FSA update on food contaminants discussions in EU working groups

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has published an update on food contaminant discussions in EU Working Groups.

The issues covered include acrylamide, cadmium, furan, mercury in fish and perchlorate.

In summary as follows:

Environmental & industrial contaminants

Acrylamide: Regulation (EU) 2017/2158 establishing mitigation measures and benchmark levels for the reduction of the presence of acrylamide in food, has applied to food businesses from 11 April 2018.  The publication of the EU Commission guidance for food business operators on the application of the legislation is delayed but should be published soon. The future monitoring recommendation on acrylamide levels in foods has also been delayed. The Commission will start discussions this month to consider setting maximum levels for acrylamide in foods for infants and young children.

3-monochloropropane diol esters (3-MCPD esters) and Glycidyl esters (GE) : Commission discussions continue for the possible setting of maximum levels for 3-MCPD esters. There has been a consultation and possible maximum levels for 3-MCPD in vegetable oils and fats and GE in fish oils are set out within the FSA update.

Perchlorate: draft maximum levels proposed for fruts and vegetables, tea, herbal and fruit infusions and infant formula.

Furan and methylfurans: The Commission continues to consider future risk management approaches and the possibility of setting maximum levels for some foods (baby foods initially) 

Cadmium:  The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has reviewed monitoring data from 2014 to current to inform discussions on possible lowering of existing maximum levels and possible new maximum levels to be set for vegetables, cereals, starchy roots, tubers, oil seeds and certain fruits, that are not currently regulated. Research has looked at farming practices which may reduce levels of cadmium. 

Mercury and mthylmercury in fish: No changes at present time.

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs): Small-scale, traditional smoked meat and fish products sold on national territory has a derogaqtion,  the UK has decided that further cover was not necessary. 

Agricultural contaminants and plant toxins

Ergot alkaloids: Discussions continue on setting maximum levels (MLs) for ergot alkaloids in cereal-based products. Initially, MLs are being discussed for milling products (barley, wheat, oats, spelt and rye). It is possible that MLs will also be set for cereal-based foods for infants and young children. It has also been suggested that the current ML for ergot sclerotia in cereal grains could be lowered from 0.5 g/kg to 0.1 g/kg. 

Alternaria toxins: There is no specific toxicity data for some of these mycotoxins, therefore guidance levels are being considered. Foods currently considered for guidance levels: processed tomato products, paprika powder, sunflower seeds, cereal based foods for infants and young children. 

Citrinin in red yeast rice supplements: There is support for lowering the current ML of 2000 µg/kg to 100 µg/kg for food supplements based on rice fermented with red yeast Monascus purpureus

Erucic acid: Discussions continue on setting the following MLs for erucic acid in oils and fats

Pyrrolizidine alkaloids in honey, tea, herbal infusions and food supplements: Concern on possible health implications. Risk management measure proposals such as setting MLs are taking place.

Tropane alkaloids: EFSA has concluded that some population groups – especially infants, toddlers and children could exceed the safety guideline levels for atropine and scopolamine. Currently, MLs exist for processed cereal-based foods and baby foods for infants and young children, containing millet, sorghum, buckwheat or their derived products. Occurrence data have shown that corn (maize) can also be contaminated with tropane alkaloids; therefore, the existing MLs will be extended to processed cereal foods and baby foods for infant and young children containing corn. Since higher concentrations of atropine and scopolamine can also be found in products derived from buckwheat, millet and sorghum (milling products) as well as herbal infusions, popped cereals (cornflakes), cereal bars and spices, regulatory measures such as setting of MLs are being considered for these categories also. 

Ochratoxin A (OTA): EFSA to carry out an updated exposure assessment and if necessary, update the risk assessment. An opinion is expected by July 2019. Risk management actions will be considered after this.

Persistent Organic Pollutants

Dioxins: EFSA has adopted a new Scientific Opinion on the risk for animal and human health related to the presence of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs in feed and food. It is not expected to be published until towards the end of this year.

Perfluorinated compounds: There is a new scientific opinion from EFSA on the risk to human health related to the presence of perfluorooctane sulfonic acid and perfluorooctanoic acid in food to be published soon.

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