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Food Safety Insight Alert Archive

Have a look at some of our recent alerts. These give broad coverage of the industry - if you want something more specific create your own here.

<<123>> Total issues:22

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June 18, 2011, to June 25, 2011

Taurine Found To Hinder Production Of Carcinogen Acrylamide In Baked, Fried Foods

Chinese researchers have found that the energy drink ingredient taurine inhibits the production of  the carcinogen acrylamide during the baking and frying process. Acrylamide is produced when sugar and the amino acid asparagines react during the baking, frying or toasting process. That reaction causes the brown color and flavor of baked or fried foods. Taurine, derived from the amino acid cysteine, is found naturally in seafood and meat and is believed to boost energy. When taurine is introduced in what is called the Maillard reaction, it reacts with the glucose and with any acrylamide, inhibiting its production by as much as 72 percent.

Delaying Introduction Of Allergenic Foods To Young Children Has No Significant Benefit

Children from infancy through age four who were fed typical allergenic foods such as cow’s milk and peanuts were no more likely to show symptoms of allergies than children who were denied such foods, new Dutch research has found. The study tracked eczema and asthma symptoms of 7,000 children who were introduced to cow’s milk, hen’s egg, peanuts, soy and gluten before they were six months old. “This study does not support the recommendation for delayed introduction of allergenic foods after age six months for the prevention of eczema and wheezing,” the researchers concluded.

Absorption Of BPA Increases With Continuous Exposure – Study

A U.S. study that tested long term dietary exposure to bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical used in the manufacture of polycarbonate plastic containers, including baby bottles and water bottles, found that BPA accumulates in the body faster than scientists previously thought. BPA has been found to be a disruptor of the endocrine system, but animal studies tested large single doses of BPA, finding them tolerable and relatively safe. This study in mice, however, found that the absorption and accumulation of BPA in the blood increased when the mice were given repeated doses as a dietary supplement, instead of one large dose. Researchers concluded that continuous exposure to BPA in the diet is “a better predictor of BPA concentrations in chronically exposed animals and humans.”

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May 21, 2011, to June 18, 2011

OTA Disputes The Washington Times Op-Ed ‘Rant’ Against Organic Products

The Organic Trade Organization (OTA) has called an Op-Ed piece by David Mastio in The Washington Times a "biased, inaccurate and just plain irresponsible” attack against the organic food industry. OTA claims that Mastio is using misinformation and public hysteria over the recent Escherichia coli outbreak to attack organic food producers and points out that Federal food safety rules also cover the organic products industry and no evidence exist showing organic products are more at risk of E. coli contamination than chemically produced foods. It added that organic producers also have to meet third-party standards of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Organic Program, including emphasis on sanitation in the production process.

Nestlé To Launch BabyNes Capsule System Outside Switzerland In 2012

Nestlé SA plans to roll out its BabyNes infant-formula capsule system next year after initially launching it in Switzerland in May. BabyNes took over six to develop, and it costs 249 Swiss francs. Nestlé would like it to emulate the success of Nespresso, the company's single-serve capsule coffee dispensing system. Nespresso's success encouraged companies, such as Sara Lee Corp. and Ethical Coffee Co., to manufacture capsules compatible with the system. Nestlé responded by taking both to court. BabyNes machines will include a chip to prevent use of non-Nestlé capsules, with the company denying anticompetitive behavior and claiming it merely wants to ensure hygiene and safety standards are maintained.

E. Coli Outbreak Is Hurting Produce Sales, But Effect On Organic Industry Will Be Temporary

A British analyst firm focusing on the organic industry says the recent E. coli outbreak in Europe that has killed 22 people and sickened more than two thousand others will probably have limited impact on organic devotees over the long haul. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control traced a German farm and are analyzing 18 sprouts including bean and broccoli to determine if they’re the source of the outbreak. Amarjit Sahota, director of Organic Monitor, says sales of organic produce have taken a hit all over Europe  but he doesn’t expect the outbreak to hurt the organic industry in the long term. Organic buyers are more worried about health issues associated with traditional farming, he notes.

