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Autumn 2009

In this edition

Developments in relation to added food colours

An overview of the national melamine survey

A Survey for Antimicrobial Resistant Bacteria in Australian Food

New Zealand farmed seafood survey

Keeping an eye on food recalls

The 11th Government Food Analysts’ Conference

Implementation Sub Committee Coordinated Food Survey Planning Workshop in Adelaide

FSANZ presents at the Centre for Food Safety and World Health Organization Joint Total Diet Study Workshop

Developments in relation to added food colours

CHOICE recently published a small survey investigating the presence of food additives in cakes. Ninety seven different cakes were sourced from major supermarkets in Sydney and labels were checked for a number of permitted additives including added colours. ( http://www.choice.com.au/viewArticle.aspx?id=106788&catId=100228&tid=100008&p=1&title=Supermarket+cakes ).

The CHOICE survey suggested up to 27 different additives were declared on the ingredients list of a single cake. There were up to 7 different added colours declared on any one cake. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) notes that the survey only looked at the declared presence of a range of additives (including added colours), however the amounts of these permitted additives in the cakes was not determined by laboratory analysis. In order to determine dietary exposure to any food substance, the analytical concentration of the substances by laboratory analysis is critical.

Standard 1.3.1-Food Additives, of the Australian New Zealand Food Standards Code (the Code) Schedule 4, permits a number of food colours to a Maximum Permitted Level (MPL) of 290 mg/kg in processed foods and to a MPL of 70 mg/L in beverages. These levels are based on safety considerations and all products must comply with these levels. Different combinations of colours are often used together in any one product to achieve a desired shade of colours, but the amounts of each colour would be low. The addition of colours is, in all cases, required in the Code to be in accordance with good manufacturing practice (GMP). That is, the quantity of the colour added to food must be limited to the lowest possible level necessary to achieve the technological function. Therefore, when colours are added in accordance with GMP, the actual use levels will, in most cases, be lower than the MPL. Even if there are a number of colours added to a product, use of those colours in accordance with GMP is unlikely to lead to a high dietary exposure in the context of a balanced diet.

In December 2008, FSANZ published a report on the most comprehensive analytical survey of the actual levels of added colours in more than 600 nationally available foods and beverages in Australia. This study also estimated the dietary exposure of various groups within the Australian population. FSANZ contracted an analytical laboratory to analyse the concentration of added colours in a wide range of foods including cakes, muffins and pastries. The food colours analysed included - Allura red (food additives number 129), Amaranth (123), Azorubine (122), Brilliant black (151), Brilliant blue (133), Brown HT (155), Erythrosine (127), Fast Green (143), Green S (142), Indigotine (132), Ponceau 4R (124), Quinoline yellow (104), Sunset yellow (110), Tartrazine (102) and two natural colours, Annatto (160b) and Cochineal/Carmine (120).

Of all cakes, muffins and pastries (including those with icing) sampled in the FSANZ study, only three products contained more than three added colours. It was also found that the total amount of added colour in any one product was significantly less than the MPL in the Code. In addition, the dietary exposure assessment f or the Australian population and all population sub-groups revealed that dietary exposure to individual added colours was below the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) even for high (90th percentile) consumers for all products analysed.

Furthermore, the survey found that the declaration of the presence of a colour did not necessarily mean the colour was present in the final product. A total of 88 FSANZ samples in the survey out of 396 had one or more colours declared on the label which were not detected by the analysis. This indicates that manufacturers may take a conservative approach to labelling added food colours. Therefore, only through laboratory analysis can the added colour content be accurately determined.

The FSANZ survey provides significant reassurance that there is no public health and safety risk from the consumption of foods containing added colours as part of a balanced diet. Furthermore, under the Code it is mandatory for manufacturers to list all added colours, and all additives for that matter, on the product ingredients list. Therefore consumers are equipped with the necessary information to make an informed choice regarding the consumption of food and beverages containing additives, including added colours.

An overview of the national melamine survey

In response to the incident of adulteration of milk and milk products in China, FSANZ coordinated the national melamine survey in collaboration with State and Territory food regulatory agencies through the Food Surveillance Network.

The two tiered approach adopted for the survey, included the immediate sampling and analysis of high priority foods (Tier 1), which were dairy based, and foods containing dairy based ingredients. The second tier included a wider range of lower priority foods (Tier 2) namely mixed foods containing soy, gluten or egg ingredients.

