Contaminants are substances that may be present as a result of the various stages of its growing, processing, packaging, transport or storage. The different forms of contamination are:
• Nitrate: a maximum level of 2,000 mg NO-3/kg applies for frozen spinach (see section 1 of Annex of Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006)
• Aflatoxin: limits have been set for aflatoxins B1, B2, G1 and G2 in most edible nuts and dried fruit (see section 2 of Annex of Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006)
• Ochratoxin A: applies to dried vine fruit (currants, raisins and sultanas) and grape juice (see section 2 of Annex of Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006). OTA is hard to prevent as it has a lot to do with climatic conditions.
• Patulin: for different types of fruit juices limits between 10 and 50 μg/kg apply (see section 2 of Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006).
• Heavy metals: there are restrictions for lead (fruit, fruit juices, various kinds of vegetables), cadmium (fruit and vegetables) and tin (canned food and beverages) (see section 3 of Annex of Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006)
• Microbiological: according to EU legislation salmonella is an important source of contamination in unpasteurised fruit and vegetable juices and cannot be present. For E-coli of the 5 samples only two can have a value between 100 cfu/g and 1 000 cfu/g. For other processed fruit and vegetables and edible nuts there are no EU requirements. Food safety authorities however can withdraw imported food products from the market or prevent them from entering the EU when salmonella is found present.
• Pesticides: the EU has set maximum residue levels (MRLs) for pesticides in and on food products. Products containing more pesticides than allowed will be withdrawn from the EU market.
• Foreign matter: contamination by foreign matter like plastic and insects are a threat when food safety procedures are not carefully followed.
• Understand better growing, drying, processing and storage practices and discuss them with your suppliers. For an example refer to the good manufacturing practices for Tree Nuts and Dried Fruit Processing Plants in Afghanistan.
• For information on safe storage and transport of processed fruit and vegetables and edible nuts go to the website of the Transport Information Service.
• Check the European Commission’s factsheet on food contaminants “Managing food contaminants: how the EU ensures that our food is safe”
• Read more about contaminants in the EU Export Helpdesk
Irradiation is a way to combat microbiological contamination but this is not allowed by EU legislation for processed fruit and vegetables and edible nuts.
• To find out the MRLs that are relevant for your products, you can use the EU MRLdatabase in which all harmonised MRLs can be found. You can search on your product or pesticide used and the database shows the list of the MRLs associated to your product or pesticide. Read more about MRLs in the EU Export Helpdesk.
• A good way to reduce the amount of pesticides, is applying integrated pest management (IPM) which is an agricultural pest control strategy that uses complementary strategies including growing practices and chemical management.