Volume 19. Number 1. 2014


China's latest food scandal: Meat injected with dirty water
Sources: The Standard, ABS-CBN News, The Guardian, The Independent, News.

China has held seven people in southern Guangdong province for injecting dirty pond water into lamb meat to swell its weight and raise its price, state television reported in the latest food scandal to hit the world's second largest economy.
The suspects slaughtered up to 100 sheep per day at an illegal warehouse, pumping bacteria-ridden water into the meat before it was sold at markets, food stalls and restaurants in major cities such as Guangzhou and Foshan, according to China Central Television (CCTV).
China has been hit by a number of food safety scandals, from deadly chemical-laced dairy products to recycled "gutter oil" used for cooking. IFIC Global Media Minute, 7 January 2014.

The Vitamin D miracle. Is it for real?

In the summer of 1974, brothers Frank and Cedric Garland had a heretical brainwave. The young epidemiologists were watching a presentation on death rates from cancer county by county across the United States. As they sat in a lecture hall at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore looking at the colour-coded cancer maps, they noticed a striking pattern, with the map for colon cancer the most pronounced. The Globe and Mail 13 Mar. 2009.

The Scientific Case for Banning trans Fats

Last month the U.S. Food and Drug Administration made the welcome, belated determination that partially hydrogenated oils—the primary source of trans fats—could no longer be considered “generally regarded as safe” (GRAS). Although the ruling is preliminary, it is expected to become permanent. If it does, it will virtually eliminate industrially produced trans fat in the U.S, saving thousands of lives each year with minimal cost to industry. Scientific American December 13, 2013.

The impact and consequences of banning trans fatty acids

On Nov. 7, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced its preliminary determination that partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), the primary dietary source of artificial trans fat in processed foods, are not “generally recognized as safe” for use in food. In a new ePerspective post, Eric Decker, Professor and Dept. Head, Dept. of Food Science at the University of Massachusetts, explains that this proposed rule is not without consequences to many individuals so it is critical that this decision is made carefully. Firstly, Decker questions the scientific data that the FDA is using to back up this proposed rule.
Secondly, he questions what will be used in place of trans fatty acids if they are taken off the GRAS list. Certain foods require solid fats for function (e.g., baked goods) so partially hydrogenated oil will have to be replaced with another solid fat such as palm oil. However, the health consequences of replacing partially hydrogenated oil with tropical oils in diets that already have low levels of trans fatty acids is unknown. Additionally, other potential solid fats could be used but they are more expensive and would increase food costs.
Decker also raises some questions for consideration and discussion. For example, some partial hydrogenation technologies, such as electrochemical hydrogenation, can produce low levels of trans fatty acids. Could these products be used in foods if the proposed rule is passed? If so, what criteria would be used to determine if they are GRAS? Read Decker’s blog post for his expert opinion on the FDA’s proposed rule and then comment with your thoughts.

Eric Decker’s ePerspective post IFT The Weekly November 13, 2013
(See SAAFoST website for a presentation on trans fats by Prof Friede Wenhold on 18 Sept 2012?)

Multivitamins Are a Waste of Money, Doctors Say

People should stop wasting their money on dietary supplements, some physicians said, in response to three large new studies that showed most multivitamin supplements are ineffective at reducing the risk of disease, and may even cause harm.
The new studies, published (Dec. 16) in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine —including two new clinical trials and one large review of 27 past clinical trials conducted by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force — found no evidence that taking daily multivitamin and mineral supplements prevents or slows down the progress of cognitive decline or chronic diseases such as heart diseases or cancer.
"The message is simple: Most supplements do not prevent chronic disease or death, their use is not justified and they should be avoided," the physicians wrote in an editorial published along with the studies.
This message is especially aimed at people who have no signs of nutritional deficiency — meaning most supplement users in the United States, the researchers said.
"Study after study comes back negative — yet people continue to take supplements, now at record rates," said Dr. Edgar Miller, one of the five authors of the editorial and a professor of medicine and epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Scientific American Dec. 17, 2013

Some healthy oils may increase risk of heart disease

Some vegetable oils that claim to be healthy may actually increase the risk of heart disease, and Heath Canada should reconsider cholesterol-lowering claims on food labelling, states an analysis in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Careful evaluation of recent evidence, however, suggests that allowing a health claim for vegetable oils rich in omega-6 linoleic acid but relatively poor in omega-3 a-linolenic acid may not be warranted. Corn and safflower oil, which are rich in omega-6 linoleic acid but contain almost no omega-3 a-linolenic acid, are not associated with beneficial effects on heart health according to recent evidence. RSSL Food e-news 574:6 Nov. 2013

Toxicological Evaluation of Proteins Introduced Into Food Crops

Bruce Hammond, John Kough, Corinne Herouet-Guicheney, Joseph M. Jez, on behalf of the ILSI International Food Biotechnology Committee Task Force on the Use of Mammalian Toxicology Studies in the Safety Assessment of GM Foods

Critical Reviews in Toxicology Nov 2013, Vol. 43, No. S2: 25–42.

