12 January - 20 June 2016

Food safety

  • Transparent patch to detect dangerous food-borne threats
  • Vaccine suppresses peanut allergies in mice
  • Oregano essential oil found to kill bacteria on food-contact surfaces of stainless steel
  • Multistate E.coli outbreak linked to chopped Romaine lettuce
  • Safety of green tea catechins – EFSA
  • Europeans views on emerging risks in the food chain
  • New Zealand consumers unaware of high levels of campylobacter in fresh chicken
  • Chlorine used to decontaminate fresh produce can make foodborne pathogens undetectable
  • French agency ANSES recommends that certain populations avoid the consumption of food supplements containing melatonin

Transparent patch to detect dangerous food-borne threats
A team of scientists from McMaster University have developed a transparent patch able to detect whether certain foods contain harmful pathogens associated with spoilage of food and drinks. Published in the journal ACS Nano, the group showed it was able to detect E. coli in meat and apple juice down to a level of only 103 CFU/mL. The patch itself consists of a polymer film upon which probes with DNAzymes specific for certain pathogens are printed. When the pathogen is present, due to the fluorescent nature of the probes, a colour reaction is produced, providing an instant, up-to-date feedback on the status of the product. The probes have also been shown to be stable for at least 14 days, covering the current recommended shelf life of a range of relevant perishable packaged food and drinks, and from pH 3 to 9. The group also suggest the technology may have further potential for use in bandages to detect wound infection, and in ensuring sterility of surgical equipment.

Vaccine suppresses peanut allergies in mice
Preliminary studies in mice have suggested that a three time, monthly-administered vaccine may suppress reaction to peanuts in allergy sufferers. The study was carried out by O’Konek et al. at the Mary H. Weiser Food Allergy Center at the University of Michigan, and published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. The latest work is an application of technology they had been working on into vaccine agents. In the case of peanut allergy, usually TH2 (type 2 helper T) cells mediate the response. The O’Konek group, after intranasal immunisation using their nanoemulsion adjuvant, suppressed this response through induction of immune responses in TH17 cells in the mucosa, and systematic TH1 cells. Other markers of immune responses, IgG1 and IgE, were also shown to decrease. The group wants to understand this mechanism in more detail, O’Konek mentioned, performing more studies on mice, and to determine whether the protection is long term. Exploring whether other food allergies can also be protected against is another next step for the scientists.

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

Oregano essential oil found to kill bacteria on food-contact surfaces of stainless steel
Scientists are reporting in the journal LWT-Food Science and Technology that oregano oil may be able to be used to kill bacteria from contaminated food surfaces.  The scientists from the Federal University of Paraiba, Joao Pessoa, Brazil, exposed the bacterium Staphylccoccus aureus to either 10 µL/mL of essential oil from the oregano plant or a 5 µL/mL phenolic compound oregano.  The substances were found to reduce the number of cells on the surfaces by over 100 fold.  The team note that after 15 minutes, both the essential oil and phenolic compound were found to virtually eradicate one strain of the bacteria to undetectable levels. 

Multistate E.coli outbreak linked to chopped Romaine lettuce
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have linked a multistate outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 Infection to chopped Romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona growing region.  So far 53 people have become ill from 16 states, with 31 of these requiring hospitalisation.  Of these 31, 5 people have developed haemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure.  No deaths have yet been reported.  The illnesses occurred after 29 March with CDC noting that illnesses “might not yet be reported due to the time it takes between when a person become ill with E.coli and when the illness is reported. This takes an average of two to three weeks.” CDC report that at this time, no common grower, supplier, distributor or brand has been identified.

Safety of green tea catechins – EFSA
EFSA has assessed the safety of green tea catechins from dietary sources, following concerns regarding their possible harmful effects on the liver. EFSA concluded that catechins from green tea infusions and similar drinks are generally safe. When taken as food supplements, however, catechin doses at or above 800 mg/day may pose health concerns. EFSA note that doses of epigallocatechin-gallate (EGCG) at 800 mg/day may be associated with initial signs of liver damage.

