Food recalls in EU is back – Week 7/2016

Dear readers, the weekly articles about EU food recalls is back with a slightly modified format, to be even more immediate. January was an hectic period and I had big changes in my firm: that will lead to better organisation and an enhanced capacity to answer regulatory services requests, but it took me energy and time.

Soon you will have more information via the blog.

This 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:

  • Migration of melamine (3.1 mg/l) from melamine bowl from China, via Spain and via Italy, following an official control on the market. Notified by France, distributed also to Belgium, Luxembourg, Serbia and Slovenia.

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

None.

3. Alerts followed by a withdrawal from the market:

  • Listeria monocytogenes (210 CFU/g) in frozen olive focaccia brie oregano from Portugal, following company’s own check. Notified by France, distributed also to United Kingdom;
  • Metal particles (< 1 cm) in canned tortellini from Austria, following a consumer complaint. Notified by Austria, distributed also to Germany.

4. Seizures:

None.

5. Border rejections:

Country of notification Countries Concerned Subject Action taken
Denmark Denmark, Turkey (O) aflatoxins (B1 = 100; Tot. = 160 µg/kg – ppb) in hazelnuts from Turkey placed under customs seals
Germany Germany, Turkey (O) aflatoxins (B1 = 13.49 µg/kg – ppb) in roasted hazelnuts from Turkey re-dispatch
United Kingdom Brazil (O), United Kingdom aflatoxins (B1 = 13.9; Tot. = 15.7 µg/kg – ppb) in shelled groundnuts from Brazil use for other purpose than food/feed
Italy Italy, Turkey (O) aflatoxins (B1 = 15.3; Tot. = 16 µg/kg – ppb) in sweet apricot kernels from Turkey informing recipients
Slovenia Commission Services, Hungary, India (O), Slovenia, United States aflatoxins (B1 = 29.5; Tot. = 32.5 µg/kg – ppb) in nutmeg in shell from India, via the United States
Bulgaria Bulgaria, United States (O) aflatoxins (B1 = 3.3 µg/kg – ppb) in groundnuts from the United States placed under customs seals
France France, Turkey (O) aflatoxins (B1 = 3.3; Tot. = 24.1 µg/kg – ppb) in whole organic hazelnut kernels from Turkey return to consignor
Italy Egypt (O), Italy, San Marino (D) aflatoxins (B1 = 38.1; Tot. = 41.3 µg/kg – ppb) in peanuts in shell from Egypt placed under customs seals
Italy Egypt (O), Italy aflatoxins (B1 = 75.9; Tot. = 116.1 µg/kg – ppb) in peanuts in shell from Egypt placed under customs seals
Italy Azerbaijan (O), Italy aflatoxins (B1 = 9.5; Tot. = 10.2 µg/kg – ppb) in hazelnut kernels from Azerbaijan re-dispatch
Malta China (O), Malta aflatoxins (B1 = 9.8; Tot. = 12.0 / B1 = 4.5; Tot. = 5.6 µg/kg – ppb) in blanched peanuts from China placed under customs seals
Italy Italy, Turkey (O) aflatoxins (Tot. = 32.5 µg/kg – ppb) in shelled hazelnuts from Turkey official detention
Portugal Iran (O), Portugal, Turkey fenpropathrin (0.14 mg/kg – ppm) and ethion (0.024 mg/kg – ppm) and unauthorised substance propargite (0.030 mg/kg – ppm) in raisins from Iran, via Turkey re-dispatch
Italy Italy, Tunisia (O) hepatitis A virus (presence) in chilled clams (Ruditapes decussatus) from Tunisia destruction
Italy Italy, Tunisia (O) hepatitis A virus (presence) in chilled clams (Ruditapes decussatus) from Tunisia destruction
Italy Italy, Tunisia (O) hepatitis A virus in grooved carpet shells (Ruditapes decussatus) from Tunisia destruction
Italy Commission Services, Italy, Thailand (O) mercury (0.12 mg/kg – ppm) in canned cat food from Thailand import not authorised
Netherlands Brazil (O), Netherlands poor temperature control (-14 <–>-6 °C) of frozen salted skinless half chicken breasts from Brazil import not authorised
Italy Italy, Turkey (O) prochloraz (1.5 mg/kg – ppm) in pomegranates from Turkey
United Kingdom India (O), United Kingdom Salmonella (in 1 out of 5 samples /25g) in betel leaves from India import not authorised
Cyprus Cyprus, Ukraine (O) Salmonella (presence /25g) and Salmonella Senftenberg (presence /25g) in rapeseed meal from Ukraine official detention
United Kingdom India (O), United Kingdom Salmonella (presence /25g) in betel leaves from India import not authorised
Germany Germany, Thailand (O) Salmonella (present /25g) in frozen salted chicken breasts from Thailand re-dispatch
Slovenia India (O), Slovenia Salmonella Isangi (in 2 out of 5 samples /25g) in hulled sesame seeds from India placed under customs seals
France Brazil (O), France, Netherlands shigatoxin-producing Escherichia coli (stx1+, stx2- /25g) in chilled boneless beef meat (Bos taurus) from Brazil destruction
Bulgaria Bulgaria, China (O) spoilage of peanuts in shell from China infested with moulds re-dispatch
Spain Spain, Turkey (O) too high content of sulphite (2314-3399 mg/kg – ppm) in dried apricots from Turkey re-dispatch
Czech Republic Czech Republic, Vietnam (O) unauthorised substances carbendazim (0.25 mg/kg – ppm), hexaconazole (0.058 mg/kg – ppm), diafenthiuron (0.18 mg/kg – ppm) and chlorfenapyr (0.079 mg/kg – ppm) in fresh chilli peppers from Vietnam official detention

(Source: RASFF Portal)

EU to adopt and review SPS measures

Today I publish a guest article, written by my friend Francesco Montanari, Senior Associate at FARE (Food and Agriculture Requirements) and specialist in public affairs and relations, consultancy and legal counselling at EU-level, with particular focus on trade, labelling and food regulatory issues.

