12 January - 20 June 2016

Food safety

  • Breast milk may prevent food allergies
  • Sugar-Glass’ film could protect food from bacteria
  • Increase in rickets due to decrease in sunshine in the UK
  • Development of European guidelines for the health assessment of endocrine disruptors – BfR
  • Review suggests energy drink restriction for children and adolescent due to health risks
  • Wakeup call for all accreditation firms – Report on 2 Sisters and Standards in Poultry Processing
  • Could a “peanut patch” help those allergic to peanuts?
  • Family thought to be suffering from botulism poisoning after consuming wild boar
  • Guide to protecting and defending food and drink from deliberate attack
  • Increase in alerts in 2016 – RASFF

Breast milk may prevent food allergies
A mouse study from Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine suggests that eating allergenic food during pregnancy can protect your child from food allergies, especially if offspring are breast fed.  Oyoshi et al. gave pregnant mice small quantities of allergenic foods such as eggs and peanuts and found that the mother transferred protective antibodies to their offspring through breast milk. The antibodies caused the babies to generate allergen-specific regulatory T-immune cells that allowed them to tolerate the allergenic foods. They report that exposure to allergens in the womb had some protective effect, but this was enhanced by breast milk. The scientists also found that the breast milk was protective even when fed to unrelated offspring.

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

Sugar-Glass’ film could protect food from bacteria
Research conducted by scientists from Ontario, Canada, and published in the American Chemical Society Biomaterials Science and Engineering has developed  a ‘sugar-glass’ coating containing viruses that can destroy bacteria and that might be able to be used in food packaging. Filipe et al. used bacteriophages, or “phages” – viruses which can target single strains of bacteria and kill them, leaving other bacteria unharmed. Phages occur naturally on fruits and vegetable and do not affect taste, smell or appearance and so they have been of interest in promoting food safety but have proved difficult to stabilise. Filipe et al. embedded phages in soluble films made with either a polysaccharide, pullulan, or a sugar, trehalose or a combination of the two. The mixtures were then used to coat butchers paper before being allowed to dry overnight. Filipe et al. found that while the films made using pullulan and trehalose alone lost their ability to infect and kill bacteria within a couple of weeks, the film made from a mixture of the two was still able to kill Listeria monocytogenes “up to 3 months later”. Filipe et al. therefore concluded that the pullulan-trehalose combination “is a promising, simple method for protecting food from bacterial contamination.”

Increase in rickets due to decrease in sunshine in the UK
Over the past few decades there has been an increase in rickets, a disabling bone disease, caused by vitamin D deficiency, amongst British children.  A university of Toronto student and professor have investigated this increase and have reported their findings in Nature journal – Scientific Reports.  Health experts believe that around six hours a month of sunshine is needed to produce enough vitamin D in people's skin. The authors note that cloud cover has the potential of blocking up to 99% of vitamin D metabolism in humans.  Majeed et al state that climate variability has had an impact on rickets incidence rates in the United Kingdom through changes in sea level pressure, cloud cover and sunshine duration.

RSSL provides vitamin analysis in a wide range of matrices including drinks, fortified foods, pre-mixes and multi-vitamin tablets, including the analysis for Vitamin D2 and Vitamin D3.  To find out more please contact Customer Services telephone 0118 918 4076 or e-mail enquiries@rssl.com 

Development of European guidelines for the health assessment of endocrine disruptors – BfR
A literature research and survey by BfR, carried out behalf of the EFSA, has prompted discussions on the applicability and feasibility of methods in the identification of endocrine disruptors. The hearing has led to a number of recommendations which will be included as an annex to the guidelines for the health assessment of endocrine disruptors in line with the EFSA mandate.  These European guidelines are currently being prepared jointly by EFSA and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and are expected to be published in spring 2018. (EurekAlert)

Review suggests energy drink restriction for children and adolescent due to health risks
A review is recommending that sale of energy drinks to children and adolescents be restricted after finding that advertising their short term benefit can be outweighed by serious health risks.  The study published in Frontiers in Public Health also suggests that maximum caffeine levels should be set as some contain up to 100 mg caffeine per fluid ounce, eight times more than a regular coffee at 12 mg.  Whilst little is known on tolerable levels of caffeine for adolescents and children, a daily caffeine intake of up to 400 mg is recommended for adults. The review reports that there are important health consequence of consuming these drinks, including anxiety, stress and risk-seeking behaviour. It notes an increase trend of mixing them with alcohol, masking signs of alcohol inebriation and enabling the individual to consume more. Whilst the authors state that there are a limited number of studies, future research should “explore the effects of the energy drink constituents we know less about, such as taurine, and consider long-term assessments across a broader range of the population to examine the effects of energy drink consumption over time.”

