Food Law News - EU - 2006

FSA Update, 26 October 2006

CONTAMINANTS - October 2006 update on chemical contaminants legislation: Mycotoxins


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

The latest draft version of the Guidance document, with minor amendments, was agreed at a meeting of the Standing Committee on 6 October.

Consolidated Commission Decision on aflatoxins

The Commission identified several modifications that were required to Decision 2006/504/EC. These were:

These changes are due to come into effect on 1 January 2007.

Apricot kernels

Apricot kernels have been found to be contaminated with aflatoxins and the Commission invited comments on their classification for the purposes of food law. It was agreed that apricot kernels could be classified as nuts and thus fall within the scope of Regulation 466/2001, as amended.

The classification of melon seeds and pumpkin seeds, which are also susceptible to aflatoxin contamination, was also considered. The Commission’s view was that they could be considered to be oil seeds and the limits for peanuts could therefore be applied. This opinion would be confirmed by the Commission although a discussion at the Standing Committee may be required.

Ochratoxin A

Review of regulatory limits for ochratoxin A in foodstuffs

The Commission is preparing a draft consultation paper reviewing the limits for ochratoxin A in foodstuffs based upon the recent risk assessment on ochratoxin A, as foreseen in Commission Regulation 123/2005 amending Regulation 466/2001. Although this document is not yet available for circulation, levels were discussed at the Working Group on Agricultural Contaminants on 9 October.

It was agreed to maintain the limits that currently apply to the various food commodities.

The Commission proposes a limit of 10 µg/kg for ochratoxin A in spices, based on data provided by Member States. The spices covered would be the same as those in Regulation 2174/2003 for aflatoxins.

Separate limits would be considered for liquorice root, which is used in herbal teas, and liquorice extract, which is used in confectionery products.

No limits would be set for meat (since it tends to contain only low levels of ochratoxin A), green coffee (which is not consumed in its raw form and a high percentage of ochratoxin A can be removed by roasting) and cocoa beans (which are also not eaten in their raw form and consumers would be protected by setting limits for cocoa products). A limit for ochratoxin A in beer was not required given the limits in place for cereals, specifically malt. However, imported beers may be a problem and the Commission requested data on ochratoxin A contamination in imported beers. Data was also requested in order to inform discussions on the proposed limits, particularly data on offal and blood products

We will circulate the draft consultation paper for comments as soon as it is available.


A review on limits for patulin is required by Article 1 of Commission Regulation 1425/2003. The Commission noted that there was no immediate concern regarding the intake of patulin in relation to the Provisional Maximum Tolerable Daily Intake, particularly as higher patulin levels tend to occur in the less frequently consumed cloudy apple juice.

The Commission concluded that the majority of Member States wanted to leave the current limit of 50 micrograms per kilograms for patulin in fruit juices, particularly apple juice, unchanged.

Hydrocyanic acid

Bitter apricot kernels

Raw bitter apricot kernels are not usually intended for direct human consumption before being processed, which makes them safe for human consumption. However, a significant number of Rapid Alerts System for Food and Feed notifications have been issued since the beginning of 2006 for high levels of cyanide in bitter apricot kernels intended for direct human consumption.

The Commission agreed to examine the possibility of a ban on bitter apricot kernels and bitter almonds as a ready-to-eat product, in the absence of any substantiated health benefits. The use of bitter apricot kernels as ingredients would fall under Council Directive 88/388, which sets limits for hydrocyanic acid in these products.

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