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					                         Food for thought
Volume 5, Issue 1                                                                               April 2005

Consolidating food safety                               EDITORIAL COMMENT
Like in South Africa, the safety and quality of the
U.S. food supply is governed by a complex system        Food safety course
that is administered by 15 agencies. The U.S.           Globalisation of the food supply has resulted in
Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food           individuals being exposed to foodborne pathogens
and Drug Administration (FDA), within the               that they would not normally encounter unless
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS),          they travelled to different countries.
have primary responsibility for food safety.
                                                        A lack of food safety information, including lack of
Canada, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, the                  surveillance for foodborne disease, poor hygiene
Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United                practices,     poor    regulatory    control    and
Kingdom; vary in their approaches and the extent        contaminated water supplies contribute to the
to which they consolidated their food safety            high levels of foodborne diseases.
system. However, these countries approaches are
similar in one respect; each established a single       Food and waterborne diarrhoeal diseases are
agency to lead food safety management or                leading cause of illness and death in developing
enforcement of food safety legislation.                 countries, killing some 2.2 million people each
                                                        year, most of whom are children.
These countries had two primary reasons for
consolidating their food safety systems; public         Microbiological contamination of foods is a major
concern about the safety of the food supply and         cause of these illnesses. Effective science-based
the need to improve program effectiveness and           food safety systems are needed to manage the
efficiency.                                             wide array of existing and emerging hazards,
                                                        which may be present in food supply. Education
                                                        on safe food handling practices, particularly as
                              Cont inued on page 2      part of the school curriculum, may significantly
                                                        reduce the levels of illnesses.

                                                        The Directorate: Food Control of the Department
            INSIDE THIS ISSUE                           of Health is committed to the pursuit of safer
                                                        foods for human consumption. This can be
    Labelling of food in South Africa is becoming       achieved through the philosophy of cooperative
2   stricter                                            governance enshrined in our constitution.
                                                        Relevant units within the provincial structures,
3   New EU pesticide MRLs for baby food                 other     relevant      national      departments,
    products                                            municipalities, consumers, and particularly food
4                                                       industry have the responsibility to advance this
    FDA assesses new report on acrylamide               course. The course of bringing about safer foods
4                                                       is a shared responsibility among all stakeholders.
    A f ish called ….?                                  All stakeholders have a role to play.     M aanda
                                                        Mandavha, Directorate: Food Control
5   Sudan red food dyes in South Africa

    Chloropropanol levels in f oods – found to be       Editorial committee
    saf e                                               Mr. EM Mandavha, 012-312 0162
5                                                       Mr. AWJ Pretorius, 012-312 0159
                                                        Mrs. FM Makhoane, 012-312 0158
    Colourants in snacks: prosecutions likely           Directorate: Food Control
                                                        Department of Health
6   New s in brief                                      Private Bag X828
                                                        0001 Pretoria

