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 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)