The EFSA is doing traceback of E. coli contaminated fenugreek seeds imported into the EU. Preston and Tribe do traceback with plagiarised junk science.

posted in: Syndicated | 2
The European food safety authority is currently tracing the sources and distribution of allegedly deadly E. coli contaminated fenugreek seeds originating in Egypt which have been implicated in several different outbreaks of severe pathogenic E. coli infections occurring these last weeks in Germany, France, and Sweden (see several other recent GMO Pundit Posts).

To quote from the European food safety authority’s website:

A trace back investigation is the method used to determine and document the distribution and production chain, and the source(s) of a product that has been implicated in a food-borne illness investigation. A trace forward investigation aims to find the distribution of the suspected food products along the food chain from the origin in the direction of the consumer.
Using this approach for this investigation, at each step of the delivery/production chain identified in the trace back, further investigation was initiated to try and account for all seeds in any suspect lots. The objective was to identify critical lots and their current location. To this end, detailed information on each lot of seeds was established for each step of the delivery/production chain back to the importation into the EU.
The comparison of the back tracing information from the French and German outbreaks leads to the conclusion that lot # 48088 of fenugreek seeds imported by the Importer, from Egypt, is the most likely common link, although it cannot be excluded that other lots may be implicated.
Given the possible severe health impact of exposure to a small quantity of contaminated material, and, in the absence of information regarding the source and means of contamination and possible cross-contamination, it seems appropriate to consider all lots of fenugreek from the identified exporter as suspect. In this regard, the thus far negative test results from the microbiological tests carried out on seeds cannot be interpreted as proof that a batch is not contaminated with STEC O104:H4 since these results depend on and may be limited by both the analytical and diagnostic performance characteristics as well as by the nature of the sampling plan.

Traceback of plagiarism
At GMO Pundit we have undertaken a trace back of shoddy scientific work that compromises the reliability of food safety decisions. Scientific integrity of food safety science is crucial for making decisions about food safety that produce the best outcome for improved human welfare. If valuable human resources are misdirected by flawed safety evidence or reasoning, for example to imagined scenarios based on fear rather than objective risk, they are then not properly focussed on the most serious risks in food.

In short, food safety should focus on real risks not fake ones.

In recent years, particularly in the European Union food safety management has been driven by fears– fears of pesticides and fears of new technologies — rather than the objectively major risk in food which is contamination with common infectious pathogens, such as pathogenic Escherichia coli, Salmonella bacteria, Campylobacter bacteria and Norovirus germs.
Very recently an Australian newspaper, the Sydney Morning Herald announced a letter protesting against the initial stages of research in the development of wheat varieties that can improve human health. Here the focus is on imagined future risks 10 to 15 years down the track, rather than the immediate problem of germs in our food that kill us today.

In talking about imagined future risks the protest letter purports to summarise scientific evidence supporting its concerns. The rest of this post focuses on the fraudulent nature of that evidence. We raise the question why should the evidence be given any weight if it is fraudulent?

Unfortunately the scientists writing the letter mentioned by the SMH have been particularly  misled by biased information in one particular review ( Dona and Arvanitoyannis 2009) about safety of genetically modified food, and some of the scientific the defects of that review have been discussed in a previous GMO Pundit post. 

The letter writers were also misled by another non-peer-reviewed Austrian  study that had only been announced announced by press release as part of European politics to prevent the use of genetically modified food.It had never been subject to peer-review which is the standard ethical process for primary investigational studies. Again unfortunately, the scientist writing the letter reported in the SMH failed to note that the Austrian study that they cited has in fact been formally withdrawn by the original investigators because the results are meaningless.

This had all been summarised in the previous GMO Pundit post about this issue.

The main scientific reason for criticising the Dona and Arvanitoyannis 2009 scientific review is that it is a biased assessment of genetically modified food safety. Scientific bias leads to a misleading evaluation of risks relating to genetically modified food. It feeds fear and wastes benefits.  The researched wheat varieties which the letter seeks to delay could improve gut health.

It is crucial that scientific reviews be a fair and objective view of all of the information relating to the topic in question, but they also depend upon heavily  the integrity and relevant experience of the review authors.

 There are severe ethical problems with the Dona and Arvanitoyannis 2009  review which seriously call into question whether the authors devoted fair and diligence and unbiased attention to all the issues of GM food safety. Internal evidence in the paper — specific plagiarism examples — have already pointed out in the earlier Pundit post , but it is also relevant to evaluate whether the major author has an otherwise solid track record.

Associate Prof Chris Preston of Adelaide has diligently traced back many of the publications by that senior author.

A series of 15 serious plagiarism examples in papers by that author are shown below. These are additional to the two exhibits in the earlier post on this topic.

These are reproduced in a series of 15 images  in total where the text of papers by Arvanitoyanis is compared on the left-hand side column with text and original sources of information  (that pre-date the respective publications by Arvanitoyanis) on the right-hand side column. Exact similarities have been coloured in yellow. There is a lot of yellow writing.

Readers are invited to examine the following diagrams. They provide compelling proof that repeated plagiarism occurs in papers by this author. They remove any basis for believing that duely diligent scientific process has been applied to the controversial and contested review about genetically modified foods that was the significant bases for the protest letter about  GM wheat  reported in the Sydney Morning Herald. The claim in the protest letter to the SMH that there is a portfolio of valid evidence that GM foods are unsafe is false.

The pupose of food traceback is to remove dangerous food from the market place so people don’t get sick and don’t die. These plagiarised papers should also be removed from the scientific marketplace of ideas, and the editorial processes that allowed them to appear and remain so long in the literature should be thoroughly scrutinised to find out why they failed.

(Click to enlarge images)

Health risks of genetically modified foods.

Dona A, Arvanitoyannis IS.
Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2009 Feb;49(2):164-75.
Department of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, University of Athens, Medical School, Athens, Greece.

As genetically modified (GM) foods are starting to intrude in our diet concerns have been expressed regarding GM food safety. These concerns as well as the limitations of the procedures followed in the evaluation of their safety are presented. Animal toxicity studies with certain GM foods have shown that they may toxically affect several organs and systems. The review of these studies should not be conducted separately for each GM food, but according to the effects exerted on certain organs it may help us create a better picture of the possible health effects on human beings. The results of most studies with GM foods indicate that they may cause some common toxic effects such as hepatic, pancreatic, renal, or reproductive effects and may alter the hematological, biochemical, and immunologic parameters. However, many years of research with animals and clinical trials are required for this assessment. The use of recombinant GH or its expression in animals should be re-examined since it has been shown that it increases IGF-1 which may promote cancer.

Comment in
Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2010 Jan;50(1):85-91; author reply 92-5.
PMID: 18989835

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David Tribe is an applied geneticist, teaching graduate/undergrad courses in food science, food safety, biotechnology and microbiology at the University of Melbourne.