Recurrent pesticide residue notifications (56) included sweet peppers from Turkey (all border rejections) notified by Bulgaria and alerts due to aflatoxins in dried figs, pistachios and hazelnuts.
Origin of the most notifications (77) was Turkey for pesticide residues in fruits and vegetables and the same country for 68 notices of aflatoxins in nuts, nut products and seeds.
Notifications by country of origin were Turkey (274), China (254), India (200), US (178), Spain (177), Poland (135), France (118), Germany (117) Netherlands (110) and Italy (107).
Bulgaria made 71 notifications for pesticide residues in fruits and vegetables, Germany (65) and Netherlands (63) for aflatoxins in nuts, nut products and seeds and Italy (59) for mercury in fish and fish products.
Food poisoning and allergic reactions
In 2016, 50 notifications were triggered by food poisoning. Another 10 were linked to elevated histamine levels in tuna.
These included an E. coli (STEC O26) outbreak of 25 cases; 19 people developed HUS and three died with a link to Romanian cheese that tested positive for E. coli O26 but negative for virulent stx genes and a Salmonella outbreak associated with eggs from Poland.
In six cases consumers suffered allergic reactions as the presence of an allergen was not marked on the label.
Original messages by notifying country were Italy (419), Germany (369), UK (349) and Netherlands (287).
Notification for pathogenic microorganisms (685) was the leading hazard category with mycotoxins (551) in second and pesticide residues next (253) and heavy metals in fourth (218).
Order of the top three was the same last year but pathogenic microorganism alerts declined (from 745), mycotoxins rose from 476 and pesticide residue notices fell from 405.
Fruits and vegetables topped notifications by product category (497), followed by nuts, nut products and seeds (443) and fish and fish products (327).
This was the same order as 2015 but fruit and veg (634 in 2015) and nut and seeds (477) alerts declined while fish notifications rose (from 297).
Salmonella, allergens, aflatoxins and heavy metals
Salmonella remains the most frequently reported pathogen in food from member countries (170 notifications). Meat is the bulk of notifications but some were made for egg products with S. Enteritidis in particular.
Recurrent Salmonella alerts are Betel leaves from India – 45 notifications (all border rejections), mostly notified by the UK.
Fish was most often noted for Listeria monocytogenes but France was the most frequently notified country for L. monocytogenes due to companies’ own checks on cheeses.
Milk, soya, nuts and gluten are the most commonly reported allergens. Cereals and bakery are the most often notified, in particular by Germany, reporting largely on products of German origin.
Heavy metals are dominated by mercury in fish, mostly from Spain and predominantly notified by Italy. Mercury in swordfish is the most recurrent with 58 notifications of which 45 notified by Italy on swordfish of Spanish origin.
Recurrent aflatoxin notifications are pistachio nuts from Iran – 56 notifications (49 border rejections), groundnuts from China – 49 notifications (48 border rejections) and hazelnuts from Turkey – 33 notifications (30 border rejections).
Dietetic foods, food supplements and fortified foods made up 198 notifications.
High content of caffeine in this product category was notified 24 times by Germany.
Novel food notifications increased significantly in 2016. Most concerned food supplements, primarily from the US.
Unauthorised ingredient (65 notifications), high content of substance (15) and unauthorised colour (12) were the reasons.
Rise in alerts but fall in original notifications
The most straightforward notifications are rejections at the EU border. They primarily concern the presence of Salmonella or pesticide residues in vegetables and fruits and aflatoxins in nuts.
The Commission’s RASFF team also manages daily operation of the Administrative Assistance and Cooperation (AAC) and Food Fraud (FF) networks.
Compared to 2015, the number of alerts rose by 9% to 847 and alert follow-ups by 16% to 4,666 while the total number of exchanges was above 10,000.
In 2016, 2,993 original notifications went through the RASFF, of which 28% were alerts, 13% (378) as information for follow-up, 20% (598) as information for attention and 39% (1,170) as border rejection notification.
Overall figures are a 1.8% decrease in original notifications compared to 2015 but a 17.5% increase in follow-up notifications, resulting in an overall rise of 11.1%.
“The increase in alerts (both follow-ups and original notifications) is significant for the last consecutive three years, contrasting with decreasing numbers in other notification categories,” said the report.
“This demonstrates that members of the network are progressively focusing their efforts on cases where serious risks with products placed on the market require rapid action to be taken, thereby increasing the efficiency of the network.”