Food Safety

Children seeing, touching, and tasting produce

Government Accountability Office (United States).

March 2011

For more than a decade, GAO has reported on the fragmented nature of federal food safety oversight and how it results in inconsistent oversight, ineffective coordination, and inefficient use of resources. In 2007, GAO added this issue to its high-risk list. In March 2009, the President established the Food Safety Working Group (FSWG) to coordinate federal efforts and establish food safety goals to make food safer. Section 21 of Public Law 111-139 mandated that GAO identify programs, agencies, offices, and initiatives with duplicative goals and
activities. This review examines: (1) steps, if any, that the FSWG has taken to increase collaboration among federal food safety agencies, and (2) options we and others have identified to reduce fragmentation, overlap, and potential duplication in food safety oversight. GAO reviewed information about the FSWG and alternative organizational structures for food safety, and conducted interviews.

European Food Safety Authority (European Union).

March 2011

The European Food Safety Authority and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control have analysed the information on the occurrence of zoonoses and food‐borne outbreaks in 2009 submitted by 27 European Union Member States. In 2009, 108,614 salmonellosis cases in humans were reported and the statistically significant decreasing trend in the case numbers continued. Eighteen Member States reached the European Union Salmonella reduction target for breeding flocks of fowl, 17 Member States met their reduction target for laying hens and 18 Member States met the reduction target for broilers. In foodstuffs, Salmonella was most often detected in fresh poultry and pig meat. Campylobacteriosis was the most commonly reported zoonosis with 198,252 human cases. Campylobacter was most often detected in fresh broiler meat. The number of listeriosis cases in humans increased by 19.1 % compared to 2008, with 1,645 cases in 2009. Listeria was seldom detected above the legal safety limit from ready‐to‐eat foods. Member States reported 3,573 verotoxigenic Escherichia coli (VTEC), 7,595 yersiniosis and 401 brucellosis cases in humans, while VTEC bacteria were mostly found from cattle and bovine meat and Yersinia from pigs and pig meat. Brucellosis and tuberculosis decreased in cattle, sheep and goat populations. In humans 1,987 Q fever cases were detected and Q fever was found in domestic ruminants. Trichinellosis and echinococcosis caused 748 and 790 human cases, respectively, and Trichinella and Echinococcus were mainly detected in wildlife. There were 1,259 human cases of toxoplasmosis reported and in animals Toxoplasma was most often found in sheep and goats. Rabies was recorded in one person in the European Union and the disease was also found in animals. Most of the 5,550 reported food‐borne outbreaks were caused by Salmonella, viruses and bacterial toxins and the most important food sources were eggs, mixed or buffet meals and pig meat.

International Food Safety Authorities Network (World Health Organization [United Nations]).

March 2011

Radioactive isotopes of elements (radionuclides) are naturally present in the environment, and that includes our bodies and our food and water. We are exposed to radiation (also known as background radiation) from these radionuclides on a daily basis. Radiation comes from space (i.e., cosmic rays) as well as from naturally-occurring radioactive materials (radionuclides) found in the soil, water and air. Radioactivity can be detected in food and water and the concentration of naturally-occurring radionuclides varies depending on several factors such as local geology, climate and agricultural practices.

European Food Safety Authority (European Union).

April 2011

The Opinion considers and discusses efficacy of food irradiation as the ability of irradiation to reduce food‐borne pathogens in foods and microbiological safety of food irradiation as the contribution of irradiation to reduce the risks to human health from food‐borne pathogens. The chemical safety and nutritional aspects of irradiation are addressed in a separate Opinion by the EFSA Panel on Food contact materials, enzymes, flavourings and processing aids. Potential microbiological risks linked to food irradiation are reviewed and the Opinion confirms that there are no microbiological risks for the consumer linked to the use of food irradiation and its consequences on the food microflora. The Opinion recommends that food irradiation should be based on risk assessment and on the desired risk reduction rather than on predefined food classes/commodities and doses as proposed in the past. In addition, with respect to efficacy and microbiological safety, it is recommended that upper dose limits for pathogen reduction should not be specified, since other constraints, such as undesirable chemical changes, will limit the doses applied. Irradiation should be considered as one of several approaches to reducing pathogens in food and thus helping to ensure protection of consumers’ health. It is also recommended that food irradiation should only be used in conjunction with an integrated food safety management program and the Opinion concludes that when this includes GAP, GHP, GMP and HACCP, and depending on the dose applied, food irradiation can contribute to improved consumer safety by reducing food‐borne pathogens.

European Food Safety Authority (European Union).

April 2011

Irradiation (gamma rays, electrons or X‐rays) is applied to foods for improving food safety and removing and reducing pests that are harmful to plants or plant products. As ionising radiation passes through food, it creates a trail of chemical transformations by primary and secondary radiolysis effects. The main reported radiolytic products are certain hydrocarbons and 2‐alkylcyclobutanones produced from the major fatty acids in food, and some cholesterol oxides and furans. Most of these substances are also formed in food that has been subjected to other processing treatments and are thus not exclusively formed by irradiation. Furthermore, the quantities in which they occur in irradiated food are not significantly higher than those being formed in heat treatments. Since the last SCF opinion in 2003, several in vitro genotoxicity studies on irradiated foods have been published. The available data indicate that at least some 2‐alkylcyclobutanones may induce DNA damage in vitro. No in vivo genotoxicity studies are available; however, a genotoxic hazard in humans is considered unlikely by the Panel in view of the plausible indirect mechanism underlying the genotoxicity of alkylcyclobutanones in vitro. Concerning other radiolytic products no new relevant toxicological studies have been reported. The weight of evidence from recent literature regarding biological effects supports the food classes and radiation doses specified in previous SCF opinion in 2003. The only new contrary evidence was indicated in publications on leukoencephalomyelopathy in cats which have been fed mainly or exclusively with highly irradiated feed. However a clear mechanistic explanation in terms of risk assessment has not been established. Considering that only a very limited quantity of food is irradiated in Europe currently, the Panel is of the view that there is not an immediate cause for concern. However, the relevance of the cats studies for human health should be clarified.