The analysis for the first tier of the survey was completed in early December 2008 and the second tier of sampling and analysis was completed in January 2009. A total of 124 samples of mixed foods containing soy, gluten or egg ingredients were collected by the food regulatory agencies in all Australian States and Territories. The types of products analysed included a variety of mixed foods such as soy based infant formula, surimi products, egg noodles, meal replacement shakes, tofu and tempeh, TVP/HVP, soy sauces, batter mixes, gravies/soup mixes, non dairy pastry products, smallgoods, soy drinks and extruded snack foods.

The results for tier 1 were previously reported in the Summer 2008 issue of Food Surveillance News. In summary, there were no detections of melamine above the limit of reporting (1mg/kg) in any of the samples analysed in tier 2 (Figure 1).

 

FSN_Autumn_2009_fig_1

Figure 1: A summary of the types of foods analysed and the results for tier 1 and tier 2 of the national melamine survey

The survey was successfully conducted and managed through the Food Surveillance Network as a result of the collective participation, and commitment from food regulatory agencies in Australia. Although the national melamine survey has been drawn to a close, FSANZ will continue to monitor articles, reports and analytical testing results for melamine made available by other countries or international bodies into the future.

A Survey for Antimicrobial Resistant Bacteria in Australian Food

In 2007, following an open tender process, the Food Regulation Standing Committee (FRSC) commissioned Food Science Australia to conduct a pilot survey of foods for bacteria resistant to antibiotics. This survey forms part of a three pronged approach to national surveillance of antimicrobial resistance covering all areas of antibiotic use (food-producing animals, food and humans). The survey was funded by all States and Territories, and the Australian Government. The Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing managed the survey on behalf of FRSC.

The main reason for conducting the pilot survey was to determine the prevalence of antimicrobial resistant bacteria in food. Food-borne bacteria, such as Salmonella and Campylobacter, can cause prolonged and more serious infections if they are resistant to antibiotics that are used to treat human infections. In other countries, the use of antibiotics in food-producing animals has been linked to human infections with antibiotic resistant bacteria via foods. All antibiotic use, whether in humans or animals, can result in bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.

In this survey, samples of raw whole poultry, beef mince; pork chops and iceberg lettuce were collected each month from shops in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth during February 2007 to January 2008. The food items selected were considered to be representative of an average consumer’s shopping basket. Bacteria were isolated from food samples and then tested by Food Science Australia to see if they were resistant to a range of different antibiotics. All foods tested were of Australian origin.

As this survey focused on resistant bacteria, enough food samples were collected to test 100 samples of bacteria for each food. Food samples were tested for common causes of food-borne gastroenteritis—Salmonella and Campylobacter—and bacteria commonly found in the gut of people and animals—Escherichia coli and Enterococcus faecalis.

In the survey, testing of bacteria isolated from foods indicated that overall resistance to the majority of antibiotics was low. When compared to reports from other countries, Australia has a very low prevalence of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics on these foods, particularly those “critically important” for human medicine.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines “critically important” antibiotics as antibacterial agents for which there is potential that their use in humans may be threatened by resistance resulting from their non-human use. Most importantly, the survey found resistance to “critically important” antibiotics to human medicine, such as the quinolone class of drugs, and 3rd and 4th generation cephalosporins, was non existent or extremely low in bacteria isolated from foods. For example, the survey found no resistance to ceftriaxone, a WHO “critically important” antibiotic used to treatSalmonella. This means that in Australia, these antibiotics remain available for use if by chance someone did get an infection via bacteria acquired through the food chain.

This pilot survey supports Australia’s more rigorous approach to controlling the amounts and types of antibiotics used in our food animal industries, which is an important factor that helps prevent the development and spread of resistant bacteria. It represents a baseline for comparison of future surveys and should reassure public health agencies and consumers about the safety of the Australian food supply.

The survey report,Pilot survey for antimicrobial resistant (AMR) bacteria in Australian Food,was publicly released on the Food Regulation Secretariat’s website in January 2009. A Question and Answer Document and a Plain Language Summary were also posted. The documents are available at: http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/foodsecretariat-standing-priority-list (scroll down to find the section on “Monitoring and Surveillance of Antimicrobial Resistance in Food”).

