Food Law News - EU - 1997

16 October 1997: CONTAMINANTS - Mycotoxins - EC Permitted Levels

MAFF Letter, 16 October 1997

Mycotoxins - EC Permitted Levels

The letter provides details of discussions held at a Commission Working Group meeting on the 13 October to discuss its proposals for Community Regulations of aflatoxins contamination of food.

There was discussion on 4 main documents:

The meeting briefly discussed a further version of the pre-draft regulation (VI/1669/97 - rev.5). The main discussions centered on the pre-draft Directive (VI/5709/97) laying down the sampling procedure and methdos of analyis. Following the objections of the UK and some other Member States to the principal of a Commission Recommendation the Commission informed Member States that it was not legally possible to follow this route; and that a draft Directive was now proposed.

If agreed, Member States have until 31 December 2000 to impleent the Directive and during the intervening period there would be regular meetings to discuss any problems which might arise. The Directive could then be amended to take into account these difficulties or advances in scientific and technological knowledge.

The revised Directive now includes a simplified sampling procedure for products where ther is an acknowledged low incidence of contamination. These products are: nuts other than groundnuts, pistachis and Brazil nuts, dried fruit other than figs and cereals in lots of less than 50 tonnes.

There was discussion on Section 5.1.1. of Annex I of the Directive (VI/7609/9797 rev.2) and the inclusion of an opt-out to use another mehtod of sampling if, for technical or practical reasons, it was not possible to apply the proposed sampling method. It was agreed that this should be more specific and state that the opt-out referred to sampling which could cause damage to the lot because of the newer types of packaging e.g. vacuum packaging or transport.

There was detailed discussion on whether nuts in-shell should be shelled before analysis or not. The propsoed calculation in Annex II will remain a comment will be added stating that laboratories, if they wich, can shell the sample before analysis.

Member States were asked to give their intention to vote on the Regulaiton and Directie. All Member States, apart from the Netherlands, who were unable to comment for legal reasons, and Portuga, who were unable to commit themselves because they had not seen the Portuguese version of the docuemtns, said they were infavour of the Regulation. All Member States apart from the Netherlands and Portugal againa dnd the UK favoured the Directive. Although the UK is content with the performance criteria for the methods of analysis and wish to see it in Community law, the sampling plan remains a stumbling block. The former proposal of a recommendation was totally unacceptable and the UK wlecomed the Commissionís intention to make statutory provisions for the sampling plan and mtheods of analysis. However, the impractical nature of the sampling plan and its possible adverse impact on consumer safety left the UK with no alternative but to vote against the draft Directive.

The documents will be revised by the Commission in the light of the comments at the meeting. It is not intended to hold any further Working Group meetings on these proposals. The next meeting of this Working Group on Agricultural Contaminants will be held on 10 Novemebr and it will then discuss nitrates monitoring and ochratoxin A. The proposal will be discussed at the WTO and it will then be presented to the Standing Committee for Foodstuffs. This is likely within 4 months. The Commission concluded that it would be likely to have a majority in favour of both proposals when it reaches the Standing Committee for Foodstuffs.

For previous item, see 29 July 1997.

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