Europe has introduced additional measures to prevent Brazil nuts contaminated with unnacceptable levels of aflatoxins - a potential carcinogen - from entering the union.
The move comes after the UK and other EU Member States found consignments of unshelled nuts from Brazil above the regulatory limits.
Aflatoxins are toxins formed by certain moulds on food, particularly nuts and nut products grown in warm, humid conditions.
They have been shown to cause cancer in a number of animal species by damaging DNA. There is also evidence to suggest they may cause cancer in humans.
In a move to protect the consumer, the Commission has issued Decision 2003/493/EC. This introduces measures to ensure unshelled Brazil nuts from Brazil, that contain aflatoxins above regulatory levels, do not enter the EU.
The measures require that official Brazilian aflatoxin certificates accompany consignments that can only enter the EU at specified points. Consignments with unacceptable contamination will not be released onto the market.
In addition, Member States must submit to the European Commission a three monthly report of all analytical results deriving from the above official controls.
The Commission decision, which came into force on 5 July, will be reviewed before 1 May 2004 to assess the effectiveness of the new measures in protecting public health and whether further measures are required.
In order to demonstrate 'due diligence' processors will also carry out quality control on their products before they are placed on the market.