12 January - 20 June 2016

Food safety

  • Microplastics found in bottled water
  • WHO support African nations affected by Listeriosis outbreak
  • European Commission launches Knowledge Centre for Food Fraud and Quality
  • Parents are still hesitant to introduce peanut-containing food to their infants
  • Sales of rockmelons decrease by 90% since Australian Listeria outbreak
  • Most neonicotinoids are a risk to wild bees and honeybees
  • Overall trend continuing to show a reduction in campylobacter levels – FSA
  • Cheese coatings found to contain dehydroacetic acid
  • Frozen corn is the likely source of an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes

Microplastics found in bottled water
According to the BBC, testing by the organisation Orb Media, of 250 bottles of water bought in nine different countries, has found that nearly all tested contained tiny particles of plastic.  On average, the team found that each litre contained more than 10 particles bigger than 100 microns, and more than 300 particles smaller than 100 microns. Although the tests did not confirm all the sub 100 micron particles as plastic, those bigger than 100 microns were confirmed by infrared spectroscopy. Currently, there is no evidence that ingesting very small pieces of plastic (microplastics) can cause harm, but understanding the potential implications is an active area of science. According to The Guardian “The World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced a review into the potential risks of plastic in drinking water.”

RSSL can quantify microplastic particles in water down to 10 microns and above. We can then identify the type of microplastic using a variety of techniques and compare the particles with the reference materials to confirm if they have come from the original bottle. To find out more please contact Customer Services telephone 0118 918 4076 or e-mail enquiries@rssl.com

WHO support African nations affected by Listeriosis outbreak
The World Health Organization is providing support to 16 African nations in response to a listeriosis outbreak that started in South Africa in 2017 but is now threatening other countries on the continent.  Since January 2017, nearly 200 South Africans have died, due to consuming ready-to-eat meat products.  The products may have been exported to two West African countries and 14 members of the South African Development Community. The source of the outbreak has been linked to a factory in Polokwane, South Africa.  National and International recalls have been carried out but as there is potentially a long incubation period of listeriosis, further cases are likely to occur.

European Commission launches Knowledge Centre for Food Fraud and Quality
European Commission has launched a Knowledge Centre for Food Fraud and Quality operated by the Joint Research Centre, which will support EU policymakers and national authorities by providing access to, and sharing up-to-date scientific knowledge on, food fraud and food quality issues.  The network made up of experts from in and outside the commission and was set up in response to consumer concerns about food quality and fraudulent practices concerning food. Recent cases of food fraud include olive oil, wine, honey, fish, dairy products, meat and poultry. In addition, consumers may be exposed to unfair commercial marketing practices, especially regarding food products with significant differences in composition offered in different markets but under a similar package. The Knowledge Centre for Food Fraud and Quality will: coordinate market surveillance activities, for example on the composition and sensory properties of food offered under the same packaging and branding on several markets across the EU; operate an early warning and information system for food fraud, for instance through media monitoring and providing this information to the general public;  link information systems of Member States and the Commission, such as databases describing the composition of certain high value agri-food products such as wine or olive oil; generate country-specific knowledge; for example by mapping the competencies and laboratory infrastructures in Member States.

Parents are still hesitant to introduce peanut-containing food to their infants
A survey of 1000 pregnant women and 1000 new mums, has investigated willingness to try early peanut introduction to prevent peanut allergies and to gain familiarity of guidelines endorsed by American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).  The guidelines recommend introducing peanut containing food at 4-6 months for high-risk infants who have already started solid foods, after determining that it is safe to do so. If an infant is determined to be high risk, peanut-containing foods should be introduced in a specialist's office as an oral food challenge after peanut skin testing, or not at all if the child has too large of a skin test, which may suggest the child already has peanut allergy. Parents of infants with moderate or low risk for developing peanut allergy are encouraged to introduce peanut-containing foods at home, without such measures. The survey results published in the Journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, found 53% of participants reporting that the guidelines were of no or limited importance.  It also found that 61% of participants had no or minimal concern about their child developing an allergy, and only 31% of respondents were willing to introduce peanut-containing foods before or around 6 months. Only 49 percent of the respondents were willing to allow their child to be skin tested, and just 44 percent were willing to allow an oral food challenge before a year of age to help facilitate early introduction.

