12 January - 20 June 2016

Food safety

  • Food safety guidance in popular cookbooks is lacking
  • Human waste clogs machines at processing plant
  • EFSA will provide scientific advice on the intake of sugar added to food
  • Summary of latest FSA board meeting – including allergen research programme
  • EFSA – Linking exposure to pesticides and health effects
  • Food Standards Scotland to raise awareness of food fraud using countrywide roadshows
  • New method for detecting salmonella in pork meat twice as fast as current method
  • Mixing caffeinated energy drinks with alcohol increases risk of injury 
  • Immune response of farmed chickens does not develop fast enough to fight off Campylobacter
  • Are tree nut allergies being over diagnosed?

Food safety guidance in popular cookbooks is lacking
A study published in British Food Journal and cited by the Daily Mail in an article called “Could your cook book kill you?” has evaluated the communication of food safety guidance, specifically safe endpoint temperatures and cross-contamination risk reduction practices, in popular cookbook recipes. The research analysed recipes that used raw animal ingredients published in 29 popular cookbooks for content which related to “safe endpoint temperature recommendations and reducing cross-contamination risks.”  Chapman et al. reviewed 1497 recipes and of these only 123 mentioned cooking the dish to a specific temperature, and not all the temperatures listed were high enough (89 gave a correct temperature).  Dr Chapman is quoted in the Daily Mail as saying: “'In other words, very few recipes provided relevant food-safety information, and 34 of those 123 recipes gave readers information that wasn't safe.”  The study found that the majority of the recipes (99.7%) used “subjective indicators” to show when a food was cooked, however the authors suggest that none of these indicators were reliable enough to tell if the dish had reached a safe temperature.

Human waste clogs machines at processing plant
Police in Northern Ireland have been asked to investigate how human waste got in to a consignment of Coca-Cola at the Helllenic Bottling Company factory in Lisburn, Co Antrim. Processing was suspended at the plant after machines became clogged with human faeces and the company said all affected cans had been impounded and no products on sale had been contaminated. A PSNI spokesman is quoted by the Guardian as saying that “Detectives are investigating an incident at commercial premises in the Lisburn area following reports that a consignment of containers delivered to the premises had been contaminated. The investigation is at an early stage and there are no further details available at this time”. Coca-Cola indicated to the Belfast Telegraph that “The problem was identified immediately through our robust quality procedures and all of the product from the affected production was immediately impounded and will not be sold. This is an isolated incident and does not affect any products currently on sale”. (Guardian)

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, 365 days a year, providing access to scientists who can help identify the problem and provide solutions.  For more information please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com

Are tree nut allergies being over diagnosed?
Research by the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology and published in Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, has indicated that being diagnosed with one tree nut allergy may not mean that a person needs to avoid all tree nuts. Over the last 10 years food allergy to tree nuts has tripled.  Tree nuts include hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, cashews and pistachios, but not peanuts as these are legumes. However people with peanut allergy are often screened for tree nut allergy as they both share “certain cross-reactive IgE binding epitopes.”  Diagnosis of tree nut reaction is usually carried out using skin prick testing and serum-specific IgE to help confirm an IgE-mediated food allergy.   The study by Couch et al. investigated the relationship between tree nut sensitisation and oral food challenge outcome.  The scientists identified 109 people with a known tree allergy to an individual nut.  Using blood or skin prick tests the participants were tested for other tree nuts they had never eaten before.  Whilst the participants showed sensitivity to the additional nuts tests, over 50% of those tests had no reaction in an oral food challenges (where tiny amounts of food is increased over time).  Dr Matthew Greenhawt, one of the researchers state “We found even a large-size skin test or evaluated blood allergy test is not enough by itself to accurately diagnose a tree nut allergy if the person has never eaten that nut.  Tree nut allergy should only be diagnosed if there is both a positive test and a history of developing symptoms after eating that tree nut.” (Science Daily)

RSSL carries out allergen testing using immunological, DNA and distillation techniques, depending on the allergen to be detected. Detection limits are in the range 1- 100 mg allergen/kg of sample for almond, Brazil nut, macadamia nut, peanut, walnut, hazelnut, cashew nut, pistachio nut, pecan nut, pine nut and chestnut.  Celery, celeriac, black mustard, lupin  and kiwi allergens can be detected by DNA methods, as can crustacean, fish and mollusc allergens.  The laboratory also uses a range of UKAS accredited immunological procedures for the detection of allergens including gluten, peanut, hazelnut, almonds, soya, egg, milk, sesame and histamine.  Distillation and titration methods are used for the determination of sulphur dioxide and sulphites.  For more information please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com

EFSA will provide scientific advice on the intake of sugar added to food
EFSA will provide scientific advice on the daily intake of added sugar in food by early 2020. The Authority aims to establish a science-based cut-off value for daily exposure to added sugars from all sources which is not associated with adverse health effects. The work will be carried out following a request from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

