European networks tasked with identifying emerging risks discussed 18 potential issues in 2018.
They were classified according to hazard with microbiological responsible for 10 issues, two for chemical and other, such as antimicrobial resistance and allergies, were discussed once.
Risks were also classed by the driver behind the emerging issue such as three times for new process or technology, twice for illegal activity and new consumer trends and one was climate change related. Five were not considered to be emerging issues.
The variety of briefings indicates effectiveness to capture a broad range of relevant issues with members discussing an increasing number of potential emerging issues identified by their own horizon scanning activities, according to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
The Emerging Risks Exchange Network (EREN) and Stakeholder Discussion Group on Emerging Risk both met twice in 2018. A total of 22 issues from horizon scanning in member states were presented to EREN.
Novel botulinum neurotoxin gene cluster
New bioinformatics diagnostic technologies helped identify a novel botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT) gene cluster in Enterococcus, indicating a possible new source for botulism toxin. If the boNT gene in non-clostridia is expressed the traditional susceptible groups for botulism would become broader.
The emerging risks groups concluded more research was needed to investigate expression of the novel BoNT gene cluster and biochemical characterization of the toxin.
E. coli sequence type 131 (ST131) isolates are commonly reported to produce extended-spectrum beta-lactamases and almost all are resistant to fluoroquinolones. ST131 E. coli isolates are considered to be truly pathogenic.
Recently in the United States, a one-year prospective study of E. coli from meat products and clinical cultures showed that E. coli ST131 strains are shared by clinical samples from extra-intestinal human infections and samples from poultry. This suggests a foodborne source for human uropathogenic infections, either through an indirect pathway, such as hygienic concern because of hand contamination, or a direct pathway.
The issue was previously discussed in 2013. The EFSA will encourage monitoring of data from member states and exchange information with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
Another issue was dog meat consumption. It is legal to eat meat from dogs in many U.S. states, Canada and most African and Asian countries. In Europe, slaughtering of dogs and sale of their meat is illegal.
Potential risks associated with illegal trade are transmission of zoonoses such as trichinellosis, cholera and rabies. Experts plan to provide scientific evidence on the potential transmission of zoonotic diseases by dog meat consumption or handling.
Collagen and ricin concerns
The use of collagen from invertebrates in food, feed and biomedical applications is of growing interest. Little is known about pathogenicity to humans and animals of onboard microbes or on their potential for filtering known pathogens out of agricultural or sewage run-off and transmitting to humans.
Plans call for information to be gathered on potential risks of using invertebrates like jellyfish for food and feed and from places where use of these products is more extended, such as Asia.
Under chemical hazard and illegal activity, an increase in cases of contamination of beeswax with acaricides and pesticides and the lack of natural beeswax in the market led to an increase in prices, which means it is at higher risk for fraud, according to the report. There is no official definition on beeswax composition and suitable controls measure are not in place.
Ricin in fertilizers
The poisoning of dogs attributed to ricin in fertilizers also was discussed. Since May 2017 the poison center of Lombardy, Milan, has reported nine cases of poisoning in dogs, of which four were lethal, after ingestion of fertilizers containing castor seeds cake, a by-product in the production of castor oil by pressing castor seeds.
Ricin is a toxic protein in castor beans, the seeds of the castor plant are industrially grown worldwide to produce castor oil. Ricin content of untreated pressed seeds is about 5 percent of the material. Various types of heat and chemical treatments are used to detoxify the by-product but not all methods are effective.
Residues of castor oil production are mostly used as fertilizer or organic manure and use as a protein source in the feed industry is restricted in the EU. The ease of purchase and variety of brands under which this material is available plus the lack of professional expert advice for users makes the risk imminent and potentially severe.
Humans are also exposed to the risk, for example babies accidentally ingesting fertilizers and adults intentionally manipulating the products as inhalation are routes of exposure. The growing tendency of using organic products in various fields, including fertilizers, and underestimation of the danger of by-products could be drivers of this and similar risks.
Not emerging risks and horizon scanning
Bacteria-killing viruses referred to as bacteriophages were one of the five topics not considered an emerging issue by the food safety groups.
Before approving a phage preparation, phages should be thoroughly analyzed and a case-by-case decision should be made. Uncertainties include transduction known as horizontal gene transfer; increase of antibiotic resistance; and recontamination of food and efficiency. Current data on the safety of phage preparation and the Listeria innocua species was judged insufficient.
Another was allergies associated with food supplements reported to the ANSES nutrivigilance program. Three severe allergies following consumption of supplements containing hive products such as royal jelly or honey and pollen have been reported, with a high level of causality. Allergy to royal jelly and honey has been described in scientific literature.
Presentations during horizon scanning covered kratom, Clostridium perfringens toxin associated with multiple sclerosis, identification of a new Listeria species from Costa Rica, and glitter in foods.
Emerging and ongoing issues in 2017 for Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) included acrylamide, antimicrobial resistance, arsenic in rice, bisphenol A, glutamates, glycidyl and 3-MCPD esters, furans, hepatitis A in berries, high levels of iodine, intense sweeteners, pyrrolizidine alkaloids, radionuclides, synthetic colors and tropane alkaloids.
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