12 January - 20 June 2016

Food safety

  • The meat company Russell Hume collapses following food safety scare
  • TV cookery shows may have an influence on the hygiene behaviour of the viewers
  • Can bacteria in milk and beef cause rheumatoid arthritis?
  • Chicken remains the biggest source of campylobacter infections in Scotland
  • Study show how difficult it is to manipulate our diet to reduce BPA exposure
  • Can adding vitamin A to cattle fodder protect against cow's milk allergy?
  • Cooking water linked to Winter Olympics norovirus outbreak
  • Review of the UK Government’s 25 year Bovine TB strategy
  • Retailers continued to sell baby milk linked to multi-country Salmonella outbreak even after recall
  • High level of microplastics in Northwest Atlantic fish could contaminate our food supply
  • The chemicals PFASs may interfere with body weight regulation
  • EFSA find Listeria cases have increased in people over 75 and women aged 25-44
  • FSAI receive 3,400 food complaints in 2017

The meat company Russell Hume collapses following food safety scare
It has been announced that the company, Russell Hume, has gone into administration.  Weeks before, the company was ordered to stop production and initiate a product recall after concerns were raised about its non-compliance with food hygiene regulations. The company supplied sirloin, rump and gammon steak to the pub chain Wetherspoons and also to Jamie’s Italian and Hilton hotels, all of which have cancelled their contracts because of a mislabelling issue.  Sky News quote joint administrator Chris Pole as saying: "The recent product recall and halt in operations has caused significant customer attrition and trading difficulties, which in turn has led the directors to take the decision to place the company into administration.  Regrettably, with little prospect of production restarting on site, a total of 266 people have been made redundant.” The FSA said its investigation was continuing.

TV cookery shows may have an influence on the hygiene behaviour of the viewers
According to a research project by the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), whilst TV cookery shows are popular, kitchen hygiene often only plays a minor role on these shows.  The research indicates that important hygiene measures are often neglected in cooking shows, with errors appearing every 50 seconds on average. BfR President Professor Dr Andreas Hendel reports that these shows could be a role model by promoting food hygiene and states “If you always wash your hands thoroughly after touching eggs, raw vegetables or meat, for example, and if you clean chopping boards after every working step, you can protect yourself and others from food-borne diseases.” For the first part of the study the team analysed 100 episodes of cooking shows for hygiene practices. They found that the most common error was wiping dirty hands on a dish towel and reusing uncleaned chopping boards. For the second part of the study, the study participants were asked to prepare a poultry salad with homemade mayonnaise in a test kitchen based on a cooking video.  The participants were either shown a video with a chef who followed exemplary kitchen hygiene and recommended hygienic measures or a chef with poor kitchen hygiene.   Those who watched the chef who had exemplary kitchen hygiene also demonstrated this when cooking the dish by themselves. (Medicalxpress)

Can bacteria in milk and beef cause rheumatoid arthritis?
The popular press has been reporting that bacteria found in milk and beef could cause rheumatoid arthritis.  The study carried out by scientists from the University of Central Florida and published in the journal Frontiers in Cellular and Infective Microbiology, analysed blood samples from 132 people. Of these 72 of them had rheumatoid arthritis.  The blood samples were analysed for 9 mutations to the gene, PTPN2/22, which affects immune system regulation.  Previous research has linked mutation in this gene to rheumatoid arthritis.   The scientists also analysed the blood samples for the presence DNA from Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis bacteria known as MAP, and examined the behaviour of immune T-cells when exposed to purified MAP protein.  They found that one type of mutation was common in 78.6% of people with rheumatoid arthritis and 60% in those without. MAP DNA was more common in the participants with rheumatoid arthritis (34.3% of people with rheumatoid arthritis compared to 8.3% of people without rheumatoid arthritis).  Those who have genetic mutations also showed a raised T-cell (cells which recognise abnormal cells or substance and trigger an immune response to destroy them) immune response. Again there was a 7 fold increase in T-cell activity in people with rheumatoid arthritis compared to 3.4 fold increase in T-cell activity in those without.  The authors state that “we believe that individuals born with this genetic mutation and who are later exposed to MAP through consuming contaminated milk or meat from infected cattle are at a higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.”  They continue by stating “we need to find out why MAP is more predominant in these patients - whether it’s present because they have rheumatoid arthritis or whether it caused RA in these patients.  If we find that out, then we can target treatment towards the MAP bacteria.” (NHS choices)

