Food Law News - EU - 2003

FSA News Item, 1 August 2003

CONTAMINANTS - EC amends rules on fig and nut imports

The European Commission has reviewed the measures it has taken to ensure aflatoxin-contaminated Chinese peanuts, Iranian pistachios and Turkish figs, pistachios and hazelnuts do not enter the European Union.

Aflatoxins are formed by certain moulds on foodstuffs, particularly peanuts, nuts and dried fruit and their products, grown in warm humid conditions. They have been shown to be carcinogenic in animals and aflatoxin B1, the most toxic, is classified as a human carcinogen (could cause cancer) and is mutagenic (it damages DNA).

UK consumers are already protected by existing legislation that controls the maximum levels of aflatoxins permissible in peanuts, nuts and dried fruit, and these measures expand and reinforce the measures already in place.

Recent data received from Member States, on the levels of aflatoxins in consignments of pistachios and pistachio products imported from Iran, have indicated that there has been no improvement in the situation since the original Regulations came into force. The EC Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health has agreed, therefore, that there is a continuing need for the re-testing of all consignments for aflatoxins, as well as the other measures imposed by the initial Commission Decision.

There has also been no improvement in aflatoxin levels in imported peanuts and peanut products from China and imported figs, hazelnuts and pistachios and products from Turkey. The Standing Committee has agreed there is a continuing need for random testing of 10% of consignments.

The EC Decisions that effect this (2003/551/EC, 2003/550/EC and 2003/552/EC) specify that consignments to be subjected to sampling and analysis should only be detained for a maximum of 15 working days from the point of entry into the Community before release onto the market and that Member States should submit to the Commission a three-monthly report of all analytical results of these official controls. They also detail the procedure to be followed for any consignments that are subsequently split.

The EC Decisions will be kept under review in the light of information, and guarantees provided by, the competent authorities of China, Iran and Turkey. Also, the results of the tests carried out by Member States will be considered as part of the review process to assess whether there is a continuing need for the special measures.

The Decisions have been enacted into English law by The Food (Peanuts from China) (Emergency Control) (England) (No. 2) (Amendment) Regulations 2003, The Food (Pistachios from Iran) (Emergency Control) (England) Regulations 2003 and The Food (Figs, Hazelnuts and Pistachios from Turkey) (Emergency Control) (England) (No. 2) (Amendment) Regulations 2003, which came into force on 31 July.

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

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