Studies tackling pathogens and contaminants, both organic and inorganic, are highlighted in the UK’s Food Standards Agency’s (FSA’s) list of 2013 research priorities.
Among the initiatives flagged up, an assessment of the effect of bombarding chicken carcasses with beads during processing to help remove campylobacter has been launched. If successful, the plan is to turn this into a larger scale method of cracking down on campylobacter in poultry plants.
The FSA also plans to establish the main sources of listeriosis infection to strengthen its Listeria risk management programme. In separate, but related work, FSA-backed scientists aim to explore the effects of vacuum and modified air packing on Listeria growth.
A probe into the survival of verocytotoxin-producing E.Coli (VTEC) on soiled root vegetables from harvest to retail is planned to ensure robust risk assessment of this source of VTEC contamination.
The findings “will help to support future FSA guidance on the control of VTEC risks (including the cross-contamination guidance) and consumer advice on the safe handling and preparation of vegetables”, said the FSA.
It is also working with a contractor on developing a method for detecting extended-spectrum beta-lactamase-producing E.Coli in retail chickens. It expects the method to be developed by August and wants this to build on an ongoing survey of the presence of E.Coli in 4,000 retail chickens.
Microbiological contamination of meat
An analysis of the effectiveness of surface treatment in reducing microbiological contamination of meat used in the production of raw and lightly cooked food will be another project.
Further research into the potential presence of, and health risk from, elevated levels of histamine in cheese produced in Scotland.
The presence of metals in weaning foods and infant formulae will be the subject of another survey and other studies will focus on dioxin and acrylamide levels in foods.
The FSA added that there would be three rounds of calls in 2013, 2014 and 2015, each supported by funding of £500,000, “for innovative work that will result in step-change improvements in food safety”.