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infants and young children has to be performed in a particular way (Table 2). The weight of an incremental sample must be > 100 g, and the aggregate sample > 1 kg. Sampling for baby foods and processed cereal-based foods for infants and young children for aflatoxins, ochra-toxin A, Fusarium toxins, and patulin should follow the format in Table 3 for lots < 50 t.

An ambiguous aspect of the described sampling procedure is the point in the food chain at which samples are taken. Regulation 401/2006/EC (European Commission, 2006) provides little guidance on this point. This problem can be particularly significant for raw products, since samples taken before or after procedures, such as cleaning could lead to different mycotoxin levels. For cereals, the maximum limit for Fusarium toxins is set before the first processing step; however for aflatoxins and ochratoxin A, no guidance is given. Therefore differences in the relative severity of contamination by these toxins may depend on the point in the food chain from which the sample was taken.

Sampling procedures for retail products also are available for derived products and compound foods with very small particle weights, e.g., flour and peanut butter, in which the mycotoxin contamination is more homogeneously distributed, and for peanuts, dried figs and derived products traded in vacuum packages.

Codex Alimentarius sampling procedures

Codex Alimentarius has begun to develop sampling procedures for mycotoxins. For example, for raw shelled peanuts, Codex recommends a single 20 kg sample. The sample test results must be < the accept/reject limit of 15 ng/g total aflatoxins for the lot be accepted (Codex Alimentarius, 2006). Codex also is considering sampling plans for aflatoxin contamination in almonds, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts and pistachios. In general Codex sampling plans are based on the principle that the importer and the exporter share the risk associated with sampling and the setting of the accept/reject limit.

Conclusions

Protocols aimed at the meaningful evaluation of mycotoxin contamination should identify the sites and the time (where and when) lots are to be sampled, and describe how a representative sample can be taken from the individual lots. Decisions on "where and when" lots should be sampled depend on the final target of the process of generating concentration data. These targets vary by country, policy and scientific expertise and infrastructure. European norms for taking representative test samples are amongst the most thorough and contribute greatly to the generation of good quality concentration data. A lack of representativeness of either the sampling lot or the test sample could result in errant conclusions regarding myco-toxin contamination levels and have serious consequences for both health and trade.

Acknowledgements

We thank Ms. Viviana Renzi for technical assistance.

References

Codex Alimentarius Commission. (2006) Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme Codex Committee on Food Additives and Contaminants. 38th Session (The Hague, The Netherlands, 24-28 April 2006). Proposed draft sampling plan for aflatoxin contamination in almonds, brazil nuts, hazelnuts and pistachios. (N07-2004) CX/FAC 06/38/21 February 2006.

European Commission. (1998) Commission Directive 98/53/EC of 16 July 1998 laying down the sampling methods and the methods of analysis for the official control of the levels for certain contaminants in foodstuffs. Official Journal ofthe European Union L 201, 17.07.1998, pp. 93-101.

European Commission. (2001) Commission Regulation (EC) No 466/2001 of 8 March 2001 setting maximum levels for certain contaminants in foodstuffs. Official Journal of the European Union L 077, 16.03.2001, pp. 1-13.

European Commission. (2002a) Commission Directive 2002/26/EC of 13 March 2002 laying down the sampling methods and the methods of analysis for the official control of the levels of ochra-toxin A in foodstuffs. Official Journal of the European Union L 075, 16.03.2002, pp. 38-43.

European Commission. (2002b) Commission Directive 2002/27/EC of 13 March 2002 amending Directive 98/53/EC laying down the sampling methods and the methods of analysis for the official control of the levels for certain contaminants in foodstuffs. Official Journal of the European Union L 075, 16.03.2002, pp. 44-45.

European Commission. (2003) Commission Directive 2003/78/EC of 11 August 2003 laying down the sampling methods and the methods of analysis for the official control of the levels of patulin in foodstuffs. Official Journal of the European Union L 203, 12.08.2003, pp. 40-44.

European Commission. (2004) Commission Directive 2004/43/EC of 13 April 2004 amending Directive 98/53/EC and Directive 2002/26/EC as regards sampling methods and methods of analysis for the official control of the levels of aflatoxin and ochratoxin A in food for infants and young children. Official Journal of the European Union L 113, 20.04.2004, pp. 14-16.

European Commission. (2005a) Commission Regulation (EC) No 856/2005 of 6 June 2005 amending Regulation (EC) No 466/2001 as regards Fusarium toxins. Official Journal of the European Union L 143, 07.06.2005, pp. 3-8.

European Commission. (2005b) Commission Directive 2005/38/EC of 6 June 2005 laying down the sampling methods and the methods of analysis for the official control of the levels of Fusarium toxins in foodstuff. Official Journal of the European Union L 143, 07.06.2005, pp. 18-26.

European Commission. (2006) Commission Regulation (EC) No 401/2006 of 23 February 2006 laying down the methods of sampling and analysis for the official control of the levels of mycotox-ins in foodstuffs. Official Journal of the European Union L 70, 09.03.2006, pp. 12-34.

Miraglia, M., de Santis, B., Minardi, V., Debegnach, F. and Brera, C. (2006) The role of sampling in myco-toxin contamination: An holistic view. Food Additives and Contaminants 22 (Supplement 1), 31-36.

Vargas, E.A., Whitaker, T.B., dos Santos, E.A., Slate, A.B., Lima, F.B. and Franca, R.C.A. (2006) Design of a sampling plan to detect ochratoxin A in green coffee. Food Additives and Contaminants 23, 62-72.

Whitaker, T.B. and Wiser, E.H. 1969. Theoretical investigations into the accuracy of sampling shelled peanuts for aflatoxin. Journal of the American Oil Chemists Society 46, 377-379.

Whitaker, T.B., Dickens, J.W. and Monroe, R.J. (1974) Variability of aflatoxin test results. Journal of the American Oil Chemists Society 51, 214-218.

Whitaker, T.B., Whitten, M.E. and Monroe, R.J. (1976) Variability associated with testing cottonseed for aflatoxin. Journal of the American Oil Chemists Society 53, 502-507.

Whitaker, T.B., Dickens, J.W. and Monroe, R.J. (1979) Variability associated with testing corn for aflatoxin. Journal of the American Oil Chemists Society 56, 789-794.

Whitaker, T.B., Dowell, F.E., Hagler, W.M. Jr., Giesbrecht, F.G. and Wu, J. (1994) Variability associated with sampling, sample preparation, and chemically testing farmers' stock peanuts for aflatoxin. Journal of AOAC International 77, 107-116.

Whitaker, T.B., Truckess, M.W., Johansson, A.S., Giesbrecht, F.G., Hagler, W.M. Jr. and Bowman, D.T. (1998) Variability associated with testing shelled corn for fumonisin. Journal of AOAC International 81, 1162-1168.

Whitaker, T.B., Hagler, W.M. Jr, Giesbrecht, F.G. and Johansson A.S. (2000) Sampling, sample preparation, and analytical variability associated with testing wheat for deoxynivalenol. Journal of AOAC International 83, 1285-1292.

Whitaker, T.B. (2004) Sampling for mycotoxins. In: Magan, N., and Olsen M. (eds.) Mycotoxins in Food: Detection and Control. Woodhead Publishing Ltd., Cambridge, UK, pp. 69-87

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