Reduction of maximum levels of deoxynivalenol in cereals/cereal products
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EU proposes reducing maximum levels of deoxynivalenol in cereals/cereal-based foods – opportunity for feedback to WTO
Draft Commission Regulation amending Regulation (EU) 2023/915 as regards maximum levels of deoxynivalenol in food
The EU has informed the World Trade Organization Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (WTO SPS) Committee that deoxynivalenol levels in food products will be reduced in various cereal products to protect public health, especially for vulnerable groups such as infants and young children (G/SPS/N/EU/708). The products affected include milled maize products, precooked polenta, bakery wares, cereal snacks, breakfast cereals, pasta, and baby foods.
Cereal-based foods, wheat and barley products (flour, semolina, flakes), and unprocessed cereal grains (wheat, maize, barley), infant foods, precooked polenta, bakery wares, cereal snacks, breakfast cereals, pasta, baby foods
What is changing?
The European Commission proposes to lower existing maximum levels of the mycotoxin deoxynivalenol (DON) in various cereal-based foods. The changes to existing maximum levels are highlighted in Table 1.
EFSA (2017) expressed concerns about the levels of exposure to DON among European consumers, particularly for certain groups for whom the tolerable daily intake (TDI) could potentially be exceeded, creating health risks.
The new maximum levels are expected to apply from 1 July 2024.
What are the major implications for exporting countries?
To comply with these regulations, exporting countries may need to invest in more rigorous quality control measures and monitoring of contaminant levels in export crops. Non-compliance with these standards can lead to trade restrictions or bans, impacting the market access of exporting countries. Farmers and producers may need to adopt improved agricultural practices to reduce the risk of DON contamination.
Non-EU suppliers of cereal products should urgently evaluate current levels of DON in these products to identify any potential non-compliance and strategies for reducing the presence of this mycotoxin.
Agricultural practices to reduce the risk of DON contamination include crop rotation and the selection of resistant crop varieties. EU recommendations on preventing and reducing Fusarium toxins in cereals and cereal products can be found in Commission Recommendation 2006/583/EC.
Competent authorities of countries that are members of the WTO can submit comments on the EU’s proposal by emailing the EU SPS Enquiry Point until 4 March 2024. Maximum levels for contaminants take data on occurrence into account, so it is important that any comments submitted to the EU are supported with relevant data.
More generally, to mitigate the risks of potential non-compliance with maximum levels on contaminants, non-EU countries should do the following.
- Ensure sampling and testing capacity for the contaminants listed in EU Regulations. Relevant training is available, for example through the European Commission’s Better Training for Safer Food (BTSF) Academy.
- Ensure that, where feasible, established strategies for reducing contamination are systematically disseminated and implemented in relevant agricultural value chains.
- Contribute data to EFSA’s annual data collection process to ensure that risk assessments undertaken by EFSA have a complete picture of the current prevalence of contaminants in non-EU countries.
Mycotoxins are secondary metabolites produced by fungi that grow naturally in food and feedstuffs including grains, nuts, and fruits, particularly under warm and humid conditions. Deoxynivalenol is a specific type of mycotoxin produced by Fusarium species.
The European Union establishes maximum allowable limits for mycotoxins in food products to ensure that they remain within safe consumption levels. The legal framework for these maximum levels is established by Council Regulation (EEC) 315/93 (basic principles) and Commission Regulation (EU) 2023/915 (maximum levels). The EU aims to set maximum levels following the principle that they should be as low as reasonably achievable by applying good practices, and on the basis of scientific advice provided by EFSA, taking into account data on the occurrence of contaminants in foodstuffs from various origins. See EU legislation on contaminants – maximum levels explained.
EFSA (2017) Risks to human and animal health related to the presence of deoxynivalenol and its acetylated and modified forms in food and feed. EFSA Journal, 15(9): 4718.
European Commission (2008) Factsheet: Food contaminants.
The EU has issued a series of Guidance Documents on the measurement and control of contaminants, including a Guidance document on identification of mycotoxins and plant toxins in food and feed.
Commission Regulation (EU) 2023/915
Council Regulation (EEC) No 315/93
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