                                             Food for thought 1
                                   Continued fro mp age 1
                                                            Labelling of food in SA is
Countries faced challenges in (1) deciding whether          becoming stricter
to place the agency within the existing health or           Food labelling in South Africa is about to become
agriculture ministry or establish it as a stand-alone       stricter and more informative, and will cover
agency while also determining what responsibilities         genetically modified food and all foods with
the new agency would have and (2) helping                   allergens. The labelling regulations for food with
employees adjust to the new agency's culture and            genetically modified organism were published in
support its priorities.                                     January 2004 after years of debate and
Although none of the countries has analysed the
results of its consolidation, government officials          According to the Department of Health “the right
consistently stated that the net effect of their            to know” is a priority for the consumer. GM food
country's consolidation has been or will likely be          labels will be compulsory if there are significant
beneficial. O fficials in most countries state that         differences in composition and nutrient value of
their   new      food    safety    agencies    incurred     any GM food from its conventional counterpart.
consolidation start-up costs. However, in each              Significant differences in storage preparation or
country,    government       officials   believe   that     cooking will also have to be noted in the
consolidation costs have been or will likely be             labelling.
exceeded by the benefits.
                                                            If the food contains a gene from an animal or a
These officials, food industry and consumer                 human source, the label must say so, so that
stakeholders      cited     significant    qualitative      vegetarian and religious consumers can make
improvements in the effectiveness or efficiency of          informed choice. Products from animals fed on
their food safety systems. These improvements               GM are, however, excluded from the new
include less overlap in inspections, greater clarity in     regulations.
responsibilities, and more consistent or timely
enforcement of food safety laws and regulations.            Manufactures may make claims for improved
                                                            food characteristics from modern biotechnology,
In addition to these qualitative benefits, officials        such as improved vitamin content, less natural
from three countries, Canada, Denmark, and the              toxins or less allergens. These claims will be
Netherlands, identified areas where they believe            subject to validation and certification.
financial savings may be achieved as a result of
consolidation. For example, in the Netherlands              It is estimated that the stricter regulations will
officials said that reduced duplication in food safety      come with its own price tag – up to 10% increase
inspections would likely result in decreased food           in the price of GM foods to cover the necessary
safety spending and that they anticipate savings            laboratory tests, tracing and monitoring by
from an expected 25 percent reduction in                    government. In addition, allergen-containing
administrative and management personnel.                    food are to be labelled as such. These include
                                                            crustaceans, eggs, fish, groundnuts, milk,
Although the seven countries reviewed are much              molluscs, soybeans, tree nuts and wheat.
smaller than the United States, they are also high-
income countries where consumers have very high             Also on the cards and potentially costly is a
expectations for food safety. Consequently, it is           system known as Identity Preservation (IPS) for
believed that the countries' experiences in                 non-GM food. The South African Bureau of
consolidating food safety systems can offer useful          Standard,   SABS,    in   collaboration    with
information    to   South     African   and    U.S.         government and other stakeholders is developing
policymakers.                                               an IPS, to provide consumers with a choice
                                                            between GM and non-GM foods.
In South Africa, proposals have been made to
consolidate the food safety systems, but to date no      South Africa is a si gnatory to Codex, the body
other action has been taken. It seems as if there is     set up by the Food and Agricultural O rganisation
                                                         of the United Nations (FAO ) and the World
no political will to streamline and consolidate foodthought 2
                                            Food for
safety systems by deciding whether to place the          Health    O rganisation   (WHO ),   which    sets
agency within the existing health or agriculture         international standards for food. It states that
Department or establish it as a stand-alone agency.      claims made on food labels must not be false or
While South Africa is set to implement its new
                                                          FDA Assesses New Report
labelling legislation, internationally, several debates   on Acrylamide
around the labelling of GM food continues. The            The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is
Codex debate on GMO labelling centres around a            reviewing a report released on March 2, from
“declaration of the methods of production” and most       the Food and Agriculture O rganization and
recently, “the right to know”. Labelling of foods has     World Health O rganization Joint Expert
consequences for international trade and one can          Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) on
expect that the debate will continue.                     acrylamide in food. Acrylamide is a natural by-
Business Report, October 27, 2004                         product that forms when certain carbohydrate-
                                                          rich foods are fried, baked, or roasted at high
                                                          temperatures. Acrylamide can cause cancer in
                                                          laboratory animals at high doses, although it is
New EU pesticide M RLs for                                not clear whether it causes cancer at the much
                                                          lower levels in food.
baby food products
In 2003, the Eu ropean Commission issued two              "FDA has been at the forefront of developing the
directives regulating pesticide residues in proposed      science needed to fully assess acrylamide," said
cereal-based foods and in infant formula for the first    Dr. Robert Brackett, FDA's Director of the
time below the 10 ppb level. After the 16th of March      Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.
2005, member states must prohibit trade in                "We look forward to thoroughly assessing
products which do not comply with these                   JECFA's latest findings on this issue, so that we
regulations.                                              can work together using sound science to
                                                          assure the safety of our food supply."
Based on the opinions by the Scientific Committee
on Food, these directives establish a general             Since the discovery of acrylamide in food in
Maxumum Residue Level (MRL) of 0.01 mg/kg for             2002, FDA has initiated a broad range of
any individual pesticides and their corresponding         activities on acrylamide, including being at the
metabolites; MRLs have been significantly fixed           forefront of new toxicology research on
below 10 ppb. This is the case for pesticides or          acrylamide. This FDA research includes the
metabolites with an acceptable daily intake value         carcinogenicity and neurotoxicity studies and
lower than 0.0005 mg/kg body weight are already           the toxicology modelling work cited in the
prohibited in the European Union. However, some           JECFA recommendations. The results of these
pesticides degrade slowly and still contaminate the       studies, expected in 2007, will be pivotal for
environment and thus may still be residually              future evaluations of acrylamide.
retained in the raw materials used for baby
production.                                               Experts from FDA participated in the meeting
                                                          and recent FDA research on acrylamide levels in
All MRLs must appl y to the products as proposed          food and acrylamide toxicology were used for
ready for consumption or as reconstituted according       JECFA's evaluation. Although the report
to the instructions of the manufactures. However,         concludes that acrylamide may be a human
more and more baby food producers wish to refer to        health concern, JECFA also cautions that there
these new requirements, not only with regard to           are uncertainties in its conclusions because of
finished products but also to the raw materials used.     limitations in the data used to evaluate
                                                          acrylamide. JECFA also made the following
Since most of the customers require their samples to      recommendations that are consistent with the
be tested not only for these 28 individual pesticides,    FDA's approach:
but also for all other remaining relevant pesticides,
the Competence Centre for Pesticides – Eurofins, Dr
Specht – has developed a Multi Residue Method                 •   Reevaluate acrylamide when ongoing
                                                                  carcinogenicity and long-term
(MRM) which covers a wide range of pesticides on
                                                                  neurotoxicity studies are available;
the one hand (up to 350 molecules at the 10 ppb
level) and, on the other hand, can also be used to            •   Continue work on acrylamide using
analyse the samples according to the strict criteria of
                                                                  toxicology modelling;
the baby food directives.
Eurofins, No 16, October 2004                                 •   Continue appropriate efforts to reduce
                                                                  acrylamide concentrations in food; and
                                                              •   Encourage   accumulation    of scientific

