Skip to main content
ARS Home » Southeast Area » Raleigh, North Carolina » Market Quality and Handling Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #148833


item Whitaker, Thomas

Submitted to: Food Control
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/15/2004
Publication Date: 11/29/2004
Citation: Adams, J.G., Whitaker, T.B. 2004. Peanuts, aflatoxin, and the u.s. origin certification program. Food Control. p 183-196.

Interpretive Summary: Aflatoxin is a naturally occurring toxic and carcinogenic compound produced by fungi and is found on various commodities such as peanuts, other nuts, and grains. About 95 countries worldwide, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, have established maximum limits for aflatoxin levels in consumer foods. In an attempt to detect and remove contaminated peanuts from the food supply, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the peanut industry work closely together to inspect all peanut lots for aflatoxin before shipment to a domestic manufacturer of consumer-ready products or to the export market. U.S. exporters test peanut lots for aflatoxin before shipment to foreign countries. Because of the large uncertainty associated with measuring aflatoxin in bulk shipments, lots that test good in the U.S. may test bad by importing authorities upon arrival in a foreign port. As a result, U.S. exporters suffer large economic losses and importers suffer a disruption in supply when shipments have to be returned to the U.S. or destroyed due to aflatoxin contamination. To reduce the problem of rejecting U.S. lots by importing authorities, the U.S. peanut industry negotiated an Origin Certification Program (OCP) with the European Union (EU), the largest importer of U.S. peanuts. The EU reviewed the USDA Aflatoxin Control Program and found it provided a similar level of consumer protection as required by EU regulations. The EU agreed to allow the USDA to test export lots for aflatoxin in the U.S. and certify that the peanuts meet EU aflatoxin regulations. The Origin Certification Program will reduce lots rejected at the port of entry, reduce the disruption in supply, reduce economic losses, and maintain EU standards for consumer safety. Currently the two largest EU member countries to import U.S. peanuts, the United Kingdom and The Netherlands, are using the Origin Certification Program.

Technical Abstract: The European Union (EU) reviewed the U.S. Origin Certification Program (OCP) to test U.S. export peanuts for aflatoxin at origin and indicated that the OCP provides a similar level of assurance as the EU directive concerning aflatoxin testing in various commodities. EU member countries that choose to use the OCP are not precluded from conducting random testing of lots for aflatoxin at the port of entry. For domestic use, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires three 22-kg laboratory samples to average less than 15 total ng/g for acceptance. The EU requires one 30-kg laboratory sample to test less than 15 total ng/g (8B1) for raw peanuts destined for further processing, and three 10-kg laboratory samples to all test less than 4 total ng/g (2B1) for consumer-ready peanuts sold for direct human consumption. The U.S. proposal to the EU was to use the official USDA 22-kg sample for raw peanuts or divide the USDA 22-kg sample into three 7.3-kg samples for consumer-ready peanuts. In addition, the U.S. provides copies of official USDA grade and aflatoxin certificates for traceability and all aflatoxin test results for verification. The origin certification program will reduce lots rejected at the port of entry, reduce the disruption in supply, reduce economic losses, and maintain EU standards for consumer safety. The origin certification program is an example of an agreement between two countries that is mutually beneficial to both while maintaining high standards for consumer safety.