Open Access Grey Literature

The Protein Puzzle: The Consumption and Production of Meat, Dairy and Fish in the European Union

H. J. Westhoek, G. A. Rood, M. van den Berg, J. H. Janse, D. S. Nijdam, M. A. Reudink, E. E. Stehfest

European Journal of Nutrition & Food Safety, Page 123-144

Meat, dairy, eggs and fish are important components of the European diet

These animal products are not only important in terms of taste and tradition; they also provide essential nutrients such as proteins, iron, calcium and vitamins. Fish also provides essential fatty acids and vitamin D. Furthermore, livestock production and fisheries are important economic sectors for Europe’s rural areas.

However, livestock production and fisheries have large environmental effects, both within and outside Europe

From a global perspective, impacts on terrestrial and marine biodiversity and emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) and various forms of reactive nitrogen are most dominant. The large areas of land needed for grassland and feed production are an important cause of biodiversity loss. In the EU, about two thirds of the total agricultural area is used for livestock production. Around 75% of the protein-rich feed is imported, mainly from Brazil and Argentina where large areas of land are needed for its production.

Conversion of plant energy and proteins into edible animal products is a generally inefficient use of resource

These resources include land, water, fertilisers and fossil energy, among other things. This can be illustrated by the fact that, for each EU citizen, every day almost 3 kilograms of feed is consumed by EU livestock, 0.8 kilogram of which in cereals and 0.8 kilogram in grass (dry matter). This feed is converted into 0.1 kilograms of meat and 0.8 kilograms of milk, being the average EU consumption.

Livestock production is a source of greenhouse gas emissions and certain forms of reactive nitrogen

Around 10% of EU greenhouse gas emissions are caused by livestock production. Together, the beef and dairy sectors are responsible for two thirds of these emissions. A large quantity of nitrogen fertiliser is needed, each year, to sustain Europe’s high production levels of grass, cereals and other crops. More than 80% of this nitrogen input is lost, leading to various environmental problems, including the loss of terrestrial biodiversity and algae blooms in coastal waters. There are large differences in greenhouse gas and nitrogen emissions between the various animal products and production practices.

Animal husbandry is associated with several ethical issues

These issues, among other things, are related to limited space, floor type and concentrated feeds, and to the breeds being used. Farm animals, especially when kept in conventional types of housing, experience various forms of discomfort. Animal diseases diminish not only animal well-being, but some animal diseases and the widespread use of antibiotics also cause human health risks. However, improving animal welfare generally leads to higher feed requirements and higher emission levels, thus implying a trade-off between animal welfare and environmental issues.

Many marine fish populations are overexploited. despite new fishing grounds, EU catches are declining rapidly

Catches in the main EU fishing areas have declined by a third since the early 1990s, partly because of EU regulation to prevent overfishing. EU aquaculture is growing, but at a much slower rate than in other regions. Worldwide, 40% of fish production comes from aquaculture, compared with about 20% in Europe. The EU, therefore, relies heavily on imports to meet its demand for fish.

Average EU consumption of animal protein per capita is about twice the global average

Meat consumption in Europe is twice the world average; for dairy produce it is even three times higher. Average EU consumption of meat, dairy and fish has increased strongly over the last 50 years. The total per-capita protein consumption (including vegetable sources) is about 70% higher than recommended. This, in itself, probably would have no adverse effects on human health, if not for the associated intake of saturated fatty acids, which lead to increased risks of cardiovascular diseases. The average intake of saturated fatty acids is about 40% higher than recommended. Thus, a reduction in the consumption of livestock products, notably in high-fat products, would reduce the European disease burden.

Global demand for animal products is expected to increase significantly, in the coming decades, as a result of a growing global population and increasing prosperity

As a consequence, cropland and grassland areas are expected to expand by 10% to 20% over the coming decades, leading to significant losses of terrestrial biodiversity, especially in South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and South America. Moreover, greenhouse gas and nitrogen emissions related to agricultural production also are expected to increase. Globally, already around 30% of the total human-induced biodiversity loss is related to livestock production. Currently, about 80% of global commercial fish populations are being fully exploited or overexploited, leading to large impacts on marine biodiversity. Capture fisheries, therefore, are unlikely to be able to contribute to meeting the increasing fish demand.

Fish farming could be an option

Fish farming of predatory species, such as salmon, uses wild-caught fish as part of the fish feed. Further innovations in the composition of this feed, but also a switch to an increased consumption of herbivorous fish, would reduce the amounts of wild-caught fish required in fish feed. This would involve only a small increase in agricultural land used in the production of the feed for these additional numbers of farmed herbivorous fish. In this way, wild fish stocks would be protected, could recover and possibly provide higher catches in the future.

