Amendments on contaminant levels in force

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags European union Milk

Three new EU regulations on contaminant levels in food came into
force this month, requiring tougher safety controls in
manufacturing plants.

The EU-wide regulations on contaminants are part of the legislative push to increase the safety of the food chain, by cutting down the levels of chemical residues found in products, including those used as pesticides or as part of the processing cycle. The measures aim to ensure a harmonised approach to the enforcement of contaminants levels across the EU. The regulations aim to reduce uncertainty or dispute in interpreting results against regulatory limits. Regulation (EC) 1881/2006 sets maximum levels for specific contaminants in foodstuffs, while regulation 1882/2006 sets out the methods testers must use in sampling and analysis for the control of nitrate levels in lettuce and spinach. The third regulation, 1883/2006, deals with sampling and analysis methods for determining the levels of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs in specific foodstuffs. All three regulations came into force on 1 March, adding to the hygiene laws already in place throughout the EU. The main changes deal with testing for contaminant levels in dried, diluted, processed and compound foodstuffs, mycotoxins, and dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs An amendment applying to dried, diluted, processed and compound foodstuffs requires food businesses to provide data on the specific concentration or dilution factors used for their products. Manufacturers using groundnuts, derived products, and cereals must clearly label them indicating their intended use, either for feed, food or other purposes. If a regulator decides a business is not in compliance then it may apply a concentration or dilution factor deemed to be "most appropriate" for the protection of public health. The regulations also set maximum levels of particular contaminants for certain foodstuffs. An amendment on mycotoxins widens the scope of the set limits on deoxynivalenol and zearalenone to include bran and germ intended for direct human consumption. Bran and germ were originally intended to be covered by the regulations limits for fusarium toxins in cereals and cereal products. However, the limits were accidentally omitted from previously published regulations, which came into force on the 1 July 2006. Another amendment on heavy metals widens the scope of the limits on lead, which previously only applied to cow's milk. Under the new regulation the maximum level now applies to all farmed animals, including sheep and goat milk. Milk products including cheese are already covered under the regulation. The maximum level for lead in fish has been revised to bring it into line with the recently agreed international Codex limit of 300 mg/kg. The change represents an increase in the general EC limit for fish, currently at 200 mg/kg, and a decrease in the limit for specified fish species, currently at 400 mg/kg. The proposals also extend the limits set for the mycotoxins deoxynivalenol and zearalenone to cereal bran marketed for direct human consumption and for germination. In the case of limits set for heavy metals, the maximum levels set for lead now cover all farm animals, and not just cow's milk. The limit on levels of cadmium found in the liver and kidney has been extended to include horse meat. Pine nuts have been excluded from the limits of cadmium set for vegetables and fruit. In the case of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs, farmed game are excluded from the limits set for meat and meat products. The limits set for liver, derived products, and fat is now restricted to bovines, sheep, poultry, pigs. EU regulations are translated into national laws by each country's regulatory authority or government.

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