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

Sales of rockmelons decrease by 90% since Australian Listeria outbreak
An outbreak of listeria linked to rockmelons, which killed 6 people in Australia, has caused sales of rockmelons to slip by 90%.  In a bid to win back consumer confidence, The Australian Melon Association has implemented new safety guidelines for farmers.  The association is working with growers to ensure that strict hygiene, sanitisation, and record-keeping are in place.  The association notes that Australia already has “very good safety guidelines” however they state “We need them to be implemented at the very best level that we can.” It is estimated that southern region growers have already lost at least $15 million since the outbreak and there is concern that if consumers don’t buy rockmelons, then losses will increase and this could flow through to regional economies. (ABC News)

Most neonicotinoids are a risk to wild bees and honeybees
EFSA has updated its risk assessments of three neonicotinoids – clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam – that are currently subject to restrictions in the EU because of the threat they pose to bees. EFSA’s Pesticides Unit carried out an extensive data collection exercise, including a systematic literature review, to gather all the scientific evidence published since the previous evaluations. According to the assessment, most uses of neonicotinoid pesticides represent a risk to wild bees and honeybees.

Overall trend continuing to show a reduction in campylobacter levels - FSA
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) are reporting that the top nine retailers across the UK have now published on their websites their testing results on campylobacter contamination in UK-produced fresh whole chickens (covering October to December 2017). The figures show that, on average, across the market, 4.5% of chickens tested positive for the highest level of contamination. These are the chickens carrying more than 1,000 colony forming units per gram (cfu/g) of campylobacter. The figure testing positive at the highest level of contamination for the previous quarter (July-Sept 17) was 5.14%. This reduction builds on the first set of results released by retailers in November 2017 (covering July-September) with the overall trend continuing to show a reduction in the highest level of contamination. This is consistent with previous research which shows a lower level of contamination over the cooler months of the year.

Cheese coatings found to contain dehydroacetic acid
Dehydroacetic acid is a pyrone derivative that shows fungicidal and bactericidal properties. It finds widespread use in the cosmetics industry as a preservative but due to its unknown yet potentially harmful effects caused by human consumption the use of dehydroacetic acid in food products in the European Union is prohibited. However, it still finds illicit use as a food additive in both its free acid (E265) and more water soluble sodium salt (E266) forms. An investigation by Scordino et al published in the journal Food Additives and Contaminants involved the screening of 129 samples of cheese (71/129) and cheese coatings (58/129) collected in Italy. The group employed reverse-phase HPLC-UV to quantify and then ESI LCMS-MS to confirm the presence of dehydroacetic acid. The data generated showed that approximately 40% of the coatings tested contained dehydroacetic acid, ranging from 100 – 25,000 mg/kg. Of the coatings tested, six were edible crusts, all of which were shown to be contaminated. Transfer from the crust/coating was also demonstrated by levels of 5 – 250 mg/kg in the cheese. Interestingly, the presence of dehydroacetic acid in the samples was traced to three Spanish suppliers of cheese coating. The findings of the investigation prompted notification of the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed of the European Commission (RASFF), which classified the alert as a “serious risk”. As a consequence, affected products were withdrawn from the market and reports regarding this product alert continue to be updated as recently as March this year.

RSSL can analyse cheese coatings for dehydroacetic acid. To find out more please contact Customer Services telephone 0118 918 4076 or e-mail enquiries@rssl.com

Frozen corn is the likely source of an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes
Frozen corn is the likely source of an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes which has affected five EU Member States (Austria, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom) since 2015. This is the conclusion of a rapid outbreak assessment published by EFSA and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). As of 8 March 2018, 32 cases including six deaths had been reported. Whole genome sequencing was used to define the multi-country outbreak of L. monocytogenes serogroup IVb, multi-locus sequence type 6 and to identify the implicated food source.   Investigations point towards frozen corn packed in Poland and processed and produced in Hungary. The report recommends further investigations to identify the exact point of contamination in the food chain.

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