A group has been set up to argue against restrictions by the EC on the use of a number of biocides disinfectants and sanitisers widely used by the food industry. It is also very concerned about much tougher maximum residue levels (MRLs) for chlorates.
Chlorates in food arise from the chlorination of water to make it safe to drink, and the use of chlorine-based biocides, including household bleach.
Under EU Regulation 396/2005 chlorate is classified as a pesticide although it is no longer approved for such use. A MRL of 0.01 mg of chlorate per kilogram of food applies. The EC is proposing new levels which will be consulted upon during 2016.
The Chilled Food Association (CFA), on behalf of the group of more than 14 UK industry associations, is leading the campaign. They have put together a joint position statement on the current EC regulatory proposals.
Kaarin Goodburn, director and secretary general of the CFA, said the UK industry would not allow food hygiene and safety to be compromised.
“We are seeking a risk-based approach to EU regulation and enforcement that fully takes food hygiene and safety into account,” said Goodburn. “We are not going to compromise having the lowest levels of listeriosis of the biggest countries in the EU for a pesticides residue regulation.”
‘We are not going to compromise’
The new group is working closely with the Food Standards Agency and the Health and Safety Executive to achieve its aims. It has supplied data, developed guidance on the use of biocides in cleaning and won agreement from the food and biocide and hygiene industry at EU level on the overarching approach to regulation.
The UK industry’s position statement noted that biocides are used routinely both in food production and in the home to prevent microbiological contamination of our food and water. It claimed biocides are extremely important in the production of high quality safe food, contributing vitally to food safety standards and helping to protect the consumer.
Benefits of using biocides
The statement explained that the UK food industry carries out extensive regular monitoring of foodstuffs, over and above any regulatory requirements, including for biocides. It added that the presence of a biocide does not indicate that there is any risk to humans and the benefits of using biocides to prevent microbiological contamination need to be balanced with the need to set practical levels.
It also claimed that the use of biocides plays an essential role in maintaining high standards of food hygiene, as required by law.
Goodburn warned that a MRL for chlorates set at the limit of detection would be impractical, in particular with regard to the extensive use of mains drinking water for irrigation, washing and transportation of fresh produce, and as in ingredient and in the processing of other foods.
“There is more chlorate coming out of the tap than would be allowed in the food,” she claimed. “Somebody has to grasp this as it doesn't make sense.”