European Food Safety Authority (European Union).

April 2011

The current report describes the results from the European acrylamide monitoring in the period from 2007 to 2009. Twenty three Member States and Norway submitted a total of 10366 acrylamide results for the three‐year period. In 2009, mean acrylamide levels ranged from 37 µg/kg for ‘soft bread’ to 1504 µg/kg for ‘substitute coffee’, while the highest 95th percentile and maximum levels were reported for ‘substitute coffee’ at 3976 and ‘potato crisps’ at 4804 µg/kg, respectively. A mixed effect model was used to evaluate time trend changes in acrylamide levels in defined food groups. To detect clear statistical trends the number of years covered should be extended. However, based on the three years of information available it could be identified that acrylamide decreased in ‘crackers’, ‘infant biscuits’ and ‘gingerbread’ over the three years, increased in ‘crisp bread’ and ‘instant coffee’, while showing no statistically significant change in six food groups. No European trend could be identified in eight food groups, while there was insufficient information available for ‘wafers’, ‘coffee not specified’ and ‘muesli and porridge’ for the model fit. Mean acrylamide exposure in Europe was estimated to range between 0.31 and 1.1 µg/kg b.w. per day for adults (>18 years), between 0.43 and 1.4 µg/kg b.w. per day for adolescents (11–17 years), between 0.70 and 2.05 µg/kg b.w. per day for children (3–10 years) and between 1.2 and 2.4 µg/kg b.w. per day for toddlers (1–3 years). Major contributors to exposure for adults were ‘fried potatoes’ (including ‘French fries’), ‘coffee’, and ‘soft bread’ whereas for adolescents and children they were ‘fried potatoes’, ‘soft bread’ and ‘potato crisps’ or ‘biscuits’.

World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

May 2011

Agriculture is today facing with the challenge of feeding the world’s population, forecast to reach 9 billion over the coming 40 years, while at the same time preserving the earth’s resources. The growth in demand for food products in a context of global change requires a major move away from purely productivist agricultural practices to ecological intensification methods. Food security is not, however, limited solely to the quantitative  aspects of the food supply. Food security exists when there is reliable access to safe and nutritious food that  meets dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. Livestock and fish productions make a strong contribution asa source of energy, protein with a high nutritional  value and micronutrients, as well as by contributing to the income of those engaged in the production, processing and marketing chains at national and international level, and ultimately to countries’ GDP. Any health problem or contamination that occurs in production systems and marketing chains will therefore have complex repercussions throughout the food chain “from  farm  to  fork”. The veterinary sector is consequently one of the guarantors of the stability and programmed development of the world food system through the activities it deploys at each stage in the system: production at farm level and processing, distribution and marketing at national and international level.

Government Accountability Office (United States).

May 2011

Through its commodity program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides commodity foods at no cost to schools taking part in the national school meals programs. Commodities include raw ground beef, cheese, poultry, and fresh produce. Like federal food safety agencies, the commodity program has taken steps designed to reduce microbial
contamination that can result in severe illness. GAO was asked to review (1) the extent to which the program's purchasing specifications related to microbial contamination differ from federal regulations, (2) the extent to which specifications for raw ground beef differ from those imposed by some other large purchasers, and (3) examples of schools' practices to help ensure that food is not contaminated. GAO compared the program's purchasing specifications to federal regulations for food sold commercially, gathered information from seven large purchasers of ground beef, and interviewed officials in 18 school districts in five states, selected in part because of their purchasing practices.

Institute of Medicine (The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine).

2011

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has regulatory responsibility for a vast number of products—foods, drugs, cosmetics, biologics, veterinary products, medical devices, tobacco, and products that emit radiation—and often faces difficult management decisions as to how to ensure the safety of the products that it regulates. FDA recognized that collecting and evaluating information on the risks posed by the regulated products in a systematic manner would aid in its decision-making process. Consequently, FDA and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) asked the National Research Council (NRC) to develop a conceptual model that could evaluate products or product categories that FDA regulates and provide information on the potential health consequences associated with them. As a result of that request, NRC formed the Committee on Ranking FDA Product Categories Based on Health Consequences.

European Food Safety Authority (European Union).

May 2011

The European Food Safety Authority has developed a practical approach for assessing potential risks arising from applications of nanoscience and nanotechnologies in the food and feed chain. Guidance is provided on: (i) the physico‐chemical characterisation requirements of engineered nanomaterials used e.g. as food additives, enzymes, flavourings, food contact materials, novel foods, feed additives and pesticides and; (ii) testing approaches to identify and characterise hazards arising from the nanoproperties which, in general, should include information from in vitro genotoxicity, absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion and repeated‐dose 90‐day oral toxicity studies in rodents. The guidance allows for reduced information to be provided when no exposure to the engineered nanomaterial is verified by data indicating no migration from food contact materials or when complete degradation/dissolution is demonstrated with no absorption of engineered nanomaterials as such. The guidance indicates uncertainties that should be considered to perform a risk assessment. As this sector is under fast development, this guidance document will be revised as appropriate.

Pages