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April 23, 2011, to May 21, 2011

Food Safety Problems Plague China Again

Two years ago China reacted swiftly to the melamine-contaminated milk scandal that sickened thousands of children: the government threatened, raided and arrested – even executed – disreputable food processors. But efforts by the government to enforce a tougher food safety law are falling short, The New York Times reports, as “a stomach-turning string of food-safety scandals this spring” has provided evidence of a continued problem. The media have reported on recycled buns, fake eggs, pork contaminated with drugs, pork sold as beef after being soaked in borax, rice contaminated with the heavy metal cadmium, arsenic-laced soy sauce, etc. And without a strong consumer lobby to voice its concerns, consumers feel helpless. Government officials meanwhile, though admitting embarrassment, say the situation is improving.

Coca-Cola Refuses To Budge On The BPA Issue

Arguing that the use of bisphenol A (BPA) is not only safe but is the only commercially viable way to line beverage cans, the Coca-Cola Company is refusing to give in to demands from shareholders for information about whether it plans to phase out the use of the controversial chemical. More than 25 percent of shareholders at the company’s annual meeting voted for disclosure of the company’s plans, if any, for addressing consumer concerns over BPA use in its beverage cans, and called for phasing out its use. BPA has been linked to neurological defects, diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

Opposition To GM Crops Expressed At Organic Seed Exchange Festival In Greece

About  5,000 people attended a festival in northeastern Greece to exchange seeds and voice opposition to genetically modified crops. European countries are under pressure from American GM producers such as Monsanto who argue that European bans on GM products violate global trade rules. The European Union has approved only two GM-crops: a maize strain for animal feed and a potato for paper-making. Popular disapproval of genetically modified crops has delayed decisions on a long list of others. On display at the festival were organic tomato roots and seeds to grow organic courgettes, beetroots, melons, watermelons and herbs. A total of 4,000 plant types were distributed to organic growers and supporters.

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April 16, 2011, to April 23, 2011

Energy Drinks Added To Alcohol Change The Perception Of Impairment, Increasing The Danger

Mixing an energy drink like Red Bull with alcohol changes the reaction to alcohol that a drinker experiences, compared to a drinker who imbibes alcohol only, creating a potentially dangerous situation. Drinking alcohol makes people act impulsively. For the study, researchers randomly assigned 56 male and female college students to one of four groups that drank alcohol alone, alcohol plus an energy drink or a placebo, then measured task execution times. Adding the energy drink to alcohol did not increase impairment, but did change the perception of impairment. “The mix of impaired behavioral inhibition and enhanced stimulation is a combination that may make energy drink consumption riskier than alcohol consumption alone,” the researchers concluded.

Canada’s Oversight Of Food Safety System Is Deemed Lax

An editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal warns that Canada’s government sectors and private industry are not doing enough to protect consumers from foodborne illnesses. Regulation and oversight of food safety are lax and need to be strengthened. Key problems include inadequate surveillance systems, poor food traceability from “farm to fork,” and a lack of incentives to keep food safe throughout the food chain. "Private and public oversight of food safety should be reformed to ensure sufficiently uniform practices across the country,” the authors write. Though food can never be made completely sterile and risk free, there are measures that can be taken to prevent unnecessary deaths from food contamination.

Study Finds Widespread Bacterial Contamination Of Meat/Poultry Products

A study of 136 meat and poultry samples collected from 26 grocery stores in five U.S. cities has found widespread contamination by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. In addition, according to the researchers, 96 percent of the bacteria were resistant to at least one antimicrobial. The researchers looked at 80 brands of meat and poultry products and found that 77 percent of the turkey samples were tainted, 42 percent of pork samples, 41 percent of chicken samples and 37 percent of beef samples. Some of the meat and poultry samples were contaminated by multiple unique S. aureus strains. “Our findings indicate that multidrug-resistant S. aureus should be added to the list of antimicrobial-resistant pathogens that routinely contaminate our food supply,” the researchers concluded.