There are many options to reduce the impacts of livestock production

Main points of intervention are: shifts in consumption, reduction in food losses, changes in husbandry systems and animal breeds, feed conversion and feed composition, nutrient management, crop yields and land management. Modelling results demonstrate that significant reductions in environmental pressure are possible, at the global level, by improving crop yields and feed conversion and by a reduction in food losses along the food chain. The same results indicate that a reduction in the EU consumption of animal products would lead to a significant reduction in environmental impacts, mainly by reducing land conversion outside the EU. The fact that this would take place mainly outside the EU is partly a result of the current design of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which stimulates European farmers to keep their land in agricultural production.

The options for the EU to reduce the impacts of livestock production can be grouped into three broad, partially complementary strategies: shifts in consumption, resource efficiency and producing with fewer local impacts

Consumption shifts, particularly a reduction in the consumption of livestock products, will not only have environmental benefits, but may also reduce the cardiovascular disease burden. This option is easy and robust, but changing consumption patterns is a slow cultural process. Improving production efficiency is already common practice, as there are many synergies between enhancing production and reducing costs. Further improvements along this route are certainly possible, especially regarding a better use of relatively cheap inputs (e.g. fertilisers) and reducing emissions. Producing with fewer local impacts may have negative environmental effects elsewhere, since production may be less efficient, such as in the case of improved animal welfare. More robust production systems with fewer local impacts, generally, lead to higher costs for farmers. However, if done properly, this would lead to lower societal costs by reducing local environmental impacts, animal suffering and public health risks.

Governments and actors in the food chain both could play a role in the implementation of the three strategies

Current policy and institutional setting mainly drive farmers and other actors in the direction of cost price reductions, and thus primarily support the ‘efficiency’ strategy. Policies aimed at reducing consumption hardly exist, and policies regarding producing with fewer local impacts are usually secondary to economic and trade policies. Especially the EU, but also the national governments, have a large influence on the agriculture and fisheries sectors. Main policy instruments are the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy, which are currently undergoing a reform. Food and agriculture may play a role in EU initiatives, such as ‘Resource Efficient Europe’. Individual consumers and actors in food production have many opportunities to reduce the impacts of livestock production, independently from government actions. Consumers could shift to the consumption of products with lower environmental or animal welfare impacts. Retailers could expand their assortment of these products, and could enter into agreements with farmers and other food suppliers to improve production techniques.

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Open Access Grey Literature

Improving the Effectiveness of Food Safety Regulation to Minimise Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli Contamination in Fermented Meat Products

Hong Jin, Duncan Craig, Scott Crerar

European Journal of Nutrition & Food Safety, Page 145-148

Background: The consumption of uncooked comminuted fermented meat (UCFM) contaminated with Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) poses a public health risk. The severity of such a health risk can be demonstrated by an outbreak that occurred in South Australia in 1995, where the consumption of Mettwurst contaminated with E. coli O111:NM resulted in the death of one child, haemolytic uraemic syndrome in twenty-two children, and permanent adverse health effects in at least six children and one 60 years old consumer. The Australian meat industry incurred an estimated loss of more than $A 400 million. In response to the outbreak, the Australian Government introduced an emergency measure in 1996 to ensure the safety of UCFM products.

A key performance criterion prescribed in the emergency measure – that the UCFM production process must reduce the number of E. coli organisms by 99.9% (a 3-log10 reduction) or greater – could not be effectively implemented by the industry or enforced by the health authorities. This was largely due to a lack of an objective means to determine compliance.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) undertook a review of the emergency measure between 2001 and 2003. This paper describes the risk analysis FSANZ undertook to improve the effectiveness of food safety regulation in this area.

Aims: To develop a set of outcome-based regulatory measures to replace a prescriptive requirement of a 3-log10 reduction of E. coli, designed to minimise STEC contamination in UCFM.

Study design: Food safety risk analysis.

Place and Duration of Study: FSANZ, Canberra, Australia, between November 2001 and July 2003.

Methodology: The ability of Australian UCFM manufacturers to effectively implement the processing requirement of a 3-log10 reduction in E. coli concentration was assessed using an Excel® based predictive model developed by the University of Tasmania that estimates the inactivation of generic E. coli during the UCFM manufacturing process. Temperature and time parameters of fermentation and maturation applied to the production of UCFM for sale in Australia were collected during 2002 and 2003 and applied to the predictive model.

Outcome-based regulatory measures to minimise STEC contamination in UCFM were developed based on (1) the conclusions of a quantitative microbiological risk assessment (based on point estimates), (2) close consultation with the Australian UCFM sector and food regulation enforcement authorities, and (3) a regulatory impact assessment.