Chicken remains the biggest source of campylobacter infections in Scotland
University of Aberdeen scientists have reported that chicken remains the biggest source of campylobacter infection in Scotland.  The study commissioned by Food Standards Scotland, compared clinical strains of campylobacter from the Grampian area with strains isolated from chickens, cattle, sheep, pigs and wild birds. This was used to determine the proportion of infections in Scotland from these potential sources.  They note that “While campylobacter remains the most common source of foodborne illness there has been a reduction in those contracting campylobacter from chicken. The proportion of cases attributed to chicken decreased from 55-75% to 52-68% when compared to data collected between 2012-2015.”  The findings from this research are to be used by Food Standards Scotland to aid the delivery of a new campylobacter strategy, which will consider how to continue to achieve a decline of campylobacter cases from chicken. It will also identify opportunities to work with other organisations to reduce the risks from sources other than chicken which may be caused by environmental exposure.

Study show how difficult it is to manipulate our diet to reduce BPA exposure
A study by scientists from the University of Exeter and the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation  Trust and published in BMJ Open has concluded that there is no evidence that it is possible to moderate BPA exposure by diet “in a real world setting.”  They also state that “our study participants indicated that they would be unlikely to sustain such a diet long term due to the difficulty in identifying BPA-free foods.”  The six month experimental study involved 94 student volunteers aged 17 to 19 years old. The students were provided with dietary guidelines to minimise their BPA intake, with food items scored according to their risk of BPA contamination.  For seven days the participants were instructed to consume a diet that minimised their BPA intake while maintaining calorie intake.  Urine samples were collected at baseline and at the end of intervention and measured for BPA. Before intervention, BPA was detected in urine in 86% of the teenagers, at a level of 1.22ng per ml of urine. However after intervention the researchers reported that there was no significant change with an average change of 0.05ng per ml.  Whilst the majority of the students tried to reduce BPA exposure, two third reported that it would be hard to follow the diet in the long term.  NHS Choices have reviewed the finding and report that the study is too small to “get an accurate indication what proportion of teenagers excrete BPA in their urine.”  They suggest that a few thousand participants would give a more accurate indication. 

Can adding vitamin A to cattle fodder protect against cow's milk allergy?
Scientists have indicated that a metabolite of vitamin A called retinoic acid, can transform a potential milk allergen into a milk tolerogen.  However this would require cows to receive a sufficient supply of this vitamin, for example, through an abundance of green fodder.  An important milk allergen protein Bos d 5, also known as beta-lactoglobulin, is reported by the scientists to belong to a lipocalins family.  They note in Scientific Reports  “This special protein family is characterised by molecular pockets that can take in small molecules like retinoic acid, which is a metabolite of vitamin A.” They continue by stating “Our study showed that an 'empty' milk protein supports the activation of Th2 lymphocytes and so initiates an allergic chain reaction. However, if it, so to speak, pockets the retinoic acid, then the immune cells react moderately, without an allergic immune reaction. An adequate loading of the milk protein could thus prevent small children or even adults becoming sensitized and express a milk allergy.”

RSSL provides vitamin analysis in a wide range of matrices including drinks, fortified foods, pre-mixes and multi-vitamin tablets.  It provides a full vitamin and mineral analysis service to assist with labelling, due diligence, claim substantiation and stability. To find out more please contact Customer Services telephone 0118 918 4076 or e-mail enquiries@rssl.com

RSSL can provide you with a complete food allergen management solution. We provide a comprehensive range of analysistraining and food allergen consultancy services to help you control and manage allergens within food manufacturing and retailing. To find out more please contact Customer Services telephone 0118 918 4076 or e-mail enquiries@rssl.com

Cooking water linked to Winter Olympics norovirus outbreak
An outbreak of novovirus at the Winter Olympics has been linked to cooking water.  So far 194 cases have been reported with the majority being security staff who have been staying at a facility in PyeongChang.  Of these, 147 patients have recovered and have returned to work.  Forty seven people are still in quarantine.  Since the source of the outbreak has been identified, the number of new cases has fallen although there are reports that there has been 9 new cases from Ganagneung, the venue for Olympic hockey and figure skating. So far no athletes have been affected. (Food Safety News)

Review of the UK Government’s 25 year Bovine TB strategy
Sir Charles Godfray, a population biologist and Fellow of the Royal Society will chair a review of the UK Government’s 25 year Bovine TB strategy.  The 25 year strategy outlined a very broad range of interventions to fight Bovine TB including tighter cattle movement controls and removal of infected cattle from herds, improved diagnostic tests, enhanced biosecurity measures, the culling of badgers in areas where disease is rife, vaccination of badgers and work to develop a viable vaccine for use in cattle. (Defra)

