Notifications have been trending downward in recent years

In a study published in Food Research International, researchers analyzed notifications from the European Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) on nuts and nut products contaminated with mycotoxins over a 10-year period.

Mycotoxins —secondary metabolites of various fungi— are observed in a broad range of human food and animal feed, including nuts, fruits, oil seeds, corn, herbs, spices and pulses. Mycotoxin contaminations generate more RASFF notifications than other hazards.

The study assessed the RASFF notifications for key mycotoxins such as total aflatoxins, aflatoxin B1 (AFB1) and ochratoxin A (OTA) in nuts and nut products exported to EU countries between 2011 and 2021. During the study period, a total of 4,752 mycotoxin RASFF notifications were published for food products from all origins worldwide. Sixty-three percent of these notifications were for products in the category “Nuts, Nut Products and Seeds.” Of these, 52% were for peanuts, 27% for pistachios, 10% for hazelnuts and 5% for almonds. During the study period, 95% of notifications in peanuts, pistachios, hazelnuts and almonds were for total aflatoxins, followed by 4% for AFB1 and 1% for OTA.

The number of RASFF notifications in nuts and nut products increased from 233 in 2012 to 293 in 2015, reaching a peak of 443 in 2018 before decreasing to 179 in 2021. Stricter regulations established by the EU in 2019, which increased the frequency of official controls on products from certain origins, might explain the decline in RASFF mycotoxin notifications after 2018.

In 91% of notifications involving nuts or nut products, the shipments were rejected at the border. Border rejections increased from 2013 to 2018, peaking at 405 in 2018, before falling to 179 in 2021, following a similar trend to that outlined above for total notifications.

Most RASFF notifications for mycotoxin contamination in nuts were for peanuts, especially those from China. Peanuts are susceptible to aflatoxins because they grow in the soil where aflatoxin-producing fungi thrive. Moreover, the variance of climate within China presents distinct favorable environmental conditions for aflatoxin production and the growth of aflatoxin-producing fungi. Notifications in peanuts from China peaked in 2015 at 92 and followed a downward trend thereafter, dropping to just 4 notifications in 2021. This change in trend coincided with the adoption an EU regulation during the 2014/15 season that imposed specific conditions on the import of certain peanuts from China.

More information

Related Articles

Join us

Sign up to become a member of the INC and discover the benefits of INC membership. Or subscribe and have access to our magazine, industry newsletters and industry directory.

Privacy Preference Center