12 January - 20 June 2016

Food safety

  • New comprehensive food scare classification system developed
  • BPS affects maternal behaviour in mice study suggests
  • Study planned for investigation in to how industry copes with food fraud
  • New US guidelines on introducing peanut-containing foods to infants published
  • New Gluten Free Industry Association
  • Food poisoning cases linked to raw milk sales
  • Providing small bags for raw chicken at the checkout may reduce spread of bacteria
  • EFSA seek views on its draft Guidance on dermal absorption of chemical plant protection products (PPPs)
  • EFSA and ECHA outline Guidance plans on how to identify substances with endocrine disrupting properties
  • Latest on avian flu outbreak – actions to reduce the risks – Defra

New comprehensive food scare classification system developed
A study recently published in the British Food Journal by researchers from the University of Surrey has, in collaboration with industry experts, developed a new comprehensive classification for food scares. The scientists discovered that while a number of classification systems for food scares were in existence, a single comprehensive system did not exist that was capable of recording cross-categorisation and of taking into account both the physical problem of a food scare and also the mechanisms by which it arises. The researchers collaborated with industry experts via workshops and interviews to develop the new classification in Venn diagram form thus allowing for overlapping categories. The scheme is organised around two major contamination types, biological and chemical/physical and two major contamination causes, namely wilful deception and transparency/awareness issues. The study found the term “food scare” to be inadequate as some incidents may not be harmful to humans but can create a lack of trust in the food chain, the 2013 horse meat scandal being an example. The study also therefore created a new definition of “food scare”: A food scare is the response to a food incident (real or perceived) that causes a sudden disruption to the food supply chain and to food consumption patterns. Professor Angela Druckman, co-author of the study, is quoted in a press release as saying that “With food scares becoming more frequent, it is important that we have a categorisation system which enables efficient development of strategies to tackle such compromises to our food supply.” Druckman’s colleague, Dr Elizabeth Whitworth, added that “The salient feature of the new categorisation is that it distinguishes between scares caused by wilful deception, and those that are caused by transparency and awareness issues.” (Science Daily)

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BPS affects maternal behaviour in mice study suggests
A study by researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and published in Endocrinology suggests that bisphenol S (BPS), a replacement chemical for BPA, may cause changes in maternal behaviour in mice. Previous studies have shown that while exposure to BPS in humans is low, its use has increased over the past decade and some evidence suggests it is an endocrine disruptor, like BPA. For the current study, scientists used three groups of pregnant mice to which they gave no BPS or one of two low doses of BPS during pregnancy and lactation. Various aspects of maternal behaviour, including nest-building and pup care, were monitored. Some female offspring from the litters were mated with non BPS exposed males and their maternal behaviour also monitored. The researchers found that mothers and daughters given the higher dose spent significantly more time on the nest at one particular point when compared to the control. The authors note that mothers typically spend less time on the nest as pups grow and suggest that the BPS exposure may have cause a lack of adjustment to the growing pups needs. According to the authors, the additional time spent nest-building may indicate an OCD-like behaviour. The study also notes an increase in infanticide amongst mother exposed to the lower dose of BPS. While this was not seen at the higher dose, 10% of those exposed to the lower dose either killed their offspring or provided such poor care that the pups needed to be destroyed. The authors note that “while not statistically significant, the neglect and poor maternal care we observed were striking.” In conclusion, the authors Laura Vandenberg and Mary Catanese reiterate that their finding suggesting that "BPS affects maternal behaviour as well as maternally relevant neural correlates" and state that the impairment following exposure had “differing effects based on dose, postpartum period and generational timing of exposure”.  (Science Daily)

Study planned for investigation in to how industry copes with food fraud
A report recently published by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, “Counter Fraud Good Practice for Food and Drink Businesses” will form the basis for a study planned for later this year to investigate how the UK food industry can cope with fraud and hopes to provide an indication of how resilient companies are against food and drink fraud. Eoghan Daly, co-author of the report, said that the study will be a continuation of the work which resulted in the publication of the guide and will start with a survey and case studies of current practice. The study is intended to help meet some of the FSA’s National Food Crime Unit recommendations with a focus on prevention, evidence gathering and building business cases for tackling fraud. Daly is quoted as saying that “Food businesses do not have the evidence they need to gauge the impact of fraud. They need to change their approach and adopt good practice in counter fraud as a key element of day to day business, before profits are hit and they lose customers". The current guide suggests a number of recommendations including that businesses should be able to calculate the real costs of fraud and be conducting regular tests to ensure they are prepared to address any fraud incidents that occur. Daly added that “Fraudsters work hard to hide their activities, making the worst, and most costly, scams subtle and difficult to detect.  This means that the number of potential frauds is practically unlimited and once one type of fraud is successful other vulnerabilities may be exploited." (SecuringIndustry.com)

