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In this section, we feature scientific publications of new research from Europe and the rest of the world, that may be of interest to EUFIC readers. EUFIC was not involved in this research, unless stated otherwise.
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.
Media use in times of crisis has changed from one-way communication to multi-way interactions since the introduction of social media, such as Twitter, forums and blogs. In a recent paper published in Public Understanding of Science, researchers from the EU funded project FoodRisC (Perceptions and communication of food risk/benefits across Europe), analysed traditional and social media coverage of a food crisis. Using the 2008 Irish dioxin crisis as a case study, they found that social media reported faster and covered fewer topics than traditional media. When looking at the source of information, social media relied mainly on offline and online media news (e.g. BBC or Reuters); whilst, traditional media relied on diverse offline sources, such as experts, politicians or food suppliers. Twitter in particular functioned as a news information disseminator, with almost 90% linking only to newspapers or other media sources.
In a recent review, researchers from the University of Cambridge, UK, closely examined the widely claimed link between obesity and addiction. They demonstrated that the evidence for food addiction in humans is limited, and that there are issues with the usefulness of the current food addiction model which need to be addressed.
In a review published in the Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, Dr Macdiarmid from the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health (Aberdeen), addresses the question whether a healthful diet can also be environmentally sustainable. While she finds that it may be possible to achieve a diet that is both healthful and sustainable, one should not automatically assume that they go hand in hand. Consumer understanding of sustainable diets is often poor and a more effective combination of research and communication is needed to establish dietary recommendations which can fulfil both of these societal goals.
In a review published in the Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, researchers from University College Dublin looked at the regulatory basis for the authorisation of food additives and focused on the dietary exposure to food additives by young children.
Researchers from the National Consumer Research Centre and the University of Helsinki published a recent study as part of a Finnish research project on weight management (KULUMA, 2009-2011). They analysed attitudes of middle-aged and elderly Finns towards products designed for weight management and found that consumers can have less favourable views towards ‘light’ products in general but still opt for them when being on a diet to lose weight.
Family plays an important role in promoting fruit and vegetable eating particularly where free school lunch is not provided
Children from families that encourage fruit and vegetable consumption are more likely to report eating fruits and vegetables each day. This association was most apparent for vegetable intakes in countries where children do not receive a free school lunch. The data come from the Pro Greens project and are reported by a team of researchers from Finland, the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and Norway.
In a review published in Food Research International, researchers at University of Milan and University of Trieste analysed the findings from several studies to exploit the effectiveness of DNA barcoding as a tool for food traceability. The review also considers other applications such as quality control and detection of commercial fraud.
Health benefits are the key message of functional foods bearing health claims. Actual food choice, however, is influenced by various other motives. Scientists from the University of Belgrade and IPSOS Strategic Marketing researched the effect of food choice motives, nutritional knowledge, and the use of food labels on consumer attitude towards foods with health claims. The expectation of a functional food benefitting one's health is strongly influenced by a person's trust in food labels. At the same time, consumers also expect functional foods to be tasty and pleasant in the sense of enhancing one's mood.
Ethical and environmental issues have become an important aspect to consider in the research area of consumer food choice. Ethical claims such as organic do not always evoke a positive impression in consumers. In a recent study conducted by researchers at the Cornell University and the University of Michigan, a total of 371 test persons were surveyed on their perceptions of food products with and without an organic claim. The authors conclude that whether ethical claims are perceived as "good" or "bad" is highly dependent on personal values and the context of the product, even if consumers show a high interest in environmental issues.