12 January - 20 June 2016

Food safety

  • Chigger bites may cause allergic reaction to red meat
  • Scientists at Kew Gardens indicate fungi may help with decomposition of plastics
  • Dietary supplements sold in US found to contain potentially high levels of higenamine
  • Mice study suggests father's diet could affect the long-term health of his offspring
  • Is there a safe level of drinking alcohol?
  • Review of foodborne diseases caused by food preparation in home – FSA
  • New EFSA working group to evaluate data on bisphenol A (BPA)
  • EFSA update host plant database on Xyella
  • Inquest into teenager’s death from sesame seed allergy

Chigger bites may cause allergic reaction to red meat
A paper by doctors from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre and the University of Virginia, published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice is reporting that chigger bites, as well as tick bites may cause allergic reaction to red meat. The allergic reaction, which occurs after three to six hours after a bite, is a reaction to alpha-gal.  The team came to these findings after they analysed results from a questionnaire answered by 311 patients who had been exposed to tick or chigger bites.  Of these respondents, 5.5% reported being exposure to chigger rather than a tick bite. The team note that further investigations are needed however they report that “allergists need to aware that patients may report chigger bites and based on that fact alone should not dismiss alpha-gal sensitisation as a possible diagnosis.”

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

Scientists at Kew Gardens indicate fungi may help with decomposition of plastics
Fungi could help break plastic down naturally in weeks rather than years, according to Kew Gardens and 100 scientists from over 18 countries.  The team report in a paper how different organisms can decompose plastics, clean up radioactive material and even speed up the production of biodiesel. The report notes that there are about three million species of fungi and discusses the importance of fungi including in beer, penicillin, washing powder and cheese. The Telegraph quote senior scientist Dr Ilia Leitch as saying “This is incredibly exciting because it is such a big environmental challenge. If this can be the solution, that would be great. We are in the early days of research but I would hope to see the benefits of fungi that can eat plastic in five to ten years.”

Dietary supplements sold in US found to contain potentially high levels of higenamine
Researchers are reporting that supplements, sold in the USA, that contain higenamine, a substance prohibited in sport are inaccurately labelled and could potentially contain harmful levels of the stimulant. The findings published in the journal Clinical Toxicology note that "Beyond the doping risk for athletes, some of these products contain extremely high doses of a stimulant with unknown safety and have potential cardiovascular risks when consumed. What we've learned from the study is that there is often no way for a consumer to know how much higenamine is actually in the product they are taking." The team came to these findings after they analysed 24 products which were labelled as containing higenamine or the synonyms "norcoclaurine" or "demethylcoclaurine". Levels of the stimulant ranged from trace levels to 62 mg per serving and of the 24 products tested only five listed a specific quantity of higenamine on the label, and for none of those five were quantities accurate.

Mice study suggests father's diet could affect the long-term health of his offspring
A mice study by University of Nottingham researchers has found that lack of protein in a father’s diet may affect sperm quality, which could impact the long-term health of their offspring.  The researchers fed male mice a poor quality diet which resulted in their offspring becoming over weight, with symptoms of type 2 diabetes and reduced expression of genes which regulate the metabolism of fat. The study published in PNAS found that the mice fed a low protein diet, produced sperm with fewer chemical tags on their DNA that regulate gene expression than mice fed a normal diet. Researchers also observed that the seminal plasma suppressed maternal uterine inflammatory and immunological responses, essential for a healthy pregnancy.

Is there a safe level of drinking alcohol?
According to research published in The Lancet which assessed alcohol-related health outcomes and patterns between 1990 and 2016 for 195 countries and territories and by age and sex, there is no safe level of drinking alcohol. The study, which used 694 data sources on individual and population-level alcohol consumption, along with 592 prospective and retrospective studies on the risk of alcohol use, reports that “health risk associated with alcohol are massive”, noting that there are “convincing correlations between drinking and premature death, cancer, and cardiovascular problems.”  Due to lack of evidence the study does not distinguish between beer, wine, and liquor.  Findings indicate that alcohol use patterns vary widely by country, by sex, the average consumption per drinker, and the attributable disease burden.  It states that “alcohol is one of the major causes of death in the world today.”

