12 January - 20 June 2016

Food safety

  • FSA considers approach to chemical contaminants at recent FSA board meeting
  • Steaming fish can reduce more cyanotoxins than boiling it
  • Food from Fukushima region in Japan contaminated by low-level radioactivity
  • Call for submissions on mandatory labelling of lupin in Australia and New Zealand
  • EU and China partnership project aims to improve food safety and fight food fraud
  • FSA launches Safe Summer Food guide
  • Safe levels of nitrates and nitrites added to food – EFSA
  • Public consultation on the use of microorganisms as feed additives or production organisms
  • Baby food sold in US contains lead according the US environmental groups analysis

FSA considers approach to chemical contaminants at recent FSA board meeting
The Food Standards Agency has published its summary of the recent FSA Board meeting.  The board discussed the management of chemical contaminants; the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015; and developing the FSA’s approach to identifying risks and issues across the food system. In considering the approach to managing chemical contaminant risks in food, it noted “the need to work with the science institutes, food industry and consumers as well as sharing associated data with others in this ever-changing field.” A report by Steve Wearne, Director of Policy, outlined what chemical contaminants are and the main risks they pose to the consumer and trade in food. The Board agreed to return to this issue in due course, when it could take into account the outputs of other work, including that of the FSA’s Science Council. The Board discussed the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act, which has been introduced in Wales by the Welsh Government to improve social, economic, environmental and cultural wellbeing. The Board heard about the Agency’s plans to integrate this approach into its open policy making as well as considering its impact on the department as an employer.  Lastly the Board discussed how to shape the Agency’s developing approach to identifying risks and issues across the food system and noted the central role the FSA Science Council will have in providing strategic, expert, insight in this area.  The Science Council was already considering three key inputs: horizon scanning and foresight in relation to food safety for UK consumers; good practice in establishing risk and certainty; and the future science capacity and capability the FSA needed to deliver its remit.

RSSL specialise in resolving chemical contaminant issues, using a range of chemical analysis and technical expertise to identify both the contaminant and its root cause.  For more information please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com

Steaming fish can reduce more cyanotoxins than boiling it
Researchers from the University of Seville are reporting in Food Control that steaming fish for more than two minutes can reduce the amount of cylindrospermopsin, a cyanotoxin, by up to 26%.  Boiling fish reduces the levels by 18%.  In a press release  the researchers state “Cyanotoxins are produced by a group of bacteria called cyanobacteria, which are mainly found in freshwater. They are emerging toxins, which currently need to be tested to evaluate the risks that their presence in water and food might cause for humans and for the environment." Previous research has shown that cyanotoxin, which is increasingly more common globally, can affect organs like the liver, kidneys, heart, intestines, lungs and brain, amongst others, in animals. In humans, the effects of ingestion includes hepatoenteritis, headaches, diarrhoea, dehydration, and kidney damage, amongst others.

Food from Fukushima region in Japan contaminated by low-level radioactivity
Scientists are reporting in the Science of the Total Environment that whilst food in Japan will be contaminated by low-level radioactivity for decades following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, it is not at a level which poses a serious risk to human health. Using legacy data, spanning 50 years on radioactive pollution in the environment, the scientists predicted the effect of the Japanese disaster. Scientists from the University of Portsmouth and Japanese Institute of Radiological Science, found that in the region, radiation in the average diet is very low, apart from in mushrooms and game animals where contamination remains high.  Professor Smith from the University of Portsmouth states in press release "From 1959-2009, thousands of measurements were made of radiocaesium in nuclear fallout, wheat, rice and in people's average diet in Japan. This unique historical data has allowed us to evaluate radiocaesium levels in Japanese agricultural systems, which can be used to inform predictions of the long-term consequences of food chain contamination post-Fukushima. The results show that radioactivity will continue to be found in foodstuffs for many decades, but that current levels are low and will continue to decline over time."

Call for submissions on mandatory labelling of lupin in Australia and New Zealand
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has called for submissions on a proposal to introduce mandatory declaration of lupin as an allergen. The FSANZ are proposing that lupin be declared as an allergen either on labels or via information accompanying or displayed with the food, if they are present. Sweet lupin crop has historically been used for animal feed or exported, however due to its high protein and fibre content, it is increasingly being used in food for people.  The closing date for submissions is 6pm AEST Thursday 28 July 2016.

RSSL’s fast-turnaround, reliable and comprehensive food allergen testing service will help you meet food labelling requirements, ensuring consumer safety and protecting your brands reputation. For more information please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com

EU and China partnership project aims to improve food safety and fight food fraud
The Institute for Global Food Security at Queen's University Belfast will be heading a major food safety project between Europe and China which aims to improve food safety and fight food fraud.  The program was awarded a £10 million grant from the European Horizon 2020 program and the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology program. The EU-China-Safe partnership will “help deliver safe and genuine food” and identify and investigate food fraud when it’s happening, enabling “us to improve food safety” for all citizens.  According to Food Safety Magazine, all parties, including government agencies, research organisations, and the food industry, will “focus on improving food legislation, food inspection, and increasing access to information across both continents. “

FSA launches Safe Summer Food guide
According the Food Standards Agency, a survey (Food and You) has found that nearly a quarter of people (23%) are concerned about picnic food hygiene. The survey also reports that people are putting themselves at risk due to

  • Leaving their food out for longer than the recommended two hours (11%)
  • Carrying food to picnics in containers such as plastic bags and picnic baskets (29%), rather than the recommended cool boxes
  • Putting picnic leftovers back in the fridge (27%) or using them for a meal the next day (23%), regardless of how long they have been left out

In response to these survey results the FSA has published a safe summer food guide, which includes tips on how to make sure food is safe.

Safe levels of nitrates and nitrites added to food – EFSA
According to the EFSA, “existing safe levels for nitrites and nitrates intentionally added to meat and other foods are sufficiently protective for consumers. “ EFSA reached these conclusions after re-evaluating their safety. They note that “consumer exposure to nitrites and nitrates as food additives is within safe levels for all population groups, except for a slight exceedance in children whose diet is high in foods containing these additives. However, if all dietary sources of nitrites and nitrates are considered, the safe levels (ADIs) may be exceeded for all age groups.” The current acceptable daily intake (ADI) for nitrates is 3.7 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day (mg/kg bw/day). The safe level for nitrites was re-established at 0.07 mg/kg bw/day, close to the slightly more conservative existing ADI of 0.06 mg/kg bw/day.

RSSL can determine nitrates in food products. For more information please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com

Public consultation on the use of microorganisms as feed additives or production organisms
EFSA are seeking views on its draft guidance document on the characterisation of microorganisms used as feed additives or as production organisms.  The document describes methodologies for investigating the possible presence of DNA of the microorganism used in the production process in the final product. Interested parties are requested to submit their comment by 15 September 2017.

Baby food sold in US contains lead according the US environmental groups analysis
A US environmental group is warning that baby food sold in the United States contains lead.  The Environmental Defense Fund  (EFS) study which analysed FDA data, reports that in 20% of baby food samples (2,164 baby food samples) compared to 14% in other foods (10,064 food samples tested) lead was detected.  Eight types of baby foods had detectable lead in more than 40% of samples. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state as lead is toxic, there is no safe level of it.  EDF came to these findings after analysing 11 years of data from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), from 2003 to 2013, as part of the agency’s Total Diet Study (TDS). Whilst they were not able to identify any study evaluating the relative contribution of various sources of lead in food, they report that the FDA appears to attribute the lead in food to contamination of soil. EDF state that “Both FDA and food manufacturers can and must do better to reduce lead in food, especially baby food.”

RSSL can determine lead concentrations. For more information please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com

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