Maximum levels for ochratoxin A

Ochratoxin A is a mycotoxin produced by several species of fungi including Penicillium and Aspergillus. It occurs naturally in a wide variety of plant products. The European Scientific Committee for Food adopted a scientific opinion on 17 September 1998 regarding ochratoxin A. An assessment of the dietary intake of ochratoxin A by the population of the Community (14) was performed (SCOOP) in the framework of Council Directive 1993/5/EEC of 25 February 1993 on assistance to the European Commission and cooperation by the Member States in the scientific examination of questions relating to food (15). The EFSA has, on request from the European Commission, adopted an updated scientific opinion relating to ochratoxin A in food on 4 April 2006 (16), taking into account new scientific information and derived a tolerable weekly intake (TWI) of 120 ng/kg body weight (bw).

The main contributors to ochratoxin A exposure are cereals and cereal products. Wine, coffee and beer also are significant contributors to human ochratoxin A exposure. Dried vine fruits and grape juice also contribute a significant portion of the ochratoxin A exposure of some vulnerable consumer groups, e.g., children. Ochratoxin A also has been detected in dried fruits other than dried vine fruits, cocoa and cocoa products, spices, liquorice and in some products of animal origin, particularly pig kidneys.

Maximum levels of ochratoxin A have been set for cereals, cereal products, dried vine fruits, roasted coffee, wine, grape juice and foods for infants and young children, which are as low as reasonably achievable (Table 2). The level of ochratoxin A in beer is dependent on the ochratoxin A level in the malt, a cereal product and for which a maximum level has been established. The appropriateness of setting a maximum level for ochratoxin A in foods such as dried fruits other than dried vine fruits, cocoa and cocoa products, spices, meat products, green coffee, beer and liquorice, as well as a review of the existing maximum levels (Table 2), in particular for ochratoxin A in dried vine fruits and grape juice, is being considered in light of a recent EF-SA scientific opinion. These technical discussions led to following provisional conclusions (17):

• To keep the current maximum levels unchanged.

• For food commodities in which ochratoxin A has been observed and for which no EU maximum level has yet been established, to consider setting a maximum level for food commodities that are significant contributors to the exposure of ochratoxin A (for the entire population, for vulnerable groups in the population, or for a significant part of the population), or for foods that are not necessarily a significant contributor to the exposure of ochratoxin A but there is evidence of very high levels of ochratoxin A in these commodities. In the latter case, the setting of a maximum level could be appropriate to keep these highly contaminated commodities from entering the food chain.

• To continue monitoring ochratoxin A in foods for which no maximum levels are set. If high levels of ochratoxin A are found frequently then these findings will be brought to the attention of the Commission and other Member States and discussions on the appropriateness of setting a maximum level for ochratoxin A in these commodities initiated in light of the new findings.

European Union Mycotoxin Legislation Table 2. Maximum levels (ng/g) for ochratoxin A in foods.

Food(s) Maximum level

Food(s) Maximum level

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