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)

USA – Recent FSIS food recalls warnings

Indiana Firm Recalls Uncured Beef Corn Dogs Due To Possible Temperature Abuse

Class I Recall
Health Risk: High Sep 23, 2014

Monogram Comfort Foods, a Bristol, Ind., establishment, is recalling approximately 607 pounds of uncured beef corn dogs because they may have experienced temperature abuse in the distribution chain, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

The products subject to recall include:

  • 10 oz. cartons of “Applegate Naturals Gluten-free Uncured Beef Corn Dogs” with a “Best By” date of 04/21/15

The products were produced on April 21, 2014, and bear the establishment number “EST. 2512” inside the USDA Mark of Inspection. The products were distributed in Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.

The problem was found during a routine check by a warehouse that received the product. The product had been stored at the warehouse in a dry storage area instead of in the freezer.

FSIS and the company have received no reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products. Anyone concerned about a reaction should contact a healthcare provider.

FSIS routinely conducts recall effectiveness checks to verify recalling firms notify their customers of the recall and that steps are taken to make certain that the product is no longer available to consumers. When available, the retail distribution list(s) will be posted on the FSIS website at www.fsis.usda.gov/recalls.

Media with questions about the recall should contact Gary Brooks, Vice President of Technical Services, at (901) 259-6201.

Consumers with questions about the recall should contact DeWayne McVeigh, Director of Customer Service, at (901) 259-6642.

For inquiries concerning Applegate, consumers with questions about the recall should contact Gerry Clarkson, Applegate Consumer Relations Specialist, at (800) 587-5858. Media inquiries for Applegate should contact Maria Balice at (312) 543-6630.


Louisiana Firm Recalls Frozen Chicken Breast Strips For Possible Listeria Monocytogenes Contamination

Class I Recall
Health Risk: High Sep 25, 2014

Foster Farms, a Farmerville, La., establishment, is recalling approximately 39,747  pounds of frozen pre-cooked chicken products due to possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

The frozen Chicken Breast Grilled Strips product was produced on August 5, 2014, and then shipped to retail warehouse locations in California, Texas, Utah, and Washington state. The following product is subject to recall:

  • 3.5-lb. Plastic resealable bags containing frozen “Chicken Breast Grilled Strips.”

The affected product packaging will bear the establishment number “P-33901” as well as a Best by Date of 08-05-15.

The problem was discovered during the company’s routine in-plant inspection.  While some of the product was set aside and held, the product subject to this recall was inadvertently shipped.  FSIS and the company have received no reports of illnesses associated with consumption of these products.

Consumption of food contaminated with L. monocytogenes can cause listeriosis, a serious infection that primarily affects older adults, persons with weakened immune systems, and pregnant women and their newborns. Less commonly, persons outside these risk groups are affected.

Listeriosis can cause fever, muscle aches, headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance and convulsions sometimes preceded by diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms. An invasive infection spreads beyond the gastrointestinal tract. In pregnant women, the infection can cause miscarriages, stillbirths, premature delivery or life-threatening infection of the newborn. In addition, serious and sometimes fatal infections in older adults and persons with weakened immune systems. Listeriosis is treated with antibiotics. Persons in the higher-risk categories who experience flu-like symptoms within two months after eating contaminated food should seek medical care and tell the health care provider about eating the contaminated food.

FSIS and the company are concerned that some product may be frozen and in consumers’ freezers.

FSIS routinely conducts recall effectiveness checks to verify recalling firms notify their customers of the recall and that steps are taken to make certain that the product is no longer available to consumers. When available, the retail distribution list(s) will be posted on the FSIS website at www.fsis.usda.gov/recalls.

FSIS advises all consumers to reheat ready-to-eat product until steaming hot.

Media with questions regarding the recall can contact Ira Brill, Foster Farm Marketing Director, at (209) 394-7901 ext. 6891.

Consumers with questions regarding the recall can contact Teresa Lenz, Foster Farm Consumer Affairs Manager, at (800) 338-8051.

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Texas Firm Recalls Beef Products Due To Possible E. Coli O157:H7

Class I Recall061-2014
Health Risk: HighSep 25, 2014
 Caviness Beef Packers, a Hereford, Texas establishment, is recalling approximately 23,100 pounds of Beef Trimmings products that may be contaminated with E. coliO157:H7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.The Beef Trimmings products were produced on August 14, 2014 and August 20, 2014. The following products are subject to recall:

  • Combo bins containing “Beef Trimmings, BNLS, 90 L”
  • Combo bins containing “Beef Trimmings, BNLS, 84 L”

The products subject to recall bear the establishment number “EST. 675” inside the USDA mark of inspection. These products were sent to establishments for further processing and will likely not bear the establishment number “EST. 675” on products available for direct consumer purchase. These products were shipped to fast food restaurants and retail distribution locations in Texas.

The problem was discovered during a food safety assessment. The products subject to recall are lots that tested negative, however were produced consecutive to the positive lots and were subsequently processed into raw ground products and distributed to retailers.

E. coli O157:H7 is a potentially deadly bacterium that can cause dehydration, bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps 2–8 days (3–4 days, on average) after exposure the organism. While most people recover within a week, some develop a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). This condition can occur among persons of any age but is most common in children under 5-years old and older adults. It is marked by easy bruising, pallor, and decreased urine output. Persons who experience these symptoms should seek emergency medical care immediately.

FSIS and the company are concerned that some product may be frozen and in consumers’ freezers.

FSIS routinely conducts recall effectiveness checks to verify recalling firms notify their customers of the recall and that steps are taken to make certain that the product is no longer available to consumers. When available, the retail distribution list(s) will be posted on the FSIS website at www.fsis.usda.gov/recalls.

FSIS advises all consumers to safely prepare their raw meat products, including fresh and frozen, and only consume beef that has been cooked to a temperature of 145° F or 160° F for ground meat. The only way to confirm that beef is cooked to a temperature high enough to kill harmful bacteria is to use a food thermometer that measures internal temperature, http://1.usa.gov/1cDxcDQ.

Media and consumers with questions regarding the recall can contact Trevor Caviness, President, at (806) 372-5781.

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New Mexico Firm Recalls Beef Jerky Products Incorrectly Produced and Shipped With The Mark Of Inspection

Class I Recall062-2014
Health Risk: HighSep 27, 2014

Delicious Beef Jerky, LLC, an Albuquerque, N.M. establishment, is recalling 8 pounds of beef jerky products because they were marked and shipped without the benefit of inspection when they were produced under a retail exemption, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

The products subject to recall are: [View Labels (PDF Only)]

  • 2.5 once and 5 ounce plastic bags of DELICIOUS BEEF JERKY Lemon Pepper Seasoned Beef Jerky with a use-by date of 0911155

The products, which contain the establishment number “EST. 34408” inside the USDA Mark of Inspection, were sold in small retail stores in the Albuquerque,      N.M. area.  All 2.5 once and 5 ounce plastic bags with a use-by date of 9-11-15 are being recalled.

The problem was discovered when a friend of an FSIS inspector purchased the product at a liquor store in Albuquerque, and the inspector recognized that the product should not bear the mark of inspection..

FSIS and the company have received no reports of adverse reactions or illness due to consumption of these products. Anyone concerned about a reaction should contact a healthcare provider.

FSIS routinely conducts recall effectiveness checks to verify recalling firms notify their customers of the recall and that steps are taken to make certain that the product is no longer available to consumers.  When available, the retail distribution list(s) will be posted on the FSIS website at www.fsis.usda.gov/recalls.

Media or consumers with questions about the recall should contact Mr. Theodore Baca at (505) 344-9221.

 (Source: FSIS website)