Proposed changes to the levels of checks on a range of products, including sesame seeds from India and Turkey for Salmonella, have been put forward by UK food agencies.

The plans cover official controls and special conditions on imported high-risk food and feed that is not of animal origin. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Food Standards Scotland (FSS) are consulting on the changes.

Proposals involve 25 updates to the lists in regulation. Controls should be removed for one product group, reduced for four products, increased for two commodities, and introduced for 15 items. FSA said a range of evidence was used in the decision-making process.

Imports of higher-risk food and feed of non-animal origin from specified countries can only enter Great Britain through designated Border Control Posts (BCP) where official controls are undertaken, including documentary, identity, and physical examinations such as sampling.

Countries and products affected
According to an assessment, controls for pesticide residues on groundnuts from Brazil, which includes seven separate commodities, should be removed due to a reduction in risk.

Reduced checks should be applied to four items from India. These are guar gum for pentachlorophenol and dioxins, nutmeg for aflatoxins, peppers of the Capsicum species for aflatoxins, and sesame seeds for pesticide residues due to improved compliance. Controls on sesame seeds will be reduced from 50 to 30 percent. Checks on guar gum and peppers will be at 20 percent and at 50 percent for nutmeg.

Tea from China for pesticide residues and sesame seeds from India for Salmonella should be subjected to enhanced controls because of concerns about their risk to public health. The frequency of controls on tea will be 5 percent, and those on sesame seeds will increase from 20 to 30 percent.

Items covered by new controls include a mixture of nuts, hazelnut paste, and hazelnut oil from Georgia, as well as groundnut paste from Madagascar and Argentina due to aflatoxin. Sesame seeds and tahini and halva from sesame seeds from Turkey will be controlled for Salmonella at a rate of 10 percent.

Checks for pesticide residues will be applied to cumin seeds, cumin seeds crushed or ground, fenugreek leaves and yardlong beans from India; basil and mint from Israel, mukunuwenna from Sri Lanka, and grapefruits from Turkey. 

Feedback is open until late April
Recommendations will be made to ministers. Food safety is a devolved subject, and ministers in each country make decisions about it. Comments on the plans are open until April 25. Legislation to implement the changes should come into force by late 2024.

It is the third time FSA and FSS have done such work. On the last occasion, 39 updates to the lists were recommended. These included checks on 20 percent of enoki mushroom shipments from South Korea and China due to Listeria, tahini, and halva from sesame seeds from Syria at 10 percent for Salmonella, and 10 percent of groundnut paste from the United States for aflatoxin. Legislation to implement the changes came into force on March 7 this year.

In the previous consultation in July and August 2023, 13 comments were received from groups, including the Food and Drink Federation, Institute of Food Science and Technology, Fresh Produce Consortium, and Nestlé UK and Ireland.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)