Food recalls in EU – Week 27-28/2015

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:

– Allergens: undeclared gluten and egg in cream of potato & spinach soup from Germany, following a consumer complaint. Notified from United Kingdom, distributed also to Ireland and Italy;

– Allergens: traces of almond in hot paprika and chili powder from China, following company’s own check. Notified by Greece, distributed also to Albania, Cyprus and Germany;

– Allergens: undeclared sulphite (17.0 mg/kg – ppm) in sweets from Belgium, following company’s own check. Notified by Belgium, distributed also to France;

– Allergens: undeclared gluten, soya, nuts and lactose (ingredients list in Danish, Finnish and Swedish is missing on the label) in icecream from Germany, following company’s own check. Notified by Denmark;

– Foreign bodies: plastic fragments in tofu basilico from Germany, following company’s own check. Notified by United Kingdom, distributed also to Austria, Belgium, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland;

– Foreign bodies: rat droppings in breakfast cereals from the United Kingdom, following a consumer complaint. Notified by Denmark, distributed also to Norway;

– FCM (Food Contact Materials): migration of primary aromatic amines (7.48; 0.005; 0.009 mg/kg – ppm) from plastic kitchenware from China, following an official control on the market. Notified by Poland, distributed also to Slovakia;

– FCM (Food Contact Materials): migration of aluminium (32.8; 14.7 mg/l) from ceramic balls from China, following an official control on the market. Notified by France, distributed also to Belgium;

– Mycotoxins: patulin (147 µg/kg – ppb) in apple juice from Belgium, following company’s own check. Notified by Belgium, distributed also to France.

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

– Foreign bodies: rodent (mouse tail) in chocolate and hazelnut muesli from Belgium, following a consumer complaint. Notified by Greece, distributed also to Denmark;

– Non pathogenic micro-organisms: hazelnut kernels from Sweden infested with mouldsfollowing a consumer complaint. Notified by Denmark, distributed also to Iceland;

– Non pathogenic micro organisms: chilled diced or shredded chicken and pork products from Poland infested with yeastsfollowing a company’s own check. Notified by Denmark, distributed also to Greenland, Germany and Faeroe Islands;

– Pesticides residues: chlorpyrifos (2.3 mg/kg – ppm) in celery from Laos, following an official control on the market. Notified by Denmark;

– Residues of veterinary medicinal products: sulfonamide (865 µg/kg – ppb) unauthorised in honey from Germany, following an official control on the market. Notified by Germany, distributed also to Austria, Cyprus, France, Greece, Malta, Spain, Sweden and United Kingdom;

3. Alerts followed by a withdrawal from the market:

– Allergens: traces of almond in sauces from the Netherlands, following a company’s own check. Notified by Netherlands, distributed also to Austria, Belgium, Curacao, France, Germany, Greece, Luxembourg, Spain, Sweden and United Kingdom;

– Allergens: traces of milk (20 mg/kg – ppm) in marzipan with honey and chocolate from Germany, via Austria, following an official control on the market. Notified by Slovenia, distributed also to Croatia, Estonia, France, Poland and Slovakia;

– Composition: high content of aluminium (253 mg/kg – ppm) in glass noodles from Vietnam, following an official control on the market. Notified by Germany, distributed also to France;

– Heavy metals: cadmium (0.362 mg/kg – ppm) and mercury (4.45 mg/kg – ppm) in frozen swordfish from Spain, following an official control on the market. Notified by France, distributed also to Germany and Ireland;

– Industrial contaminants: sum of dioxins and dioxin-like polychlorobifenyls (22 pg WHO TEQ/g) in eggs from the Netherlands, following company’s own check. Notified by Netherlands, distributed also to Belgium;

– Pesticide residues: chlorpyrifos (0.09 mg/kg – ppm) in frozen broccoli from Poland, following an official control on the market. Notified by Estonia.

4. Seizures:

In Italy we had seizures of stainless steel knives from China for migration of chromium (18.3 mg/l) and of manganese (1.1 mg/l), of complete feed for aquaculture for presence of ruminant DNA and of chilled swordfish loins (Xiphias gladius) from Spain for presence of mercury (1.9 mg/kg – ppm)following official controls on the market.