Retailers continued to sell baby milk linked to multi-country Salmonella outbreak even after recall
The French media are reporting that retailers failed to recall baby milk produced by Lactalis, after a multi-country Salmonella outbreak was traced to the product in December 2017.  Currently 40 infants from a range of countries have been confirmed in the Salmonella Agona outbreak.  This past week retailers have told a government panel that the product was being sold after the recalls as Lactalis had issued a series of confusing message, which they state were partly responsible for the retailers failure to recall the product. They note that they continued to receive the product even after the recall was initiated in December 2017.  Currently the non-profit consumer watchdog foodwatch has filed a complaint, noting 12 violations relating to the scandal, with parents of infected children joining them in pursuing legal action. (Food Safety News)

High level of microplastics in Northwest Atlantic fish could contaminate our food supply
A study published in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science has found that 73% of fish caught in the Northwest Atlantic had microplastics in their stomachs.  The authors report that this is one of the highest levels found globally.  They suggest that these fish are prey for fish eaten by humans and this could potentially mean that the microplastics could indirectly contaminate our food supply. Whilst the UK and other government have banned microbeads used in cosmetics and detergents, the authors state "The high ingestion rate of microplastics by mesopelagic fish that we observed has important consequences for the health of marine ecosystems and biogeochemical cycling in general." The team now plan to investigate how these fish are ingesting and spreading microplastics.

The chemicals PFASs may interfere with body weight regulation
The chemicals, perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), which can be used in many industrial and consumer products ranging from food wrappers to clothing to pots and pans may interfere with body weight regulation, according to a study led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.  The team, reporting in PLOS Medicine, studied data from 621 overweight and obese participants, testing the effect of four heart-healthy diets on weight loss over a period of two years.  They found that higher levels of PFASs in the bloods, known as “obesogens”, linked to lower resting metabolic rate, or slower metabolism after weight loss. Participants lost an average of 6.4 kilograms (kg), but regained 2.7 kg over the following 18 months. Those who gained the most weight back also had the highest blood concentrations of PFASs. The link was strongest among women. (Science Daily)

EFSA find Listeria cases have increased in people over 75 and women aged 25-44
One of the conclusions of the EFSA Scientific opinion on Listeria monocytogenes and risk to public health consumption of contaminated ready-to-eat food is that listeria cases have increased among two groups of the population: people over 75 and women aged 25-44 (believed to be mainly pregnancy-related). The opinion covers the period 2008-2015. It reports that the higher incidence of listeriosis among the elderly was likely linked to the increased proportion of people aged over 45 with underlying health conditions, such as cancer and diabetes, as well as the rise in the consumption of ready-to-eat foods.  EFSA report that most people get infected through the consumption of ready-to-eat foods such as smoked and cured fish, heat treated meat and soft and semi-soft cheese. However, other foods – such as prepared salads – can also lead to infections.

FSAI receive 3,400 food complaints in 2017
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) are reporting that their advice line received over 3,400 consumer complaints in 2017, with a third of these relating to unfit food.  This was an increase of over 6% compared to 2016.  The number of complaints relating to non-display of allergen information increased to 42% with concerns relating to non-compliance issues such as a lack of allergen information available in restaurants; confused messages regarding the presence of particular allergens in food; lack of awareness by food businesses of the legal requirement to display allergen information; allergens not highlighted on a food label; and allergens present in a food, but not indicated or displayed. They also received a considerable increase in complaints relating to incorrect information on food labels at 17%.  Other complaints included consumers frequently reporting contamination of food with foreign objects such as insects and glass as well as complaints regarding food hygiene standards such as rats, mice and flies being present in premises.  The FSAI also received 9576 calls from people working in the food sector with queries ranging from information on legislation on food labelling and requests for information from new food businesses setting up operations.

RSSL can provide you with a complete food allergen management solution. We provide a comprehensive range of analysistraining and food allergen consultancy services to help you control and manage allergens within food manufacturing and retailing. To find out more please contact Customer Services telephone 0118 918 4076 or e-mail enquiries@rssl.com

RSSL’s Emergency Response Service delivers analytical support, 24/7, for the rapid resolution of your food product emergencies. To find out more please contact Customer Services telephone 0118 918 4076 or e-mail enquiries@rssl.com

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