                                             Food for thought 3
        data on acrylamide in foods in developing        industry had an excellent reputation here and
        countries.                                       overseas, and it was vital to preserve that
At this time, FDA advises consumers to eat a             reputation through accurate and consistent
balanced diet, choosing a variety of foods that are      naming of seafood.
low in trans fat and saturated fat, and rich in
high-fibre grains, fruits, and vegetables. FDA is        In 2003-04, Australia’s fisheries produced
also planning to release new data this spring on         267,000 tonnes of seafood worth $2.2 billion.
acrylamide levels in the U.S. diet.
                                                         “We all enjoy Australian seafood, but there has
For further information about acrylamide,                been a tradition of different seafood names in
consumers can turn to the FDA's Center for Food          each State or Territory that often confuses
Safety and Applied Nutrition website at                  suppliers, retailers and consumer,” Senator           Macdonald said.
                                                         “I congratulate Seafood Services Australia, which
                                                         has developed these three beautifully illustrated
A fish called …?                                         posters of commonly sold temperate and tropical
A set of illustrated posters of Australian fish          fish and crustacea. Consumers and retailers will
                                                         now know exactly what to order when buying
launched will help Australian consumers and
retailers recognise what they are ordering when          seafood.”
they buy seafood.
                                                         Mr Pyne said that eating seafood was essential
                                                         for good health.
The posters were launched at Parliament House
by the Australian Fisheries Minister, Senator Ian
Macdonald, and the Parliamentary Secretary for           ‘We should all be eating more seafood for optimal
                                                         health,” Mr Pyne said.
Health and Ageing, Christopher Pyne.

Senator Macdonald said the Australian seafood            “The National Health and Medical Research
                                                         Councils’ dietary guidelines recommend that we
                                                         should all be eating two to three seafood meals a
                                                         week. Yet the National Nutrition Survey shows
                                                         that, on average, people who eat seafood eat only
Sudan red food dyes in                                   one meal of it a week.
South Africa                                             “Fish is an excellent source of protein for all
The United Kingdom Food Standards Agency
                                                         people. It is low in saturated fats, high in the
(UKFSA) has recently advised consumers not to
                                                         ‘good’ unsaturated fat and omega three oils, and
eat a wide range of foods that have been
                                                         is an excellent source of iodine.”
inadvertently contaminated with an illegal dye,
Sudan Red. This dye was in a batch of chilli
                                                         Senator Macdonald and Mr Pyne urged any one
powder used to manufacture a Worcester-sauce,
                                                         selling fish to buy a set of posters and display
which was then used as an ingredient in a wide
                                                         them to consumers. The posters, which are
range of UK products.
                                                         available from Seafood Services Australia, cost
                                                         $65 a set.
In South Africa, the Department of Health has
immediately done some investigation through
analysis conducted by the Forensic Chemistry                                       Continue to page 5
Laboratories and found that, indeed, there were
some products that may be contaminated with             Sudan I, are not approved for use in South
Sudan red. Those products were then taken off           Africa. Based on the currently available data, the
the shelves for further analysis.                       potential risk to human health from low levels of
                                                        Sudan Red is extremely low.
Sudan Red is a synthetic dye that is added
illegally to chilli powder and hot chilli products      The Department of Health, Directorate: Food
to give it its red colour. Available experimental       Control    in   collaboration  with    provinces,
data indicate that this may be a genotoxic              municipalities and Port Health Services will
substance and it is therefore not possible to           continue to monitor the situation and will
establish a tolerable daily intake level. It may        provide further updates, when available.
also exert sensitizing effects by dermal route or       Maanda M andavha, Directorate: Food Control
inhalation. Sudan red food dyes, including

