12 January - 20 June 2016

Food safety

  • Excess manganese intake may cause a heart infection
  • Public consultation on dietary reference values for sodium
  • Consumption of energy drinks being blamed on declining student performance in Australia
  • Breast-feeding and early peanut introduction may reduce peanut allergy in children
  • Should you really not drink coffee at work?
  • Retailers will now publish their own campylobacter survey results
  • Drinking milk-alternatives may cause iodine deficiency
  • New wheat may be suitable for those suffering with coeliac disease
  • Leftover pork may contain pathogens
  • FSA update advice on reusable carrier bags

Excess manganese intake may cause a heart infection
Excess manganese may cause an infection of the heart from the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus according to a study published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe.  Skaar et al. report that manganese, taken in excessively amounts, can be toxic.  The scientists came to these findings after they fed a group of mice an excessive amount of manganese (3 times the recommended amount). They compared these mice to a control group. The excessive group were found to be more susceptible to Staphylococcus aureus infection with the majority of the mice dying due to the infection. The scientists suggest usually when there is an infection "neutrophils [a type of white blood cell] pour into the site of infection and blast the bacteria with reactive oxygen species".  However excessive manganese seems to prevent this process.

Public consultation on dietary reference values for sodium
EFSA has launched a public consultation on its draft scientific opinion on dietary reference values (DRVs) for sodium. In particular, it is seeking feedback on the way it plans to select and use evidence in its assessment.  As part of the assessment, systematic literature reviews will be conducted on the relationship between sodium intake and health outcomes such as cardiovascular disease and bone health. (quoted direct)

RSSL can determine the composition of food and drink products, including the sodium content. To find out more please contact Customer Services telephone 0118 918 4076 or e-mail enquiries@rssl.com

Consumption of energy drinks being blamed on declining student performance in Australia
The Australian press are reporting that Jamie Oliver is calling for a ban on the sale of energy drinks to under 16.  The recommendation was made in response to declining performance of Australian students in international rankings, with consumption of energy drinks being linked to this decline. Jamie Oliver claims that under 16s are addicted to the caffeinated drinks, consuming over two litres per day, with the large amounts of sugar and caffeine, making it difficult for children to concentrate in lessons.  Experts claim that some children are consuming the equivalent of 10 cups of instant coffee a day, with research suggesting that children start drinking energy drinks at around 10 years of ages.  Dr Seton, a paediatric sleep expert at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, is quoted as saying "These rankings started in the year 2000 and every year Australia students’ performance was worse than the year before and that parallels the sleep deprivation caused by increasing use of technology and energy drinks." (The Western Australian)

Breast-feeding and early peanut introduction may reduce peanut allergy in children
Previous studies have shown that avoiding peanuts during infancy increases the risk of peanut allergy; however, it is reported that these studies did not address maternal peanut consumption. Scientists have now investigated the relationship between maternal peanut consumption while breast-feeding, timing of direct peanut introduction, and peanut sensitisation at age 7 years. Their findings published in the Journal of Allergy and Immunology found children were five times less likely to develop an allergy if their mothers had eaten nuts before weaning and introduced nuts before one year old. Pitt et al. followed up 342 children from birth to seven years old, monitoring if the children developed a peanut allergy. Dietary questionnaires reported peanut consumption and skin prick testing reported peanut sensitisation at age 7 years. The study reports that “58.2% of mothers consumed peanuts while breast-feeding and 22.5% directly introduced peanuts to their infant by 12 months.”  Where mothers had eaten peanuts during breastfeeding as well as introducing nuts before 12 months, 1.7% of children developed an allergy, compared to the overall incidence of 9.4 per cent.

RSSL are industry experts in allergens, and provide a comprehensive range of testing, training and food allergen consultancy services to help you control and manage allergens within manufacturing and retailing.  For more information please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com. Don’t forget to join our Allergens in a Nutshell LinkedIn group

Should you really not drink coffee at work?
The headlines this week include not drinking coffee or tea at work.  These headlines are based on an old study carried out in 1997 by a University of Arizona Professor, who found that communal sponges in office kitchen are spreading germs, so much so that 90% of mugs were found to be coated in bacteria, with 20% testing positive for E.coli.  The study was published in the journal Dairy, Food and Environmental Sanitation. The press quote the lead researcher Dr Gerba as saying "The presence of insanitary conditions in office kitchen and/or coffee preparation areas is of concern. The presence of potential pathogens in this environment necessitates the initiation of proper sanitary standards." However putting it through a dishwasher, is advised by the author to aid avoidance of drinking “your co-workers’ faecal bacteria"! (New York Post, NZ Herald, The Sun)

