Answer to Written Question: European measures concerning sesame seeds contaminated with ethylene oxide

(Source: European Parliament)



Answer given by Ms Kyriakides

on behalf of the European Commission


The safety of European consumers is a priority for the Commission. Food products placed on the EU market must comply with maximum residue levels (MRLs) for pesticides[1] that ensure that consumers are not exposed to harmful levels of pesticides. Enforcement of MRLs falls in the remit of EU Member States[2].

  1. For ethylene oxide (ETO), current information, including Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed notifications, indicate some findings on spices and herbs. Meanwhile, the number of EU laboratories performing accredited analyses for this non-approved substance is gradually increasing with the support of the EU Reference Laboratories, while certain Member States are currently deploying small scale monitoring programmes, specifically for ETO on commodities other than sesame seeds.
  • Regulation (EU) 2019/1793[3] lays down rules concerning the temporary increase of official border controls and special import conditions on certain food and feed of non-animal origin from certain third countries, including India. The Commission reviews this Regulation regularly in light of new information on risks and non-compliance. The Commission has strengthened controls on sesame seeds imported from India for the risk of contamination by ethylene oxide by way of a safeguard measure[4]adopted in October 2020. The Commission will assess in the ongoing review of Regulation (EU) 2019/1793 if further measures should be established for commodities from India.
  • The Commission is following closely that issue by engaging in regular technical exchanges with Indian authorities concerning measures to ensure that consignments exported to the EU comply with the requirements of EU legislation.

[1] Regulation (EC) No 396/2005 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 February 2005 on maximum residue levels of pesticides in or on food and feed of plant and animal origin and amending Council Directive 91/414/EEC

[2] 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

[3] Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/1793 of 22 October 2019 on the temporary increase of official controls and emergency measures governing the entry into the Union of certain goods from third countries implementing Regulations (EU) 2017/625 and (EC) No 178/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council (OJ L 277, 29.10.2019, p. 89)

[4] Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/1540 of 22 October 2020 amending Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/1793 as regards sesamum seeds originating in India (OJ L 353, 23.10.2020, p. 4)

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