New US guidelines on introducing peanut-containing foods to infants published
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the US National Institutes of Health has just published clinical guidelines concerning the early introduction of peanut-containing foods to infants to prevent the development of peanut allergy. These guidelines have been prompted by data from clinical trials forming part of the NIAID-funded Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (LEAP) study which indicated that peanut allergy can be prevented by the early introduction of peanut-containing foods. The guidelines form a new addendum to supplement the 2010 Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Food Allergy in the United States and the addendum consist of three specific items for infants at various levels of risk. Addendum Guideline 1 concerns infants thought to be at high risk of developing peanut allergy due to already having severe eczema, egg allergy or both. The guidelines suggest that these infants have peanut-containing foods introduced into their diets as early as 4 to 6 months of age. Guideline 2 indicates that infants with mild or moderate eczema should have peanut-containing foods introduced into their diets around 6 months while guideline 3 suggests that infants without eczema or any food allergy have peanut-containing foods freely introduced into their diets. The addendum indicates that in all cases, infants should start other solid foods before being introduced to peanut-containing foods. NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci M.D. is quoted as saying that “Living with peanut allergy requires constant vigilance. Preventing the development of peanut allergy will improve and save lives and lower health care costs. We expect that widespread implementation of these guidelines by health care providers will prevent the development of peanut allergy in many susceptible children and ultimately reduce the prevalence of peanut allergy in the United States.” The BBC is quoting Michael Walker, a member of the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, as saying that “UK parents should consult their GP, bringing attention to the guidelines if necessary, before attempting peanut allergy prevention in their infant themselves”. Imperial College London’s Prof Alan Boobis is also quoted saying that “the previous view that delaying the introduction of allergenic foods decreases the risk of food allergy is incorrect” but advised that while advice in the UK is still under review, parents should follow the current NHS guidelines for now. (NIH)

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New Gluten Free Industry Association
In response to the significant growth of the market for gluten free products, the Food and Drink Federation are reporting that the Gluten Free Industry Association (GFIA) has been formed to support companies involved in the manufacture and trade of gluten free products.  GFIA priorities for 2017 will include the development of best practice guidelines on ingredient sourcing and gluten-testing methodology in order to deliver the highest quality of products to their consumers.

Allergen Services: RSSL provides 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

Food poisoning cases linked to raw milk sales
A Cumbrian farm that sells raw milk from a vending machine is being linked to 56 cases of food poisoning.  Traces of campylobacter have been found in six samples of unpasteurised milk.  Sales of raw milk from the vending machine at Low Sizergh Barn Farm in Kendal, which stood at around 70 litres a day, have been suspended and will not resume until three consecutive tests show no further contamination.  The farm is being investigated by Public Health England (PHE) and the Food Standards Agency (FSA). (BBC)

Providing small bags for raw chicken at the checkout may reduce spread of bacteria
According to the Daily Telegraph, the chairman of the Food Standards Agency, Heather Hancock, has indicated in an interview that the Food Standard Agency want consumers to be provided with disposable bags when purchasing raw chickens, with a reminder to use them at self-service checkouts.   This would help to stop the spread of bacteria that can be present on the outside of the packaging, from contaminating other foods in the consumer’s shopping basket.    The Daily Telegraph report that “fears are mounting that the spread of dangerous bugs including E-coli and campylobacter, is being made worse by the 5p plastic bag tax as people are less likely to pay for a bag to protect other food from raw meat.”   It notes that six months ago Ms Handcock wrote to supermarkets to check they were providing small bags for raw chicken.  The article quotes a spokesman for the BRC as saying “Our members are fully aware of the continued need to help their customers reduce cross contamination and, as they did prior to the introduction of the carrier bag charge, are taking a range of approaches to prevent contamination from uncooked meat based on what works for them and their customers."

EFSA seek views on its draft Guidance on dermal absorption of chemical plant protection products (PPPs)
EFSA has made available for public consultation its draft Guidance on dermal absorption of chemical plant protection products (PPPs). The Guidance, which updates the document published by EFSA in 2012, was drafted in the light of newly available human in vitro studies. The revised Guidance proposes new default values to be used in the absence of experimental data for the risk assessment of PPPs.

EFSA and ECHA outline Guidance plans on how to identify substances with endocrine disrupting properties
EFSA and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) have published an outline of the Guidance they are developing on how to identify substances with endocrine disrupting properties in pesticides and biocides. The outline includes a projected table of contents, as well as a plan of the drafting process, including timelines, responsibilities, consultations with relevant parties and an explanation of how the document will be endorsed.

Latest on avian flu outbreak – actions to reduce the risks – Defra
Defra have updated the latest situation on avian influenza (bird flu) and actions to reduce the risks.  The H5N8 strain of the disease has been confirmed at a poultry farm in Lincolnshire and restrictions are in place. The same strain has also been found in wild birds in England, Scotland and Wales.  Risks to public health are very low and avian flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers. Defra state “If you keep poultry – whether on a commercial scale or simply a small backyard flock – you are now required by law to keep them “housed” (under cover and kept separate from wild birds). We have banned gatherings of poultry across the UK.”

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