Experts Identify New Approach to Tackling Food Insecurity, Climate Change

Global experts made a plea to change the way the world tackles food insecurity, climate change, poverty and water scarcity during the Conference of the Parties 19 (COP19) in Warsaw, Poland. The UN climate negotiators who attended the Conference were also warned not to risk "turning their backs on some of the most vulnerable and poorest people in this world".
Experts called for a "landscape approach" to rural development, hailed as a way to bring together the agricultural, forestry, energy and fisheries sectors. This approach is expected to come up with collaborative and innovative solutions to ease increasing pressure on the world's resources, which are threatened by climate change.
Rachel Kyte, World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development, told participants at the COP19's Global Landscapes Forum, that science has advanced far enough that the world has the necessary technical capacity to quantify and visualize the connections between human activities and the environment. Referring to a breakdown in talks on agriculture this past week in Warsaw, she added that "these negotiations run the risk of turning their backs on some of the most vulnerable and poorest people in this world and that will not build a climate negotiation that works." Crop Biotech Update 20 Nov. 2013br>

Has advice to cut down on saturated fat increased our risk of cardiovascular disease?

An observation paper published in the British Medical Journal by Aseem Malhotra, an interventional cardiology specialist registrar at Croydon University Hospital, London entitled “Saturated fat is not the major issue” has questioned the mantra that saturated fat must be removed to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. RSSL Foode-news 572. 23 Oct. 2013.

EU publishes draft report on food fraud, listing top ten foods at risk

The Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety has published a draft report entitled “fraud in the food chain and the control thereof.” The report acknowledges that combating food fraud is a relatively new issue on the European agenda and that in the past it has never been a key priory for legislation and enforcement at EU or national level. It notes that EU law does not currently provide a definition of food fraud and the only guidance available can be found in Regulation 178/2002 on general principles and requirements of food law. It reports that “recent food fraud cases have exposed different types of food fraud such as replacing key ingredients with cheaper alternatives, wrongly labelling the animal species used in a meat product, incorrectly labelling weight, selling ordinary foods as organic, unfairly using origin or animal welfare quality logos, labelling aquaculture fish as wild-caught, counterfeiting and marketing food past its ‘use-by’ date.” The foods which are most at risk of food fraud are listing as being: olive oil, fish, organic foods, milk, grains, honey and maple syrup and coffee and tea. The majority of parties who contributed to the report believe that the number of cases of food fraud is rising. Food fraud generally occurs where the potential financial gain is high and risk of getting caught is low. Other factors also contributing to food fraud include pressure from the retail sectors and others to produce food more cheaply. It suggests that the Commission and Member States “widen their focus, policies and controls from health and safety only to include food fraud as well.” Recommendations include defining what constitutes food fraud, enhancing the Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office role in detecting food fraud cases, with member states cooperating more through Europol on cross border investigations. Official control should aim to combat food fraud and competent authorities should always certify and scrutinise private control bodies. The food sector needs to get involved and set up anti-fraud programmes and a legal obligation for food business operators to report to competent authorities instances of fraudulent behaviour. It also recommends that enforcement bodies take a more policing approach moving away from an administrative and veterinary approach. RSSL Foode-news 572. 23 Oct. 2013.

For nutritionists and dietitians, ‘antioxidant’ is taboo

An antioxidant is a substance in foods that significantly decreases the activity of reactive oxygen species and is supposed to be beneficial to human health. However, at the 2013 Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo in Houston, Texas, given by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the term “antioxidant” was removed from the food and nutrition vocabulary. During the session “Moving Beyond Antioxidants: Making Phytochemicals a Prescription for Health,” Lenore Arab of the University of California - Los Angeles discussed how the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) requires in vivo proof of the effectiveness of antioxidants, and no human studies have produced evidence of antioxidant benefits.
As a consequence, the EFSA says that manufacturers cannot make health claims about foods containing antioxidants. Humans absorb only 1–2% of the antioxidants in food and supplements, which may explain why there is no evidence of free radical scavenging activity in humans by antioxidants. On the other hand, there is clear epidemiological evidence of the health benefits of the phytochemicals in plants foods consumed by humans, Arab said. Several epidemiological studies indicate individuals who eat plant-based diets have a lower risk for hypertension, hyperlipidemia, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. In fact, the American Institute for Cancer Research recommends that two-thirds of every meal consists of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans. Arab therefore advised dietitians and nutritionists to refrain from using the term “antioxidant” and instead focus on phytochemicals. IFT The weekly 31 Oct. 2013.

Dear Evolution, Thanks for the Allergies

Watery eyes could be a good thing after all.
Millions of people suffer from hives or shortness of breath when they encounter everyday exposures such as pollens or peanuts. In their most favorable light you could think of your allergies as a really annoying super power, with telltale wheezing signaling your body senses the presence of something that you don’t see or consciously smell. Despite decades of inquiry, however, scientists remain unable to pin down why allergies occur.
Because allergic reactions basically mirror the way our body responds to parasites such as worms, working to expel them through sneezes, vomiting or watery eyes, the prevailing belief among allergy experts is that allergies are just an unfortunate misdirected immune response. A pair of new studies, however, takes a fresh look at why allergies occur and provides the first evidence that those bodily responses may be no accident at all. Rather, they could be the body’s way of protecting us against toxins in the environment.
This is not the first time the idea has been proposed, but these new works independently provide the first hard data to support it. By simulating honeybee stings and snakebites in mice, researchers found that exposure to these venoms can trigger a protective immune response in which the body creates specific antibodies to help neutralize the substances in future encounters. One study found that mice receiving a small dose of these venoms followed by a would-be fatal dose three weeks later had much higher survival rates than those given only the large dose. The researchers found evidence that mice receiving a small initial venom dose, akin to stings or bites, developed allergen-specific antibodies, which bind to cells throughout the body, priming them to quickly react to venoms. The papers, from researchers at the medical schools at Stanford University and Yale University are published in the November 14 issue of Immunity. Scientific American. Actober 24, 2013

Snippets - contributions are welcome. Edited and produced by Dr. B Cole. - / Fax 011 660 6444 with the help of the Northern Branch Committee.