Safeguarding food : advances in forensic measurement science and the regulation of allergens, additives and authenticity

Walker, Michael John (2016) Safeguarding food : advances in forensic measurement science and the regulation of allergens, additives and authenticity. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


This commentary reports on work published between 2005 and 2015 forming a record of a varied career building technical competence alongside strategic skills in the analytical chemistry and molecular biology of food. The unifying theme is practice based problem solving in the scientific regulation and enforcement of food safety and authenticity. The work demonstrates advances in sound, forensically robust, measurement science addressing problems arising from food additives, food authenticity and food allergens. In particular the mature discipline that underpins the regulation and enforcement of food additives is shown to be needed for the management of food allergens. The background to food regulation and enforcement is described alongside technical appeals in the official food control system to develop societally meaningful food surveillance, supported by a sustainable UK based official food control infrastructure (Public Analyst service) at the interface between science and the law. For food additives, publication of previously un-collated results informs regulatory practice and demonstrates the value of scientific collaboration between both jurisdictions on the island of Ireland. A definitive strategy is reported for the chemical analysis and risk assessment of ‘jelly mini-cups’ in which gel forming additives have caused choking fatalities and solutions to problems in the analysis of two illegal toxic additives, morpholine and dimethyl yellow are described. For food allergens the portfolio includes the first study to assess in quantitative terms the level of risk to peanut allergic consumers in take-away catering, leading to better training and similar work on coeliac disease and the availability of ‘gluten-free’ food. Systematic assessment of food allergen analysis and a programme of analytical improvement to support allergen risk assessment and risk management are discussed. A narrative account of an allergen related food sabotage incident and the subsequent Crown Court case and previously uncollated reports of court-sanctions for allergen noncompliances, severe incidents and deaths make key policy and practice recommendations for improvement in these areas. Page 7 of 162 In the study of food authenticity a critical review describes the nitrogen content of important species in the food supply chain as a proxy in the quantitative estimation of high value flesh foods in compound products. An exemplar study follows determining previously unavailable nitrogen factor data for farmed salmon and salmon frame mince. A critical survey of the up skilling of the UK Official Food Control System in DNA food authenticity techniques and major historical and contemporary reviews of food fraud (butter and horsemeat) support substantial policy and analytical recommendations. Many threats to our food supply can be assessed and managed only with the assistance of measurement science. Integrating elements of chemico-legal practice including lessons learned from ‘referee analyses’ and metrology in chemistry this commentary concludes with a synthesis describing major changes in the UK scientific food control system stemming from the author’s involvement in the ‘Elliott Review’ and recommendations for an international programme of work on food allergen analysis with interconnected learning for the benefit of the analytical and regulatory communities and society at large.

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