A)      EU ban on citrus fruit from South Africa

Early this December the EU adopted a ban on imports of citrus fruit, including lemons, oranges and tangerines, from South Africa. The ban follows several interceptions by EU Member States of imports from South Africa infested by black spot (Guignardia citricarpa). Black spot is a fungal plant disease that, although harmless to humans, can damage quality and quantity of citrus cultivation. Black spot is not present in Europe currently, thus its introduction may have a negative impact on European crops.

The ban is likely to have virtually no impact on trade for the time being: effectively, it applies only to imports harvested over the period 2012-2013. The EU, though, has the power to extend of the ban should the risk of spreading persist. Under those circumstances, impact on trade would be significant since exports of citrus fruit from that country accounts for one third of all EU imports.

The ban was adopted following discussions and negotiations at EU level in 2013. It is understood that South African government strongly opposed closure of EU borders to its exports for lack of conclusive scientific evidence as to the likelihood of the fungus spreading from picked fruit.

South Africa is not the only country that is currently subject to EU trade restrictions for exports of citrus fruit. Brazil, another major exporter of citrus fruits, has been subject since 2004 to specific import conditions to ensure consignments destined to imports in the EU are free from black spot (Decision 2004/417/EC as recently amended by Decision 2013/67/EU).

B) EU border surveillance on fruits and vegetables imported from non-EU countries

Always this month, the EU has updated the list of imported fruits and vegetables that are subject to reinforced border surveillance under Regulation (EC) No 669/2009. Following the fourteenth review of Annex I to that Regulation, the EU is planning to lift, as of 1 January 2014, border controls on:

  • hazelnuts from Azerbaijan (currently subject 10% of physical checks),
  • mace from Indonesia (10%) and India (10%),
  • ginger and curcuma from India (10%) –  all for possible contamination with aflatoxins, as well as
  • broccoli from Thailand (10%) for possible presence of pesticide residues.

Some of these products have been subject to increased levels of border controls for nearly four years. Overall, the relaxation of border surveillance is justified in light of the satisfactory levels of compliance emerging from the results of official controls performed by EU Member States. Nevertheless, controls will continue to be carried by national authorities – at the point of introduction, import or in the market – in accordance with what foreseen by Article 15 (1) of Regulation 882/2004 on official controls on food and feed.

Notwithstanding the announced changes, several imports will remain subject to a higher level of official controls at EU borders. Currently, China is the country with more products listed, including noodles (10% increased physical checks for detecting unauthorised use of aluminium), pomelos and tea (20% for pesticide residues) and frozen strawberries (5% for norovirus and hepatitis A).

C)      Emergency measures on certain imports of plant origin

Negotiations are currently ongoing at EU level in order to review Regulation (EC) 1152/2009 setting import conditions for certain products presenting a high risk of aflatoxins and Regulation (EU) No 91/2013 imposing import requirements on products of plant origin originating from Ghana, Nigeria and India.

As regards Regulation 1152/2009, amendments currently under discussion revolve around:

  • Extension of the scope of the measures to the products listed also when they are imported as feed,
  • Increase of the control intensity of identity and physical checks for certain products (dried figs from Turkey), reduction of frequency for others  (Brazilian nuts and hazelnuts from Turkey) and some delisting (US almonds),
  • The obligation for custom authorities to meticulously verify the content and the appropriate filling of the Common Entry Document accompanying the consignment (this in order to avoid imports being released for free circulation before official controls are completed).

As regards Regulation 91/2013, this safeguard measure foresees import requirements for products that were originally subject to Regulation 669/2009 and for which border controls showed very high levels of non-compliances.  The measure currently covers

  • Okra and curry leaves from India (pesticide residues),
  • Groundnuts and derived products from Ghana (aflatoxins)
  • Watermelon seeds from Nigeria (aflatoxins).

and allows importation of the above products only upon presentation by the importer of a health certificate and of results of laboratory tests performed in the country of origin.

An amendment currently under discussion would consider moving products that are listed for aflatoxins in Regulation 91/2013 to Regulation 1152/2009 since the controls follow the same rules. In principle, this should ensure greater consistency in the management of import policy on products of plant origin by the EU as well as in the implementation by the national control authorities.

D) Emerging risks?

Browsing the RASFF database is always an interesting exercise: it allows monitoring emerging and re-occurring risks. As regards imports of plant origin originating from non-EU countries, it is striking to look at the number of RASFF notifications for paan leaves from Bangladesh for presence of Salmonella (2012: 110 RASFF notifications; 2013: 23 notifications). Paan leaves are a traditional product that mostly Indian or Bangladeshi communities chew after meals.

Although the health risk associated with this product may be not of great concern and trade volume relatively low, it is difficult to justify the lack of action at EU level vis-à-vis a product that systematically fails to fulfil EU requirements.

Whether this issue would be better addressed through the adoption of an EU ban, stringent import requirements and/or by providing technical assistance to the exporting country, only EU policy-makers can provide these answers.

From the outside, however, it looks as if better use could be made of the resources currently deployed by the national authorities for the detection of a risk that is by now clearly ‘known’. By doing so, a better prioritisation of official controls would be ensured.