Tools to facilitate effective implementation of the outcome-based regulatory measures were developed between 2004 and 2005 with the assistance of a national expert advisory panel on UCFM safety. This panel was comprised of food safety and technical experts from the Australian smallgoods sector and state enforcement authorities.

Results: Assessment of 96 production protocols used by Australian UCFM manufacturers in April 2002 using the predictive E. coli inactivation model showed that only 19% of the protocols were capable of achieving greater than or equal to a 3-log10 reduction of E. coli. Up to 51% of the protocols assessed achieved less than 2-log10 reduction of E. coli. The remaining protocols were capable of achieving a maximum reduction of E. coli between 2 and less than 3-log10. Among the 96 production protocols assessed, the highest level of inactivation of E. coli potentially achievable was 9.08 log10 and the lowest was 0.13 log10. A relatively long period of maturation and a relatively high temperature during the maturation phase contributed to the bulk of E. coli inactivation achieved during the manufacture of UCFM.

Production protocols resubmitted from UCFM manufacturers in the state of Victoria, following the initial assessment, showed a steady improvement of capability in achieving greater than or equal to a 3-log10 reduction of E. coli. This was achieved by making adjustments to the time and temperature parameters of the production processes. Despite these adjustments, 34% of the resubmitted protocols failed to meet the requirement of reduction of E. coli by 3-log10.

Consultations with technical experts of the Australian smallgoods sector and enforcement authorities identified several additional issues with the 3-log10 reduction requirement. These included:
• the rationale behind of the need for a 3-log10 reduction of E. coli when safe UCFM products can be produced using deep muscle meat and when subject to close adherence to operational hygiene, knowing the fact that the extent of STEC contamination in deep muscle meat is very low;
• doubts on the adequacy of a 3-log10 reduction of E. coli when raw ingredients used to produce UCFM contain excessively high numbers of STEC;
• enforcement authorities did not have the tools to verify whether manufacturers of UCFM had achieved a 3-log10 reduction of E. coli; and
• the science underpinning the mandatory requirement of a 3-log10 reduction of E. coli in manufacturing UCFM was difficult to comprehend by members of the industry, let alone their ability to demonstrate compliance against the requirement.

A microbiological risk assessment was undertaken by FSANZ to provide a scientific basis for the identification and development of effective outcome-based regulatory measures to minimise STEC contamination in UCFM products. The main conclusions of the risk assessment were that:
• the ingestion of as few as 1 STEC could lead to severe adverse health consequences in susceptible individuals;
• children under the age of 6 are more likely to develop severe complications from STEC infections;
• based on the available data at the time, it was estimated that a mean of 0.15 STEC/100 g was present in approximately 7.2% of the UCFM manufactured in Australia; and
• under this level of STEC contamination, it was estimated that the likelihood of encountering 1 STEC organism by UCFM consumers under the age of 6 years old would be approximately 1 in 174 UCFM meals. If UCFM was produced under minimum (time and temperature) processing conditions, this likelihood would shift to approximately 1 in 3 UCFM meals.

The above findings of the risk assessment established the basis for further regulatory interventions in UCFM production. The implementation of hazard analysis critical control point (HACCP) based food safety programs, together with a number of specific requirements, was identified as the preferred option to replace the prescriptive processing requirement of a 3-log10 reduction of E. coli. This risk management decision took into consideration of the issues identified during the consultations with the Australian smallgoods sector and enforcement authorities, and the factors of:
• a mandatory requirement for having HACCP based food safety programs developed and implemented by the UCFM sector would impose minimal compliance costs because HACCP-based food safety systems have been introduced into the Australian UCFM sector on a voluntary basis since 1998; and
• the policy of the Council of Australian Governments requires national food standards to be outcome based.

Together with the requirement of having HACCP based food safety programs implemented, the outcome-based regulatory measures specified validation and verification procedures to ensure that the number of E. coli in the final product complies with limits specified for UCFM in Standard 1.6.1 of the Australian and New Zealand Food Standards Code (n=5, c=1, m=3.6, M=9.2). UCFM manufacturers were also required to provide evidence to demonstrate that their production processes are capable of handling the variations in the level of E. coli contamination in the ingredients. The latter requirement puts UCFM manufacturers in charge of product safety by allowing the flexibility in raw material selection. In addition, it requires that appropriate adjustments in manufacturing parameters be made to cope with the extent of fluctuation of E. coli contamination in the raw materials, to ensure UCFM safety.