As part of the three pronged approach to national surveillance of antimicrobial resistance, the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) undertook a survey to determine the prevalence of antimicrobial resistant bacteria in the gut of selected food-producing animals in Australia. The DAFF report of the Pilot Surveillance Program for Antimicrobial Resistance in Bacteria of Animal Origin,a questions and answers document, and a plain language summary were released on the DAFF website in January 2009, and are available at:

http://www.agriculture.gov.au/animal/health/amr

New Zealand farmed seafood survey

Imported land-based aquaculture products such as shrimp, prawns and crabs that were tested by the New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) contained no detectable levels of residues from antimicrobial drugs.

The survey was part of NZFSA’s Food Residue Surveillance Programme (FRSP) to ensure New Zealand’s food safety controls are working effectively and that those selling food meet their legal responsibilities to ensure it is safe.

NZFSA tested 30 random samples of imported land based aquaculture products (ILBA) from Thailand, Vietnam, India, Japan, China and Peru for the presence of triphenylmethylene dyes, nitrofurans, chloramphenicol, sulfonamides, and tetracyclines. These chemicals are sometimes used in land-based aquaculture to prevent the growth of bacteria and fungus.

No residues were detected. This gives NZFSA confidence that the products being sold in New Zealand meet requirements and are safe to consume.

The survey was designed to accurately reflect New Zealand’s recent history of imported land-based aquaculture products. It was carried out with the co-operation of the New Zealand Customs Service and Auckland Regional Public Health Service’s Auckland Central Clearing House, which coordinated the sampling process at the border.

NZFSA last sampled land-based aquaculture products from China in July 2007. The few samples that did have residues were at very low levels with no risk to health.

The results from survey are detailed in the table below:

FRSP - Farmed Seafood Results

 

Product

Country of Origin

Triphenyl methane dyes

Antibiotics

Sulphonamides

Phenicols

Nitrofurans

Shrimps & Prawns

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thailand

ND

ND

ND

ND

ND

Thailand

ND

Not analysed

Not analysed

ND

Not analysed

Vietnam

ND

ND

ND

ND

ND

Vietnam

ND

ND

ND

ND

ND

Vietnam

Not analysed

ND

ND

Not analysed

ND

Thailand

ND

ND

ND

ND

ND

Thailand

ND

ND

ND

ND

ND

Thailand

ND

ND

ND

ND

ND

Vietnam

ND

ND

ND

ND

ND

Japan

ND

ND

ND

ND

ND

Thailand

ND

ND

ND

ND

ND

India

ND

ND

ND

ND

ND

Vietnam

ND

ND

ND

ND

ND

India

ND

ND

ND

ND

ND

Thailand

ND

ND

ND

ND

ND

China

ND

ND

ND

ND

ND

Thailand

ND

ND

ND

ND

ND

Scallops

 

 

 

 

 

 

China

ND

ND

ND

ND

ND

China

ND

ND

ND

ND

ND

Japan

ND

ND

ND

ND

ND

Japan

ND

ND

ND

ND

ND

Japan

ND

ND

ND

ND

ND

Peru

ND

ND

ND

ND

ND

China

ND

ND

ND

ND

ND

China

ND

ND

ND

ND

ND

Japan

ND

ND

ND

ND

ND

China

ND

ND

ND

ND

ND

China

ND

ND

ND

ND

ND

Crabs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

India

ND

ND

ND

ND

ND

 

India

ND

ND

ND

ND

ND

 

India

ND

ND

ND

ND

ND

Oysters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Japan

ND

ND

ND

ND

ND

Japan

ND

ND

ND

ND

ND

Japan

ND

ND

ND

ND

ND

Japan

ND

ND

ND

ND

ND

Note: ND = no residue detected

Triphenyl methane dyes

Detection limits:
Malachite Green – 0.0003 mg/kg
Leucomalachite Green – 0.0003 mg/kg
Gentian Violet – 0.002 mg/kg
Leucogentian – 0.002 mg/kg

Sulphonamides

Detection limit across all sulphonamides covered in the assay is 5ppb

Phenicols

Detection limits:
Chloramphenicol – 0.0003 mg/kg
Florfenicol – 0.008 mg/kg
Florfenicol Amine – 0.011 mg/kg
Thiamphenicol – 0.005 mg/kg

Nitrofurans

Detection limits:
SEM – 0.0002 mg/kg
AHD – 0.0002 mg/kg
AOZ – 0.0001 mg/kg

Keeping an eye on food recalls

Food identified as a risk to public health and safety is recalled. Recalls are normally triggered by consumer complaints, company testing or government testing. FSANZ is the coordinating agency for all food recalls in Australia and the NZFSA is the responsible authority in New Zealand.

