12 January - 20 June 2016

Food safety

  • Dietary exposure to dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs is a health concern
  • Leading researchers call for a ban on widely used insecticides
  • US agree regulation of cell-cultured food products from cell lines of livestock and poultry
  • Study questions the safety of using flowers in food
  • Antimicrobial resistance E.coli remains low in raw beef and pork
  • EFSA - Food safety: simplified approach to make food donations easier
  • Multi-country outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes linked to consumption of salmon products
  • Defra open consultation - Food labelling: amending laws
  • Ice and soda found to be contaminated with faecal bacteria
  • Nearly 8% of children in the US have food allergies
  • EFSA – consultation of cyanogenic glycosides in raw apricot kernels
  • Cattle in Scotland have a higher level of a certain subtype of E. coli O157

Dietary exposure to dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs is a health concern
EFSA has confirmed the conclusion of previous assessments that dietary exposure to dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs – environmental pollutants present at low levels in food and feed – is a health concern. Data from European countries indicate an exceedance of EFSA’s new tolerable intake level across all age groups. Dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs are toxic chemicals that persist in the environment for years and accumulate at low levels in the food chain, usually in the fatty tissues of animals. Their presence in food and feed has declined in the last 30 years thanks to the efforts of public authorities and industry. Dr Ron Hoogenboom of the CONTAM Panel and chair of the dioxins working group, said: “The Panel has set a new tolerable weekly intake [TWI] for dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs in food of 2 picograms per kilogram of body weight“. The new TWI is seven-times lower than the previous EU tolerable intake set by the European Commission’s former Scientific Committee on Food in 2001. “The main reasons for the decrease were the availability of new epidemiological and experimental animal data on the toxicity of these substances and more refined modelling techniques for predicting levels in the human body over time.” (quoted directly)

Leading researchers call for a ban on widely used insecticides
According to research carried out by the University of California, widely used organophosphates, which are used as insecticides in schools, shopping centres, farms and golf courses, are linked to poorer behavioural, cognitive and social development in children due to exposure to pregnant mothers even at very low, previously considered safe, levels. The population are being exposed to the effects of these insecticides in everyday life through drinking water, inhalation and food. The research was published in PLOS medicine, where researchers call for a ban on organophosphate based insecticides by the government by phasing their use out gradually, by monitoring drinking water sources, removing the use of these chemicals in all products and agriculture and setting up a reporting system for related illness or use of these pesticides. In the meantime, the use of other safer pesticide alternatives is encouraged as well as proper training for agricultural workers in handling of these insecticides and improvement of treatment through further education on the effects for doctors and nurses.

US agree regulation of cell-cultured food products from cell lines of livestock and poultry
The US Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration have, following a public meeting in October, concluded that both the USDA and the FDA should jointly oversee the production of cell-cultured food products derived from livestock and poultry.  They note in a press release that “drawing on the expertise of both USDA and FDA, the Agencies are today announcing agreement on a joint regulatory framework wherein FDA oversees cell collection, cell banks, and cell growth and differentiation. A transition from FDA to USDA oversight will occur during the cell harvest stage. USDA will then oversee the production and labelling of food products derived from the cells of livestock and poultry. And the Agencies are actively refining the technical details of the framework, including robust collaboration and information sharing between the agencies to allow each to carry out our respective roles.”

Study questions the safety of using flowers in food
A study by researchers from the National Food Institute, University of Denmark is reporting that whilst there has been an increase in the use of flowers in food, there is a lack of chemical and toxicological data on the safety of them.  The study published in Food and Chemical Toxicology reviewed literature on potentially toxic compounds found in 23 flowers. Whilst literature is sparse, 13 of the 23 flowers investigated were found to have harmful effects.  They note that the majority of the toxins would not make people acutely ill, but long term may have harmful effects, such as causing cardiovascular disease, or damaging reproductive or nervous systems. Due to lack of literature the researchers were unable to set a limit for safe consumption of flowers.

Antimicrobial resistant E.coli remains low in raw beef and pork
The Food Standards Agency have published the third year results from an EU survey which assesses the frequency of certain types of antimicrobial resistant (AMR) E. coli in raw UK retail pork and beef.  The findings which are from analysis of 314 beef samples from January to December 2017 showed that AMR levels remain consistently low, similar to those from the previous survey on beef and pork in Year 1. These findings have been collected on behalf of the European Commission as part of an EU-wide seven-year surveillance study. The data is fed back to the European Commission on a yearly basis and reported in the EU Summary Report on Antimicrobial Resistance.

