Food Law News - EU - 2012

Interested Parties Letter, 24 February 2012

CONTAMINANTS - Update on chemical contaminants in food

I am writing to bring you up to date on recent discussions at EU level as regards contaminants in food, including discussions on mycotoxins, industrial and environmental contaminants and Codex Alimentarius.

T2 and HT2 toxins

Following the EU Fusarium forum held on 3rd February and the exchange of information and representations made by stakeholders, an Expert Working Group meeting on Agricultural Contaminants took place on 13th February.

In light of the recent EFSA opinion on the sum of T2 and HT2 toxins, which did not identify a health concern and in consideration of other factors including the current knowledge on control of the toxins and availability of analytical methodology including certified reference materials, the Expert Working Group is currently discussing measures for further investigation of the occurrence of T2 and HT2 toxins, processing factors and possible guidelines levels.

The FSA supports an approach in line with better regulation and proportionate risk management action and to address data gaps in this area and would welcome any further information from stakeholders on T2 and HT2 toxins.

Zearalenone in wheat bran/ high-fibre cereals

Following the elevation of levels of zearalenone in bran and high-fibre breakfast cereals in 2009 and the agreed temporary measures put in place by the EU Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health, discussions are now continuing on whether appropriate and more permanent risk management measures to mitigate the possibility of future non-compliance can be agreed. This also follows on from the 2011 EFSA opinion, which can be found at

Measures currently being discussed are a permanent increase in the maximum level for breakfast cereals to 100 ìg/kg or the possibility of a legal based ad hoc derogation, during periods where elevated levels of zearalenone are found.

The FSA currently supports the introduction of a maximum level of 100 ìg/kg for zearalenone in all breakfast cereals. This is on the basis that an FSA exposure assessment for the types of breakfast cereal most likely to be contaminated by zearalenone does not indicate that the Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI) would be exceeded.

The FSA will continue to keep stakeholders abreast of developments on this issue as the negotiations progress at the EU level but welcomes any further data to support the agreement of a resolution to the issue.

Opium alkaloids in poppy seeds

Following the recent Scientific Opinion from EFSA on the public health risks from opium alkaloids in poppy seeds, the EU Expert Committee on Agricultural Contaminants has been discussing the possibility of regulatory action, in particular maximum levels for morphine in poppy seeds.

The FSA supports a harmonised and proportionate approach as regards risk management measures in this area to protect consumers where necessary. We welcome any data or information you have particularly on occurrence of opium alkaloids, distribution or; availability or consumption of poppy seeds in the UK.

Alternaria toxins

Following the recent Scientific Opinion from EFSA on the risks for animal and public health related to the presence of Alternaria toxins in feed and food, the EU Expert Committee on Agricultural Contaminants has been considering this Opinion and ways to address the data gaps that have been identified by EFSA. In particular, these relate to toxicity of Alternaria toxins, chemical structure and dietary exposure.

If you have any data or information as regards Alternaria toxins that you wish to submit or any comments on this issue, we would be grateful to hear from you.

Industrial contaminants

Concerning Commission Regulation (EC) No. 1881/2006 (as amended) in regard to the Commission’s review of maximum levels for cadmium.

The Commission has signalled that they are moving the proposal to inter-services scrutiny (other Directorates Generals of the Commission, such as DG Trade, will have a chance to consider, comment and influence). It will go to standing committee (SCoFCAH) as soon as possible (spring at the earliest) after this for discussion and possible agreement.

The FSA position has been to argue that any new or revised maximum levels should be proportionate and justifiable, and we have some concerns that not all of the proposals meet these criteria in regard to potential impact on producers and benefit to UK consumers although some other Member States have taken a different view. The recitals to the Regulation provide for maximum levels to be set at a strict level which is reasonably achievable by following good agricultural, fishery and manufacturing practices.

The final content of the proposal that will go to standing committee for vote has not yet been finalised, however the Commission is keen to take this forward.

Concerning Commission Regulation (EC) No. 1881/2006 (as amended) in regard to the Commission’s review of maximum levels for lead and the setting of maximum levels for arsenic in certain foods.

The discussions for revisions to maximum levels for lead are expected to commence in the near future. You should be aware also that discussion on EU maximum levels for inorganic arsenic in rice and possibly algae and other foods will begin in earnest shortly, though no draft document has yet been produced.

We anticipate that the Commission will consult stakeholders on any forthcoming proposals and we will undertake our own consultations as appropriate.

Proposed forthcoming amendments to EU legislation

Following recent discussions at EU Working Group level, the following points are due to be voted on at the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (Toxicological Section) on Monday 27th February 2012 as regards amendments to European Commission legislation on contaminants.

Concerning Regulation (EC) 1881/2006, as amended as regards ochratoxin A, PCBs and melamine and structural analogues:

Concerning Regulation (EC) No 124/2009 setting maximum levels for the presence of coccidiostats or histomonostats in food resulting from the unavoidable carry-over of these substances in non-target feed:

Concerning Regulation (EC) No 1152/2009 imposing special conditions governing the import of certain foodstuffs from certain third countries due to contamination risk by aflatoxins:

Concerning Regulation (EC) No 258/2010 imposing special conditions on the imports of guar gum originating in or consigned from India due to contamination risks by pentachlorophenol and dioxins:

Following an FVO audit of the Indian guar gum supply chain in October 2011, several concerns remain and some recommended improvements have yet to be implemented. Following a review by the EU Expert Committee on POPs in food on 9 February, it has therefore been decided that this Regulation will remain in place in its current form.

Preparation of discussions in advance of the Codex Committee on Contaminants in Food, 25 – 30 March 2012

The 6th session of the Codex Committee on Contaminants in Food (CCCF) will take place in Maastricht from 25th – 30th March 2012. The provisional agenda can be found at together with links to those documents that have currently been made available.

The UK has participated in the electronic Working Groups as regards the following areas of work:

Should stakeholders wish to discuss any of the forthcoming agenda items with the Food Standards Agency, including the UK position in advance of either the EU Coordination meeting on 8th March or the 6th session of CCCF at the end of March, please email as regards agricultural contaminants or my colleague Gavin Shears (; tel. 020 7276 88713) as regards industrial contaminants.

EFSA opinions

Following the request from the European Commission to EFSA for opinions on a number of mycotoxins and plant toxins, those relating to zearalenone, T2 and HT2 toxins, Alternaria toxins, pyrrolizidine alkaloids and morphine in poppy seeds have now been published and are available on the EFSA website via

The Scientific Opinion on phomopsins is due to be published shortly. Opinions on citrinin, ergot alkaloids, nivalenol, enniatins, beauvericin, diacetoxyscirpenol, moniliformin, sterigmatocystin and tropane alkaloids will follow at later dates.

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