Food Law News - EU - 2006

FSA Update, 26 October 2006

CONTAMINANTS - October 2006 update on chemical contaminants legislation: Environmental contaminants


Cadmium in pine nuts and oil seeds:

Discussions on this issue have been ongoing, with an agreement at a Working Group meeting in May that pine nuts would be excluded from the current maximum level for vegetables and fruit set in Commission Regulation 466/2001 with a view to setting a new limit when further data was available. Two MS submitted data for pine nuts and oil seeds at the recent Working Group Meeting on 25 September and MS were asked if they thought that the data presented was sufficient enough to be able to set levels. MS suggested that more data and an exposure assessment were needed before levels could be set and the Commission requested any data that MS may have on these foodstuffs and on other nuts as soon as possible.

The Agency would be grateful for your views on this issue.

Cadmium in mushrooms:

Currently wild mushrooms are excluded from Commission Regulation 466/2001 setting maximum limits for contaminants in foodstuffs. However, discussions on whether to include wild mushrooms under a revised limit for all mushrooms or have separate higher limits for certain exotic species have been ongoing. A number of MS, including the UK, submitted data on this issue and the Commission noted that the data indicated that about two-thirds of wild mushrooms tested were below the current limit of 0.2mg/kg. There was some support for the UK’s proposal to extend the legislation to cover all mushrooms, although the UK’s suggestion to consider setting separate maximum limits for certain species received little support from MS or the Commission.

The Commission tried to press for an agreement for a limit for all mushrooms based on the data already received suggesting a revised higher limit of 0.5 mg/kg to take account of those species which had trouble meeting the current limit. However, this received little support from MS, who proposed gathering more data and the Commission requested that any data they may have should be submitted in time for discussion at the next Working Group meeting.

The Agency would be grateful for your views on this issue.

Cadmium in anchovy (Engraulis anchoita) fished in Argentina

Spain presented a report indicating that the ‘Engraulis anchoita’ species of anchovy naturally accumulates higher concentrations of cadmium than other anchovy species. The report highlighted that the salting of anchovies is worth &euros:70m per year to Spain and 70% of these come from Argentina, and that other countries also import anchovies from Argentina. Spain proposed that this species of anchovy should be included in the same category as swordfish i.e. with a maximum limit of 0.3 mg/kg. The proposal was supported and the Commission agreed to amend the new consolidated Regulation replacing Commission Regulation 466/2001 (which has not yet been published) following agreement to the revision at Standing Committee. A date for the next Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (StCFCAH) is yet to be set.

Cadmium in chocolate

Germany submitted data indicating that levels of cadmium varied between different types of chocolate with levels in dark chocolate being the highest. Concern was expressed by MS that more people ate this type of chocolate and it was suggested that limits should be set. MS also expressed concern that children have a higher intake of cadmium as a result of the number of foodstuffs containing cocoa that are aimed at children. Following a request from the UK, the Commission clarified that cocoa beans were not covered by Commission Regulation 466/2001 and requested that MS submit more intake data on levels of cadmium in chocolate and cocoa beans.

The Agency would be grateful for your views on this issue.


Mercury in ling (Genypterus blacodes) from New Zealand

Member States supported a request by New Zealand for the Genypterus blacodes species of ling to be included under the higher limit for mercury in fish of 1 mg/kg in Commission Regulation 466/2001. The new Commission Regulation replacing Regulation 466/2001 (not yet published) will be amended following agreement to the revision at the StCFCAH meeting; no date has been set yet.


EFSA evaluation of aluminium in foods

Following a recent Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) review of aluminium, the Commission has asked the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to provide an evaluation of aluminium in all foods and also requested that MS submit any occurrence data that they may have.


FVO Mission to Baltic States

The Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) gave a presentation summarising reports of missions to eight MS with Baltic coastline. The focus of the missions was to examine the provisions for the control of fish from the Baltic Region with regard to dioxin levels and whether the conditions of derogations were being applied correctly by those MS who benefited from them and also examined relevant research programmes.

A number of concerns were raised, which included differences in approach to keeping highly contaminated fish off the market, and the possibility that Baltic fish from Sweden and Finland could get into other Member States. A lack of co-ordination between fisheries inspectors and food inspectors was also highlighted, as was a need for more investigation into processing effects. France asked how this would be followed up. The FVO advised that it would be up to individual Member States as part of their responses to the inspections.

Latvia has organised a meeting of Baltic States on 5 October to discuss all of the issues raised and the Commission asked to receive details of the outcome, which it will then circulate to members of the Expert Committee.

New TEF Values

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has published a new set of Toxic Equivalency Factors (TEFs) for dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs. The Commission expects to use the new TEFs from the review of dioxin limits in 2008, although until then the existing TEFs will continue to apply as they are defined in Commission Regulation 466/2001, as amended. When using the new set of TEFs it appears that calculated total Toxic Equivalents (TEQs) may fall by 10-20% and the Commission requested more data to confirm this.

The Agency would be grateful for your views on this issue

Dioxin levels in liver

The UK reintroduced a letter submitted to the Commission on 17 July requesting a review of limits for dioxins in liver, together with the offals survey Information Sheet, and noted that there may be a case to have different limits for different species. The Commission noted that consideration would have to be given to products containing mixed or unidentified liver. The Commission concluded that there was a consensus for discussions on moving towards product (whole weight) based limits, but also suggested reconsidering fish liver. Consideration will be given to revising the limits following submission of data from all MS.

Non-dioxin-like PCBs

Limits for non-dioxin-like PCBs

The Commission repeated the arguments by the UK and France that there was not a strong enough case for regulation on non-dioxin-like PCBs but that action levels might be appropriate for high contamination. However, some MS already have national limits and expressed a desire for harmonisation of existing Regulations.

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