The European Commission has reviewed the steps it made earlier this year to ensure aflatoxin-contaminated Chinese peanuts and Turkish figs, pistachios and hazelnuts do not enter the European Union, according to a statement from the UK Food Standards Agency.
Aflatoxins are formed by certain moulds on foodstuffs, particularly nuts and fruit products grown in warm humid conditions. They have been shown to cause cancer in animals and aflatoxin B1, the most toxic, can cause cancer in humans.
Recent data from EU Member States has shown a significant consistent decrease in the number of rejected consignments of imported Chinese peanuts. In the wake of this development, the EC Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health agreed it was no longer necessary for all consignments to be tested on import.
But there has been no improvement in aflatoxin levels in imported figs, hazelnuts and pistachios from Turkey. The Standing Committee agreed there is a continuing need for random testing, but fresh figs have been excluded because they are not contaminated by aflatoxins. Fig paste and hazelnut paste have been included because these have been found to be contaminated.
The EU Decisions that effect this (2002/678/EC and 2002/679/EC) specify a random testing rate amounting to about 10 per cent of consignments, with a maximum detention limit of 10 days after entering the European Union.
Both decisions will be reviewed before 31 December 2002.
They have been enacted into English law by The Food (Peanuts from China) (Emergency Control) (England) (No 2) Regulations 2002 and The Food (Figs, Hazelnuts and Pistachios from Turkey) (Emergency Control) (England) (No 2) Regulations 2002 which came into force on 13 September, the FSA said.
Parallel orders have been made in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Further information can be obtained from Bryan Jones at the Food Standards Agency on firstname.lastname@example.org