Dr David Jukes, The University of Reading, UK

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Food Law News - EU - 2017

Commission Draft Regulation, 21 June 2017

CONTAMINANTS - Draft Commission Regulation amending Annexes II and III to Regulation (EC) No 396/2005 as regards maximum residue levels for mercury compounds in or on certain products

The Commission has published a draft Regulation for consultation. The following are the introductory recitals in the document. The full draft Regulation is available on this site along with two documents relating to the amendments to the Annexes - Document 1 and Document 2. The consultation closes on the 19th July 2017. For more details, see:

COMMISSION REGULATION (EU) …/… amending Annexes II and III to Regulation (EC) No 396/2005 of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards maximum residue levels for mercury compounds in or on certain products

(1) For mercury compounds, maximum residue levels (MRLs) were set in Annex II and Part B of Annex III to Regulation (EC) No 396/2005.

(2) Council Directive 79/117/EEC prohibited the placing on the market and use of plant protection products containing mercury compounds. All authorisations of plant protection products containing mercury compounds were revoked and consequently all MRLs were set at the relevant limit of determination (LOD).

(3) The Commission received information from food business operators and Member States showing the presence of mercury compounds in several products leading to higher residues than the LOD laid down in Regulation (EC) No 396/2005.

(4) Recent monitoring data confirms that residues of mercury compounds occur in several products at levels higher than the LOD. Taking into account the 95th percentile of all the sample results, the following occurrences were reported: tree nuts at 0,02 mg/kg; fresh herbs at 0,03 mg/kg; cultivated fungi at 0,05 mg/kg; wild fungi at 0,50 mg/kg, except for ceps at 0,90 mg/kg; oilseeds at 0,02 mg/kg; teas, coffee beans, herbal infusions and cocoa beans at 0,02 mg/kg; spices at 0,02 mg/kg, except ginger, nutmeg, mace and turmeric at 0,05 mg/kg; meat at 0,01 mg/kg, except for duck meat at 0,04 mg/kg and meat of wild game animals at 0,015 mg/kg; animal fat at 0,01 mg/kg; edible offal at 0,02 mg/kg except for offal of wild game animals at 0,025 mg/kg and offal of wild boar at 0,10 mg/kg; milk at 0,01 mg/kg; and honey at 0,01 mg/kg.

(5) As mercury containing pesticides have been phased out since more than thirty years in the Union, the presence of mercury in food can be considered due to environmental contamination. It is therefore appropriate to replace the default values with the ones listed in recital (4), thus reflecting environmental background of mercury in Regulation (EC) No 396/2005. This will enable national competent authorities to take appropriate enforcement action on the basis of realistic MRLs.

(6) The Scientific Panel on contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM Panel) of the European Food Safety Authority, hereinafter 'the Authority', adopted an opinion on mercury and methylmercury in food.

(7) As mercury compounds occur at low levels in the products listed in recital 3 and taking into account the available consumption data within the Union, the overall contribution to the dietary exposure is considered low and there is no health risk for consumers. The MRLs for those products should be set as temporary in Annex III to Regulation (EC) No 396/2005. Those MRLs will be reviewed; the review will take into account the information available within 10 years from the publication of this Regulation.

(8) The Commission consulted the European Union reference laboratories for residues of pesticides as regards the need to adapt the LODs. Those laboratories concluded that the current LODs should be maintained.

(9) Based on the opinion of the Authority and taking into account the factors relevant to the matter under consideration, the appropriate modifications to the MRLs fulfil the requirements of Article 14(2) of Regulation (EC) No 396/2005.

(10) Through the World Trade Organisation, the trading partners of the Union were consulted on the new MRLs and their comments have been taken into account.

(11) Regulation (EC) No 396/2005 should therefore be amended accordingly.

(12) The measures provided for in this Regulation are in accordance with the opinion of the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed.

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