Latest in an occasional series of articles about food issues of concern to consumers from CASA Executive Committee member Elaine Attwood.

‘Protein Glue’ processing  aids could trigger coeliac disease, say UK researchers. 

A bacterial enzyme used to improve food quality and extend a product’s shelf life in processed foods may be a cause of coeliac disease, says report.

Microbial transglutaminase is a processing aid used in the industrial manufacture of meat, dairy, and baked products. According to a recent review published in Frontiers in Paediatrics,the bacterial enzyme could be a trigger of paediatric coeliac disease. “Microbial transglutaminase  can glue together proteins, so it is used to improve food texture, palatability and shelf life,” explained co-author Aaron Lerner in a statement. The enzyme functions like the endogenous tissue transglutaminse - an “undisputable” key trigger in coeliac disease initiation and development.

While transglutaminase is produced naturally by our own gut microbes, the scale of the bacterial enzyme used in processed foods can affect the body’s response, Lerner explained. Our own transglutaminase has a different structure to the microbial sort, which allows its activity to be tightly controlled. Lerner highlighted that more research is required before definite links can be made between the enzyme and paediatric disease. This raises an interesting question regarding processing aids and labelling protocol in Europe:  Under EU law, food manufacturers are not required to list processing aids such as microbial transglutaminase, on food labels.

 Source: Frontiers in Pediatrics, published online: 3 January, 2019

‘Microbial Transglutaminase is immunogenic and Potentially Pathogenic in Pediatric Celiac Disease’


Authors: Matthias Torsten, Aaron Lerner


Author: Flora Southey

Credit: 2019 - William Reed Business Media Ltd.

‘Purposeful packaging’:  Mineral coating keeps food fresh and reduces waste.

Coating the packaging of fresh fruit and vegetables with a blend of minerals and clay can extend the shelf life by up to two to four days and reduce food waste, says UK company, It’s Fresh!

The additive, called Infinite, works by absorbing the natural ripening hormone, ethylene. It’s Fresh spent around four years developing the active ingredient - a proprietary blend of minerals and clay - while the ‘Infinite film’ delivery system took a further 3 years.  The active ingredient can be printed directly on to existing packaging for fruit, vegetables and flowers.  The coating is more efficient than other methods currently used because it is non-invasive and can be used in packs of ‘naked’; untreated or uncoated fruit, said It’s Fresh!, a division of chemical supplier Food Freshness Technology Holdings.  ‘It is genuinely trying to reduce food wastage and which will, in turn, reduce the amount of packaging needed coverall as the produce lasts longer’,  co-founder, Simon Lee said.  Packaging for fruit and vegetables tends to be plastic but Infinite active can be added to other substrates such as carton, paper, board and plastic substitutes.


Author: Niamh Michail

Credit: 2018- William Reed Business Media Ltd.

Processed meat under fire over nitrate cancer risk

A coalition of scientists, medical professionals and politicians in the UK have called for nitrates to be removed from processed meats, insisting that consumption off the additives can be linked got the development of bowel cancer.  Leading the call are Queen’s University Belfast’s Professor Chris Elliot, who headed up the government’s horsemeat inquiry, and NHS consultant cardiologist Dr. Aseem Malhotra. ‘There is a consensus of scientific opinion that nitrites in processed meats result in the production of carcinogenic nitrosamines - and therefore an increase cancer risk for those who regularly consume traditional bacon and ham’, the statement read. 

Sodium and potassium salts of nitrite and nitrate (E249-252) are used by food manufacturers as preservatives and colour fixing agents in meat products, and to prevent bacterial infections such as Clostridium Botulinum.  In 2015 the World Health Organisation published data linking processed meat consumption to 34,000 cases of colorectal cancer worldwide each year. The Who suggested that nitrites and nitrosamines are a likely cause.


Author: Katy Askew

Credit: 2019 - William Reed Business Media Pty.

Review finds no ‘compelling evidence’ to suggest  non-sugar sweetener health benefits.

Studies investigating the potential health benefits of non-sugar sweeteners have failed to reveal ‘compelling’ evidence linking the product with weight loss and improved health, say European researchers. Toews et al’s systematic review, published in the British Medical Journal today (January 3) analyses 56 reports comparing  o intake, or lower intake, of non-sugar sweeteners (NSS), with elevated co summation in both healthy adults and children. Weight, glycemic control, cancer, kidney disease, mood and behaviour were among the measures assessed.

‘There was no compelling evidence to indicate important health benefits of non-sugar sweetener use on a range of health outcomes,’ wrote the authors, adding that ‘potential harms from the consumption of non-sitar sweeteners could not be excluded.’

The Calorie Control Council and the International Sweeteners Association have discounted the review , the latter citing the review having ‘serious limitations’.

 Source: British Medical Journal published online 3 January 2019.

 ‘Association between intake of non-sugar sweeteners and health outcomes: systematic review and meta-analyses of randomised and non-randomised controlled trials and observational studies’    


Authors: Ingrid Toews, Szimonetta Lohner, Daniela Kullenberg de Gaudry, Harriet Sommer, Joerg J Meerpohl.


Author: Flora Southey

Credit:  2019 William Reed Business Media Pty. 

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AuthorRay Dennis