ACMSF minutes: 27 September 2007

Meeting held in Aviation House, 125 Kingsway, London WC2B 6NH

Present:

Chair:
Professor S O’Brien

Members:
Mr J Bassett
Mrs V Buller
Prof J Coia
Ms S Davies
Prof M Gasson
Dr R Holliman
Prof P Hunter
Mr A Kyriakides
Ms E Lewis
Mr P McMullin
Dr S Millership
Mrs J Morris
Mr R Rees
Prof P Williams

Assessors:
Ms L Larkin (Defra)
Dr J Hilton (FSA)
Dr S Neill (DARDNI)

Secretariat:
Dr L Foster (Administrative Secretary)
Dr Paul Cook (Scientific Secretary)
Mr Ade Adeoye
Miss Sarah Butler

Others:
Dr Roy Betts, Campden & Chorleywood Food Research Association
Ms Charmaine Clarke, Safefood, Ireland
Ms Amanda Cryer, British Egg Information Service
Mr Andrew Curtis, Food and Drink Federation
Ms Kirsty Dinsdale, ADAS
Ms Kaarin Goodburn, Chilled Food Association
Dr Christine Little, Health Protection Agency
Dr Bernard Rowe, Consultant
Dr Mike Stringer, Campden & Chorleywood Food Research Association

1. Chair’s introduction

1.1 The Chair welcomed ACMSF Members and members of the public to the 64th meeting of the Committee. She also welcomed Dr Kath Callaghan (FSA), Joy Gaze and Greg Hooper (CCFRA) who would be presenting agenda item 6, Dr Richard Meldrum (NPHS, Wales) who would be presenting agenda item 7, Dr Chun-Han Chan (FSA) and Dr Christine Little (HPA) who would be presenting agenda item 8, David Alexander (FSA) who would be presenting agenda item 9 and Gael O’Neill (FSA) who would be presenting agenda item 10. Lastly she welcomed Professor John Coia who had joined the Committee to provide expertise in medical microbiology and invited existing Members to introduce themselves.

1.2 She asked Members to identify any items for discussion under any other business at the end of the meeting. None were identified by Members. The Secretariat wished to raise one item.

2. Apologies for absence

2.1 Apologies for absence were received from Dr David Brown, Professor Tom Humphrey and Mr Stephen Wyllie.

3. Declarations of interests

3.1 The Chair reminded the Committee of the need to declare any conflicts of interests relating to items on the agenda. Mr Kyriakides informed Members that, in relation to agenda items 6 and 7 Sainsburys provided on-pack cooking instructions for poultry. Mr McMullin informed Members that, in relation to agenda items 6, 7, and 8, he worked for Poultry Health Services, and also in relation to agenda item 8 he acted as a consultant to the British egg industry.

4. Minutes of the 63rd meeting (ACM/MIN/63)

4.1 Members approved ACM/MIN/63 as a correct record of the previous meeting, subject to an amendment to paragraph 6.2, penultimate line to read ‘storage and food production rather than changes in the organism based on conventional typing techniques’. The Secretariat was asked to arrange for final minutes to be posted on the Committee’s website.
Action: Secretariat

5. Matters arising

5.1 The Chair drew attention to the Secretariat information paper ACM/846 detailing matters arising from previous meetings. There were no comments raised by Members in response to this paper.

6. Safe cooking times for poultry (ACM/864)

6.1 At the Chair’s invitation, Dr Kath Callaghan (FSA) introduced paper ACM/864. She explained that the FSA had commissioned a short research study to review the cooking advice for turkeys and other poultry in fan assisted ovens to ensure food safety whilst maintaining the organoleptic qualities of the meat. This followed reports that the cooking times advised by the Agency (which were based on conventional convection ovens) may be too great for fan-assisted ovens. At the Chair’s invitation, Joy Gaze and Greg Hooper (CCFRA) presented the findings from the research study. They outlined reported differences in cooking times and temperatures between fan assisted and conventional ovens and approaches to achieve a safe product with the most acceptable sensory quality.

6.2 In the ensuing discussion the Committee considered that:

  • The recommendations as presented focused on quality not safety. However Members noted that the report demonstrated that there was little need to change much of the existing advice which was already based on an assessment of microbiological safety. The Committee agreed that the proposed revised cooking temperature and times for fan-assisted ovens would achieve a safe product.
  • New information concerning the use of foil, regular basting and piercing skin of goose and duck should be considered as part of development or revision of advice on cooking of poultry.
  • Consumer advice on cooking of poultry should be simplified.
  • The report would benefit from inclusion of statistical information outlining how the study was designed and analysed and Members suggested that this was an issue for consideration between FSA and CCFRA.

