Food Law News - EU - 2001

FSA Letter, 8 August 2001

CONTAMINANTS - Mycotoxins: EC Permitted Levels

The FSA last wrote (see
22 May 2001) regarding the progress with EC discussions on harmonised controls for mycotoxins. These discussions were continued on 14-15 June and 19-20 July at meetings of the Standing Committee for Foodstuffs. Mycotoxin issues were also discussed at a meeting of the Codex Alimentarius Commission on 2- 7 July.


At the meeting of the Standing Committee in June the Commission tabled a document which outlined recommendations on cereals, nuts and dried fruit agreed at the last Working Group meeting. These were to maintain the current maximum limits for aflatoxins in nuts and dried fruit intended for sorting or other physical treatment and to delete the footnote on revision of maximum limits. It was noted that the provisions on maximum limits could be reviewed at anytime depending on progress or new technological and scientific knowledge. Also that for raw cereals, other than maize, the maximum limits established for cereals intended for direct human consumption would apply from 1 July 2001. The proposal was due to go to a vote at the July Standing Committee meeting, however, it was not discussed but it is intended that the proposal will be voted on at the next Standing Committee meeting.

The EC Regulation setting limits for aflatoxins in certain spices, which was due to come into force on 1 July, has not, as yet, been published in the Official Journal. We have been informed that the Regulation is now due to come into force on 1 September 2001.

The report from the FVO mission to China to examine the problems of aflatoxins in peanuts has now been approved by the Commission Directors and has been transmitted to the Chinese Authorities who have 25 working days to respond. The report is not yet available to Member States but the findings were presented orally to the meeting. The report indicated poor control and internal co-ordination resulting in a system which is open to abuse. Certificates of analysis are provided for export but little reliance can be placed upon them. The recommendations to China include the introduction of robust methodology with adequate quality control procedures and the improvement of the certification to include lot identification. The Commission stated the measures agreed at the April meeting of the Standing Committee were no longer appropriate in view of the lack of reliance that can be put on the Chinese certification. The meeting was asked to consider a measure which would require China to certify all exports to Europe and all Member States to control each consignment on import. The Commission recognised the resource implications of this measure and proposed a time limit of 3 months. If there was no improvement in this time a ban would be the way forward. A draft Commission Decision setting out these proposals was tabled at the end of the meeting.

With regard to the import of figs and pistachios from Turkey, the Commission stated that measures requiring certification from the Turkish Authorities would be introduced but systematic import controls would not be required.

Ochratoxin A

The EC Regulation setting limits for ochratoxin A in cereals, cereal products and dried vine fruit, which is due to come into force on 1 October, has not, as yet, been published in the Official Journal.


Discussions took place on the draft maximum level of 50 mg/kg for patulin in apple juice and apple juice ingredients in other beverages which was at Step 8. A consensus could not be reached and the Commission returned the draft maximum level to Step 6 for further consideration by the Committee on Food Additives and Contaminants.

The Commission could not reach a consensus on the draft maximum level of 0.5 mg/kg for aflatoxin M1 in milk, which had reached Step 8. However, in view of the importance of establishing a level to protect consumer health, and since, in the opinion of the Committee on Food Additives and Contaminants, the higher level provides an adequate level of protection, the Commission adopted the maximum level of 0.5 mg/kg for aflatoxin M1 in milk. It was agreed that data supporting a lower level, if and when available, could be examined by the Committee on Food Additives and Contaminants at a future meeting if necessary.

European Mycotoxin Awareness Network (EMAN)

The above Network is composed of a group of multidisciplinary experts and national contact points, responsible for alerting all interested parties on the latest mycotoxin related issues. The objectives of the project are:

Participant countries involved in the project are UK, Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. Each member has responsibilities in several activities for the benefit of all. Such activities involve designing, setting up and maintaining the Network Web site, providing information and training courses and generally maintain the international effectiveness of the project. Other organisations in countries such as Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Portugal, Ireland, Greece and the Netherlands act as national contact points for Network enquiries and provide contact lists of other parties involved in mycotoxin research. The ongoing project targets are to up-date the Web site as often as possible, to organise conferences and workshops annually, to produce and distribute newsletters biannually and fact/information sheets and undertake Web based training courses. It is anticipated that the overall outcome will be the establishment of a European Network that can provide readily available information on the many aspects of mycotoxins via the Web.

Food and Feed Control Regulations

An EU White Paper on Food Safety issued in January 2000 contained a proposal for a Regulation to establish a Community framework for official controls on all food and feed safety aspects. The proposed Regulation is intended to provide a general framework and would:

The proposed Regulation is currently in the form of a non-document and a number of sections have yet to be drafted by the Commission. The Commission aim to agree the text of the proposed Regulation by Autumn 2001.

Two significant issues have so far arisen:

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