Austria checks raw milk, meat and honey compliance

Austria checks raw milk, meat and honey compliance

by Sue Jones
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Austrian officials have published results of different checks on raw milk, for antimicrobial resistance in meat and as part of Operation Opson.

A check on raw, unpasteurized milk looked at its microbiological status and for residues of cleaning agents. A total of 73 samples from across the country were taken and 23 were non-compliant.

Austria’s regulation states that aerobic mesophilic bacteria in raw cow’s milk must not exceed a count of 50,000 colony forming units (CFU) per milliliter. Officials said this count is a measure of hygiene during milking, filling and storage in the raw milk machine. It was exceeded in 23 samples and sometimes by a high amount. A note saying “raw milk, boil before consumption” must also be on vending distribution machines.

Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) was present in two samples and Listeria monocytogenes in one. Small amounts of benzyldimethyldodecylammonium chloride (BAC 12) were found in one test.

Fruit, vegetable and meat controls
Another control analyzed 83 samples of fruits and vegetables for pathogens and viruses. One sample of okra was non-compliant with a presumptive Bacillus cereus level of 100,000 CFU per gram. Three other products had presumptive Bacillus cereus at 2,300, 11,000 and 24,000 CFU/g but were not for direct consumption and needed washing before eating.

Listeria monocytogenes was detected at a low amount in raspberries but below the 100 cfu/g level set in EU regulation so the sample was judged to be compliant, but measures to improve production hygiene and intensify self-monitoring were recommended.

Authorities also checked the domestic market for the presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in chicken meat. Of 316 samples, extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL) and AmpC producing-E. coli were detected in 58 of them. Carbapenemase-producing E. coli was not found.

The monitoring did not assess the levels of contamination in meat samples but found although there has been a decrease since studies in 2016, chicken is more often contaminated than pork or beef.

An assessment of 71 samples of raw sausages and raw cured products for pathogens and nitrite levels found the maximum amounts of nitrites were exceeded in two products.

Listeria monocytogenes was detected in seven samples of these products that have low water activity, meaning it won’t grow, so they were found to be acceptable. Listeria innocua was found in five samples and Listeria grayi in four but both these types are not pathogenic to humans.

Erucic acid and honey authenticity
Elsewhere, official controls looked at erucic acid content in mustard oil with 15 samples taken. High amounts of erucic acid in food can be harmful to health so a maximum level of 50 grams per kilogram in mustard oils has been set.

Three samples had levels above the rules. One had an erucic acid content of 49.49 grams per 100 grams which corresponds to 494.9 grams per kilogram, another had 49.27 grams per 100 grams, corresponding to 429.7 grams per kilogram and the third was 18.32 grams per 100 grams which equates to 183.2 grams per kilogram. In another sample labeling issues were found, meaning it did not comply with the EU’s food information to consumers regulation.

Another campaign assessed 55 cocoa products on the Austrian market for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), mycotoxins such as aflatoxin and ochratoxin A, cadmium and aluminum.

In one sample of drinking chocolate powder, the maximum levels for benzo(a)pyrene and the sum of benzo(a)pyrene, benz(a)anthracene, benzo(b)fluoranthene and chrysene were exceeded and it was judged to be harmful.

A previous control in 2017 found two samples of cocoa powder had exceeded the maximum level for total PAHs based on their fat content.

Finally, officials published findings of testing on honey origin and authenticity, which was part of Operation Opson, an annual action coordinated by Europol and Interpol.

The aim was to check honey in Austria as part of the European Commission’s Opson X project. Twenty samples from across the country were examined and issues were found with eight including incorrect botanical origin, addition of sugars and high hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) content.

Two samples were judged to be adulterated, another two were misleading, a couple did not comply because of compositional reasons and five breached EU regulation on the provision of food information to consumers.

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