With the horsemeat burgers still steaming hot in European home barbecues and the aflatoxin milk scare that pressed Danone Romania in recalling its products from shelves some days ago, Romania is a hit these days in food security transparency.
Romanian health inspection authorities have blocked from export some 11,000 tons of maize found in a warehouse belonging to Cerealcom provider which might be contaminated with high levels of aflatoxin. According to Romanian authorities, the aflatoxin results came out positive and the maize has been blocked from export until the owner runs his own confirmation tests. In case the owner’s result is negative, a third round of tests shall be applied and if it turns positive, the corn shall not be allowed for export but the producer may turn it into alcohol.
In the EU, the limits imposed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) state that the maximum levels for aflatoxin B1 and aflatoxin total (sum of aflatoxin B1 + B2+G1+G2) in unprocessed maize for human consumption are 5 and 10 µg/kg, in maize for direct human consumption 2 and 4 µg/kg respectively. In maize for animal nutrition a maximum of 20 µg/kg is established while there is no maximum level for aflatoxin total.
Aflatoxins are toxic secondary metabolites produced by two species of the genus Aspergillus, Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus. Aflatoxins are genotoxic and carcinogenic and can cause both acute and chronic toxicity in humans. Aflatoxins are most commonly found in cereals.
EFSA has also released a report last week on aflatoxin levels retrieved from food samples within the EU. The European Commission has stated recently in an Opinion of the Scientific Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain that an eventual temporary increase in maize aflatoxin levels did present health risks unless it was supported by a comprehensive risk assessment proving the contrary. Basically, the EU will not raise the aflatoxin limits for now.
However, in this case, the Romanian producer may still use the blocked production for corn whiskey.
Well that’s a relief for the rest of us here! Here here, I’ll drink to that!