Review of foodborne diseases caused by food preparation in home – FSA
The Food Standards Agency has published the findings of a review which estimates the proportion of foodborne disease cases caused by food preparation and handling practices within the home. The review conducted by The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, in collaboration with the University of Surrey and the University of Cardiff, used peer viewed literature, and grey literature, assessed by a panel of experts. The review notes that “we were unable to confirm with any accuracy the proportions of foodborne illness deriving from different settings, although most studies suggest the highest proportion of foodborne illness to derive from commercial food service settings.” Risk factors for contracting foodborne illness included inadequate temperature control in both storage (often prolonged) and cooking/reheating, handling raw meat/poultry, consumption of undercooked meat/poultry/eggs, consumption of BBQ meat/poultry, consumption of unpasteurised dairy products, inappropriate hygiene-related behaviours, contact with animals or nappies and incontinence pads, inadequate hand washing leading to contamination of many sites and inadequate sanitation of boards/knives.  It notes however that only temperature control was linked directly to a small number of actual cases of illness and suggests that a more comprehensive study is therefore needed. 

New EFSA working group to evaluate data on bisphenol A (BPA)
This month a new EFSA working group of scientific experts will start evaluating recent toxicological data published since December 2012 on the food contact material bisphenol A (BPA).  EFSA’s Panel on Food Contact Materials, Enzymes and Processing Aids (CEP) will then re-assess the potential hazards of BPA in food and review the temporary safe level set in EFSA’s previous full risk assessment from 2015. This new assessment should be ready by 2020. EFSA note that data submission is still open, with the deadline submission date extended to 15 October 2018. All relevant new studies and data on BPA published since 31 December 2012 can be submitted to EFSA for possible inclusion in this upcoming review of BPA safety.

EFSA update host plant database on Xyella
To expand knowledge and understanding of Xyella fastidiosa, the plant pathogen that is attacking fruit trees, and other plant in Europe, the EFSA have updated its database of plants that act as a host for X, Fastidosa, as well as updating its pest categorisation of X. fastidiosa.  The database now includes information on both species of pathogen X. fastidiosa and X. taiwanensis – and includes information on plant varieties that are resistant to, or tolerant of, Xylella. The update includes the latest information on the biology and distribution of X. fastidiosa inside and outside the EU, as well as on the presence and distribution of insect vectors in Europe. It also includes detailed information about the European outbreaks and the plant species affected.

Inquest into teenager’s death from sesame seed allergy
An inquest into the death of a 15-year-old girl who died of an anaphylactic reaction after eating a Pret a Manger sandwich has raised concerns over a EU food allergy labelling loophole.  Natasha Ednan-Laperouse who suffered from a severe sesame allergy, consumed the sandwich on board a flight to Nice in July 2016.  During the flight Natasha told her father that she was unable to breath and two doses of epinephrine were administered. However her condition deteriorated and she suffered cardiac arrest. Natasha’s father called his own mother to ask her to visit a Pret a Manger location in west London to look at the sandwich’s ingredients. She did not find an allergen warning or ingredient label that included sesame, so she made inquiries at the counter and was handed information in a folder, which listed the baguette dough as containing sesame seed.  As the food is made and wrapped fresh daily, the sandwich was not considered pre-packaged so are not required to be labelled individually for allergens and ingredients.  The article in Allergic Living, also quotes another case, covered in The Guardian which reports similar circumstances in an allergy death lawsuit where a Pret location in New York City was involved. Matt David, who was allergic to sesame, died of anaphylaxis after eating a sandwich from Pret in September 2015.  The inquest into the circumstances of Natasha’s death continues at West London Coroner’s Court.

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

share this article
RSSL endeavours to check the veracity of news stories cited in this free e-mail bulletin by referring to the primary source, but cannot be held responsible for inaccuracies in the articles so published. RSSL provides links to other World Wide Web sites as a convenience to users, but cannot be held responsible for the content or availability of these sites. This document may be copied and distributed provided the source is cited as RSSL's Food e-News and the information so distributed is not used for profit.

Previous editions

Load more editions

Make an Enquiry