12 January - 20 June 2016

Food safety

  • Potential harmful levels of lead and cadmium found in decorated drinking glasses
  • More alerts issued for lead in candy than for Salmonella, E.coli and Botulism combined - California
  • EFSA – exposure to furan and methylfurans in food could lead to possible long-term liver damage
  • Prenatal exposure of BPA may affect gene expression in developing brain
  • ANSES to coordinate One Health programme on zoonoses
  • Check food hygiene ratings before booking a restaurant for your Christmas party
  • Latest summary of food incidents published by FSA

More alerts issued for lead in candy than for Salmonella, E.coli and Botulism combined - California
According to analysis by researchers at UC San Francisco and CDPH, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued more alerts for lead in candy (42%) than for the other top three sources of food-borne contamination combined (Salmonella, E.coli, and botulism).  Before 2006 CDPH did not test widely for lead in candy, however a surveillance programme became mandatory in 2006. The analysis found that the majority of the candy which tested positive for lead was imported.  The researchers found that over a 14 year period, 164 health alerts were issued, of those 60 were lead- related of which 55 were from imported food (34% of these from Mexico, 24% China and 20% India).  The study also looked in depth at the years 2011-12 to gain an understanding how well the programme had worked, and report that officials had tested 1346 candies, and of these 65 different products were found to contain lead, with 40 of these exceeding limits for children of 100 parts per billion. A press release states “the study found that active community monitoring can identify lead in food products such as candy, so they can be recalled before too many people have eaten them. Without such testing, health investigators must wait until after children have been poisoned to look for the sources, which is especially difficult when the source is as perishable as candy.” It notes that around 10,000 California children age under 6 years, are poisoned by lead, with around 1000 being exposure to high levels. 

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

Potential harmful levels of lead and cadmium found in decorated drinking glasses
Researchers from the University of Plymouth have indicated, after carrying out 197 tests on 72 drinking glass products (new and second hand), that drinking glasses can potentially contain harmful level of lead and cadmium.  In 129 cases lead was found to be present, and in 134 cases cadmium, both on the glass surface, and on some of the rims of the glass product.  In some cases, levels of lead were more than 1000 times higher than the limit level.  The test revealed that paint may break away from the glass, and could be ingested over a prolonged period of time. In a press release the researchers’ state: “The presence of hazardous elements in both the paint and glaze of decorated glassware has obvious implications for both human health and the environment. So it was a real surprise to find such high levels of lead and cadmium, both on the outside of the glassware and around the rim. There are genuine health risks posed through ingesting such levels of the substances over a prolonged period, so this is clearly an issue that the international glassware industry needs to take action on as a matter of urgency." The study published in Science of the Total Environment used x-ray fluorescence spectrometry to test the glassware and found lead in all recorded colours (ranging from 40 to 400,000 parts per million (ppm)), including decorated gold leaf in some, and higher concentration of cadmium in the red enamel (ranging from 300 to 70,000 ppm).

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

EFSA – exposure to furan and methylfurans in food could lead to possible long-term liver damage
Consumer exposure to furan and methylfurans in food could lead to possible long-term liver damage. The most exposed group of people are infants, mainly through consumption of ready-to-eat jarred or canned foods. Exposure in other population groups is mainly from consumption of grain-based foods and coffee, depending on age and consumer habits. Furan and the related compounds 2- and 3-methylfurans are chemical contaminants that naturally form during heated food processing, including cooking. These substances have always been present in cooked or heated foods.

Prenatal exposure of BPA may affect gene expression in developing brain
A rat study published in NeuroToxicology has indicated that prenatal exposure to bisphenol A, at levels below those that are considered safe, may affect gene expression related to sexual differentiation and neurodevelopment in the developing rat brain.  Patisaul et al. from the University of North Carolina State University, exposed gestating rates to level of BPA above and below recommended amounts (2.5, 25, 250, 2500, or 25000 μg/kg bw/day), and analysed the brains of their newborn pups.  Even at low levels, BPA was found to alter the expression of a number of hormone receptors include oestrogen, and vasopressin in the brain’s structure involved in stress and emotional behaviour.  BPA exposure was also found to disrupt genes critical for synaptic transmission and neurodevelopment, with females appearing to be more sensitive than males.

ANSES to coordinate One Health programme on zoonoses
The French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES) are reporting that they will be coordinating  The European Joint Programme (EJP) on "One Health", which is due to start on 1 January 2018.  The programme approved by the European Commission will involve more than 40 partners from 19 Member States and whose aim is to promote scientific progress in the areas of foodborne zoonoses, antimicrobial resistance and emerging risks. The programme which will run to 2022 is costing €90 million with 50% of the money coming from the European Commission.   Zoonoses are diseases naturally transmitted to humans from warm blooded animals. 

Check food hygiene ratings before booking a restaurant for your Christmas party
The Food Standards Agency are reminding consumers to look at food hygiene ratings of a restaurant before they book it for their work’s Christmas party.  They note that there are plenty of restaurants who take food safety seriously and so there is no need to risk food poisoning.  Latest figures published by the FSA show that the percentage of food businesses achieving the highest rating of ‘5’ has risen from 53% in 2015 to 67% in 2017. They also show that 95% of all food business have received a rating of at least a ‘3’. Nina Purcell, Director of Local Delivery at the FSA recommend booking a restaurant with at least a 3 and notes that most businesses are achieving this. 

Latest summary of food incidents published by FSA
The Food Standards Agency has published a summary of food incidents handled between July and September 2017, where an alert has been issued by the FSA to recall products from sale. Over the three month period, they issued 32 food notices, of which 18 were allergy alerts, with the top four undeclared allergens being milk, gluten, peanuts and soya. They also issued four food alerts relating to physical contamination, two relating to chemical contamination and eight which involved poor food hygiene or microbiological risk.

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

Development of a groundnut free from aflatoxin
Scientists have developed a groundnut that is free from aflatoxins.  The study published in Plant Biotechnology Journal reports that aflatoxins, a potent carcinogen, are produced by the moulds Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus.  Using genetic engineering, scientists at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, in St. Louis, MO and their collaborators at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Hyderabad, India, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Louisiana State University transferred small proteins called defensins from alfalfa and the Mediterranean clover to the DNA of an Aspergillus-susceptible peanut variety widely grown in Africa and India which allowed the groundnut to stop the fungus from infecting the plant.  In a second approach they also transferred small RNA molecules from the Aspergillus fungus that are involved in the aflatoxin synthetic pathway. The nuts produced these RNA molecules during fungal attacks and inactivated target genes responsible for aflatoxin synthesis. The scientists note that this technology is also translatable to maize and de-oiled cakes used for animal feed, pistachios and almonds.

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