12 January - 20 June 2016

Food safety

  • Could plastic in the ocean be harmful to human health?
  • France to investigate food additive E171
  • JRC publishes report on tests for metals leaching to food from ceramics
  • EFSA’s new one-click tool for information on chemical hazards
  • EU funded project for nanotechnology-based antimicrobial packaging
  • Fake branded products being sold in China
  • CDC report Alaskan Wild Salmon may be infected with Japanese Tapeworm
  • Seafood mislabelling common across Los Angeles study finds
  • PHE publish Annual Data of Campylobacter Infections 2006-2015

Could plastic in the ocean be harmful to human health?
The Prince of Wales is backing the Sky Ocean Rescue campaign, which hopes to raise awareness about the build-up of plastic waste in the ocean and the effect it is having on the environment.  It also questions what effects it has on our health, stating that “we are eating the plastic we’re dumping in the sea” and continues by saying “Scientists can’t say how dangerous the plastic is to human health, but it’s clear the effect on wildlife is devastating.” The campaign notes that one study has indicated that there were “almost 15 trillion pieces of micro-plastic in the ocean.”  These pieces may be indistinguishable from normal food, so fish may be consuming them, which means they are now entering the food chain.  The campaign is calling for a “need to reduce the amount of single use plastic we use – thing like cotton buds, straws, coffee stirrers and cutlery.”  (Sky News)

France to investigate food additive E171
According to Reuters, France is to investigate the additive E171 after a study published in Nature, Scientific Reports found that when rats were given the additive in their drinking water, 40% of the animals exposed developed “preneoplastic lesions” or precancerous growth. The study did conclude that whilst their results showed a role initiating and promoting early stages of colorectal cancer formation, no conclusion could be drawn about the later phases of the disease or dangers to humans.  Anses, France’s food health and safety agency has been instructed to investigate the additive and whether it poses a risk to human health, with findings being delivered by the end of March.  Last year the EFSA completed a re-evaluation of the E171 additive in food, concluding that available data did not indicate health concerns.

JRC publishes report on tests for metals leaching to food from ceramics
The European Commission’s Joint Research Council (JRC) has recently published a report on its investigations into techniques for measuring the leaching of metals from ceramics into food. The report, one of several studies the JRC is conducting to support revisions of the 1984 Ceramics Directive, indicates that EFSA research has recently caused the European Commission to look again at the limits for lead and cadmium leaching in to food and so JRC considered that “testing also needs to be updated”. The report used 73 pieces of ceramic tableware to investigate the most appropriate ways to measure metal migration in to food or food simulants. Using migration of metals to tomato sauce as a benchmark food, 3 methods were investigated, namely: using 4% acetic acid at 22°C for 24 hours; using 0.5% citric acid at 70°C for 2 hours; 4% acetic acid at 22°C for 24 hours after conditioning with 10% acetic acid at 22°C for 5 hours. The first two methods being repeated three times to represent repeated tableware use while the final ‘accelerated’ method was used in a single migration test. The study found that metal leaching to citric acid was higher than to acetic acid, both of which were higher than the amounts of metal leaching into tomato sauce. It indicates that leaching in to acetic acid more closely resembled that in to the tomato sauce. The report indicates that the conditioning step caused higher levels of migration than the third test with 4% acetic acid. The report notes that as little differences were found when a lag between tests was introduced, it considers that “a repeat use testing is adequate regardless of the frequency of use of tableware articles”. The study found that aluminium, iron, zinc, cobalt, lithium, barium, manganese, vanadium, antimony, titanium, chromium, nickel, copper and arsenic also leached from the ceramics. (Chemical Watch)

RSSL can analyse for a wide range of concentrations of iron including haem iron and other metals in foods, drinks and dietary supplements. For more information please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com

EFSA’s new one-click tool for information on chemical hazards
EFSA has released an OpenFoodTox database that provides access to over 1,650 EFSA scientific outputs about the toxicity of chemicals found in the food and feed chain. OpenFoodTox provides summarised toxicological information used by EFSA in its risk assessments since 2002. According to an editorial OpenFoodTox provides options to search data for each substance using chemical descriptors and generate an individual summary datasheet (PDF/Excel) using an online MicroStrategy tool for each of the following:

  • Chemical characterisation (e.g. name, formula, CAS and EU numbers, IUPAC, SMILE, etc.);
  • EFSA outputs (Scientific opinions, Statement or Conclusions) and background regulations. The corresponding bibliographic details, digital object identifiers and links are provided;
  • Critical toxicological study including study design (length of study, species, type), reference point for human health, animal health or ecological endpoints;
  • Conclusions on the mutagenicity/genotoxicity of the substance;
  • Reference values and uncertainty factors applied for the derivation of health-based guidance values for humans (e.g. ADI, TDI) and environmental standards (e.g. NOECs or predicted NOECs).

