The European Commission has tightened the rules around imports of Galia melons from Honduras because of a recent Salmonella outbreak.

Emergence of a risk to human health because of possible Salmonella Braenderup contamination means official controls are to be increased with identity and physical checks on 10 percent of consignments entering the EU beginning Jan. 6.

The multi-country outbreak of Salmonella Braenderup that affected more than 350 people was traced to Galia melons from Honduras. Four people were sick in the United States and two in Canada. The UK was the most affected but ill people were also from Sweden, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Ireland, Luxembourg and Norway.

A sample of Salmonella Braenderup that matched the outbreak strain was found on the surface of a washing tank in one of the Honduran facilities where Galia melons were packed. The harvest season started again this month.

However, authorities in Honduras said the cause cannot be confirmed to be Galia melons from the country because a case was reported in July 2021 in Denmark, and no melons from Honduras were exported at that time.

The updated regulation temporarily changes the rate of official controls and puts emergency measures on entry into the EU of certain goods from some non-EU countries. Rules are modified every six months to account for new information on risks to health and non-compliance with EU legislation.

Expansion of ethylene oxide action
Changes are based on incidents reported through the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) portal and information from official controls by member states on food and feed of non-animal origin in the first part of 2021.

A number of measures were also taken on ethylene oxide, adding to increased controls on sesame seeds from India that began in October 2020. Thousands of products have since been recalled across Europe.

Consignments of locust beans (carob) from Morocco, spice paste from Mexico and peppers except sweet from Uganda will be subject to identity and physical checks at a rate of 10 percent.

Special conditions will apply to xanthan gum from China; locust beans including thickeners derived from the beans; Guar gum, several spices, calcium carbonate and food supplements containing botanicals from India; food supplements with botanicals and instant noodles from South Korea; locust beans from Malaysia and Turkey; and instant noodles from Vietnam.

Because of the contamination risk by ethylene oxide, these products must be accompanied by an official certificate stating results of sampling show compliance with EU regulation on maximum residue levels. They will also be checked at a frequency of 20 percent.

There is no change to the 20 percent frequency of checks on peanuts, peanut butter and peanut paste for aflatoxins from the United States.

New rules on black pepper, rice, nuts and peppers
Groundnuts and products from groundnuts from Argentina and hazelnuts and items produced from hazelnuts from Azerbaijan have both been subject to strict controls because of the risk of contamination by aflatoxins since January 2019.

However, an improvement in compliance means it will no longer be necessary to need an official certificate with each consignment showing results meet EU requirements. Groundnuts from Argentina will continue to be checked at a frequency of 5 percent and hazelnuts from Azerbaijan at a rate of 20 percent.

Sweet peppers from China have had an increased level of official controls because of the risk of contamination by Salmonella since January 2019. However, improved compliance means checks will drop to 10 percent from 20 percent.

Because of aflatoxins and Ochratoxin A in rice from India and Pakistan, checks will increase to 10 percent of consignments.

Controls on hazelnuts from Turkey because of aflatoxin are to be relaxed because of improved compliance. However, possible contamination of cumin seeds and dried oregano by pyrrolizidine alkaloids means checks at a rate of 10 percent will be applied.

Black pepper from Brazil has been checked more because of the risk of Salmonella contamination since January 2019. However, because of continuing issues, consignments will need to be accompanied by an official certificate stating that test results show absence of Salmonella in 25 grams. A transition period means shipments can enter the EU until Jan. 26, 2022, without an official certificate and the results of sampling and analysis. Frequency of checks are at 50 percent.

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