12 January - 20 June 2016

Food safety

  • Review of the maximum levels of glyphosate that are legally permitted to be present in food
  • New mast cell test can safely and accurately diagnose peanut allergies
  • Could an outbreak of salmonella decrease using this new tool?
  • EFSA publishes data collected from Fipronil residues in eggs and recommends future monitoring
  • Multistate Outbreak of Salmonella Braenderup Infections linked to eggs – over 200 million eggs recalled
  • Bisphenol A (BPA) may be associated with adverse cardiovascular events – animal study
  • Fungi becoming resistant to antifungal treatments
  • Survey shows 11% of children fall ill to food poisoning

Review of the maximum levels of glyphosate that are legally permitted to be present in food
EFSA has completed its review of the maximum levels of glyphosate that are legally permitted to be present in food. The review is based on data on glyphosate residues in food submitted to EFSA by all EU Member States.  The review – covering all crops treated with glyphosate – includes a risk assessment which shows that current exposure levels are not expected to pose a risk to human health. For this assessment EFSA compared the diets of adults and children in the EU with the safe intake values that EFSA recommended in 2015.

New mast cell test can safely and accurately diagnose peanut allergies
A new test, developed by Medical Research Council Scientists, can diagnose peanut allergy, with 98% specificity, doesn’t cause allergic reactions, or run the risk of false-positives.  It is reported to be five times more cost-efficient compared to oral food challenges and may be adapted to test for other food allergies such as milk, eggs, sesame, and tree nuts.  The new mast activation test (MAT), published in Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, maybe used when skin prick tests are inconclusive.  Whilst previous tests have focused on an antibody called immunoglobulin (IgE), this new test focuses on mast cells. Mast cells are activated by recognising the IgE in plasma and, in allergic patients, produce biomarkers associated with allergic reactions, which can be detected in the lab. The new test has been tested on blood samples from 174 children (73 peanut allergic and 101 peanut tolerant).  The researchers report that MAT accurately identified peanut allergy with 98 specificity, with those with more severe reactions having a higher number of activated mast cells.  The scientists plan to transition the biomarker test out of the laboratory and into a clinical setting. They will be testing blood samples from patients with suspected allergies to further validate its utility.

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

Could an outbreak of salmonella decrease using this new tool?
A new tool developed by a collaboration between the Welcome Sanger Institute and the University of Otago, can discriminate between strains of Salmonella that cause food poisoning and strains that cause more severe infections. Consequently, Salmonella with dangerous adaptations can now be quickly identified before they cause an outbreak which is an important public health concern. As a result of adaptation, there are many different strains of Salmonella which have a different potential to cause fatal diseases. Gastrointestinal salmonella causes food poisoning whereas Salmonella Typhi can cause more severe infections such typhoid fever which can spread to the bloodstream. This new tool has identified 200 genes which play a role in determining the severity of infection that the bacterium will cause. By discriminating between different forms of the bacteria, the tool has the ability to flag the dangerous strains of Salmonella within seconds. This is a significant skill, given that current methods of bacterial strain identification are often time consuming as they involve manually comparing the adaptations in the gene sequence of different strains. Dr Nicole Wheeler, co-lead author from the Wellcome Sanger Institute highlighted the benefits of this recently developed tool as “[its rapid identification ability] will have a big impact on the surveillance of dangerous bacteria in a way we haven’t been able to before, not only in hospital wards, but on a global scale”.

EFSA publishes data collected from Fipronil residues in eggs and recommends future monitoring
European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has published its analysis of food data collected after the detection of fipronil residues in eggs last summer.  The EFSA set up an ad-hoc monitoring programme in the EU. Member States provided results for 5439 samples of egg and chicken muscle/fat analysed for fipronil and other active substances sampled during the period 1 September 2017 to 30 November 2017.  Of the samples analysed 742 contained residues exceeding the legal limit, with almost all relating to fipronil, and were associated with unprocessed chicken eggs (601), fat of laying hens (134 samples), muscle of laying hens (5 samples) as well as dried egg powder (2 samples).  Products exceeding legal limits originated from eight Member States – the Netherlands (664 samples), Italy (40 samples), Germany (13 samples), Poland (11 samples), Hungary (6 samples), France (5 samples), Slovenia (2 samples), and Greece (1 sample). EFSA recommend that fipronil and other acaricides be included in the future monitoring activities of the Member States.