RSSL can quantify caffeine in foods and beverages.  To find out more please contact Customer Services telephone 0118 918 4076 or e-mail enquiries@rssl.com

Wakeup call for all accreditation firms – Report on 2 Sisters and Standards in Poultry Processing
Environment, Foods and Rural Affairs Committee have published a report on 2 Sisters and Standards in Poultry Processing.  The report notes:

  • That there is, "no systematic process for bringing together the various audits and assessments conducted by different accreditation and regulatory bodies; as such there is no single overarching view about standards in a particular plant or facility."
  • "After Assured Food Standards suspended 2 Sisters' Red Tractor accreditation it did not immediately and especially inform the Food Standards Agency."
  • That "unannounced visits are not completely a surprise; even an unannounced visit gives processors a period of around 30 minutes' grace before the inspection begins and as a result "people will tend to be on their best behaviour."
  • "The problems identified at the 2 Sisters plant at West Bromwich are not a one-off. The past record of the 2 Sisters Food Group is far from pristine and there are valid questions to be asked of its corporate governance structure."

Neil Parish MP, Chair, said: "Our inquiry should serve as a wakeup call for all accreditation firms and cause them to improve their processes and remove any loopholes that may exist, not just those discovered through our inquiry. Food supply chains are sensitive and easy to disrupt when retailers and consumers lose confidence in food quality or safety. Large producers and retailers have a responsibility to protect, rather than undermine, the UK’s food producers."

Could a “peanut patch” help those allergic to peanuts?
Scientists have investigated the use of an experimental patch to reduce allergic reactions to peanuts in adult and children. The findings are published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The team recruited 221 allergic participants aged 6-55 years and randomly assigned them to receive a peanut patch containing 50 μg, 100 μg, or 250 μg of peanut protein or a placebo patch.  The Telegraph report that “After 12 months, 50 per cent of those wearing the strongest of one of three patches of various dosage experienced a ten-fold increase in tolerance compared to those using a placebo.”  However as the sample size of each group was relatively small, further research using a larger group is needs.

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

Family thought to be suffering from botulism poisoning after consuming wild boar
Three members of a family in New Zealand are seriously ill after consuming wild boar that was killed during a hunting trip.  It is thought that the illness, which occurred within half an hour after consumption of the meat, may have been caused by botulism.  The three member of the family have been put on life support machines.  Medical specialists are reporting that the family members may face long term damage, including paralysis or tremors.  Botulism is found in soils and can be consumed in food, which is not cooked properly.  The meat has been sent for testing and further investigations are being carried out by healthy authorities. (Telegraph)

Guide to protecting and defending food and drink from deliberate attack
The Food Standards Agency has published a revised guide in collaboration with the British Standards on how food business can improve protection for the food and drink supply. The report provides advice to businesses on the steps they can take to strengthen resilience in their operations from a range of potential risks. This includes main threats to food authenticity and safety such as malicious contamination, extortion, espionage, and counterfeiting.  It uses risk management strategies which can be adapted to operations of all sizes at different points in the supply chain. It also provides advice on how businesses can detect potential vulnerabilities and the steps that they can take to mitigate them.

Increase in alerts in 2016 – RASFF
The 2016 annual report on the work of the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) has been published. RASFF notifications usually report on risks identified in food, feed or food contact materials that are placed on the market in the notifying country or detained at an EU point of entry at the border with an EU neighbouring country. An ‘alert notification’ or ‘alert’ is sent when a food, feed or food contact material presenting a serious risk is on the market and when rapid action is or might be required in another country than the notifying country. Alerts are triggered by the member of the network that detects the problem and has initiated the relevant measures, such as withdrawal or recall. The report notes that activity in RASFF in 2016 was at a higher level than ever before. Compared to 2015, the number of alerts rose by 9% to 847 and alert follow-ups by 16% to 4666; while the total number of exchanges through RASFF was well above 10 000. The most straight-forward notifications are the rejections at the EU border, reported in the RASFF mainly for the purpose of blocking the re-entry of a refused consignment, setting up reinforced controls and informing the non-EU country of origin. They primarily concern the presence of Salmonella or pesticide residues in vegetables and fruits, and aflatoxins in nuts.

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