China – FVO report on microbiological contamination in seeds for human consumption

The audit was carried out from 14th to 18th October 2013 to evaluate the official controls related to production and processing of seeds for sprouting intended for export to the European Union, becaus of the recent oubreaks of Shigatoxin producing E. coli (STEC) in EU and the large Chinese production.

The main Regulations applicable in EU for these products are:

– Reg. CE n. 178/2002 “General Food Law”;

– Reg. CE n. 852/2004 on hygiene requirements for food of non-animal origin;

– Reg. EU 211/2013 on the approval of establishments producing sprouts and the certification for imports into the EU of seeds for the production of sprout.

The objectives of the audit were only partially met, as the audit team was unable to visit primary producers of seeds for sprouting.

The Chinese Competent Authorities (CAs) have started to implement some of the requirements of the EU legislation on sprouts and seeds for sprouting, however there was no evidence provided regarding the hygienic conditions of seed production at farm level and there are no official controls for primary production of seeds for sprouting. The processing facilities visited by the audit team followed Good Hygiene Practices except in regard to the storage facilities. The effectiveness of the official control system is undermined by limited official sampling for microbiological contamination and the lack of representativeness of the official samples. The laboratories visited were accredited and suitable for the purpose of official microbiological analysis with the exception of Shigatoxin producing E. coli (STEC).

The system of official food safety controls currently in place cannot assure that the seeds for sprouting were produced under conditions which comply with the general hygiene provisions for primary production and associated operations set out in Part A of Annex I to Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 as required by Article 3 of Regulation (EU) 211/2013. This applies also for the 2013
harvest.

The Chinese CAs acknowledged the fact that official food safety controls on farms do not take place and proposed a future follow-up audit by the FVO to observe implementation of the general food hygiene requirements at farm level.

Food recalls in EU – Week 50

This week on the RASFF database (Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed) we have four recalls from consumers in EU, between the alert notifications.

Pathogenic micro-organisms: Listeria Monocytogenes in cheese, following company’s own check. Origin France, notification from Luxembourg, distributed also to Austria, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and United Kingdom;

Mycotoxins: aflatoxins in blanched groundnuts, following an official control on the market. Origin China (via Netherlands), notification from Malta;

Pathogenic micro-organisms: shigatoxin producing Escherichia Coli in chilled beef carpaccio, following an official control on the market. Origin Italy, notification from Germany;

Foreign bodies: piece of plexiglass in frozen red cabbage (with apple), following a consumer complaint. Origin and notification from Belgium, distributed also to Luxembourg.

Between the information for attention, followed by a recall from the consumers:

Pesticide residues: didecyldimethylammonium chloride (DDAC) in baby food, following a border inspection and consignment release. Origin Morocco, notification from Norway.

Between the alert notifications, followed by a withdrawal from the market of the product:

 Heavy metals: mercury in chilled swordfish loins, following an official control on the market. Origin Spain, notification from Italy.

In Belgium we have also a seizure of strawberries from Egypt for presence of residues of pyridalyl, following a border control.

Regarding border rejections we have, among the others, Salmonella spp. in paan leaves from Bangladesh and India and in frozen poultry meat preparations from Brazil, Salmonella Heidelberg in frozen salted chicken breast fillets from Brazil, propargite in stuffed vine leaves with rice from Lebanon, absence of health certificate for roasted groundnuts from India, aflatoxins in dried figs and in organic hazelnuts from Turkey, in peanuts, groundnuts, groundnuts kernels and groundnuts in shell from China, flubendiamide in fresh mint from Morocco, unauthorised placing on the market of bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) from China, too high content of E 200 – sorbic acid in dried pitted prunes from Argentina, too high content of sulphite in dried apricots from Turkey, red raisins from China infested with larvae of insects, unauthorised irradiation of food supplements from Russia, poor temperature control of frozen shrimps from Argentina, prohibited substance chloramphenicol in frozen crayfish from China, poor temperature control – rupture of the cold chain – of frozen squids from South Korea, buprofezin, pyridaben, acetamiprid and imidacloprid in tea from China, buprofezin and triazophos in black tea from Hong Kong and aflatoxins and fumonisins in maize from Egypt.

For food contact material we have a notification of information for follow-up, followed by a recall from consumers, for deterioration of organoleptic characteristics of food in contact with and colour migration from silicone ice cube moulds, following an official control on the market. Origin (via) Netherlands, notification from Germany, distributed also to Austria and Belgium.

We have also border rejections for migration of chromium from potatoes slicers with stainless steel blades from China, absence of health certificate for kitchen utensils from China, via the United States, and too high level of overall migration from plastic dishes from Bosnia and Herzegovina.