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March 26, 2011, to April 16, 2011

Enforcement Is Key Concern About Forthcoming FDA "New Ingredient" Guidelines

Food industry experts are saying there’s little to fear about the forthcoming “new dietary ingredients” guidelines from the FDA -- which are focused on whether ingredients are safe rather than effective -- except the possibility of aggressive enforcement. Some companies may have to worry about whether they can prove their ingredients qualify as “old dietary ingredients,” which are exempt from the 1994 federal dietary supplements law. The FDA may look more closely at whether an “old” ingredient has been chemically altered enough – to increase potency, for example – to make it a “new” ingredient under the law. Another key concern about the revised NDI rules is whether the FDA will look differently at new ingredients that have already achieved GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status.

EFSA Panel Reports On Assessment Of 442 “General Function” Food Health Claims

The European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) NDA Panel has assessed 442 “general function” health claims – about 80 percent of such claims – relating to protection against oxidative damage to body cells, contribution to either cognitive or bowel function and maintenance of normal blood cholesterol levels. The panel reported favorably on claims regarding the relationships between, for example, walnuts and improved function of blood vessels and the antioxidant effects of olive oil polyphenols on LDL cholesterol. Nutrient replacement claims approved included replacement of digestible starch by resistant starch to lower the increase of blood glucose levels after meals and  replacement of saturated fatty acids with mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids to maintain normal blood cholesterol. Claims not approved generally offered low quality scientific evidence, EFSA said.

New Policy Would Require Withholding Of Food Products Pending Test Results

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is proposing that its Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) be allowed to withhold meat and poultry products from the market until FSIS test results for harmful substances are received. According to the USDA, if the new requirement is enacted, the amount of unsafe food that reaches store shelves – and the number of food recalls – will be reduced. Currently, FSIS can request – but not require – that tested product samples be held until test results are available. FSIS inspects billions of pounds of meat, poultry and processed egg products annually and believes that 44 of the most serious recalls between 2007 and 2009 could have been prevented had the proposed procedure been in place.

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March 12, 2011, to March 26, 2011

U.K. Survey Finds That GM Soy Probably Used To Feed Animals Used In Food Products

A survey of leading grocery brands conducted by U.K. newspaper the Daily Telegraph has found that many imported food products probably contain ingredients produced from animals fed with genetically modified soy. According to the newspaper, the survey asked whether brands could assure consumers that their products contained no ingredients from animals fed with genetically modified soy. Responses indicated that unless the product was guaranteed organic, there was no assurance that GM soy was not used. Britain imports three million tons of soy each year, much of which is GM. Supermarkets and food manufacturers are required to state on the label if a product contains GM ingredients. They are not required, however, to state whether GM products were used early in the food chain.

Caramel Color Additives Are Generally Safe, EFSA Panel Says

A food additives committee of the European Food Safety Authority has issued a scientific opinion stating that caramel colors added to foods in the European Union are neither genotoxic nor carcinogenic, nor is there any evidence they harm human reproduction or the developing child. The Panel on Food Additives, which also looked at the safety of by-products resulting from production of the caramel colors, urged that their levels be kept as low as technologically possible. The Panel set an acceptable daily intake (ADI) for the colors at 300 mg per kg body weight per day, but a more restrictive ADI of 100 mg/kg bw/day for caramel E150c because of “uncertainties related to possible effects on the immune system …”

Worries Over Food Safety Drive South Koreans To Local, Organic Food Sources

Food safety concerns among South Korean consumers have spurred an upsurge in the membership of the country’s largest food cooperative, Hansalim, which sells mainly organic, locally grown vegetables and other food products. Concerns about food safety reached a critical stage after outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease and avian influenza in 2010 forced the slaughter of millions of livestock. Hansalim’s membership leapt by 20 percent to 250,900 during the year, completely by word of mouth because the cooperative spends no money on advertising. Hansalim operates 110 stores in South Korea, which together posted about $162 million in sales in 2010, a small number compared to leading discount store chains such as E-mart, whose product line is globally sourced.

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February 26, 2011, to March 12, 2011

Food Manufacturers Change Packaging Because Of Concerns Over Tainted Recycled Cardboard

Health worries over boxes manufactured from recycled cardboard have led food manufacturers in Europe to change their product packaging, the BBC reports. Toxic chemicals known as mineral oils, used in printing inks in recycled newspapers, were discovered in some boxes by researchers who said the chemicals had contaminated the food they contained. Some firms have stopped using recycled cardboard completely, while others are making sure the boxes they use are not tainted by mineral oils, which have been associated with inflammation of internal organs and cancer. Swiss government scientists who analyzed pasta, rice and cereals sold in cartons manufactured from recycled cardboard found mineral oil levels ten to 100 times higher than recommended limits.

