Food recalls in EU – Week 18/2015

This week on the EU RASFF (Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed) we can find the following notifications:

1. Alerts followed by a recall from consumers:

– Pathogenic micro-organisms: shigatoxin-producing Escherichia coli (positive) in camembert cheese from France, following an official control on the market. Notified by Germany;

– Pathogenic micro-organisms: Listeria monocytogenes (6700 CFU/g) in raw sheep’s milk cheese from France, following company’s own check. Notified by France, distributed also to Belgium and United Kingdom;

– Pathogenic micro-organisms: Salmonella Rissen (presence/25g) in organic chlorella powder from China, via the United Kingdom, following an official control on the market. Notified by Ireland, distributed also to Slovenia.

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

– Residues of veterinary medicinal products: residue level above MRL for dexamethasone (>3 µg/kg – ppb) in slaughter calves from Spain, following an official control on the market. Notified by Italy.

3. Alerts followed by a withdrawal from the market:

– Biotoxins: Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) toxins (7166 µg/kg – ppb) in cockles, following an official control on the market. Notified by United Kingdom;

FCM – Composition: migration of aluminium (2.1 mg/l) from green ceramic bowls from China, via Belgium, following an official control on the market. Notified by France;

Food poisoning suspected to be caused by mussels from Spain. Notified by France;

– Pathogenic micro-organisms: too high count of Escherichia coli (1300 MPN/100g) in rope mussels (Mytilus Edulis) from Ireland, following company’s own check. Notified by France;

– Pathogenic micro-organisms: Listeria monocytogenes (50 CFU/g) in raw milk cheese from France, following company’s own check. Notified by France, distributed also to Belgium, Germany, Italy and Netherlands.

4. Seizures:


5. Border rejections:

  • aflatoxins (B1 = 21.8; Tot. = 26.1 µg/kg – ppb) in pistachio from Iran
  • aflatoxins (B1 = 23.1; Tot. = 24.3 µg/kg – ppb) in chilly powder and in red pepper ground (Capsicum spp) (B1 = 6.181 µg/kg – ppb) from India
  • aflatoxins (B1 = 3.1; Tot. = 4 µg/kg – ppb) in groundnut kernels from China
  • arsenic (11.7 mg/kg – ppm) and lead (8.3 mg/kg – ppm) in, attempt to illegally import calabash chalk from Ghana
  • attempt to illegally import live oysters and mussels from Senegal
  • chlorpyrifos (0.71 mg/kg – ppm) and buprofezin (0.19 mg/kg – ppm) in Sichuan green tea from China
  • formetanate (0.274 mg/kg – ppm) in sweet peppers from Turkey
  • improper import declaration (product not heat-treated) for frozen cooked clams from Vietnam
  • FCM: migration of formaldehyde (19.7 mg/kg – ppm) from melamine kitchen and melamine plates (46.9 mg/kg – ppm) from China
  • FCM: migration of primary aromatic amines (2.02 mg/kg – ppm) from polyamide kitchenware from China
  • poor temperature control of mackerel and other fish products from India
  • prohibited substance chloramphenicol (210 µg/kg – ppb) in enzyme powder from India
  • Salmonella Kentucky (in 1 out of 5 samples /25g) in hulled sesame seeds from India
  • Salmonella spp. (presence), Salmonella Mbandaka (presence /25g) and Salmonella Orion (presence /25g) in sesame seeds from India
  • Salmonella spp. (presence /25g) in frozen meat preparations and in frozen turkey meat preparations from Brazil
  • Salmonella spp. in frozen salted chicken breast meat from Thailand
  • thiophanate-methyl (0.53 mg/kg – ppm) and unauthorised substance carbendazim (0.15 mg/kg – ppm) in fresh chilli peppers (Capsicum) from the Dominican Republic
  • unauthorised irradiation of red yeast rice extract from China
  • unauthorised substance dichlorvos (10.8 mg/kg – ppm) in dried beans from Nigeria
  • unauthorised substance tolfenpyrad (0.079 mg/kg – ppm) in green tea from China
  • unauthorised use of colour E 110 – Sunset Yellow FCF (98 mg/l) in mirinda soft drink

RASFF recurrent alerts notified by Italy – Mercury in fish

During 2014 the EU Rapid Alert System (RASFF – Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed) recorded a relevant number of 62 notifications – sent only from Italy – for large size fish containing heavy metals, mercury in particular.

The countries of origin of the fish are different, but with a clear predominance of Spain, closely followed by Portugal and Vietnam.

This is a useful information for food business operators which purchase fish products from these countries: in order to avoid contaminated lots and the potential sanctions from the controlling authorities, it is strongly suggested to adopt reinforced sampling and testing activities.

Swordfish, tuna and mako shark, are among the main species involved and the values ​​of mercury found by the authorities were very different from one case to another (from 0.7-0.8 mg / kg to 5.4 mg / kg and above): from this risk are exempted canned foods, usually derived from fish of medium size, less exposed to this kind of contamination. It must also be pointed out that the risk arising is not of immediate/acute type, but is more likely a cumulative toxic effect.

Following a request from the European Commission, in 2014 EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) released a Scientific Opinion to assess health benefits and risks associated with the consumption of fish and the potential presence of mercury. The Panel concluded that consumption of about 1‑2 servings of seafood per week and up to 3‑4 servings per week during pregnancy has been associated with better functional outcomes of neurodevelopment in children compared to no consumption of seafood. Such amounts have also been associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease mortality in adults and are compatible with current intakes and recommendations in most of the European countries considered. These associations refer to seafood per se and include beneficial and adverse effects of nutrients and non-nutrients (i.e. including contaminants such as methylmercury) contained in seafood.

So, there is no need to panic, but certainly the high number of RASFF notifications is suggesting to be a bit careful in consuming too much of those species and to strengthen the official controls in this sector. Despite the presence of a real risk for human health, however, it is quite strange the total absence of news about this situation in the main newspapers, often very quick to raise excessive awareness in cases where there is not any risk (i.e. blue mozzarella).

The Italian Ministry of Health advised through its website a moderate consumption of predatory species of large size (1 serving per week of about 100 g, 2 servings for tuna), especially with regard to children and pregnant women, and pointed out that a reason for the peak of notifications to the RASFF is a consequence of the reinforced controls on the market.