The Commission, represented by DGIII, VI and XXIV, consulted Member States on its proposed course of action under the Food Hygiene Directive (94/43/EEC) to ban imports of Iranian pistachio nuts into the Community because of the high frequency and high levels of aflatoxin contamination. The Netherlands, following repeated contamination problems with pistachio nuts from Iran, has asked the Commission to act to prohibit the imports of further supplies from Iran until necessary improvements have been made. Representatives of DG XXIV made it clear that they see this as a very important consumer safety issue requiring the firmest action.
Member States have asked to see the full results of the Dutch surveillance. Only 2 Member States offered any measure of support for an immediate ban. Most Member States, including the UK, supported firm action , but wanted the ban to apply only if the Iranian producers refused to take quick and effective action to remedy the situation. The Commission was adamant that previous warnings by both the German and Dutch authorities had been ineffective and that the firmest action was now required. It noted the views of the majority of Member States, but it decided to pursue an immediate, temporary ban on the import of Iranian pistachios into to Community for a period of 3 months to be reviewed after 1,2 and 3 months of the ban. This ban has yet to be agreed within the full Commission, but an announcement is expected within the next 10 days.
Information is also given in the letter about the surveillance carried out in the UK which has indicated a lesser problem than that found by the Dutch.