Transition To Natural Food Colorants Is Plagued By Problems

Food and beverage manufacturers are beginning the transition from synthetic to natural dyes, but the switch is complicated and costly, and the results are not altogether esthetically pleasing, experts say. The impetus for major changes comes from Europe, where the European Commission responded to concerns over the safety of synthetic food colorants by imposing new requirements, including warning labels on packages, that have pushed food manufacturers to reformulate their products. The movement has spread to the U.S. Products from companies like Frito-Lay and Pepperidge Farm now contain no artificial ingredients, including synthetic dyes. But besides cost and complexity, reformulation with natural dyes has another downside: in some cases the quality of the product, color-wise, just isn’t the same.

Cargill Introduces Fressure Fresh Ground Beef Patties

Cargill has introduced its Fressure brand of fresh ground beef patties, which have a shelf life that the company claims to be twice as long as those of conventional fresh burgers. Using a patent-pending pressure system technology to manufacture the beef patties, Cargill claims to have developed ground beef patties, which come with improved food safety, enhanced flavor, and consistently high quality, for the foodservice market. The company says its production process, which is all natural and does not use high temperatures, chemicals, or irradiation, retains the nutrients and freshness of the ground beef.

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February 12, 2011, to February 26, 2011

Fonterra Expands Outside New Zealand, Builds Dairy Farms in China

Fonterra Co-Operative Group Ltd. CEO Andrew Ferrier has said his company plans to expand outside New Zealand, particularly in China. Fonterra, which has sales near $13 billion and produces about a third of the internationally traded dairy products globally, is building dairy farms in China; this follows the 2008 contaminated milk scandal involving Shijiazhuang Sanlu Group Co., which was 43-percent owned by Fonterra and prompted it to take control of all aspects of its operations in China. Ferrier sees growing wealth and population growth increasing demand, even as climate change and increasing costs of production push up milk prices worldwide. He added that Fonterra will not sell genetically modified milk products in countries where consumers do not want them, and is instead focusing on selective breeding of cows to improve milk quality and production.

Nutiva Contributes To Legal Efforts To Rescind USDA Monsanto Decision

Nutiva, a maker of organic hemp, coconut and chia foods, has contributed $25,000 to an effort by the Center for Food Safety to reverse a decision by the USDA to deregulate Monsanto’s genetically engineered, Roundup-Ready alfalfa. According to Nutiva,the USDA’s ruling is “ profoundly disappointing to the organic community.” The CFS says it is pursuing all legal remedies to oppose the decision, primarily because biotech industry market dominance in crops will mean “the majority of organic foods will be genetically contaminated with foreign genetic material through pollen drift and accidental co-mingling.”

Safer Food Is More Important To Americans Than Government Analyses Suggest

A national survey of 3,511 people has found that Americans would be willing to pay a dollar per person each year – a total of $305 million – to achieve a ten percent reduction in the risk of buying, for example, hamburger tainted with E. coli bacteria. The researchers acted on the assumption that government regulators could better assess the value of improving food safety if they took into account the fact that consumers generally want to avoid sickness, even if it costs a little more. The USDA uses a “cost-of-illness approach to value reductions in morbidity,” the researchers note. But that understates the benefits of improved food safety measures by ignoring hidden costs such as pain, suffering and worry. The survey used a hypothetical food-choice scheme to measure consumer willingness to pay for food safety improvements.

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January 29, 2011, to February 12, 2011

Canadian Legislator Urges Reversal Of “Nightmare” U.S. GM Alfalfa Policy

A decision by the USDA to allow American farmers to plant genetically modified alfalfa seeds is a “looming nightmare” for Canadian alfalfa farmers, according to New Democrat agriculture critic Alex Atamanenko, who has asked Canada’s prime minister to seek a reversal of the U.S. policy. The Monsanto alfalfa seed is engineered to resist the weed killer Roundup. According to Atamanenko, “Any GE (genetically engineered) alfalfa grown in the U.S. will inevitably lead to contamination of alfalfa in Canada.” A bill to protect Canadian farmers from market losses due to GM contamination will be voted on soon, following a final reading in the House of Commons. Atamanenko said alfalfa is important to conventional farming and also organic farming, where it is used as a soil-building component in crop rotation.