Multistate Outbreak of Salmonella Braenderup Infections linked to eggs – over 200 million eggs recalled
Consumers, restaurants, and retailers should not eat, serve, or sell recalled eggs produced by Rose Acre Farms’ Hyde County farm according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC are advising that the eggs be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase for a refund.  These eggs were sold under multiple brand names, including Coburn Farms, Country Daybreak, Food Lion, Glenview, Great Value, Nelms, Publix, Sunshine Farms, and Sunups.  Thirty-five people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Braenderup have been reported from nine states. 11 people have been hospitalised, and no deaths have been report.  According to Reuters over 200 million eggs have been recalled.

Bisphenol A (BPA) may be associated with adverse cardiovascular events – animal study
Findings from a study appearing in Scientific Reports, using neonatal rat cells, has indicated that bisphenol A (BPA) may be associated with adverse cardiovascular events, such as slower heart rates, irregular heart rhythms and calcium instabilities.  Whilst the researchers note that more research is needed to determine the impact of prolonged BPA exposure has on a child's developing heart, they state that their study documents the elevated risk short-term BPA exposure, for a period of 15 minutes, may have in paediatric intensive care settings. They state that "We know that once this chemical enters the body, it can be bioactive and therefore can influence how heart cells function. This is the first study to look at the impact BPA exposure can have on heart cells that are still developing."

Fungi becoming resistant to antifungal treatments
A study conducted by an international team, led by scientists from Imperial College London and the University of Exeter and published in Science suggests that changes are needed in how antifungal treatments operate if we are to avoid a collapse in the ability to fight fungal infections and a subsequent increase in disease outbreaks that could affect food security. The study suggests that there has been a huge rise in strains of fungi that are resistant to common antifungal drugs and the researchers indicate these drugs are becoming ineffective and the suggest that the drugs used to treat fungal infections in people could go the same way. Fisher et al. suggest that overuse of existing chemicals helps spread resistance and that global trade networks are thought to be “key drivers” in helping fungi become resistant. For food crops, they indicate that intensive farming practices and the cultivation of relatively few species have also driven resistance. It has been estimated that 20% of global crop yields each year are lost to fungi. Prof Matthew Fisher is quoted in a press release as saying that “The threat of antimicrobial resistance is well established in bacteria, but has largely been neglected in fungi. The scale of the problem has been, until now, under-recognised and under-appreciated, but the threat to human health and the food chain are serious and immediate.” Fisher et al. suggest that several measures are needed to reverse this trend. These include more selective use of existing chemicals, development of new drugs, and processes and treatments aimed at stopping fungi swapping genes. (Medical Xpress)

Survey shows 11% of children fall ill to food poisoning
A US survey conducted by Mott Poll, the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health, suggests that up to 11% of children have become ill after eating spoiled or contaminated food. The survey suggest that restaurants are the biggest culprit according to parents, causing 68% of illnesses. 31% of parents reported children had become ill after consuming food at home while 21% blamed schools. The survey also reported that most parents take food safety seriously at home with 87% washing their hands before cooking, 80% washing fruit and vegetables before use and 84% checking the expiry dates on food from the fridge. 43% said they would automatically throw away food that was more than 2 days past its expiry date while the remaining 57% said they would taste or smell it first before using. The survey notes this contrasts with the only 25% who check health inspection ratings before choosing a place to eat. Mott Poll co-director Gary L. Freed is quoted as saying that “In most cases children recover quickly from food poisoning, but in certain cases it can be debilitating. It's impossible to completely protect children from food-borne illness. However, there are strategies to try to reduce the risk of getting sick from eating spoiled or contaminated food. We found that while parents paid closer attention to food safety in their own home, they were not always as cautious about outside sources." Freed also noted that Hepatitis A is an increasingly common germ, typically passed on by unwashed hands but that the Hepatitis A vaccine would prevent almost all cases of illness in those vaccinated. Freed added that "Simple precautions, like checking restaurant inspections and following food safety rules when cooking and storing food, can help keep your family safe." (Medical Xpress)

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