12 January - 20 June 2016

Food safety

  • Extracts from avocado seeds can potentially be used to control listeria in ready to eat foods
  • Local Authority food law enforcement information published by FSA
  • Attempts to assess foodborne disease outbreak risk from organic food proven to be difficult
  • Bagged salad may be the perfect breeding ground for Salmonella
  • Adolescent binge drinking is dangerous to the brain development of teenagers and their offspring
  • Americans are misunderstanding the recommendations for vitamin D
  • Toddler milk needs more regulatory oversight
  • 30,000 chicken culled after bird flu outbreak in Germany
  • Outbreaks of Avian Flu in Europe

Extracts from avocado seeds can potentially be used to control listeria in ready to eat foods
According to a study published in the Journal of Food Science by researchers from Tecnologico de Monterrey enriched acetogenin extract (EAE) from avocado seeds could be used as a natural additive to be incorporated into ready to eat foods, as it has antilisterial properties.  The team compared EAE extract with two name brand synthetic antimicrobials and discovered that the chemical profile and the listeria-properties of the EAE extract was similar to the synthetic antimicrobials.  The bacterial effect was active at 37oC and at a refrigeration temperature of 4oC.  The authors note that whilst humans already consume acetogenins from avocado pulp that are above antilisterial levels, bioavailability and safety of the extract from the avocado seeds needs further assessment. 

Local Authority food law enforcement information published by FSA
The FSA has published official statistics on food law enforcement by local authorities across the UK for the year 2015/16. The figures show an increase in a number of areas of local authority enforcement activity, and levels of hygiene compliance in food business, in spite of reported staffing reductions. As many as 22,717 establishments were given written warnings for failing to comply with food standards last year, an increase of 56%.  Reported numbers of food standards interventions have continued to increase, with a total of 128,364 interventions carried out in 2015/16, an increase of 8.9% on the reported number carried out in 2014/15 (117,877).  The report states that “the increase in the previous year was probably a reflection of LA activity following the coming into force in December 2014 of provisions in the EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation. For example, this requires all food businesses to declare any of 14 identified allergenic ingredients used in non-prepacked or loose foods that are sold or provided.”

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

Attempts to assess foodborne disease outbreak risk from organic food proven to be difficult
Researchers from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have tried to assess the foodborne disease outbreak risk related to organic food.  The scientists, reporting in the Journal of Food Protection, identified 18 outbreaks in the US between 1992 and 2014 which related to organic food products.  The outbreaks were associated with 779 illnesses, 258 hospitalisations and 3 deaths, with 56% occurring between 2010-2014. The authors state that this increase could be due to increased global production and consumption. They also report that 8 of the outbreaks were linked to produce items, four to unpasteurised dairy products, two to eggs, two to nuts and seed products and two to multi-ingredient products.  However they report that whilst they found 18 outbreaks, this number may not be a true reflection.  Before 2000, the term organic had no official definition, so foods deemed organic before 2000, may be different from now. “Some additional outbreaks could have been from food that was organically grown but not listed as such in the outbreak report. So we cannot say for sure how many outbreaks were from conventionally grown foods.”  They continue by stating: “We are unable to assess risk of outbreaks due to organic foods compared with conventional foods because of foodborne outbreak surveillance.” Whilst the CDC have no plans to change the system, they report: “Consumers should be aware of the risk of milk and produce consumed raw, including organic,” they write. “Consumers should not assume organic foods to be more or less safe than foods produced by conventional methods. Proper handling, preparation, and storage of foods, regardless of production method, are necessary to prevent foodborne illness.” (Food Safety News)

Bagged salad may be the perfect breeding ground for Salmonella
University of Leicester scientists are reporting in Applied and Environmental Microbiology that bagged salad creates the perfect breeding ground for Salmonella bacteria due to its moist environment and nutrients, such as sugars, proteins and minerals leaching out from the chopped leaves. Freestone et al. showed that an initial contamination of 100 Salmonella bacteria would increase to 100,000 within five day due to salad juices, especially in bags, containing spinach, whilst E.coli preferred rocket leaves.  The team are reported by the BBC as saying “Don't be alarmed, we still eat bagged salad, but don't keep bagged salad any longer than you need to, we normally buy it on the day we eat it.  Buy the bag with the best sell-by date, avoid lots of mushed leaves and if it's inflated then don't use it."   The authors conclude by stating: “Collectively, this study shows that exposure to salad leaf juice may contribute to the persistence of Salmonella on salad leaves, and strongly emphasise the importance of ensuring the microbiological safety of fresh produce.”

