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FSANZ backs use of Dutch bacteriophage in dairy, meat and fruit

By Rory Harrington , 19-Mar-2012

Food safety chiefs in Australia and New Zealand are calling for the approval of a processing aid developed by a Dutch company that combats Listeria on a host of food products.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) last week backed the use of a bacteriophage from Micreos B.V (previously EBI Food Safety Ltd) – as it asked for views on the product from industry and scientific experts. This is the second part of the consultation exercise carried out by the body after an initial call for opinions last year.

Bacteriophages infect bacteria and bacteria break them down from the inside. They are naturally present in high numbers in the environment in saltwater, freshwater, soil, plants and animals (including people) and food.

The bacteriophage – P100 – would be approved as a processing aid to reduce levels of Listeria monocytogenes on a raft of solid ready-to-eat foods such as meat, dairy and cheese.

“Processing aids can’t be used in food production without a rigorous safety assessment by FSANZ,” said the agency’s chief executive officer Steve McCutcheon said. “FSANZ is proposing that P100 be approved for the surface treatment of ready-to eat meat (including poultry) and meat products, cheese, fish and fish products, and fruit and vegetables and their products.”

The body confirmed its use would be for solid RTE products and did not include any liquid foods.

Scientific evidence

FSANZ reached its conclusion after examining scientific evidence submitted by the company.

“The evidence presented to support this use provides adequate assurance that the bacteriophage preparation, in the form and amounts proposed by the Applicant, is technologically justified and has been demonstrated to be effective in achieving its stated purpose,” said the agency.

The products is effective when applied at higher concentrations - generally, >108 pfu/cm2. The “single hit” dose is said to overwhelm the smaller numbers of Listeria load on the food surface.

It has no on-going function on the final treated solid food as phage particles bind to the food surface within 24 hours of the treatment, and are therefore unable to locate and destroy bacteria which may subsequently re-contaminate the food.

FSANZ said it had not identified hazards or public health risks in terms of toxicity, allergens or the emergence of P100 LM resistant mutants. 

The company –based in the renowned technological hub of Wageningen, in the Netherlands, previously told FoodProductionDaily.com that opening up the markets in Australia and New Zealand had the potential to provide significant new revenue streams.

“Food safety awareness is very high in both countries,” Micreos CEO Mark Offerhaus said. ”We already have approval in Europe, the US, Canada and Asia, so this was a logical extension.”

Timeline

The consultation period closes on 27 April, which will be followed by a further assessment period before undergoing final consideration by the FSANZ board in July 2012.

Following the call for submissions there will be a further assessment period before it is considered by the FSANZ Board in around July 2012.

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