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UK authorities in the dark over aflatoxin-contaminated peanut butter

By Rory Harrington , 22-Jul-2009
Last updated on 22-Jul-2009 at 13:19 GMT

Food safety authorities in the UK have confirmed they know neither the exact quantity nor precise location of peanut butter and paste contaminated with aflatoxins up to 190 times above the legal limit.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) issued a food alert this week to say Active brand peanut butter and Active brand groundnut paste made by Jesu Aka Ltd contaminated with “excessively high levels of aflatoxins” had been imported into the UK. They are believed to have been distributed to specialist African and Afro-Caribbean food stores around London.

 

Excessively high contamination levels

 

“The levels of contamination found in the Active groundnut paste were 46 µg/kg of aflatoxin B1 and 59 µg/kg of total aflatoxin. For the Jesu Aka Ltd. peanut butter the levels found were 380 µg/kg of aflatoxin B1 and 410 µg/kg of total aflatoxin”, a FSA spokesperson told FoodProductionDaily.com.

 

She added: “This compares with maximum levels of 2 µg/kg for aflatoxin B1 and 4 µg/kg for total aflatoxin. Having looked at the risk to health from these products we can see that at normal levels of consumption of peanut butter there is unlikely to be any immediate concern.”

The products, which were manufactured in Ghana and imported and distributed by Marduro UK Ltd, also failed to comply with UK labelling requirements.

 

Local alert

 

The FSA said it is working council officials and the company to track down the tainted peanut products. Enforcement officers have been urged to visit African or Afro-Caribbean food stores in their areas, remove any of the products by the two companies and alert the FSA.

 

Unfortunately, we've been unable to establish the exact distribution of the products but we're working with local authorities to establish where these products may be on the market. The intelligence we have received to date suggests that we are looking at relatively small amounts of the product”, added the FSA spokesperson. “The company concerned has been working with the local authority leading the investigation into these products to establish a distribution history.”

 

Aflatoxins are a type of toxin which are produced by certain moulds that grow on foods in tropical and sub-tropical countries.

 

Product details

Active Peanut Butter and Active Groundnut Paste products are sold in clear plastic jars of various sizes, with a yellow lid and a red and yellow label. The wording 'Active Peanut Butter' or 'Active Groundnut Paste' is boldly printed on the label. The expiry date and batch code are often handwritten on the label or not provided at all.

The peanut butter manufactured by Jesu Aka Ltd is also sold in clear plastic jars with a yellow lid and a yellow and beige label. The wording ‘Peanut Butter’ is boldly printed on the label, with ‘manufactured by Jesu Aka Ltd’ appearing in smaller-sized text. The expiry date and batch code are handwritten on the label, which is sometimes unreadable. There is no clear brand name for this product, said the FSA.

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