RSSL can analyse green tea for catechins, including epigallocatechin-gallate (EGCG) and epigallocatechin (EGC). To find out more please contact Customer Services telephone 0118 918 4076 or e-mail enquiries@rssl.com

Europeans views on emerging risks in the food chain
EFSA has asked over 6,200 consumers in 25 EU Member States about potential emerging risks related to food safety. Consumers expressed a desire to be informed about emerging risks early on in the process of identification, even if there is scientific uncertainty. They also indicated a preference for receiving such information via traditional media channels such as TV and newspapers, and the websites of national authorities. Social media and the websites of European authorities were also popular channels among 18 to 34-year-olds. The survey used three examples of emerging risks: green smoothies, plastic rice, and nanotechnologies. However food fraud was of greater concern to consumers than other types of emerging risks.

RSSL’s Emergency Response Service (ERS), an annual membership service, gives you access to our technical experts 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to support you in circumstances such as customer complaints, product tamper, contamination, counterfeiting or processing and packaging failures. ). To find out more please contact Customer Services telephone 0118 918 4076 or e-mail enquiries@rssl.com

New Zealand consumers unaware of high levels of campylobacter in fresh chicken
A study published in the journal BMC Public Health by researchers from University of Otago, Wellington has suggested that safety warning should be added to fresh chicken, after they found that consumers are unaware of the high levels of campylobacter contamination of fresh chicken. The team found that 15% of consumers were unaware that fresh chicken meat for sale in New Zealand is contaminated with campylobacter.  The study also looked at the food safety information supplied on the labels, noting that chicken preparation information was lacking. Using a survey, 401 participants aged over 16 years were asked about the need to thoroughly cook chicken, the use of separate utensils during preparation, and how rinsing chicken under the tap could spread the infection. 70% of consumers said that it was essential to have information regarding safe handling and cooking on the label, with over 50% wanting levels of campylobacter contamination reported.

Chlorine used to decontaminate fresh produce can make foodborne pathogens undetectable
Research led by University of Southampton scientists has discovered that chlorine, commonly used in the agriculture industry to decontaminate fresh produce, can make foodborne pathogens undetectable.  They note that this finding may help to explain outbreaks of Salmonella enterica and Listeria monocytogenes among produce in recent years. The team incubated Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella enterica populations on spinach leaves and then subjected the spinach to chlorine washes.  They state “Chlorine induces the VBNC state in foodborne pathogens Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella enterica and chlorine was ineffective at killing total populations of these pathogens. The data shows that VBNC foodborne pathogens can both be generated and avoid detection by industrial practices, while potentially retaining their ability to cause disease.”  They continue by stating “The problem with fresh produce, such as lettuce and spinach, is that many people eat it fresh, so it misses the cooking step which would kill most pathogens, one reason why companies have relied on chlorine washing before sale.  It will likely impact on post-Brexit trade agreements with countries insisting the UK import their chlorine-treated foodstuffs which this new work shows may not actually be safe because the sanitisation does not kill any bacterial pathogens present that are still capable of causing disease. One example is chlorine treated chicken carcasses.”

French agency ANSES recommends that certain populations avoid the consumption of food supplements containing melatonin
ANSES have conduct an assessment of the potential health risk of food supplements containing melatonin. The Agency reports that melatonin is used to promote sleep as well as modulating mood and the immune system, regulation of body temperature and intestinal motricity.  It also has vasodilatory, vasoconstrictor and proinflammatory activity. Under certain circumstances, or when interacting with other substances, these physiological effects can lead to the occurrence of adverse effects. After analysis of reported cases and the scientific literature the Agency recommend that people suffering from inflammatory or autoimmune diseases, as well as pregnant and breastfeeding women, children and adolescents, and anyone carrying out any activity requiring sustained vigilance where drowsiness could pose a safety problem should not consume melatonin in the form of a food supplement. People with epilepsy, asthma, or suffering from mood, behaviour or personality disorders, or anyone being treated with medication, should seek medical advice regarding the consumption of melatonin in the form of food supplements.

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