12 January - 20 June 2016

Food safety

  • ERC funding study into effects of foetal acrylamide exposure
  • Man develops cyanide poisoning after consuming apricot kernel extract
  • Most consumers believe they would not be able to identify fake food products
  • Public rate food contaminants as serious health threat
  • Prenatal Pesticide Exposure and Folic Acid Intake found to be related to ASD
  • Cheap test developed for detecting E.coli in drinking water
  • Study suggests food allergy diagnosis by oral food challenge is safe
  • Natural product produced by bees could be basis for new antibiotics
  • Mandatory display of food hygiene ratings in England
  • Update on Fipronil in eggs
  • FSA publish official statistics on food law enforcement by local authorities

ERC funding study into effects of foetal acrylamide exposure
The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded an "ERC Starting Grant" of 1.5 million EUR to Associate Professor Marie Pedersen from the Department of Public Health, University of Copenhagen, to research the relationship between foetal exposure to acrylamide and health effects in children and young people. Acrylamide is formed during heating of foods such as crisps, chips and toast amongst others. Pederson has previously studied the relationship between concentration of acrylamide-haemoglobin in umbilical cord blood and new-borns birth weight and head size. In this new study, Pedersen hopes to estimate acrylamide exposure in unborn babies and examine any relationship between this and a wide range of health effects and indicators in later life. Pedersen reports that she is "very happy to receive this grant from the European Research Foundation, because it enables us to better determine whether acrylamide from the diet contributes to unwanted health effects. So far we have mainly seen studies among adults based on questionnaire surveys surrounded by some uncertainty and research into the carcinogenic effects of acrylamide, but its other effects on humans have not been sufficiently clarified. No research has been done into late effects caused by exposure during the first, vulnerable stage of life characterised by the development of the organs and functions of the body". (University of Copenhagen)

RSSL is leading the way in helping the food industry reduce the amount of acrylamide in fried and baked products.  RSSL can help manufacturers reduce acrylamide by offering an analysis service that can determine where and when acrylamide is generated in the production process. Find out more about RSSL's Chemical Contamination Services and Emergency Response Service.  To find out more please contact Customer Services telephone 0118 918 4076 or e-mail enquiries@rssl.com

Man develops cyanide poisoning after consuming apricot kernel extract
Doctors have documented in BMJ Case Reports how a 67 year old developed cyanide poisoning after taking two teaspoons of home-made apricot kernel extract daily for the past five year and three tablets of Novodalin a herbal fruit kernel supplement.  Diagnosis was made after the patient suffered with low levels of oxygen in his body when he was under anaesthetic for routine surgery.  After blood tests, high levels of cyanide were discovered in this body.  The man was consuming around 17.32 milligrams of cyanide every day, raising blood cyanide levels to around 25 times above acceptable levels.

Most consumers believe they would not be able to identify fake food products
Research commissioned by NFU Mutual has discovered that "almost nine out of ten people in the UK do not trust foreign food chains. Only 12% of respondents had confidence in the European food supply chain and just 7% in global food suppliers." The research reports that three-quarters of consumers admitted they would not be able to identify fake food, with 38% of respondents saying they believe there is an issue regarding criminally counterfeit food products. The report suggests that professional organisations need to raise awareness of the problem, and urges brand owners to be proactive and states that “Businesses are encouraged to get an understanding of how their own company is perceived (when it comes to food fraud) in order to gauge how its customers feel, find out what more could be done to boost confidence and to act upon it. They should be aware that levels of trust are also affected by the types of outlet that serve the food, or even the type of food itself. Age is also a huge factor of trust, as well as geographical location – so know your customer base and adapt to it.”

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.  To find out more please contact Customer Services telephone 0118 918 4076 or e-mail enquiries@rssl.com

Public rate food contaminants as serious health threat
A study by the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment has assessed public awareness of contaminants and the perceived health risks associated with them.  It reports that the "majority of respondents rated contaminants as a serious health threat, though few of them spontaneously mentioned examples of undesirable substances in foods that fit the scientific or legal definition of contaminants." The study involving 1001 people, who were asked about contaminants in food, reports that mercury in fish and dioxin in eggs or milk (with scores of 78% and 70%, respectively) were the most recognised contaminants, whilst pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) in tea or honey (13%) and arsenic in rice and rice products (26%) were the least recognised. Attitudes towards contaminants in food were different between population groups, with men spending less time in general than females thinking about undesirable substances in foods, and young people feeling less informed than older counterparts.  The team conclude by stating “the present findings highlight areas that require additional attention and provide implications for risk communication geared to specific target groups.”

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. To find out more please contact Customer Services telephone 0118 918 4076 or e-mail enquiries@rssl.com

Natural product produced by bees could be basis for new antibiotics
Research published in the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology by scientists from the University of Illinois has discovered that Api137, a natural product produced by bees, wasps or hornets, could be become the basis for new antibiotics.  APi137 is a derivative of the antibiotic apidaecin and can block the production of proteins in potentially harmful bacteria.  The team report that the peptides can be used as antibiotics if "we understand how they work."

