Food Law News - EU - 1997

9 September 1997: MYCOTOXINS - Suspension of imports of Pistachios from Iran

Commission Press Release, 9 September 1997

Suspension of imports of pistachios from Iran

The European Commission has decided to suspend until 15 December imports of pistachios and roasted pistachios originating in or consigned from Iran because many batches of these pistachios are contaminated with aflatoxin B1 which is an extremely toxic substance (carcinogenic and genotoxic). Several Member States' control authorities have found that in some cases 7% of the batches examined have contamination levels of between 11 and 400 ppb (parts per billion) while the tolerable limit is 2 ppb for ready-to-eat pistachios and 5 ppb for raw pistachios not intended to be eaten directly in that form.

The Commission was informed of the problem by the Dutch authorities on 29 July. It alerted the other Member States the same day to enable them to check whether Iranian pistachios on their markets are affected by the contamination and to withdraw them from the market if they are.

In addition, it asked the Iranian authorities to guarantee sufficient sanitary conditions to avoid this type of contamination in future. However, the Iranian authorities said that they were unable to give such guarantees at present. After consulting the Member States, the Commission has therefore decided to suspend imports.

The Commission's decision is based on Article 10 on the Hygiene of Foodstuffs Directive (93/43/EEC) under which the Commission has to take safeguard measures if a hygiene problem likely to pose a serious risk to human health arises or spreads in the territory of a third country. Depending on the seriousness of the situation, the Commission may:

The Commission has opted for the temporary suspension of imports because the Iranian authorities cannot at present offer sufficient sanitary guarantees, but it hopes that this measure can quickly be replaced by the laying down of special conditions relating to imports.

The decision, which will apply until 15 December, will therefore be re-examined at monthly intervals in order to attempt to set up effective cooperation arrangements in conjunction with the Iranian authorities so as to ensure the protection of public health within the European Community.

To go to current EU Food Law News page,
click here.
To go to main Food Law Index page, click here.