QeA to EU Commission – Aflatoxin content of almonds: “aflatoxin free”?

Question for written answer to the Commission
Giovanni La Via (PPE) – 13th July 2016

Subject: Aflatoxin content of almonds

Aflatoxins are mycotoxins produced by fungal species belonging to the class of Ascomycota (Aspergillus, Fusarium), or other moulds. They are highly toxic and are believed to be among the most carcinogenic substances that exist. They are often found in high quantities in Californian almonds, grown in California (USA) and exported to Europe in significant quantities. EU Regulation No 165/2010, amending Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 setting maximum levels for certain contaminants in foodstuffs as regards aflatoxins, has increased the levels for aflatoxin total in almonds from 4 ug/kg to 8.10 ug/kg. The Avola almond, cultivated in the Syracuse area of Sicily, is one of the most well-known and best Italian almonds and has a zero aflatoxin content.

Does the Commission not, therefore, consider it appropriate, in order to protect consumers, to authorise the words ‘aflatoxin-free’ in almonds which, after being tested, are shown to contain no traces of this substance?

Answer given by Mr Andriukaitis on behalf of the Commission – 10th August 2016

Commission Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 establishes strict maximum levels for aflatoxins in almonds providing a high level of human health protection. Only almonds compliant with the maximum levels for aflatoxins can be placed on the EU market.

Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 does not provide for labelling requirements related to the presence of contaminants, including aflatoxins.

Aflatoxins are mycotoxins produced by fungi primarily Aspergillus sp. These fungi are also present in Italian agricultural environments. There are no almond varieties resistant to infection by these fungi. Fungal growth and aflatoxin production occur in almonds pre-harvest, but may proliferate in storage and continue in the handling stage. The growth of the fungi is strongly influenced by climate and they are more common in warm regions with extreme variations in temperature, rainfall and humidity. The fungi can produce aflatoxins at quite low moisture levels and over a broad temperature range (13-37 °C).

The Commission does not have at its disposal the information necessary to compare the level of aflatoxin contamination in recent years in almonds from California compared to almonds grown in Sicily. However it is evident from the conditions in which the fungi Aspergillus sp grow and aflatoxins are formed, and the absence of aflatoxin resistant almond varieties, that there are no almond producing regions in the world where aflatoxins do not occur in almonds at all. It is therefore of major importance to apply prevention measures during growth, storage and handling to keep the levels of aflatoxins in almonds as low as reasonably achievable.

(Source: EU Parliament)

Food recalls in EU – Week 8/2016

Last week on EU RASFF (Rapid Alert System for food and feed) we can find the following relevant notifications:

1. Alerts followed by a recall from consumers:

  • Listeria monocytogenes (presence CFU/g) in organic falafel nuggets from the Netherlands, following an official control on the market. Notified by Netherlands, distributed also to Belgium, France, Ireland, Spain and United Kingdom;
  • Mercury (1.18 mg/kg – ppm) in frozen blue shark slices (Prionace glauca) from Spain, following company’s own check. Notified by Italy;
  • Salmonella (presence/25g) in raw milk brie cheese from France, following company’s own check. Notified by France, distributed also to Austria, Czech Republic, Germany and Spain;
  • Salmonella Kentucky (present) in dried parsley from Egypt, following an official control on the market. Notified by Germany, distributed also to Belgium, Finland, France and Netherlands;
  • Traces of milk (casein 0.03 mg/item) in frozen fish gratin from Sweden, with raw material from Denmark, following company’s own check. Notified by Sweden, distributed also to Norway:
  • Undeclared milk ingredient in swiss rolls from Spain, following an official control on the market. Notified by United Kingdom, distributed also to Italy and Portugal;
  • Undeclared mustard and celery in spice mix from Sweden, following company’s own check. Notified by Sweden, distributed also to Finland, Norway and Denmark.

