EUROPE – Two studies have delved into the intricacies of mycotoxins in nuts and potential hazards lurking in seafood.

The research, conducted by scientists utilizing data from the European Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) portal, uncovers trends and sheds light on critical issues plaguing the international food supply chain.

The first study scrutinized RASFF reports spanning a decade, from 2011 to 2021, revealing 4,752 mycotoxin-related incidents worldwide, reports Food Safety News.

Of these, 3,000 pertained to “nuts, nut products, and seeds,” with groundnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, and almonds singled out as major culprits.

95 percent of reports implicated aflatoxins, with China’s groundnuts facing a whopping 441 notices and a 91 percent border rejection rate for nuts exported to EU countries.

Groundnuts, susceptible to aflatoxin contamination due to their growth in fungus-prone soil, led the mycotoxin charge.

Aflatoxin B1 and ochratoxin A were also spotlighted, with 105 and 26 notifications, respectively. The frequency of RASFF notifications exhibited a rollercoaster trajectory, peaking at 443 in 2018, paralleling the implementation of stringent EU regulations in 2019, before tapering to 179 in 2021.

Global players and solutions

China dominated the origin of contaminated groundnuts, followed closely by Argentina, with the U.S. ranking fifth.

For pistachios, Iran and Turkey took the lead, while the U.S. claimed the top spot for almond exports, trailed by Australia. To counteract the menace, the Almond Board of California (ABC) ensured rigorous aflatoxin testing for almonds destined for EU export.

As exporting countries walk the tightrope of stringent regulations to avoid economic losses, a crucial concern emerges – the potential consumption of contaminated products domestically.

Researchers emphasize the need for exporting nations to align with EU Commission regulations in sampling, validation, and reporting, and to proactively address the root causes of contamination.

Simultaneously, another study, published in the journal Water, analyzed RASFF notifications for seafood from 1996 to 2020, revealing a myriad of hazards.

Microorganisms, heavy metals, veterinary products, poor hygiene, parasites, and allergens crowded the spectrum. Listeria, predominantly in salmon, and histamine in tuna and sardines emerged as persistent threats.

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