Prenatal pesticide exposure and folic acid Intake found to be related to ASD
A study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspective has examined combined exposures to maternal folic acid and pesticides in relation to autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The study by Schmidt et al. examined data from 296 children aged between 2 and 5 years who had been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and 220 who had developed typically.  The mothers were asked about their maternal supplemental folic acid and vitamin B intake and household pesticide product exposure during pregnancy.  The team also looked at data from the California Pesticide Use reports and linked this to the mother’s address.  They found that "Mothers who took less than 800 micrograms and encountered household pesticides had a much higher estimated risk of having a child who developed an ASD than moms who took 800 micrograms of folic acid or more and were not exposed to pesticides. The associated risk increased for women exposed repeatedly. Women with low folic acid intake who were exposed to agricultural pesticides during a window from three months before conception to three months afterward also were at higher estimated risk." Schmidt et al note that "Folate plays a critical role in DNA methylation (a process by which genes are turned off or on), as well as in DNA repair and synthesis. These are all really important during periods of rapid growth when there are lots of cells dividing, as in a developing foetus. Adding folic acid might be helping out in a number of these genomic functions."

RSSL provide vitamin analysis in a wide range of matrices including drinks, fortified foods, pre-mixes and multi-vitamin tablets. To find out more please contact Customer Services telephone 0118 918 4076 or e-mail enquiries@rssl.com

Cheap test developed for detecting E.coli in drinking water
Researchers at the University of Waterloo have developed a test that uses a paper strip to detect E.coli in drinking water.  The test, published in PLOS ONE, costs 50 cents and produces results in less than 3 hours and could be used to help those in developing communities test the safety of drinking water.  Dipping the bottom of the strip of porous paper, which is coated with sugar, into water, causes the sugar dissolves.  As it dissolves it creates a sugar trail, which E.coli bacteria is attracted to causing the bacteria to be trapped in the paper.  As the paper soaks up more water the trapped bacteria moves up the strip into an area of paper that contains a mixture of chemicals.  These chemicals react with the E.coli and turn the paper strip a pinkish red, to signify a positive result. High levels of contamination produces a result in just 30 minutes. Low levels of contamination takes up to 180 minutes.

Study suggests food allergy diagnosis by oral food challenge is safe
According to a study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, food allergy diagnosis by oral food challenge is safe.  Akuete et al, analysed results of 6327 open OFCs that were carried out between 2008 and 20013 in five US food allergy centres.  The centres completed a survey which included questions to assess number of OFCs performed, number of OFCs with the outcome of anaphylaxis, pruritus, vomiting, hives, facial or tongue swelling, difficulty breathing, changes in blood pressure, or cough, foods challenged in 2013 , use of an OFC protocol,  the criteria for a positive reaction amongst others. The results showed "that performing clinical non-research open low-risk OFCs results in few allergic reactions, with 86% of challenges resulting in no reactions and 98% without anaphylaxis." Of the most severe reactions, Akuete et al. state "19 OFCs resulted in patients being place in hospital observation and 63 were treated with epinephrine."

RSSL can provide you with the complete allergen management solution in food manufacture and retail including allergen analysis, consultancy and training. To find out more please contact Customer Services telephone 0118 918 4076 or e-mail enquiries@rssl.com

Mandatory display of food hygiene ratings in England
Heather Hancock, Chairman of the Food Standards Agency (FSA), has reaffirmed FSA’s commitment to introducing the mandatory display of food hygiene ratings in England. The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) was launched in November 2010 and is established in all local authorities across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Businesses in Wales and Northern Ireland are legally required to display their rating. However, in England, businesses do not have to display the rating they have been awarded, with those scoring low marks much less likely to put them on show to customers.  Heather Hancock is quoted as saying "The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) is now in place throughout England.  It’s an easy way for consumers and businesses to understand how well they meet hygiene rules, keeping us all safe.  In Wales and in Northern Ireland, businesses are already obliged to display their hygiene rating.  We have sound evidence of the difference that mandatory display makes. People vote with their feet, because it’s easy to choose food outlets that are taking food hygiene seriously.  That means good food businesses benefit from more custom.  And it’s an incentive for businesses with poorer standards to improve."

Update on Fipronil in eggs
The Food Standards Agency has published an update on Fipronil on eggs, stating "We continue to trace the distribution of eggs from farms in the Netherlands and Belgium affected by Fipronil. Since our previous update, four additional products have been withdrawn, as detailed in our updated withdrawal list. These are waffles sold in retail stores and profiteroles for use in catering outlets."  The FSA report that they are continuing to work with the European Commission and are being updated by other member states.  They reiterate that there is unlikely to be a safety concern for the public stating "it remains very unlikely that there is any risk to public health, but as Fipronil is not authorised for use in food producing animals, we continue to track down implicated food products and ensure that they are removed from sale where they breach the 15% limit. There is no need to change how you buy or consume eggs."

FSA publish official statistics on food law enforcement by local authorities
The FSA has published official statistics on food law enforcement by local authorities for the year 2016/17. The new data show:

  • an increase in food hygiene compliance in food establishments, continuing the trend of increases since 2014/15;
  • a decrease in the number of planned interventions for food standards, which covers areas such as authenticity and food fraud;
  • the percentage of due food hygiene interventions, which covers food safety, has continued to rise, 85% compared to 84% last year;
  • a continuing fall in staffing levels which reduced by 2.7% in 2016/17 compared with the previous year.

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