                                             Food for thought 4
                                                      dim sims, doughnuts, boiled eggs, infant cereal,
Chloropropanol levels in                              infant dinners, infant formula, margarine, instant
foods - found to be safe                              noodles, peanut butter, potato crisps, and canned
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ)          tuna.
has completed a survey of chloropropanols in
general foods in Australia and has found that a       There were very small levels of chloropropanols
wide range of foods are safe. The overall             found in bacon, margarine, minced beef, savoury
conclusion of the report is that, in relation to      and sweet biscuits, white and multigrain bread,
exposure to chloropropanols from food, adequate       battered and fried fish fillets, crumbed fish
regulatory measures are in place to protect           portions, hamburgers, lamingtons, leg ham,
consumers, and any risk associated with the           sausages and certain meats. In all these cases,
levels of chloropropanols remaining in food is        FSANZ considers the levels of chloropropanols
considered to be very low.                            safe. For example, for 1,3-DCP the highest
                                                      estimated dietary exposure is 200,000 times
In recent years there has been increasing             lower than the level at which tumours were found
scientific interest in a class of chemicals known     in some rats.
as chloropropanols. How chloropropanols are
formed in foods is not fully understood, although     FSANZ's advi ce to consumers is that the very
they are known to be formed during the                small levels of chloropropanols found are not a
production of hydrolysed vegetable protein in the     health risk and that Australians should continue
presence of hydrochloric acid. The World Health       to eat a balanced diet. FSANZ is in discussion
O rganisation (WHO ) has identified potentially       with other government agencies and the food
adverse health effects resulting from exposure to     industry to identify the source of these very low
high levels chloropropanols.                          levels of chloropropanols to ensure that they are
                                                      as low as possible.
In 2001 FSANZ tested a number of soy and oyster
sauces and they were subsequently removed from        A number of overseas agencies are also gathering
the shelves when found to have high levels of         data on levels of chloropropanols in food. FSANZ
chloropropanols. Maximum levels for                   is working closely with these agencies on
chloropropanols in soy and oyster sauces were         reducing the level of chloropropanols in the food
then set in the Australia New Zealand Food            supply.
Standards Code. At the time FSANZ undertook to
survey, as a precaution, other foods for
                                                      Colourants in snacks:
The foods tested were samples used in the
Australian Total Diet Survey. These foods are
                                                      prosecution likely
                                                      The Directorate: Food Control in the Department
chosen, as they are regular staples in the
                                                      of Health has issued a directive to provincial
Australian diet. The samples were: baked beans,
bacon, minced beef, savoury and sweet biscuits,       departments to prosecute manufacturers and
                                                      suppliers of snacks found to be using illegal levels
white and multigrain bread, mixed and single
                                                      of colourants that pose a serious health risk to
grain breakfast cereals, processed and cheddar
cheeses, instant coffee, dim sims, doughnuts,
boiled eggs, battered and fried fish fillets,
                                                      National Director Dr Theo van de Venter said that
crumbed fish portions, hamburgers, infant cereal,
                                                      145 of 200 snacks samples submitted to the
infant dinners, infant formula, lamingtons, leg
                                                      Department of Health for laboratory analysis had
ham, margarine, instant noodles, peanut butter,
potato crisps, sausages, meat and canned tuna.        been found to have illegal levels of legal
                                                      colourants tartrazine, carmoisine, sunset yellow
                                                      and ponseau 4R. O ut of 115 samples sent for
The samples were taken from all Australian states
and territories during different seasons of the       analysis, 44 were found to have levels exceeding
year. They were then prepared to a ready-to-eat       the legal limit. The products included puffed
                                                      snacks (chips) and solid maize snacks.
form. For example, minced beef was dry-fried
before analysis. The survey found that there were
no chloropropanols detected in baked beans,           Van de Venter said that while legal dye
                                                      constituency was 200mg/kg, either singly or in
mixed and single grain breakfast cereal,
                                                      total, some of the samples submitted were “levels
processed and cheddar cheeses, instant coffee,