To assist the UCFM sector to implement HACCP based food safety programs, a Protocol for Assessing HACCP Based Food Safety Programs in the UCFM Sector (the protocol) has been developed by FSANZ in association with experts in manufacturing smallgoods and enforcing food safety regulations. The protocol has been adopted by the state enforcement authorities for assessing UCFM manufacturers’ compliance against the requirement of implementation of HACCP based food safety programs. To raise the overall level of skills and knowledge on food safety in the UCFM sector, a set of Competency Criteria for UCFM Manufacturers on food safety skills and knowledge has been developed and incorporated into an industry training package. The package was developed jointly by FSANZ, experts in manufacturing smallgoods and enforcing food safety regulations, and the National Meat Industry Training Advisory Council. It targets those who intend to enter the UCFM manufacturing sector. This training package has been made available nationwide through technical and further education institutes.

Conclusion: Careful considerations ought to be given to prescriptive requirements developed for food safety regulation to ensure that they are practical and can be effectively implemented by the food industry and verified by enforcement authorities.

Critical production parameters, such as time and temperature, applied in food production, and appropriate tools such as predictive models for pathogen inactivation in food production can facilitate an objective assessment of processing requirements to ensure food safety.

Implementation of outcome based food safety requirements, if supported by appropriate implementation tools, can lead to enhanced effectiveness in managing food safety.

Acknowledgements and additional information: The authors wish to acknowledge the support and assistance provided to this study by the following organisations and individuals: Ms. Amanda Hill and Dr. Marion Healy of FSANZ, the Australian Meat Standards Committee, the Australian Meat Industry Council, Meat and Livestock Australia Limited, Dr. Patricia Desmarchelier and Mr. Paul Vanderlinde of Food Science Australia, members of the Australia New Zealand Food Authority’s UCFM Expert Advisory Panel, and members of the Australian National Expert Advisory Panel on UCFM Safety.

The complete report of this risk analysis can be found on  
Two implementation tools developed as a follow up to this study were not published on the web site of FSANZ, and are available upon request.

Open Access Original Research Article

Physicochemical and Pasting Characteristics of Water Yam (D. alata) in Comparison with Pona (D. rotundata) from Ghana

F. D. Wireko-Manu, W. O. Ellis, I. Oduro, R. Asiedu, B. Maziya-Dixon

European Journal of Nutrition & Food Safety, Page 149-158

The physicochemical and pasting characteristics of 18 varieties of Dioscorea alata (an underutilized yam species) were determined in comparison to pona, (a local and most preferred Dioscorea rontundata variety in Ghana) to contribute to knowledge base of D. alata for product diversification and further improvement. Tubers were randomly selected and moisture content determined before processing the remaining to flour for physicochemical and pasting characteristics. The results showed that test varieties had significantly (p<0.05) higher moisture and protein contents, higher peak time and pasting temperature but lower dry matter and starch content, lower swelling power and pasting viscosities in comparison with pona. Peak viscosity ranged from 74.80 to 284.60 RVU, trough (66.85 to 258.65 RVU), and breakdown (19.50 to 311.50 RVU). Peak time and pasting temperatures were 5.15 - 7.00 min and 83.60-90.10oC respectively. Pona had 291.17 RVU as peak viscosity, 186.17 RVU troughs, 105.00 RVU breakdown and 422.75 RVU final viscosity. Others were: setback (236.58 RVU), peak time (4.73 min) and pasting temperatures (79.88oC). The physicochemical properties in conjunction with the pasting properties of the test varieties suggest the presence of strong bonding forces within their starch granules. Pastes from test varieties were relatively more stable when cooked hence will have a lower tendency to undergo retrogradation during freeze/thaw cycles than the reference variety. The study has shown significant variations among D. alata varieties and between the D. alata and pona. This could lead to selection and improvement of D. alata varieties for specific food applications to stimulate their production and utilization.

Open Access Original Research Article

Influence of a Probiotic Milk Drink, Containing Lactobacillus Paracasei Lpc-37, on Immune Function and Gut Microbiota in Elderly Subjects

Sofia D. Forssten, Nuria Salazar, Patricia López, Janne Nikkilä, Arthur C. Ouwehand, Ángeles Patterson, Patricia Ruas-Madiedo, Ana Suarez, Sonia Gonzalez, Miguel Gueimonde

European Journal of Nutrition & Food Safety, Page 159-172

Immunosenescence and alterations in the intestinal microbiota are associated with aging. Immune functions, as well as the intestinal microbiota, can potentially be modified and improved by probiotics, thus being particularly beneficial to elderly consumers. The ability of Lactobacillus paracasei Lpc-37 to modulate immune markers including phagocytic activity, natural killer (NK) cell activity and cytokine profiles, as well as composition and activity of the intestinal microbiota, in healthy elderly subjects was investigated in a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.
Only very limited effects in the measured blood or faecal immune markers or intestinal microbiota could be detected between the fermented milk drinks with or without probiotics. Thus, no significant immunological or microbial effects of the probiotic fermented milk could be detected in this study population.