Retailers will now publish their own campylobacter survey results
The Food Standards Agency is making changes to its campylobacter retail survey of fresh shop-bought UK-produced chickens. The survey results from the nine major retailers will not now be included in the FSA’s annual survey but consumers will be able to follow the retailers’ ongoing commitment to campylobacter reduction.  FSA note that "the sampling and analyses carried out by the retailers will be in accordance with robust protocols established by the FSA that will also ensure that their published results are comparable. In addition, the FSA will have access to the raw data from each retailer in order to verify the samples and to determine industry averages, and we reserve the right to comment publically on the results."

Drinking milk-alternatives may cause iodine deficiency
According to a study by researchers from the University of Surrey, those who drink milk-alternatives may be at risk of iodine deficiency. Iodine is required to make thyroid hormones, and is particularly important during pregnancy as it is essential for normal foetal brain development. The study published in the British Journal of Nutrition investigated the iodine content of 47 milk-alternative drinks (including soya, almond, coconut, oat, rice, hazelnut and hemp, but excluding those marketed specifically at infants and children) and compared the amount with that of cows' milk (the main source of iodine in the UK diet). They report that the majority only had iodine concentration levels of around 2% of that found in cows’ milks. The recommended iodine intake is 150 mcg/day, rising to 200 mcg/day for pregnant women.

RSSL's Metals Team can determine iodine levels.  For more information please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com

New wheat may be suitable for those suffering with coeliac disease
Scientists are reporting that they have managed to create a strain of wheat that may be suitable for those with coeliac disease.  The team in Spain, reporting in Plant Biotechnology Journal have used CRISPR-Cas9 to switch off the genes for gliadins, a strain that people with coeliac disease have a reaction to.  The new wheat only contains 15% of gliadins found in normal wheat. Barro et al reports that "Up to 35 different genes were mutated in one of the lines of the 45 different genes identified in the wild type, while immunoreactivity was reduced by 85 per cent." The New Scientist report that a small trial of the wheat (yet to be published) involving 20 people has found that those who have a sensitivity to gluten were able to tolerable bread made with this strain of wheat. (Daily Mail)

Leftover pork may contain pathogens
A study published in Risk Analysis: An International Journal has reported that "cooking pork chops to an acceptable temperature does not completely eliminate pathogens, providing these cells with the opportunity to multiply during storage and harm consumers."  Therefore consuming leftover cold pork chops, may cause Salmonella and Listeria, if the meat wasn’t thoroughly in the first place.  The authors state that the only way to eliminate the pathogens is to cook pork chops well-done in a static oven.  They report that cooking at 165o F on the stove allowed the pathogens to survive.  "It is generally believed that when meat is heat treated to 70 degrees Celsius (158 degrees Fahrenheit) for two minutes, a one million cell reduction of E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria is achieved and thus the meat is free of pathogens and safe to eat.”  Food Safety News state that "a report by the European Food Safety Authority revealed that more than 57 percent of Salmonella outbreaks in 2014 were in the household/kitchen, and 13 percent were associated with inadequate heat treatment." De Cesare et al. came to these findings after they tested 160 packs of loin chops that they contaminated with 10 million cells of L. monocytogenes and Salmonella, which were cooked to rare, medium and well done on either gas with a non-stick pan or in a static oven. The researchers state that even for consumers who have good habits of promptly placing leftovers in the fridge, “the few surviving cells can multiply during storage in both the refrigerator and at room temperature, reaching concentrations dangerous for both vulnerable and regular consumers.” (Food Safety News)

FSA update advice on reusable carrier bags
The media have been reporting about the safety of bags for life.  At the end of August, the Food Standards Agency updated their advice on reusable carrier bags.  They report that separate bags should be used for raw and cooked food.  They suggest that "you may want to be able to machine wash your bag for life to ensure it remains hygienic, therefore the most suitable style would be a cotton-based one" and state that bags should be checked regularly for spillage and leakage from foods.  Bags should also be labelled, depending on what they are used for.  For example raw foods, cooked foods and non-food items.  It is also noted that in the summer, freezer bags should be considered for keeping perishables at cooler temperatures. 

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