Action: FSA

6.3 The Chair thanked Dr Callaghan, Joy Gaze and Greg Hooper for their presentation. She concluded that Members considered that the FSA should reinforce the safety of its current cooking advice and consider including additional information on basting and use of foil during cooking.
Action:FSA

7. Update on poultry surveillance (ACM/865)

7.1 At the Chair’s invitation Dr Richard Meldrum (NPHS, Wales) introduced paper ACM/865. He provided an overview of the background to the surveys, and outlined the methodology used. He explained that the surveys had measured the baseline rate of Salmonella and Campylobacter in whole retail raw chickens for five consecutive years. He reminded Members that the findings from each survey had been presented to the Committee on several previous occasions. Key conclusions and outcomes arising from the work were that:

  • The overall Campylobacter rate has not changed over the duration of the project;
  • the Salmonella rate has decreased during this time;
  • The project had produced several peer-reviewed publications; and
  • Campylobacter isolates from these projects have been used for further work.

7.2 Members discussed the sampling approach used for the surveillance including how sample numbers were determined noting the reliance on Local Authorities for sample collection. Members also discussed the reported rates of contamination of Campylobacter and Salmonella on fresh and frozen poultry from butchers and retailers and noted that the survey was not representative of market share reaching the consumer.

7.3 Members also discussed the statistical approach used to analyse the data and suggested the work might benefit from professional statistical input.

7.4 The Chair thanked Dr Meldrum for his final presentation on this topic and also for the previous updates he had provided to the ACMSF over the last five years.

8. Catering eggs survey (ACM/866)

8.1 At the Chair’s invitation Dr Chun-Han Chan and Dr Christine Little presented paper ACM/866. Dr Chan informed Members that the FSA had recently published the results of a 14-month survey to estimate the prevalence of Salmonella in raw shell eggs used in UK catering premises. The survey also aimed to identify sero- and phage types present and gathered information on egg storage and handling practices in catering premises. This was the third in a series of FSA egg surveys. She outlined the sampling approach used noting that there was no market share data available therefore catering premises were selected at random from Local Authority lists. The sample size was monitored against interim prevalence levels to obtain best estimates of prevalence. The survey method was based on the HPA standard method for Salmonella testing where the shell and contents were tested separately. Key findings from the survey were that:

  • Of 1,588 samples tested 6 were positive for Salmonella on the shell; one was also contents positive. Due to the small number of positives detected detailed statistical analysis was limited;
  • All the Salmonella isolates were sensitive to antimicrobial agents used;
  • Overall prevalence of Salmonella was 0.38%;
  • 89% samples were of UK origin;
  • There was no statistical difference between clean and dirty eggs and the prevalence of Salmonella;

8.2 Dr Chan concluded that these findings were similar to levels of Salmonella contamination reported in previous surveys such as the 2003 HPA/LACORS catering egg survey and the FSA survey of UK produced eggs. The current survey had highlighted the need to provide food hygiene training and advice to food handlers and caterers in relation to pooling, storage and use of eggs.

8.3 Members welcomed the survey results commenting that this represented a good news story. The survey emphasised the low level of Salmonella prevalence in eggs available in the UK. Members recognised that this was due to a large proportion of eggs sampled being of UK origin. The Committee discussed the findings and practices relating to poor stock rotation and ambient storage of shell and pooled eggs. Some Members commented that it was not always practical for caterers to refrigerate large volumes of eggs due to the limitations of refrigerator space. Members identified that, due to the increased risks associated with pooling of eggs there was a need to focus advice on appropriate use and storage of eggs. The Committee was reminded that the second ACMSF Report on Salmonella in eggs recommended that eggs should be refrigerated after purchase, noting that eggs were only at ambient for a short space of time whilst in the supply chain.

8.4 The Chair thanked Dr Chan for presenting the survey report.

9. Food safety advice on flooding (ACM/867)

9.1 At the Chair’s invitation David Alexander presented paper ACM/867. He informed Members that, as a result of the floods over the summer, the ACMSF was asked to consider FSA advice on the safety of fresh produce and agricultural land contaminated by flood water. Members were asked to consider the following five questions and to identify the need for any revision to current advice:

  • Whether FSA advice to discard all produce affected by flood water is appropriate or over precautionary; Is there a risk associated with eating crops contaminated with flood water if such crops are washed, peeled and cooked?
  • If advice relating to consumption of foods grown on allotments was modified, are there any considerations relating to commercial crops that should be taken into account?
  • What advice should be given to allotment holders and commercial growers in relation to replanting and appropriate harvest levels? Does the underlying microbiology justify adopting the same precautionary approach applied to sewage sludge?
  • Is there any justification for requiring a delay before replanting crops that are destined to be cooked?
  • With sewage spills, given the high water content and dilution effect in comparison with the direct application of biosolids, is FSA advice for sewer bursts on agricultural land over precautionary?

