12 January - 20 June 2016

Food safety

  • Increases in travel-related cases of cycloporiasis – UK
  • Critical issues relating to food allergies - report
  • Reducing risk of people getting sick from contaminated meat and poultry
  • People with food allergies and intolerance more confident about eating out since EU FIC
  • Police arrest group responsible for trading horsemeat unfit for human consumption
  • Origins of isolated BSE cases investigated
  • EFSA public consultation on Listeria in ready to eat foods
  • EFSA public consultation on draft opinion on the evaluation of the genotoxicity of substances in food and feed safety assessments

Increases in travel-related cases of cycloporiasis – UK
European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting that in the UK there has been an increase of travel-related cases of cyclosporiasis since the beginning of May 2017. From the beginning of the year to 19 July, 58 cases were reported. Information on travel history is known for 38 patients: 23 travelled to Mexico, 10 travelled to a range of other overseas destinations, and five did not travel abroad. This is the third successive year that the UK has observed increases in cyclosporiasis around May and June.

Critical issues relating to food allergies - report
Many people misunderstand what food allergies are and even doctors can be confused about how to best diagnose them, suggests a new report.  The report published in the journal Pediatrics by an ad hoc committee set up by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine summarises the key findings from the committee report “Finding a Path to Safety in Food Allergy: Assessment of the Global Burden, Causes, Prevention, Management, and Public Policy” and emphasises recommendations for actions that are applicable to paediatricians and to the American Academy of Pediatrics. When discussing diagnosis, the report discusses how in one study of primary care doctors 38% mistakenly said that skin-prick tests or blood tests are enough to definitively diagnose a food allergy. However, the authors note that people can test positive for certain allergy triggers in these test, but not have the symptoms when exposed to the allergen.  The report indicates that food challenge testing is the gold standard test where small amounts of a food are given to a patient over time to see if a reaction occurs although the authors suggest that this test is unnecessary if a patient has had a clear history of symptoms related to the suspect foods. The report also calls for more education on prevention such as the delaying of the introduction of certain foods (peanuts, eggs and dairy) in the diet.  The authors note that latest guidelines indicate that babies at increased risk of peanut allergies should be given peanut-containing foods as early as 4 months of age as exposure may allow the immune system to build up a tolerance. The report also discusses how common food allergies are, noting that some people self-report and it not clear how reliable figures are although it suggests that, based on recent research, it could be that between 2% to almost 10% of U.S. adults—and up to 8% of children—may have a food allergy.

Allergen Management 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.

Reducing risk of people getting sick from contaminated meat and poultry
A US report by PEW Charitable Trust, entitled “Food Safety from Farm to Fork” has suggested “Wider use of evidence-based food safety interventions on farms and feedlots would significantly reduce the risk of people getting sick from contaminated meat and poultry.”  The report investigates whether investing in strategies that control Salmonella, E.coli and other pathogens in and around animals could significantly reduce the risk that bacteria harmful to humans will infect food animals. It notes that a “variety of pre-harvest interventions—from ensuring that water and feed are clean to administering vaccines and other preventive treatments” could be used.  PEW’s report also discusses successful pre-harvest interventions already used by some producers in the U.S. and makes a number of recommendations including that regulatory agencies should provide incentives for implementing strategies, and government agencies should fund research.  Karin Hoelzer, a veterinarian with PEW’s safe food project is quoted in a press release as saying: “Collaboration among producers, researchers, and regulators is critical to ensure food safety hazards are minimized before the animals ever reach slaughter.”

People with food allergies and intolerance more confident about eating out since EU FIC
Findings from research commissioned by the Food Standards Agency and carried out by the University of Bath, has found that people with food allergies and intolerances are more confident about eating out since allergen information rules were introduced in 2014.  The survey investigated consumer preference when eating out, both before and after the implementation of the EU FIC, and found that post legislation:

  • 70% of food allergic and intolerant consumers feel more confident in asking staff for allergen information
  • 56% of food allergic and intolerant consumers value staff more as a source of information
  • 44% of food allergic and intolerant consumers are more ‘adventurous’ about eating out
  • 67% feel allergen information on food business websites is dependable
  • 63% say talking to the chef about their allergen needs can be relied on
  • 35% report an improvement in allergen information in the menu.

Food allergic and intolerant customers also said that improved confidence in allergen information led them to eating out more frequently and that they were more likely to return to and recommend venues with staff that were helpful and attentive about their allergen needs.

Allergen Management 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.

Police arrest group responsible for trading horsemeat unfit for human consumption
According to a Europol press release, police have dismantled the crime group responsible for trading horsemeat unfit for human consumption.  A scam was detected in the summer of 2016, whereby horses from northern Spain and Portugal, that were too old or in bad shape for human consumption were being slaughtered in two different slaughterhouses.    The meat was then sent to Belgium where it was being distributed, using modified microchips and documentation. The Guardia Civil was able to locate the Dutch businessman related to the horse meat incident in 2013, in Calpe, Alicante.  Using this lead the criminal group was investigated and this has led to 65 people being arrested in Spain and charged with crimes such as animal abuse, document forgery, perverting the course of justice, crimes against public health, money laundering and being part of a criminal organisation.

Origins of isolated BSE cases investigated
Since the BSE EU ban in 2001, which banned the use of animal protein in animal feed, the EFSA has stated there has been sixty reported cases of classical BSE.  It notes however that none of these animals entered the food chain.  Classical BSE is the type of BSE transmissible to humans.  The Commission asked EFSA to determine if these cases were caused by contaminated feed or whether they occurred spontaneously, i.e. without an apparent cause. The EFSA scientists concluded that the cases were probably due to contaminated feed because the BSE infectious agent was present where feed was stored or handled.

EFSA public consultation on Listeria in ready to eat foods
EFSA has opened a public consultation on its scientific opinion looking at Listeria monocytogenes contamination of ready-to-eat (RTE) foods and related risks for human health in the European Union. The draft scientific opinion summarises and critically evaluates the most recent information on L. monocytogenes in RTE foods, and evaluates the factors related to the contamination in the food chain and the consumption patterns that may contribute to the reported trend of listeriosis incidence in the EU.

EFSA public consultation on draft opinion on the evaluation of the genotoxicity of substances in food and feed safety assessments
EFSA has launched a public consultation on a draft opinion on the evaluation of the genotoxicity of substances in food and feed safety assessments. The draft opinion, developed by its Scientific Committee, provides recommendations on the adequacy of specific tests to establish the genotoxic potential of substances. The Scientific Committee also provides advice on the use of data in a weight-of-evidence approach to conclude on genotoxic potential and the consequent setting of health-based guidance values for use in human health risk assessment.  Interested parties are invited to submit their written comments by 6 September 2017.

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