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)

Next Conferences and Webinars – China, USA, mycotoxins and labelling focus on bakery products

In the next period I will participate in many interesting events. It could be a nice occasion to meet and share a coffee.

In case you want to meet or more info, please write me at foodlawlatest@gmail.com

All the events will be in Italian, but the webinar on USA export/labeling requirements is doable in any moment also in English.

  • 13th June 2016 – Torino – “Food marketing in China”. The event will be hosted by the Chemical Lab of the Chamber of Commerce and together with my colleague Nicola Aporti, Head of the food practice at the Chinese law firm HFG, Shangai, we will discuss about exporting procedures, labeling, non tariff barriers and food frauds/counterfeiting issues;

 

  • 16the June 2016 – Alessandria – “Labeling of Bakery Products”. A specific focus on how to label and market those kind of products, organised by the Chemical Lab of the Chamber of Commerce of Torino and Alessandria;

 

  • 22nd June 2016 – Webinar MV Consulting – “Food labeling in USA and export fundamentals”. This online webinar will give you the main information about how to approach the market and label your products, as well as some hints about the ongoing changes due to the Food Safety Modernisation (FSMA) act implementation;