Food Law News - EU - 2000

29 February 2000: CONTAMINANTS - Mycotoxins - EC Permitted Levels

JFSSG Letter, 29 February 2000

Mycotoxins - EC Permitted Levels

There were further EC discussions on harmonised controls for ochratoxin A (OA), aflatoxins and deoxynivalenol (DON) on 21/22 February at the meeting of the Commission Working Group on Agricultural Contaminants.

1. Ochratoxin A

The Commission presented a revised draft regulation with possible regulatory limits for OA in raw cereals and cereal products. The proposal included a dual limit of 5 micrograms/kg for cereals (including rice and buckwheat) and 3 micrograms/kg for cereal products (including wholemeal flour). This proposal now excludes provisions for beer, cocoa, coffee, dried vine fruit, wine and grape juice, which were included in the previous drafts discussed in December. The Commission stated that it had deleted these foods because cereals were by far the greatest contributor of ochratoxin A in the diet, whereas other foods were considered not to be major dietary sources throughout the EU. Several Member States supported the proposal, but others wanted certain foods reinstated or required changes to indicate provisions for preventative measures and monitoring. The UK argued that a limit was needed for dried vine fruit, as this is a major dietary source of ochratoxin A in the UK and high levels of ochratoxin A have been detected in some products in the UK. The Commission asked Member States to examine the details of the draft regulation and agreed to consider Member States' views before presenting it for discussion at the Standing Committee for Foodstuffs in April.

The proposed sampling plan for ochratoxin A in certain foods was discussed. The UK advised that the sampling plan was satisfactory for use at import, but not for products manufactured in the EU or for sampling nearer the retail stage. The Commission agreed to consider ways to simplify the plan before presenting it at the Standing Committee.

2. Aflatoxins

Drafts of a Commission Regulation on limits for aflatoxin in spices and an accompanying Commission Directive on sampling were briefly discussed. The proposal received broad support from Member States. Comments had been received from the European Spice Association, which proposed that turmeric should also be included. The Commission proposed to use the Latin name for the ginger family which included turmeric. The proposal will be next discussed at the Standing Committee.

The UK introduced its report of the meeting on sampling and analysis for ochratoxin A and aflatoxins which was hosted in London in December 1999. The Commission and Member States agreed to consider the conclusions of the report and how to develop the issues raised. On one point the Commission highlighted the possible future use of origin certification. The Commission indicated that a framework, which could incorporate origin certification, is likely to be introduced in future EC general food safety provisions.

3. Deoxynivalenol (DON)

Member States, including the UK, had provided the Commission with the available data on deoxynivalenol (DON) in cereals. The Netherlands suggested action levels should be set at 750 micrograms/kg for flour as delivered to bakeries and 500 micrograms/kg for retail products. The Member States expressed concern about setting a limit for DON and possibly other trichothecenes in cereals without having sufficient data. Member States were keen to act on DON and trichothecenes in cereals but first required further data. The Commission agreed with Member States that further monitoring should be carried out along with a study on the effect of processing on the low levels of DON in cereals products.

The date of the next Working Group meeting to discuss mycotoxins was not set.

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