Australian recalls over the months of December 2008 to March 2009 included:

  • Menora Foods Pty Ltd conducted a voluntary recall of Jindi Brie (125g Best Before 23 Apr 2009 and 24 Apr 2009, 3kg Best Before 6 May 2009 and 7 May 2009, 155g Best Before 22 Apr 2009 and 1kg Best Before 6 May 2009 and 7 May 2009), Jindi Camembert (1kg Best Before 6 May 2009 and 7 May 2009 and 125g Best Before 23 Apr 2009 and 24 Apr 2009), Jindi Food Service Brie (3kg Best Before 7 May 2009 and 1kg Best Before 7 May 2009), Jindi Triple Cream Brie (1.5kg Best Before 5 May 2009 and 85g Best Before 23 Apr 2009), Top Paddock Farmhouse Camembert (1kg Best Before 7 May 2009), Wattle Valley Camembert (110g Best Before 23 Apr 2009 and 24 Apr 2009 and 1 kg Best Before 6 May 2009), Wattle Valley Double Brie (1kg Best Before 21 May 2009 and 110g Best Before 23 Apr 2009 and 24 Apr 2009) and Willow Grove Brie (1kg Best Before 21 May 2009). This recall is in response to testing which revealed the products may be contaminated with E.coli bacteria. Any customers who have purchased the affected product should return it to the place of purchase for a full refund. This recall only applies to the above listed products with the nominated size, Best Before dates and the last four digits of the batch code ending with 2602.

  • McCain Foods (Aust) Pty Ltd announced a voluntary recall of McCain Shepherds pie (cardboard box outer with plastic tray inner, 400g; Best Before June 2010 353) as the product may contain a tuna mornay meal due to an inadvertent packaging error. The product has been available for sale at Coles Supermarkets, Coles Online and Bilo Supermarkets since 2 March 2009. McCain has sent a directive to all stores in NSW and ACT to remove all affected stock from sale. The recall only applies to this product with the nominated size, Best Before and with the number 353 after the time code. No other McCain products are affected by this recall.

  • Woolworths Limited conducted a voluntary recall of Woolworths labelled minced lamb, veal, pork, heart smart beef and regular beef or premium beef (several different tray sizes, styrofoam base with plastic cling film cover; packed on 06/03/09 and Use by Date 08/03/09) sold from its meat department in Plainland Surpermarket, due to possible contamination with metal pieces. Any customers who have purchased the affected product should return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.

  • McCain Foods (Aust) Pty Ltd initiated a voluntary recall of McCain Health Choice Apricot Chicken (cardboard box outer with plastic tray inner, 350g; Best Before 24 August 2010 H) as the product may contain Bacillus Cereus. The product has been available for sale since 3 March 2009 at Woolworths/Safeway retailers. Any customers who have purchased the affected product should return it to the place of purchase for a full refund. This recall only applies to products with the nominated size and Best Before date. No other McCain products are affected by this recall.

  • Pendle Ham and Bacon Curers Pty Ltd conducted a consumer recall of sliced Mortadella, sliced pancetta, and sliced Danish salami (1kg vacuum sealed packages; all with a Use by Date: 18/03/09) as a precautionary health measure in response to testing which revealed the presence of Listeria Monocytogenes. Any customers who have purchased the affected product should return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.

  • James St Butchers announced a voluntary recall of sliced pressed brisket (vacuum sealed “cryovac” plastic bag, 250g; Use by Date: 25/02/09) as a precautionary health measure in response to testing which revealed the presence ofListeria Monocytogenes. The product was also sold in Charlie’s Corner Store, Woody’s Supermarket and Cedar Park Supermarket, all located in Yeppoon, Queensland. A total of 40kg of Sliced pressed brisket is affected by this recall. Any customers who have purchased the affected product should return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.

  • A.Clouet Pty Ltd initiated a voluntary recall of Ayam Thai Massaman Curry Cooking Sauce (400ml can; Use by Date: 26/12/10) as the product contains shrimp paste which is not clearly identified on the label. Any customers who may have purchased the above referenced product, and who have a shell fish or crustacean allergy or intolerance, should retur

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