9.2 Members discussed the preliminary written response previously provided to FSA by the Committee. Following review of the responses to questions 3 and 5 Members queried the limited evidence available to support pathogen survival of 4-6 and 4-12 months in sewage sludge. The Committee suggested this time interval should be revised to be a minimum of 6-12 months. Professor Hunter reported that risk-modelling data had shown that the length of time for pathogen survival depended on the initial contamination rate and the die-off rate. Professor Coia added that, in relation to incident handling, more data on different types of flood water was needed as any guidance would need to emphasise that it dependent on the environmental conditions in particular affected areas. Mr McMullin commented that, in relation to basing risk on extrapolated data, an over-precautionary approach in relation to flood-related advice may exacerbate food production problems in areas which had already suffered the direct effects of the flooding.

9.3 The Chair thanked Mr Alexander for his presentation. Summing up, she concluded that in response to the five questions posed:

  • The Agency’s current advice to discard all produce affected by flood water may be over-precautionary based on the data available;
  • Ready-to-eat crops grown above ground affected by flood water should be discarded;
  • Produce contaminated by flood water can be eaten provided that it is cooked, or that it is subjected to a process that delivers an equivalently safe product;
  • Contaminated produce from allotments and commercial crops should be treated the same in terms of risk;
  • There is no reason to delay before replanting crops that are destined to be cooked;
  • There is a need for guidance on handling to manage cross-contamination;
  • Current advice on sewer bursts should remain.
  • The time interval between replanting and harvesting and in relation to sewage spills should be a minimum of 6-12 months, which is consistent with evidence of E.coli O157 survival.

9.4 The Chair requested that the FSA consider the comments raised in the development of its food safety advice on flooding.
Action: FSA

10. Review of recommendations of the ACMSF Report on Antibiotic Resistance (ACM/868)

10.1 At the Chair’s invitation, Gael O’Neill presented paper ACM/868. She reminded Members that in 2005 the ACMSF considered a paper from the Defra Antimicrobial Resistance Co-ordination Group summarising actions taken to address some of the recommendations in the ACMSF 1999 Report on Microbial Antibiotic Resistance in relation to Food Safety. She explained that, at that meeting, Members were informed that progress on some recommendations was at an early stage, and it was now timely to update the Committee on developments. Ms O’Neill summarised progress on non-research recommendations and progress to meet recommendations made in chapter 12 regarding research on antibiotic resistance in relation to food safety. She reported that most of the recommendations from the 1999 ACMSF Report had been taken forward and completed. Areas highlighted for further consideration included antibiotic resistance in commensal micro-organisms in food, antibiotic resistant organisms in imported food and animal feed and microbiological risk assessment. She informed the Committee that the FSA intended to hold a stakeholder meeting on antimicrobial resistance in the food chain in November, and the results of this meeting would inform an FSA strategy on antimicrobial resistance in the food chain.

10.2 Dr Cook confirmed that the FSA was involved with the Codex task force on antimicrobial resistance.

10.3 The Chair thanked Ms O’Neill for her update.

11. Committee sub-groups

Working Group on Surveillance

11.1 In the absence of Professor Humphrey, the Chair reported that the Working Group on Surveillance had not met since the last ACMSF meeting. Therefore there was nothing to report.

Newly emerging pathogens

11.2 Professor Hunter reported that the first meeting of this Group took place in July to discuss ESBLs. Members were updated on the various cross-departmental groups considering this issue and discussed information provided by two experts on ESBLs. The next meeting of this Group is due to take place in November.

Vulnerable Groups

11.3 Professor Hunter informed Members that the second meeting of this Group took place in July. Discussions focused around Listeria monocytogenes at the request of ACMSF. The Group was currently collecting data on lifestyle, vulnerability and intestinal infectious disease with respect to its impact on the elderly.

Botulism in cattle, sheep and goats

11.4 Professor Williams informed Members that the Group had not met since the last ACMSF meeting. The next meeting was scheduled to take place on 18 October.

12. Dates of future meetings (ACM/869)

12.1 The Chair brought to Members’ attention paper ACM/869 which listed the dates for the remainder of 2007 and dates for 2008. She reminded Members that all meetings were open to members of the public.

13. Any other business

13.1 Ms Butler informed Members that the ACMSF web site pages had been redesigned. The web site could be accessed directly via http://acmsf.food.gov.uk.

14. Public questions and answers

14.1 The Chair invited the members of the public present to ask any questions they might have on the work of the Committee, or to make any observations.

14.2 Dr Bernard Rowe (Consultant to Tesco) commented that, with regard to paper ACM/865, Table 16, the spelling of Salmonella Hadar was incorrect. He also suggested including a footnote for ‘Salmonella Unnamed’ to clarify its identity. He added that he was surprised that Salmonella Ohio was found to be so common and queried whether there were any differences between the serotypes in Wales and Northern Ireland.

14.3 In the absence of Dr Meldrum, the Chair requested the FSA pass these comments to Dr Meldrum for consideration. She also requested that the FSA provide Dr Rowe with a written response to the points raised.
Action: Secretariat/FSA

14.4 There being no further business, the Chairman thanked Members and members of the public for attending and closed the meeting.