Adolescent binge drinking is dangerous to the brain development of teenagers and their offspring
According to scientists at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, binge drinking during adolescence can not only affect brain functions of teenagers but future generations.  Offspring can be at risk from such conditions as depression, anxiety and metabolic disorders. Pak et al. who presented their findings at Neuroscience 2016, used an animal model and found that binge drinking changes multiple genes in the brains of offspring. When genes are turned on, they instruct cells to make proteins, which ultimately control physical and behavioural traits. The study found that in offspring whose mother had binge drunk, genes that normally are turned on were turned off, and vice versa. The scientists exposed rats to alcohol in amount comparable to six binge drinking episodes.  All rats were sober when they mated and females were sober during pregnancy.  Compared to the controls, the off-spring of the alcohol-exposed rats were found to have 159 molecular changes to DNA, 93 gene changes in the offspring of binge-drinking fathers and 244 gene changes in the offspring of mothers and fathers who both were exposed to binge drinking. (Science Daily)

Americans are misunderstanding the recommendations for vitamin D
According to an article in New England Journal of Medicine, doctors are warning that people are misunderstanding the recommended amounts of vitamin D.  They report that there has been a misinterpretation of blood tests, with too many people requesting needless testing and too many taking vitamin supplements (from 5% of Americans in 1999to 19% in 2012).  The study reports that less than 6% of Americans, aged between 1 and 70, are deficient in vitamin D and only 13% are in danger of not getting sufficient quantities.  They report that blood tests are only required if a person is suspected to have bone loss for example.   The researchers are blaming reports that suggest that too little of the vitamin can cause harm.  Excessive vitamin D intake can cause high levels of calcium in the blood, leading to nausea, constipation, kidney stones, an abnormal heart rhythm and other problems. Dr Manson of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, one of the researchers, states: “We're not saying that moderate-dose supplements are risky, but more is not necessarily better.” (Washington Post)

RSSL provides vitamin analysis in a wide range of matrices including drinks, fortified foods, pre-mixes and multi-vitamin tablets, including the analysis for vitamin D2 and vitamin D3.  For more information please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com

Toddler milk needs more regulatory oversight
According to researchers from Emory University, liquid-based nutritional supplements such as toddler milk, originally formulated for malnourished or undernourished children, needs more regulatory oversight, as they are increasingly marketed to promote growth in children generally.  Lampl et al. report in the journal Healthcare that toddler milk supplements, which can contain as much as 240 calories per serving, “may be fuelling unnecessary weight gain in young children in the midst of a global obesity epidemic”.   The scientists note that toddler milk falls into a less rigorous FDA category, as it neither falls under a drug or a conventional food.  They note that the WHO is set to consider recommendations concerning calorie amounts and ingredients for liquid-based nutritional supplements marketed to toddlers and older children during a meeting in early December. However it will be up to individual governments whether they decide to adopt and enforce them.

30,000 chicken culled after bird flu outbreak in Germany
Thirty thousand chickens have been culled in Germany after bird flu was detected.  The H5N8 strain of the virus can easily spread among birds however humans are not at risk.  Authorities are reporting that the flock of chickens were culled in the German state of Schlesweg-Holstein, as a precaution, to try and contain the H5N8 strain.  New protective measures have been put in place including ordering special protective clothes to be worn in stalls and the complete cleaning and disinfection of all vehicles used to transport poultry.  (Independent Ireland)

Outbreaks of Avian Flu in Europe
New outbreaks of avian influenza have been reported among wild birds and poultry across Europe since the end of October 2016. The highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N8 virus has been identified in Hungary, Poland, Croatia, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, and the Netherlands.  EFSA experts are supporting Member States in their data collection activities aimed at identifying how the virus enters poultry farms and the risks posed by wild birds. This information will help EFSA to re-assess the risk of introduction of avian influenza into the EU based on new scientific knowledge. The updated scientific advice will be published in 2017.  The European Commission has called on Member States to be vigilant and to reduce the risk of further outbreaks by taking measures such as increasing biosecurity levels in poultry holdings and backyard flocks. (EFSA)

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