                                           Food for thought 5
into the thousand and some were 10 or 20 times          Red w ine has anti-bacterial impact, new study
more than the legal level”. He said the                 - Researchers at the department of food science
Department was intensifying the testing “to get         and technology at O regon State University in the
rid of the junk”, because such high levels pose an      US found that all the wines tested had
especially dangerous threat to children.                bactericidal activity against Escherichia coli
                                                        O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella
“ We are urging the public to be very careful of        typhimurium, and Staphylococcus aur eus. With
these products. We have asked the provincial            red wine the most potent. The synergistic effect of
authorities to prosecute the companies because          organic acids, ethanol, and low pH seems to be
this is more dangerous than Sudan Red,” van de          responsible for a major part of the antibacterial
Venter said. Lyse Comins, Pretoria New s                effect of wine, said the researchers. "When
                                                        different combinations of ethanol, organic acids,
                                                        and acidity were tested against the pathogens, it
                                                        was found that a composition of 0.15 percent malic
                                                        acid, 0.6 percent tartaric acid, 15 percent ethanol,
                                                        and pH 3.0 had a strong bactericidal effect," report
News in brief                                           the scientists in the November/December issue of
US new rule for egg saf ety - The proposed new          the Journal of Food Science, 69(9):M251-7. Despite
rule is part of a joint and coordinated strategy by
                                                        the suggested anti-bacterial effect present in the
United States FDA and the Food Safety Inspection        wine complex, as wine players increase in size – a
Services (USDA) to more effectively deal with eggs
                                                        sign of the times - they expose their businesses to
and egg products. When implemented, the
                                                        greater risk, both qualitative and quantitative.
production changes defined by the regulation will       Ingredients firms are moving to target this
significantly reduce the number of illness caused       growing potential market that sees just 3 percent
by eggs contaminated with Salmonella enteritidis.
                                                        of wines inoculated with industrial bacteria as the
An estimated 118000 illness per year are caused
                                                        traditional wine industry relies on centuries-old
by consumption of SE contaminated eggs. “The            natural wine formulations. Lionel Schmitt, sales
implementation of the provisions of the rule
                                                        and marketing manager at Chr Hansen, believes
would reduce the number of SE-related illnesses
                                                        consolidation in the global wine market will drive
by 33500 and is the major step in realizing our         growth for its industrial bacteria. "In Australia for
public health goal of a 50% reduction in all            example four wineri es cover 70 percent of the
salmonellosis and a 50% reduction in SE                 market. Our products can eliminate some of the
outbreaks by 2010,” said Acting                         risk associated with the natural malolactic
Commissioner Dr. Lester M. Crawford.                    fermentation approach because they can secure
ILSINEW S Vol. 22, No. 2, 2004                          production," he recently told
When is organic food not organic? - The
                                                        The need to manage production in an industrial
organic food industry is a small market industry,
                                                        fashion grows with increasing size, added
which has a growth rate exceeding 20% per
                                                        Schmitt. But with 97 percent of the global wine
annum in Australia. There is evidence to suggest        businesses using traditional techniques the
that more people are consuming organic foods as
                                                        market still needs some convincing. The firm
an alternative from traditionally processed foods.
                                                        supplies a range of wine ingredients that cover
Because of the increased popularity of the organic
                                                        bacterial cultures, enzymes and yeasts. Last year
market and the rapid increase in market growth,         it launched a new bacterial strain for red wine
the Food Surveillance Advisory Committee
                                                        with a high alcohol content (16-17 percent):
(Q ueensland Health) commissioned a survey to
                                                        Viniflora CH16. The product removes malic acid
sample food represented as ‘organic’ so as to           "so that the wine-maker can assure the quality of
increase the understanding of the organic food          high-alcohol wines."
industry. The organic certification process was
reviewed and information regarding the processes
of the industry and regulatory services was
gathered. 96 samples of foods represented as
‘organic’ were sampled for analysis. All samples        For more information on the Directorate: Food
were forwarded to Q ueensland Health Scientific         Control visit:
Services where they were analysed for a broad 
screen of organochlorine, organophosphorus and          or email
synthetic            pyrethroid          pesticides.

                                             Food for thought 6
Food for thought 7

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