Adequate sampling is critically important for estimating the average level in a lot when the contaminants are heterogeneously distributed throughout the lot, as is common for myco-
toxins, and is an essential component in the development of any maximum level (see Mi-raglia et al., Chapter 16). In EU legislation, the maximum level for a contaminant is always tied to sampling protocols and requirements for analytical methods. EU policy is that the sampling procedure must be practical and must minimize the consumer's risk without rendering trade impossible. In terms of methods of analysis, no methods are specified in EU legislation but performance criteria that the methods must meet are defined.
The application of Regulation (EC) No 882/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on official controls ensures the verification of compliance with feed and food law, animal health and animal welfare rules (3). Commission Regulation (EC) No 401/2006 of 23 February 2006 defines the methods of sampling and analysis for the official control of the levels of mycotoxins in foodstuffs (4) and replaces four former Commission Directives on sampling and analytical methods for the official control of mycotoxins in foodstuffs, in particular for aflatoxins (5), ochratoxin A (6), patulin (7) and Fusarium toxins (8). This Regulation did not substantially modify the previous sampling procedures and requirements as regards the analytical methods, but did specify the sampling procedure by category of foodstuffs instead of by mycotoxin. The collection of the sampling provisions and the performance criteria for the analytical methods to be used for the official control of all mycotoxins into a single legal text significantly improved the clearness and the applicability of the legal provisions.
In addition, a guidance document for competent authorities for the control of EU legislation on aflatoxins was prepared. The guidance document provides additional practical information but this information is subordinate to the Regulation's provisions. A guidance document for the practical sampling of very large lots of cereals, e.g., large static lots stored in warehouses or in silos is currently being developed and will be available on the DG Health and Consumer website of the European Commission when it is finalized.
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