12 January - 20 June 2016

Food safety

  • Impact of Brexit on food safety
  • Crystal Palace’s training ground gets zero food hygiene rating
  • Consumer trust falls after allergen tragedy
  • Monitoring of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) in the EU
  • Prevent food poisoning over the festive period
  • Action to reduce energy drink consumption among children supported by MPs
  • Shedding light on Listeria
  • Study finds essential oils from garlic and herbs kill Lyme disease bacteria
  • Major retailers publish latest campylobacter results
  • New deadline – assessment on the risk posed to humans by residues of multiple pesticides in food

Impact of Brexit on food safety
The Society of Applied Microbiology has published a report following its roundtable discussion in July which discussed the potential impacts of departing the European Union on food safety in the UK, focusing on issues related to science. Key points and recommendations from the discussion are reported as being:

  • New trade deals may leave the UK exposed to new food safety threats from imports, including drug-resistant microbes.
  • Food exports from the UK may need to meet different safety requirements, incurring costs on British food producers.
  • The UK Government must seek continued involvement in European food safety surveillance systems and knowledge sharing networks after Brexit.
  • The EU is a key source of funding for food safety research. Steps should be taken to mitigate potential funding losses once the UK leaves the EU.
  • Future government support for the safety of our food should also focus on UK National Reference Laboratories and gaps in the domestic skills base.

Crystal Palace’s training ground gets zero food hygiene rating
After finding a “significant mouse problem” environmental health inspectors have given Crystal Palace’s training ground a zero food hygiene rating. The kitchen, which caters for players and staff, was inspected in August.  The club voluntarily agreed to close the kitchen whilst appropriate treatment methods were used to eliminate the pests.  The Guardian reports a Palace spokesman as saying the problem had emerged after work to upgrade the training ground was completed and had now been resolved. They continue by stating “The remedial action was approved by the environmental health inspector and we are confident that our five-star rating at Beckenham will be restored when we are re-inspected, in line with our five-star rating for the kitchen facilities at Selhurst Park.”

Consumer trust falls after allergen tragedy
According to research by Newton Insight, consumer trust in Pret a Manager has fallen by 20% points after the food allergen tragedy. Experts are stating that Pret a Manager’s response to full allergen labelling has been too slow.  Newton Insight analysed social media sentiment between 1 January and 22 September, and found that mistrust had grown by 10% points, trust decreased by 10.4% points, and joy towards the brand decreased by 19% points. An article in PRWeek reports that Newton Insight Managing Director Philip Lynch told PRweek that social media posts celebrating Pret have fallen by 20% in the past 10 days.  He is quoted as saying “In the first nine months of this year, the strongest emotional signals expressed by Pret customers were joy, trust and delight.  These three responses have suffered the biggest downturn since the allergy story broke. Some people see the food allergy incidents as symptomatic of a deeper corporate malaise.  There is a concern the company’s labelling policy is neither thorough nor consistent.  There is also criticism and anger at Pret’s handling of the incident: some people are wondering if Pret can be trusted to do the right thing.”

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

Monitoring of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) in the EU
EFSA has published its third summary report on the monitoring of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) in the EU. The report provides results on data collected by all EU Member States, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland for 2017.

The main findings are:

  • No cases of classical BSE in cattle (out of 1,312,714 animals tested) were reported in the EU in 2017. Six cases of atypical BSE were reported.
  • There were 933 cases of scrapie in sheep (out of 314,547 tested) and 567 in goats (out of 117,268 tested) in the EU.
  • No cases of chronic waste disease in any of the 3,585 cervids tested (e.g. reindeer, elk and moose) reported in the EU. However, 11 cases of CWD were reported in Norway: nine in wild reindeer, one in moose and, for the first time, one in red deer.

