. note in the Journal of Food Safety that currently it can take two to three days to detect salmonella in a culture and their test has great potential as a simple monitoring system for foodborne pathogens in food samples.  (Science Daily)

Science behind antimicrobial resistance and the role that food plays – FSA
FSA’s Chief Scientific Advisor, Prof. Guy Poppy, has published the latest edition of Science Report, which examines the science behind antimicrobial resistance and presents the latest findings that indicate the role that food plays in the problem. The report also explains the role that the FSA plays in tackling the problem of AMR, through its research and engagement activities.  It notes that AMR microbes can be spread via food in several ways including faecal contamination, water contamination (products that come from plants and also shellfish), and environmental contamination and cross contamination.   It quotes the O’Neill Review which estimated that the global impact of AMR could be 10 million deaths annually by 2050, and cost up to US $100 trillion in cumulative lost economic output, stating that the nature of this global problem emphasises the challenge that the UK faces when tackling AMR in the food supply chain.  The report further discusses how to reduce AMR in foods, promoting the 4 C’s (cooking, cleaning, chilling and cross-contamination), and the spread of colistin resistance genes.

Can MRSA be spread through contaminated poultry?
Poultry may be a source of human exposure to MRSA, a superbug which can cause serious infections and even death according to a study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.    The study investigated a newly identified strain of MRSA associated with poultry.   The international team of scientists state it is known that those who work directly with livestock are at risk of MRSA infections, however their study has also found that people with no exposure to livestock are becoming colonised and infected with this new strain of poultry-associated MRSA—most likely by eating or handling contaminated poultry meat. Larsen et al.  used a genetic analysis to study the MRSA strain from 10 people who had been colonised or hospitalised with MRSA and compared it to strains found in people, livestock and food products from other European countries.  They found that the 10 people who lived in an urban area of Denmark, who had never worked on a farm, or had direct exposure to food animals, were infected with a novel strain of poultry associated MRSA.  The strain identified was not from Danish livestock but was traced to imported poultry meat from other EU countries.  One of the researchers is quoted as saying: “our findings implicate poultry meat as a source for these infections.  At present, meat products represent only a minor transmission route for MRSA to humans, but our findings nevertheless underscore the importance of reducing the use of antibiotics in food-producing animals as well as continuing surveillance of the animal-food-human interface."

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