Summary of latest FSA board meeting – including allergen research programme
The Food Standards Agency have published a video of their recent board meeting, which included discussion on regulating our future, Stow Project Phase 2 – Sustainable Funding Model, food allergy and intolerance programme and dietary health update.  In update on the Regulating Our Future programme, the FSA state that the programme is modernising the regulatory system, to respond to changes in the global food system, to be more risk-led, and to achieve better outcomes for consumers. Regarding allergens, the board considered a paper on the FSA’s allergy research programme, noting that allergens needed more attention and understanding and this should be developed collaboratively with researchers, specialist charities, consumer groups and health professionals. The Board agreed that this research would help them to decide future science and policy priorities, and whether these should adjust towards allergy.  The Board also discussed the progress that had been made to date by the Steering Group on Meat Charging and thanked Bill Stow for his work to develop a more sustainable and equitable charging regime and input from the meat industry to this Group. They reported that future subsidy of the meat industry should not be a policy or an administrative decision for the FSA. (FSA)

EFSA – Linking exposure to pesticides and health effects
EFSA have been exploring how results on epidemiological studies linking exposure to pesticides and health effects can be integrated into pesticide risk assessments.  EFSA’s Panel on Plant Products and their Residues have tested a method that could enable risk assessors to establish a biological cause-and-effect link between exposure to chemicals such as pesticides and ill health. Dr. Susanne Hougaard Bennekou, chair of the working group that developed the method, and Dr. Andrea Terron, an EFSA staff scientist specialising in pesticides, used a prototype of the framework, known as the adverse outcome pathway (AOP), which was designed for Parkinson’s disease and infant leukaemia, two disease which have shown consistent association with pesticide exposure.  They plotted a sequence of events – and event relationships – using different chemicals including pesticides.  They found that “the overall weight of evidence from the AOPs for both Parkinson’s disease and infant leukaemia showed a strong link between the initial interaction – known as the molecular initiating event or MIE – and the adverse outcome.” In response to whether a link between exposure to chemicals and these two diseases have been established they state “The framework allows us to assess the plausibility of an association with a chemical. It does not show that a chemical causes a disease”

Food Standards Scotland to raise awareness of food fraud using countrywide roadshows
Food Standards Scotland have announced the launch of roadshows to raise awareness of the different types of food fraud, the potential seriousness of food fraud and how to report it.  It is estimated that food fraud costs the UK economy around £1.2bn each year.  The roadshows, which will be held around the country at the end of March, will be attended by a team of experts from the Scottish Food Crime Unit, who will provide information on food fraud, answer questions and highlight real-life examples of the most common types of activity. FSS report that foods which can be targeted include the substitution of almond powder for peanut powder, illegal shellfish harvesting, rice, honey, alcohol, olive oil, oregano, turmeric as well as the transportation of food in unsafe or unhygienic conditions.

New method for detecting salmonella in pork meat twice as fast as current method
Researchers from the National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark have developed a method that halves the time it takes slaughterhouses to test for disease-causing salmonella in pork meat.  Currently testing methods take around 10 hours to provide results, however the new method can be completed in less than five hours, enabling meat to be sent to market faster which in turn reduces the slaughterhouses’ operating costs for meat chillers and extends the shelf life of the meat in the distribution chain. The patented test method, for screening of Salmonella in samples from fresh pork meat consisting of a 3-h enrichment in standard buffered peptone water, and a real-time PCR compatible sample preparation method, based on filtration, centrifugation, and enzymatic digestion, followed by fast cycling real-time PCR detection, is published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

Mixing caffeinated energy drinks with alcohol increases risk of injury – Review
According to a review published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, people who mix highly caffeinated energy drinks with their alcoholic beverages may be at increased risk for injury.  The researchers analysed findings from 13 studies that focused on alcohol and energy drinks, published from 1981 to 2016.  Ten studies discovered a link between the use of alcohol mixed with energy drinks and an increased risk of injury (unintentional and intentional) compared to drinking alcohol only. Lead author Audra Roemer states “The stimulant effects of caffeine mask the result that most people get when

Immune response of farmed chickens does not develop fast enough to fight off Campylobacter
The immune response of farmed chickens does not develop fast enough to fight off Campylobacter during their short lifespan are the findings of a study published in Scientific Reports by University of Liverpool researchers.  The study, which examine immunity to Campylobaccter jejuni in chickens, showed that antibody production plays a role, albeit limited, in the clearance of intestinal infection. However, it fails to clear the bacterium within the lifetime of a commercial broiler chicken, which is usually around six weeks of age. They found that an antibody-associated drop in bacteria levels only became apparent after seven weeks and suggest that the adaptive immune response in the gut only begins to mature at six weeks of age. Professor Wigley states: “Vaccines that focus on a cell-mediated immune response, or alternatively some way of speeding up the production of antibodies in broiler chickens, may offer more promising routes to controlling Campylobacter, and ultimately reducing the amount of contaminated chicken in our supermarkets."

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