Chlorate in pangasius raises RASFF notifications

The European Commission’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) listed eight incidences of chlorate in seafood over the last 2 months.

The issue was discussed at the SIPA Board Meeting earlier this month (19 November 2019).

Chlorate is a residue that can arise following the use of chlorine-based biocidal products, such as those used in water disinfection and surface cleaning. The European Commission has been looking at biocide residues in food for a number of years, and is now close to approving legislation to limit chlorate residues in foods. The minimum residue levels (MRLs) will be applied in pesticide legislation, Regulation (EC) 396/2005, and it is our understanding that they will not be directly applicable to seafood.

EFSA Opinion
EFSA published its Scientific Opinion on risks for public health related to the presence of chlorate in food in 2015. The Opinion identified that exposure to chlorate residues has the toxic effect of inhibiting iodine uptake in humans. The tolerable daily intake (TDI) was set at 3 µg chlorate/kg body weight, which is equivalent to about 0.2 mg of chlorate per day for an adult.

There has been significant lobbying by European federations (such as FoodDrinkEurope and FRUCOM) against legislation restricting the use of biocides. Biocidal disinfectants are vital for the food industry to maintain its high standards of hygiene. In the seafood industry, it is critically important that water that comes into contact with fish, or which is incorporated in fish products, is microbiologically safe. SIPA agrees with the European federations that a safe minimum level of biocide residue has to be set that also takes account of the need for continued use of food grade disinfectants. SIPA also agrees that the pesticide regulation is an inappropriate legal instrument for setting limits on biocidal residues.

The eight RASFF notifications were raised by Germany, all of which pertain to frozen pangasius fillets. In all but one of the cases, the risk severity was classed as ‘serious’, and resulted in recalls and withdrawals of the product.

More information on chlorate is available to SIPA members via this link.