Food Law News - EU - 2004

FSA Letter, 10 December 2004

CONTAMINANTS – Mycotoxins – EC Permitted Levels

The last report on this issue was on 3 November 2004 regarding the progress with EC discussions on harmonised controls for mycotoxins. These discussions were continued at a meeting of the Working Group on Agricultural Contaminants on 18 November 2004 .


Tiger nuts (Cyperus esculentus)

The Commission sought Member States' views on a number of reported incidents concerning aflatoxins in tiger nuts and whether there was a need to set limits such as those set for spices. Tiger nuts or chufa are the fruits of a perennial African plant, which sends out underground runners, similar to a potato. The rhizomes are acorn- sized with a wrinkled skin and are valued in North Africa for their nutritional content, as well as their nutty almond-like taste. Large quantities of tiger nuts are imported into the EU to produce the popular drink, horchata, and high levels of aflatoxins have been found over the last 6 to 7 years in products from China , Mali and the Ivory Coast . However, the data set was limited and it was agreed that more information was needed before limits could be considered.

Paprika from Hungary

The Hungarian Government has recently imposed a ban on ground paprika products after finding a number of samples to be contaminated with aflatoxins above the regulatory limits. It is thought that the paprika products originated in Brazil and entered the EU via Spain . The Commission updated the meeting regarding rapid alerts concerning red pepper flakes from Brazil . The Commission indicated that they had had press enquiries. No representative from Hungary attended the meeting so no update was forthcoming.

Iranian pistachios

The Commission expects the Emergency Control Decision on Iranian pistachios to be published in the Official Journal by end of November or early December due to delays in translation.

WTO comments on ochratoxin A in coffee

The Commission informed the meeting that comments received were not significant The Commission also reported that several countries requested deletion of green coffee from EU legislation at the last SPS conference and responses have been sent.

Code of Practice for the reduction and prevention of fumonisins in maize and maize products

The Codex Code of Practice would be used as a basis for a Commission Code of Practice, which will be published as a Commission Recommendation, with a view to include all Fusarium toxins. The Commission requested Member States to submit any information, which could be added to the Code of Practice. We would be grateful for any information available on the effects of agricultural practices and contamination by Fusarium fungi/toxins or advice available on the reduction of Fusarium contamination in cereals to augment the results from our own R&D work. We would also welcome your views on how to promulgate the Code of Practice in the UK .

The possibility of merging the provisions provided for in Commission Directives 98/53/EC, 2002/26/EC, 2003/78/EC and the Directive on Fusarium toxins (SANCO/0023/2004) into one Commission Directive.

This Commission proposal was welcomed by all Member States present. It was generally felt that it would only be appropriate to merge all the Directives concerning mycotoxins, with a view of merging sampling provisions for other contaminants in a separate Directive. A draft document will be prepared for discussion at the next meeting.


The Commission informed the meeting of a recent case of poisoning involving ergot in buckwheat. The Commission will request EFSA's opinion on ergot in food by 2006 and requested data from Member States to inform this risk assessment. Discussions will be postponed until then. We would be grateful for any information on:

Mycotoxins in baby foods

The results of a survey of mycotoxins (aflatoxins B1, B2, G1 and G2, ochratoxin A and patulin) in baby foods have recently been published.

A total of 199 samples of infant and baby foods were bought and analysed between November 2003 and January 2004. A wide range of brands and retailers, including supermarkets and smaller shops, was covered in order to ensure that the survey was representative of the UK infant and baby food market.

Overall, the levels of mycotoxins found were very low – less than 10% of the samples tested had a detectable level of mycotoxins. None of the samples were over the legal limits for total aflatoxins, aflatoxin B1, ochratoxin A or patulin. None of the 30 samples analysed for patulin contained detectable levels of the toxin.

The detailed results can be found via the Agency website at:

Official Food and Feed Control (OFFC) Regulations

Update on the progress on the OFFC Regulations

An update of progress on the OFFC Regulations is available on the Agency website at:

Application of Article 15(5)

Article 15(5) states that a list shall be drawn up of foods and feed of non-animal origin that are, on the basis of known or emerging risk, to be subject to an increased level of official controls at the point of entry into the EU. The frequency and nature of these controls shall be laid down and fees related to such controls may be established. There was an exchange of views amongst Member States and the Commission on what this list should include and the format it should take. The Commission thought that the products covered by the Commission Decisions would also be included. The Commission clarified that this list would be an EU list. There was a request for clarification on what was intended by “outside border of the EU” and if a further list of designated ports was needed. Further discussions took place as whether to include countries of origin and it was generally agreed that the list would be a live document.

Guidance document for competent authorities for the control of compliance with EU legislation on aflatoxins

The current document, a copy of which was attached to my last letter of 3 November 2004 , has now been put out for consultation and is available via the Commission website at:

This document will remain on the Commission website for three months and will be a living document that will be updated on a regular basis. Following this consultation period the document will be discussed further at the Working Group.


The Agency has received the following Codex papers relating to mycotoxins, copies of which are available:

The papers will be discussed at the 37th meeting of the Codex Committee on Food Additives and Contaminants, which will in The Hague on 25 to 29 April 2005.


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