Consumption Of Plant Polysaccharides May Boost Healthy Immune Systems

Scientists have found that adding soluble plant fibers to a diet may enhance the immune system response in healthy individuals. Fibers from plants such as fungi, lichens and algae can positively impact key cellular functions, including changes in protein glycosylation. Glycosylation is an enzyme-directed process where a glycan (a type of polysaccharide, or carbohydrate chain) attaches to a protein, fat or other organic molecule. Glycans play various roles, including proper protein folding and cell-cell adhesion, which is used by immune system cells to help keep the body healthy. According to this study, supplementing the diet of healthy individuals with plant polysaccharides increased the subjects’ levels of fully-processed glycans, resulting in a potential boost in their immune responses.

Daily Soy Isoflavone Supplement Presents No Risks For Healthy Postmenopausal Women

A randomized two-year clinical trial involving 403 healthy postmenopausal women has found that a daily 80-120 mg supplement of soy hypocotyl isoflavones does not present a health risk, and may actually protect against cancer. The trial was designed to test the impact of soy isoflavone supplementation on osteoporosis, but researchers were also trying to determine if long-term supplementation led to adverse health outcomes. Only two women in the soy supplement groups  experienced serious health problems: one case of breast cancer and one case of endometrial cancer. This “was less than the expected population rate for these cancers,” the researchers said. The supplement used in the study was the patented soy germ isoflavone product SoyLife from Frutarom.

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January 22, 2011, to January 29, 2011

OTA Advocates Protection Of Organic Farmers As GE Seeds Advance To Commercialization

At a House of Representatives members forum on genetically-engineered (GE)  alfalfa, the U.S. Organic Trade Association (OTA) expressed strong support for a recent USDA proposal to consider the economic consequences of unrestricted deregulation of Monsanto’s Round-Up Ready (RR) alfalfa, including the impact on organic agriculture and products in the United States. The OTA said it believes the department has the authority to oversee GE crop commercialization and protect organic farmers. The member forum was organized to question USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack on whether the USDA has the authority to consider conditional deregulation of RR Alfalfa. The OTA advocated a “meaningful co-existence” between organic and conventional farmers that would protect seed purity for organic farmers’ use, compensate organic farmers for contamination losses and require USDA oversight of GE crop commercialization.

Illegal Steroid-Based Muscle-Enhancing Supplements Are Easily Obtainable Online

Steroid compounds banned by the federal government have crept back into muscle-building dietary supplements and are available online at such retail outlets as Amazon.com, according to press reports. Two representatives of the nonprofit Anti-Doping Research Group of Los Angeles, Calif., tested four muscle-building supplements they  purchased and found illegal steroids in three of them. Amazon has since removed several of the products, manufactured by Competitive Edge Labs, from the site. According to Don Caitlin, CEO of Anti-Doping Research Group, the purchase and testing effort was not meant to target Amazon, but to show the wide availability of  adulterated products. "Our interest is in protecting the unsuspecting consumer from being able to buy these products, take them without knowing what they really are, and put themselves in the hospital," Caitlin said.

Scientists Isolate Food-Borne Bacterial Strain That Targets The Heart

Certain strains of the food-borne bacterium Listeria monocytogenes are able to invade the heart and lead to serious and difficult-to-treat heart infections in vulnerable populations, according to U.S. researchers. Listeria is often found in soft cheeses and chilled ready-to-eat products. Infections from listeria are usually mild in healthy individuals, but can cause serious illness in the elderly and other susceptible people. More than a third of listeria-related heart infections are fatal. Researchers found that mice infected with the cardiac isolate had 10 times as much bacteria in their hearts. But in the spleen and liver the levels of bacteria were equal in both groups of mice. The researchers concluded that cardiac-associated strains display modified proteins on their surface that enable the bacteria to easily enter cardiac cells, targeting and infecting the heart.

<<123>> Total issues:22
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