EU funded project for nanotechnology-based antimicrobial packaging
The international NanoPack consortium have been awarded €7.7 million by the European Union (EU) to develop a solution for extending the shelf life of food by using a food-packaging product with antimicrobial surfaces based upon natural materials.  The three year project aims to help enhance food safety for consumers, preventing food borne illness, and also will help reduce the amount of food wasted each year, estimated to be around 1.3 billion tonnes a year. The project will use nanotechnology, employing polymer composites capable of tailored release of bioactive payloads into the packaging headspace.   They will slowly release EU approved essential oils which have been found to have both antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties and can be tailored to inhibit growth of most food-borne microbes. (Nanowerk)

Fake branded products being sold in China
The Chinese Newspaper, The Beijing News, is reporting on another food scandal in China, where recycled spices and industrial salt are being used to make fake-branded sauces and flavouring.  The newspaper investigation reports that the products are being sold across the country under well-known local and international brand names.  Fake products are being produced in the Chinese district Tianjin.  According to the report the recycled spices are produced by buying used spices and herbs such as star anise, pepper and fennel from melon-seed processing factories. The counterfeit products use the same packaging as the branded products and have used the same QR barcodes as the branded food so they can be passed off as the real product. (South China Morning Post)

RSSL's Emergency Response Service (ERS) helps customers deal with a wide range of product emergencies and offers advice on crisis management. It operates 24 hours a day and 365 days a year.  To request an ERS presentation or find out more please contact Customer Services telephone 0118 918 4076 or e-mail enquiries@rssl.com

CDC report Alaskan Wild Salmon may be infected with Japanese Tapeworm
A US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study has indicated that Alaskan wild salmon may be infected with Japanese Tapeworm, a parasite thought to only infect fish in Asia.  The scientists, reporting in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, have found tapeworm larvae in four Pacific salmon species, chum, masu, pink and sockeye.  Because Pacific salmon are frequently exported unfrozen, on ice, plerocercoids may survive transport and cause human infections in areas where they are not endemic, such as China, Europe, New Zealand, and middle and eastern United States. The researchers note that the risk of becoming infected with the Japanese tapeworm parasite is most prevalent when consuming raw or undercooked fish however the parasite can be destroyed when fish is adequately cooked or frozen.

Seafood mislabelling common across Los Angeles study finds
A study conducted by researchers from the US National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), UCLA and UC Santa Cruz between 2012 and 2015 has found that high incidence of seafood mislabelling at restaurants and stores in Los Angeles. The study, recently published in Conservation Biology, used DNA barcoding (a method which uses a short genetic marker in an organism’s DNA to identify it as belonging to a particular species) to identify the amount of mislabelling across the city. The study notes that seafood mislabelling is common in “domestic and international markets” and indicates that previous studies have shown this but these have typically been limited to a single sample year, thus making it “difficult to assess the impact of stricter governmental truth-in-labelling regulations.” Cheng et al. found over the period of the study, that all the restaurants sampled served at least one mislabelled fish and that, apart for Bluefin tuna, all fish types were mislabelled at least once. Results showed that Sushi restaurants sampled had a high incidence (47%) of mislabelling with halibut, red snapper, yellowfin tuna, and yellowtail being consistently mislabelled. Rates of mislabelling salmon and mackerel were typically much lower. Cheng et al note that sushi-grade fish from “high-end grocers” were also regularly mislabelled but at a slightly lower rate (42%) than the restaurants showed. Samantha Cheng is quoted in a press release as saying that “Time and again, we found one variety of even an entirely different species to be labelled as another more commonly known or popular fish.” In conclusion the study indicates that seafood mislabelling continues to be “prevalent” despite more regulation and media attention. (NCEAS)

RSSL can provide definitive identification of a large number of fish species in raw and processed foods using the latest DNA-based analytical techniques.  For more information please contact Customer Services telephone 0118 918 4076 or e-mail enquiries@rssl.com

PHE publish Annual Data of Campylobacter Infections 2006-2015
Public Health England (PHE) has reported that cases of Campylobacter in England and Wales fell in 2015 from 62,494 in 2014 to 55,697 in 2015.  Key points from the Annual Data of Campylobacter Infections in England and Wales from 2006 to 2015 report found that for 2015:

  • the region that reported the highest number of Campylobacter cases was the South East with 9,489
  • 54% of Campylobacter cases were male
  • the 50-59 year age group had the highest number of cases 
  • the peak month for Campylobacter reporting in 2015 was June
  • in the Second Study of Infectious Intestinal Disease in the Community (IID2 Study), it was estimated that for every one case of Campylobacter identified in national surveillance, there were 9.3 cases in the community (95% confidence interval of 6.0-14.4 cases)
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