2015 (5)



Milk and milk products play a vital role in diets around the globe. Due to their nutritional benefits there has been an increase in production and consumption over the past thirty years. For this growth to continue the safety and authenticity of dairy products needs to be maintained which is a huge area of concern. Throughout the process, from farm to processor, different sources of contamination (biological, chemical or physical) may occur either accidently or intentionally. Through online resources (the EU Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) and HorizonScan) safety and fraud data were collected from the past five years relating to milk and milk products. Cheese notifications were most frequently reported for both safety alerts (pathogenic micro-organisms) and fraud incidences (fraudulent documentation). Alongside the significant number of biological contaminations identified, chemical, physical and inadequate controls (in particular; foreign bodies, allergens, industrial contaminants and mycotoxins) were also found. Although the number of incidents were significantly smaller, these contaminants can still pose a significant risk to human health depending on their toxicity and exposure. Grey literature provided a summary of contamination and fraud issues from around the globe and shows its potential to be used alongside database resources for a holistic overview. In ensuring the integrity of milk during ever changing global factors (climate change, competition between food and feed and global pandemics) it is vital that safety and authenticity issues are continually monitored by industry, researchers and governing bodies.

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Food Quality News has published an article that highlights the cases referred to the Government Chemist in 2015 which included novel investigations, familiar issues and re-emerging questions. The most challenging investigations involved alleged allergens in spices, for which the GC had to develop completely new methods of analysis. Familiar issues included aflatoxins, naturally occurring cancer causing contaminants; and there were also issues to resolve relating to pesticides residues, food authenticity, and residues of veterinary medicines. Two issues resurfaced after gaps of several years; illegal dyes and the choking hazards of jelly mini-cups.

Focus on food authenticity remained high in 2015. The FSA funded 2014-15 National Sampling Programme included an additional element of local authority testing of lamb dishes from takeaway restaurants for meat speciation (and where appropriate for allergens and additives). There were over 60 samples considered to be non-compliant when sampled by a local authority from the restaurant and its suppliers which needed following up.

The Public Analyst reported one lamb sample as satisfactory, however a product described as goat meat was reported to contain only sheep DNA. Moreover the Public Analyst also reported a minced lamb product with a substantial amount of chicken DNA, a “cooked lamb curry” with only beef DNA and a sample described as “cooked minced lamb” was found to contain chicken DNA as well as sheep DNA. Proceedings were instigated in the Magistrate’s Court and the defendant supplier entered a ‘not guilty’ plea. Anticipating a possible analytical defence the local authority requested a referee analysis of the retained portions of the samples.

The GC applied both ELISA (to check the protein) and real time PCR (to identify cell nucleus DNA) to multiple replicates of the samples. The “cooked lamb curry”, consisted of seven pieces of cooked meat and some sauce. The GC tested multiple replicates of each piece of meat (and the sauce) individually and showed that the meat was beef and not sheep meat. The “goat meat”, also consisted of seven pieces of raw meat and similar detailed analysis confirmed that the meat was sheep and not goat. The GC found the “cooked minced lamb” to consist of a mixture of chicken and sheep meat, and the “minced lamb”, consisted of a mixture of sheep and chicken meat.

Hence the GC upheld all of the Public Analyst’s findings and the defendant was found guilty and received a total penalty (fines and costs) of £7100.

Read full article and the Government Chemist Annual Review for 2015.

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