We had also a seizure

5. Border rejections:

  • absence of health certificate(s) for egusi melon seeds from Nigeria and for emu oil capsules and liquid emu oil from the United States, via Canada
  • absence of Common Entry Document (CED) for dried beans from Nigeria
  • aflatoxins (B1 = 103; Tot. = 119 / B1 = 21.4; Tot. = 25.9 µg/kg – ppb) in pistachios in shell and in pistachio kernels (Tot. = 26.9 µg/kg – ppb) from Iran
  • aflatoxins (B1 = 14.6; Tot. = 15.4 µg/kg – ppb) in peanuts in shell, in unshelled peanuts (B1 = 5.4; Tot. = 17.9 µg/kg – ppb), in groundnuts kernels (B1 = 12.2; Tot. = 24 µg/kg – ppb) and in groundnuts (Tot. = 95 µg/kg – ppb) from China
  • aflatoxins (B1 = 162.6; Tot. = 242.9 µg/kg – ppb) in peanut chips from Nigeria
  • aflatoxins (B1 = 18.85; Tot. = 11.84 µg/kg – ppb) in groundnuts from Brazil
  • aflatoxins (B1 = 27.1 µg/kg – ppb) in roasted pistachios from Turkey
  • aflatoxins (B1 = 30; Tot. = 33 µg/kg – ppb) in nutmeg from Indonesia
  • aflatoxins (B1 = 28; Tot. = 31 µg/kg – ppb) in shelled pistachios, in pistachios in shell (B1 = 82.8; Tot. = 89 µg/kg – ppb) and in shelled almonds (B1 = 15 µg/kg – ppb) from the United States
  • aflatoxins (B1 = 89.4; Tot. = 93.9 µg/kg – ppb) and ochratoxin A (45 µg/kg – ppb) in and absence of labelling on mixed spices from Kuwait
  • attempt to illegally import dried beans from Nigeria
  • chlorpyrifos (0.12 mg/kg – ppm), cyhalothrin (0.37 mg/kg – ppm) and unauthorised substance dichlorvos (0.32 mg/kg – ppm) in dried beans from Nigeria
  • endosulfan (0.14 mg/kg – ppm) and buprofezin (0.60 mg/kg – ppm) in green tea from South Korea
  • FCM: migration of cadmium (0.453 mg/dm²) from ceramic spoons from China
  • FCM: migration of nickel (672 mg/kg – ppm) from wine stopper from China, via Hong Kong
  • high counts of coliforms (160000 CFU/g) and of Enterobacteriaceae (170000 CFU/g) in peanut kernels from Turkey
  • fenitrothion (0.05 mg/kg – ppm) in olives in brine from Egypt
  • mercury (1.893 mg/kg – ppm) in chilled tuna from Ecuador
  • peanuts in shell from China infested with moulds and with mites
  • poor temperature control (-4.9; -6.7; -5.5 °C) of frozen whole chicken from Ukraine, (+6 <–> 11 °C) of chilled fish from Pakistan, (+8.8; 6.8; 7.4; 6.6; 7.0 °C) of chilled swordfish (Xiphias gladius) and (> -12 °C) of frozen boneless beef meat (Bos taurus) from Chile, of chilled fish from India, (-3.5<–> -10.4 °C) of frozen shimps (Penaeus vannamei) from Malaysia and (-7.6, – 8.2, – 7.8, – 8.5, -10.8, -7.1 °C) of chilled tuna (Thunnus albacares) from Sri Lanka
  • Salmonella spp. (in 1 out of 5 samples /25g) in paan/betel leaves from India
  • Salmonella spp. (presence /25g) in hulled sesame seeds from India
  • Salmonella (present /25g) in frozen salted chicken, in frozen salted chicken preparation and in frozen salted boneless skinless chicken breasts from Thailand
  • too high content of colour E 102 – tartrazine (0.08 %) and unauthorised use of colour E 110 – Sunset Yellow FCF (0.005 %) and of colour E 129 – Allura Red AC (0.08 %) in canned preserved vegetables from Mexico
  • unauthorised colour Sudan 4 (0.8 mg/kg – ppm) in palm oil from Ghana

Follow-up to the fraud of crushed almond shells in cumin: “Bart Ground Cumin” recall rescinded

On April 28, we reported the news of the detection of crushed almond shells in spices, especially cumin, paprika and various mix, at a level not yet identified of the supply chain, with the clear aim of financial gain. On this occasion, the results of the analysis were considered unreliable by Bart Ingredients, a British food company, which has highlighted the possibility of “false-positives” attributed to another ingredient, the “mahaleb”, extracted from a variety of cherry tree.

The 29th June, the Food Standards Agency has rescinded a recall of a batch of ground cumin sold by the Bart Ingredients Company. The affected product had tested positive for the presence of almond protein which is not declared on the label. This follow the same decision by CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) on other cases: few weeks ago, indeed, the Canadian authority detected the same issue.

Additional testing by the Laboratory of the Government Chemist (LGC) has shown a spice called mahaleb was present and not almond protein. Mahaleb and almond are from the same ‘Prunus’ family of trees and shrubs. However, mahaleb is not one of the 14 allergens identified in food allergen legislation. There is no evidence that the contamination was a result of fraudulent activity.

The level of almond protein detected was considered to be a risk to people with an allergy to almond. The company subsequently produced test results from samples of the same material that contradicted the positive result. 

Will Creswell, Head of Consumer Protection at the FSA, said: ‘Throughout this incident we have carried out protein and DNA testing, using accredited laboratories and validated methods, and both indicated the presence of almond protein in this product. Consumer safety is the FSA’s highest priority and our risk assessment at the time was that this product could potentially harm people with an allergy to almond. We were correct to ask Bart Ingredients to take precautionary action. Now that new evidence has come to light we are able to rescind this particular recall.

‘The FSA will now work with public analysts, analytical scientists, the industry and local authorities to review these testing methodologies. As with all significant incidents, we will also work together to review our actions and identify what lessons can be learned.’

LGC used a type of analysis called ‘liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry’ which, in combination with DNA testing, found that mahaleb could produce a false positive result for almond protein in cumin. This is the first time researchers have identified this type of reaction.

Michael Walker, Consultant Referee Analyst in the Laboratory of the Government Chemist, said: ‘This has been a pioneering and resource intensive scientific investigation involving a large multidisciplinary team of scientists. Almond and other Prunus species in spices had received little attention. We now know that ELISA detection is useful but only as a screening test. There are unusually high similarities in the DNA and protein of these related species that make it very difficult to tell them apart in spices. But thanks to the expertise of the molecular biologists and protein chemists in LGC we have developed what is, to the best of our knowledge, the world’s first DNA test for mahaleb and discovered subtle mass spectrometry differences to distinguish almond and mahaleb proteins.’

There have been several other recalls in the UK during this incident, the majority of which have been for undeclared almond in paprika products.  There is currently no evidence of cross-reactivity due to mahaleb in paprika. However, the FSA is doing further research to clarify this.

All other recalls in the UK associated with almond contamination of paprika still stand as the evidence presently available to the FSA suggests the affected products remain a potential health risk to people with an allergy to almond.