Prevent food poisoning over the festive period
The Food Standards Agency has published advice on how to prevent food poisoning over the festive period.  They raise the issue of the four Cs of food hygiene: Chilling, Cleaning, Cooking and avoiding Cross-contamination stating that these are important throughout the year, but especially at Christmas. They have also published a list of advice that should be followed:

  • When Christmas food shopping, take enough bags with you so that you can separate out raw and ready-to-eat foods to avoid cross-contamination. 
  • Check the guidance on your turkey to ensure you have enough time to fully defrost it – it could take as many as 4 days. 
  • Don’t wash raw turkey - it just spreads germs further by splashing them onto your hands, clothes, utensils and worktops. 
  • To work out the cooking time for your bird, read the instructions on the packaging. Check that: the meat is steaming hot throughout, there is no pink meat visible when you cut into the thickest part and meat juices run clear. 
  • Whether you cooked your turkey from frozen or fresh, your turkey leftovers can be used to make a new meal (such as a turkey curry). This new meal can then be frozen, but make sure you only reheat it once. 

Action to reduce energy drink consumption among children supported by MPs
The Science and Technology Committee’s Energy drinks and children Report has concluded that societal concerns could justify a ban on the sale of energy drinks to children. However, the Committee found that the current quantitative evidence alone is not sufficient to warrant a statutory ban. The inquiry examined the effects of energy drinks, especially the caffeine contained in them, and was launched after research showed that young people in the UK are the biggest consumers of energy drinks in Europe for their age group. The Committee sought to understand whether the caffeine in energy drinks had a negative health and behavioural effect on young people and if the sale of energy drinks to under 16s should be banned.

Shedding light on Listeria
Two research projects have investigated Listeria in order to improve food safety from farm to fork.  The first study published in the International Journal of Food Microbiology, led by the University of Surrey’s BioProChem group, revealed evidence about the way Listeria grows in food.  Using food models, the team investigated how the bacteria developed antimicrobial resistance, how it responds to nisin, a natural antimicrobial found in dairy products, and to heat. Using a model which contains protein and polysaccharides, they report that the bacteria grew only on the protein.  They also found when there was an increase in temperature, the bacteria developed resistance, via a mechanism called cross protection.  The second study, published in the Journal of Food Engineering, compared different concentrations of whey protein – 2% and 10%.  They report that a “temperature of 20 degrees Celsuis or so and an acidic environment with a pH value of about 4 are ideal condition for electroporating bacteria in protein solutions like the why protein we tested. The energy produced by the pulse electric fields causes the medium to warm quickly, which damages many valuable proteins.  This effect increases in line with the strength and duration of the electric field, which in turns kills of the bacteria more efficiently.  So it’s all about finding the right balance.” (Food Safety News)

Study finds essential oils from garlic and herbs kill Lyme disease bacteria
A study by researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has investigated the effect of common herbs and medicinal plants, including garlic on Lyme disease.  The findings published in the journal Antibiotics indicate that 10 of the oils, including garlic, myrrh trees, thyme leaves, cinnamon bark, allspice berries and cumin seeds, were able to kill activity against dormant and slow-growing “persister” forms of the Lyme disease bacterium. Whilst the researchers point out that the tests were ‘lab-dish’, they hope in the near future to continue their research using mouse models.  (Medical Xpress)

Major retailers publish latest campylobacter results
The Food Standards Agency have published major retailers July – September 2018 campylobacter results for fresh shop-bought UK-produced chickens. The latest figures show that on average, across the major retailers, 3.5% 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 corresponding figure for the previous set of results (April - June 2018) was 3.7%, while for the first publication (July-September 2017) it was 4.6%.  Michael Wight, Director of Policy at the Food Standards Agency said: “The latest figures show further progress being made in our efforts to reduce campylobacter in UK-produced fresh whole chickens.  We will continue to build on these encouraging results, working closely with retailers and smaller poultry businesses to bring levels down to as low as reasonably achievable.”

New deadline – assessment on the risk posed to humans by residues of multiple pesticides in food
EFSA has set a new deadline for completion of two pilot assessments on the risks posed to humans by residues of multiple pesticides in food. The assessments were originally scheduled for publication by the end of this year but have been moved back following feedback from stakeholders. The full risk assessments of the cumulative effects of pesticides on the human nervous and thyroid systems are now expected in June 2019.

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