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)

Plant Health report: import controls are an effective tool in protecting EU consumers

A Commission report published today presents key findings on the controls carried out at Europe’s borders to prevent harmful plant pests from entering the EU market.

This EUROPHYT report reveals that 7.000 consignments mainly imported from non-EU countries were intercepted in 2013. In about one third of the cases insects, fungi, bacteria or viruses were found; the number of interceptions with such harmful organisms increased by 18%, compared to 2012. Fruit and vegetables fall amongst the highest category of consignments that were prevented from entering the EU marketplace. These included mainly mangoes, gourds, basil, aubergines, guavas and peppers, coming from India, Pakistan, Ghana, Dominican Republic, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Kenya and Bangladesh. As a result of specific EU safeguard measures, the number of interceptions from Thailand, Vietnam and Israel decreased significantly in 2013. There were over 2.000 interceptions of wood packaging material, originating mainly from Russia, China, USA, Belarus and India. EUROPHYT is an IT rapid alert system, managed by the Commission, which facilitates the cross-border flow of information and notifications between national authorities in the EU and Switzerland.

What is EUROPHYT?

EUROPHYT brings together the words ‘European’ and ‘Phytosanitary’ and describes a notification and rapid alert system dealing with Interceptions for plant health reasons of consignments of plants and plant products imported into the EU or being traded within the EU itself. EUROPHYT is established and run by the Directorate General for Health and Consumers of the European Commission.

With the increase in trade over the last decades, the risk of introducing new pests and diseases has increased and, given favourable weather conditions and a lack of natural enemies, they can spread and lead to environmental damage, destruction of native plant species, substantial economic losses in agricultural production and an increase in the use of pesticides. Therefore measures to prevent their introduction and spread are essential. EUROPHYT provides an essential support for the implementation of preventative measures by ensuring that the data on risks to plant health from trade in plants and plant products is up-to-date and accurate

For knowing more:

(Source: DG Sanco)