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It's goodbye from me. But I'll leave you with a quiz to test how much you've learned since the blog was launched almost seven years ago.

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Have you ever learned something new while helping your children with homework or with a school project? I’m not embarrassed to admit that in the past I have.

This is one of the reasons why teaching children about food safety and hygiene during this year’s Food Safety Week (10-16 June) might provide us with a double benefit!

The Agency has created ‘Kitchen Check’ for adults to complete at home, and a ‘Young people’s activity pack’ so they can get involved too.

The main aim of this is, of course, to establish good food safety and hygiene habits at an early age. After all, it’s often easier to encourage children to adopt good practices than to try to re-educate adults who have established bad habits.

But there might also be other benefits. Research by P Damerell, C Howe and EJ Milner-Gulland, in ‘Child-oriented environmental education influences adult knowledge and household behaviour’, suggest that there may be a case for ‘child to parent transfer of education-dependent knowledge’.

What do you think are the benefits of including children in food hygiene awareness work?

You can find out more online about Food Safety Week 2013 resources and about the science behind food safety week. 

And if you have children, no one will know if you try out the children’s work pack first – before asking them to have a go.

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The levels of radioactive waste entering the environment in the UK do not represent a food safety problem.

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Did you know that tin cans have now been used to store and preserve foods for 200 years? It’s the application of science at its best, I would say.

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Should we consider locusts as a plague, or as a source of protein?

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The FSA has announced its sampling protocol for a UK-wide survey of food authenticity in processed meat products. The aim of the survey, which is being carried out with local authority enforcement officers and public analysts, is to provide a representative picture of the extent to which pork or horse DNA is present in beef products. As always with our surveys, results will be published. Furthermore, samples will be gathered in a way that will enable any necessary enforcement action to be taken.

Since this story broke, it has become clear that we are dealing with two separate issues. Of most concern are the findings of gross contamination of beef products with different species. While investigations are still on-going, and may lead to prosecutions, the presence of 30% horse meat in a beef burger suggests adulteration and possibly criminal activity. Our priority must be to prevent consumers being defrauded in this way and to take whatever action is needed to stop it.

This then leaves a secondary, but important, question about what level of DNA carry-over from one species to another might reasonably be expected to occur in a meat plant following hygienic clean-down.

We now have very sensitive techniques available and it seems likely that many of the reports of trace levels of DNA from different species being detected in beef products may be a consequence of using what are essentially forensic techniques to detect authenticity. We have, therefore, agreed with representatives of the food industry that a level of 1% is a reasonable pragmatic level to help distinguish between gross contamination and trace levels of carry-over from one species to another.

As we gather more information, we will no doubt have the opportunity to reflect and, if necessary, refine this position, working with analytical experts, enforcement officers, the food industry and consumers to reach a satisfactory position.

We also recognise that, while this is not a food safety issue, it may be significant to some consumers and faith groups, and we are working with colleagues from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to ensure consumer protection through effective labelling.

 

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