2. Information for attention/for follow up followed by a recall from consumers:

3. Alerts followed by a withdrawal from the market:

  • Listeria monocytogenes (570 CFU/g) in frozen smoked trout from Turkey, via Bulgaria, following an official control on the market. Notified by Netherlands;
  • Mercury (1.845 mg/kg – ppm) in frozen swordfish loins from Vietnam, via Belgium, following an official control on the market. Notified by Czech Republic, distributed also to Denmark, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia;
  • Plastic fragments in candy bars from the Netherlands, following company’s own check. Notified by Netherlands, distributed also to (see links embedded to reach some of the press release-public warning): Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Faeroe Islands, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Gibraltar, GreeceHong Kong, Hungary,  Iceland, India, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Latvia, Lebanon, Libya, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Monaco, Morocco, Nepal, New Caledonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United KingdomWest Bank and Gaza Strip;
  • Unauthorised substance yohimbine in and insufficient labelling of food supplement from the United States, via Sweden, following an official control on the market. Notified by Norway;
  • Unauthorised substance yohimbine in food supplement from the United States, following an official control on the market. Notified by Norway, distributed also to Sweden.

4. Seizures:

5. Border rejections:

Country of notification Countries concerned Subject Action Taken
Italy Italy, United States (O) aflatoxins (B1 = 10.4; Tot. = 11.6 µg/kg – ppb) in shelled almonds from the United States re-dispatch
Ireland Ireland, Pakistan (O), United Kingdom aflatoxins (B1 = 15.7; Tot. = 16.4 µg/kg – ppb) in spice mix from Pakistan official detention
Italy China (O), Italy aflatoxins (B1 = 5.3; Tot. = 6.5 µg/kg – ppb) in shelled peanuts from China  
Italy Egypt (O), Italy aflatoxins (B1 = 92; Tot. = 107 / B1 = 5.1; Tot. = 5.9 µg/kg – ppb) in groundnuts from Egypt placed under customs seals
Germany Germany, Turkey (O) aflatoxins (Tot. = 51.3 µg/kg – ppb) in roasted pistachios and almonds from Turkey import not authorised
Belgium Belgium, Gambia (O) benzo(a)pyrene (7 µg/kg – ppb) in smoked sardinella (Sardinella spp.) from the Gambia import not authorised
Italy India (O), Italy cadmium (2.6 mg/kg – ppm) in frozen squid chunks from India import not authorised
United Kingdom South Korea (O), United Kingdom cadmium (2.9 mg/kg – ppm) in frozen squid (Nototodarus spp.) from South Korea import not authorised
United Kingdom Laos (O), United Kingdom, Vietnam high count of Escherichia coli (1000 CFU/g) in praew leaves (Vietnamese coriander – Polygonum odoratum) from Laos, via Vietnam destruction
Italy Italy, Thailand (O) mercury (0.11 mg/kg – ppm) in pet food from Thailand import not authorised
Italy Commission Services, Italy, Portugal, Vietnam (O) prohibited substance nitrofuran (metabolite) nitrofurazone (SEM) (1.43 µg/kg – ppb) in frozen pangasius fillets from Vietnam import not authorised
Greece Greece, India (O) Salmonella (in 1 out of 5 samples /25g) in hulled sesame seeds from India import not authorised
United Kingdom Laos (O), United Kingdom, Vietnam Salmonella (in 4 out of 5 samples /25g) and high count of Escherichia coli (620 CFU/g) in frozen perilla (Perilla frutescens) from Laos, via Vietnam destruction
Italy Italy, Vietnam (O) too high level of overall migration (141 mg/kg – ppm) from nitrile gloves (food contact materials) from Vietnam re-dispatch
Poland Japan (O), Poland unauthorised colour Rose Bengal in marinated bamboo shoots from Japan destruction
United Kingdom Thailand (O), United Kingdom unauthorised substance carbofuran (0.01 mg/kg – ppm) in aubergines from Thailand destruction
Italy India (O), Italy unauthorised substance propargite (0.29 mg/kg – ppm) in green tea from India placed under customs seals

(Source: RASFF Portal)