EFSA - Food safety: simplified approach to make food donations easier
EFSA has developed a new food safety management approach that makes it simpler for small retailers to donate food. The simplified system would mean that retailers are not required to have detailed knowledge of specific hazards. It includes steps for checking that donated food is safe, such as shelf-life control, maintenance of the cold chain and ensuring communication between the donor and recipients. Under the new system, retailers need only to be aware that biological, chemical and physical hazards or allergens may be present and that a failure to undertake key control activities – such as separation of raw from cooked products – could pose a risk to consumers. The approach is intended for food distribution centres, supermarkets, pubs, restaurants and other small retailers. (quoted directly)

Multi-country outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes linked to consumption of salmon products
A multi-country outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes that has affected Denmark, Germany and France since 2015 has been linked to consumption of salmon products such as cold-smoked and marinated salmon. EFSA and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) used whole genome sequencing to identify the multi-country outbreak. By 8 October 2018, 12 cases including four deaths had been reported in the affected countries. In August 2017, Denmark reported the first cluster of cases linked to the consumption of ready-to-eat smoked salmon produced in Poland. Control measures were implemented and other EU Member States and competent authorities were informed. In October 2017 France reported the detection of the same strain of Listeria in marinated salmon originating from the same Polish processing company as identified in the Danish outbreak investigation. The most recent case linked to the outbreak was notified in Germany in May 2018.

Defra open consultation - Food labelling: amending laws
Defra are seeking views on the required changes to food labels in the event that the UK leaves the EU in a ‘no deal’ scenario. This will ensure that current provisions in law can continue to work after the UK has left the EU. In particular, they want views on what period of adjustment should be allowed before all food marketed in the UK must have a UK name and address on the label. This consultation concerns food labelling in the situation that the UK leaves the EU in a ‘no deal’ scenario. It does not propose new policies on food labelling. The deadline for responses is 4th December 2018.

Ice and soda found to be contaminated with faecal bacteria
An investigation by the programme ‘Watchdog’ has found ice and soda served at leading pub chains to be contaminated with faecal bacteria .  Tony Lewis, of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, who analysed the findings, suggests that bacteria found in such high concentrations, and the presence of coliforms, could indicate failings in cleaning standards – and may even represent a potential risk to health, particularly for people with weakened immune systems. He is quoted by the Independent as saying: “Ice is like any other food. We consume it, we ingest it, it goes into our stomachs, into our guts, and if it’s loaded up with the wrong type of bacteria then it can make us ill. So that’s why this is a concern. On the basis of the chains that we’ve looked at, the industry needs to do better, making sure that their cleanliness is being well managed.”

Nearly 8% of children in the US have food allergies
According to findings published in The Public Health Impact of Parent-Reported Childhood Food Allergies in the United States, around 7.6% of children have food allergies, while less than half of those have an epinephrine auto-injector prescription. 40% of these children with food allergies have more than one food allergy. The most common allergies were found to be peanut, milk, and shellfish. The study reports that about 2.2% of children were allergic to peanut, 1.9% to milk, 1.3% to shellfish, 1.2% to tree nut, 0.9% to egg and 0.6% to fin fish. Nearly 43% of these children reported a severe reaction, with peanut, tree nut and shellfish being the most common.

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

EFSA – consultation of cyanogenic glycosides in raw apricot kernels
EFSA is publicly consulting on the follow-up to its 2016 scientific opinion on the acute health risks from cyanogenic glycosides in raw apricot kernels. Tiny traces of naturally-occurring compounds called cyanogenic glycosides can be present in some foods and convert to cyanide after eating. In the new draft opinion, experts have concluded that it is unlikely that consumption of such foods (including almonds and almond based products such as marzipan) would pose a health concern. The public consultation is open until 25 January 2019.

Cattle in Scotland have a higher level of a certain subtype of E. coli O157
A report, which focuses on 4 years of research involving Food Standards Scotland (FSS), the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, has found that cattle in Scotland have a higher level of a certain subtype of E. coli O157 which causes more severe human infections and could explain higher human infection rates in Scotland. During 1998 to 2013, Health Protection Scotland reported over 200 cases of E. coli O157 with more than 40% of these requiring hospitalisation and 10% developed severe renal complications. Using whole Genome Sequencing the researchers identified which subtype of E. coli caused an outbreak.  This data, for example, also allowed the researchers to understand whether a human infection is likely down to local farm animals or by a strain present in imported food or after travel abroad. A vaccine, also trialled by the researchers to investigate whether this could limit E.coli O157 excretion from and transmission between cattle, was found to effective, however the scientists’ note that further work is needed to assess if it is practical and works in field situations.

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