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Food Contaminants

Science Briefs

On 21 January 2015, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) released its scientific opinion on the risks to public health related to the presence of bisphenol A (BPA) in foodstuffs. The conclusion was that BPA poses no health risk to consumers of any age group at current exposure levels.
Research conducted by the University of Hertfordshire, UK, and commissioned by the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA), investigated what happens in household kitchens to assess food safety risks in domestic environments. The study revealed that food safety was not a priority for most households and in some cases ‘lay’ or ‘common sense’ knowledge took precedence over expert advice.
The European Food Safety Authority recently published the findings from a European Union (EU) survey on the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in certain ready-to-eat foods, i.e. fish (hot smoked, cold smoked or gravad fish),  packaged heat-treated meat products and soft and semi-soft cheeses. Overall, the proportion of samples exceeding the legislative limit for Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat foods was low. However, considering the popularity of these foods and the severe implications that infection with Listeria monocytogenes can have on health, vigilance is required by everyone in the food chain. 
The European Commission recently published the 2011 annual report of the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF). The RASFF plays a key role in ensuring a high level of food safety for consumers.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in collaboration with the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) recently released its latest report on trends and sources of zoonoses in the European Union. This Science Brief focuses on the findings for two disease-causing bacteria, Campylobacter and Salmonella.
Two new studies published in the US this week seek to blow out of the water fears that people who regularly consumer seafood are putting themselves at risk due to methylmercury, PCB and dioxin contamination. Rather, the benefits of regular fish consumption on heart disease risk and neurodevelopment were seen to outweigh the risks.
The Threshold for Toxicological Concern (TTC) is an approach used to assess the risk (if any) posed by chemicals to which humans are exposed at very low levels but when no toxicity data are available. The approach was evaluated at a workshop (Brussels, 8th-10th June 2011) organised by ILSI Europe with the participation of academia, industry, non-governmental organisations and regulators.  The findings are summarised in a paper published in the peer-reviewed journal Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology in February 2013.
The 2011 European Union summary report on trends and sources of zoonoses and foodborne outbreaks has recently been published by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC). The good news is that the numbers of human cases caused by Salmonella are continuing to decrease; however, the numbers of human cases caused by other bacteria, e.g. Campylobacter and pathogenic Escherichia coli are increasing. All three groups of bacteria were amongst those implicated in foodborne outbreaks. The foodborne outbreak associated with the most human cases occurred in Germany during the summer of 2011. It was caused by a rare type of pathogenic Escherichia coli and was linked to sprouted seeds.
Researchers at Stanford University, USA conducted a systematic review of published literature to determine if organically produced foods are safer or healthier than conventionally produced foods. Overall, the published literature does not suggest health benefits from consuming organic rather than conventional foods; nevertheless, it found that consumption of organic produce may reduce exposure to pesticides and consumption of organic pork and chicken may reduce exposure to antibiotic resistant bacteria.
The French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Safety (ANSES) recently published the findings of a study which considered the risks and benefits associated with seafood consumption and determined the optimum quantity of seafood which should be consumed per week.
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The European Food Information Council (EUFIC) is a non-profit organisation which communicates science-based information on nutrition and health, food safety and quality, to help consumers to be better informed when choosing a well-balanced, safe and healthful diet.

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This site was last updated 24/08/2016
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