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Parliamentary questions
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14 January 2020
Answer given by Ms Kyriakides
on behalf of the European Commission
Question reference: E-003494/2019

Council Regulation (EEC) No 315/93(1) establishes that food containing a contaminant in an amount which is unacceptable from the public health viewpoint shall not be placed on the market. In order to protect public health for specific contaminants, maximum levels (MLs) were established in various food commodities by Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006(2). The establishment of MLs is prioritised for commodities which are the main contributors to the dietary exposure or in which frequently high levels are found, and MLs are set on the basis of occurrence data of the contaminants in food. When no MLs have been established, Member States can take enforcement action on the basis of Article 14 of the General Food Law(3), when a national risk assessment indicates a health risk.

Since the publication of the 2012 European Food Safety Authority scientific report on lead dietary exposure in the European population(4), additional occurrence data for lead in presumably non-adulterated turmeric have become available. Therefore, following recent findings of high levels of lead in turmeric, discussions with Member States will be initiated on the possible establishment of an ML for lead in turmeric.

While turmeric is not subject to harmonised EU border controls for lead, several Member States have been controlling it under their national control programmes. In 2019, the Commission coordinated a control plan at EU level(5) to assess the prevalence of non-compliances in the herbs and spices sectors, including possible intentional adulteration of spices such as turmeric with synthetic dyes and lead chromate. Results of this plan will be released in 2020.

(1) OJ L 37, 13.2.1993, p. 1
(2) OJ L 364, 20.12.2006, p. 5.
(3)Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 January 2002 laying down the general principles and requirements of food law, establishing the European Food Safety Authority and laying down procedures in matters of food safety, OJ L 31, 1.2.2002, p. 1
(4)EFSA Journal 2012;10(7):2831.
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