Food Law News - EU - 2003

FSA News Item, 14 July 2003

CONTAMINANTS - Aflatoxins in Brazil nuts

The European Commission has introduced additional measures to prevent Brazil nuts contaminated with unacceptable levels of aflatoxins from entering the European Union (EU). The move comes after the UK and other EU Member States found consignments of unshelled nuts from Brazil above the regulatory limits.

Aflatoxins are toxins formed by certain moulds on food, particularly nuts and nut products grown in warm, humid conditions. They have been shown to cause cancer in a number of animal species by damaging DNA. There is also evidence to suggest they may cause cancer in humans.

To protect consumers, the Commission has issued Decision 2003/493/EC. This introduces measures to ensure unshelled Brazil nuts from Brazil, that contain aflatoxins above regulatory levels, do not enter the EU.

These measures require that:

The Commission Decision, which came into force on 5 July, will be reviewed before 1 May 2004 to assess the effectiveness of the measures in protecting public health and whether further measures are required.

The Decision has been enacted into English Law by The Food (Brazil Nuts from Brazil) (Emergency Control) (England) Order 2003, which came into force on 11 July.

Parallel Orders will be made in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Protecting the consumer

Consumers in the UK are already protected by existing legislation that controls the maximum levels of aflatoxins permissible in peanuts, nuts and dried fruit. These measures expand and reinforce the measures already in place to ensure contaminated products do not enter the EU.

The European Commission is also working with the exporting countries to improve the harvesting and storage conditions and thus prevent the formation of aflatoxins.

Sampling is carried out by Port Health Authorities to ensure imports comply. Regular checks are also carried out by trading standards officers and environmental health officers at manufacturer's premises and at retail level.

Processors will also carry out quality control on their products before they are put on sale, in order to demonstrate 'due diligence'. This means there is no need for anyone to avoid eating Brazil nuts.

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