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Serbia orders measures to control aflatoxin level in milk

By Mark Astley, 25-Feb-2013

Related topics: Markets, Regulation & Safety, Fresh Milk

The Serbian government has ordered dairy farmers in the country to implement “necessary” measures to control aflatoxin levels in the milk they produce in response to a mass recall of dairy products and widespread safety concerns.

Consumer concerns regarding the safety of Serbian dairy products arose earlier this month following the issue of an aflatoxin-related ban on Croatian milk. Subsequent tests on samples of milk from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina revealed elevated levels of the toxin.

Aflatoxins are highly toxic substances naturally formed by the fungus Aspergillus flavus on foodstuffs. They are considered to be carcinogenic.

Some milk products have been pulled from shelves in the country, according to government-confirmed reports. Milk consumption is also claimed to have fallen by 90% since the reports initially emerged.

No “more than 20ppb” in feed

In response to the concerns, the Serbian Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management has ordered dairy farmers and producers of animal feed in the country to the implement “necessary” measures.

“In order to produce safe milk and other animal products it is necessary to implement the following measures,” said theMinistry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management statement.

The Ministry also ordered that regardless of legislation, farmers should avoid feeding cows with corn containing aflatoxin at “more than 20 ppb” – despite regulation in country allowing levels of up to 50 parts per billion (ppb).

It has also urged farmers to add mycotoxin absorbents to feed. According to the Ministry, “adequate application” of these absorbents should remove any mycotoxins present in milk within a few days.

“No adverse consequences” to Serbians

In a statement issued late last week, the Serbian government confirmed that some milk products had been removed from circulation, but reiterated the safety of dairy products from the country.

The Serbian government in its today’s meeting assessed that milk and dairy products that are sold in Serbia are entirely fit for use having no adverse consequences for health of our citizens,” said the government.

The statement mirrored earlier comments by Goran Knezevic, the Serbian Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management.

“Those who have been drinking any milk bought in stores have no reason to worry about their health because of aflatoxin in it at the level of the values that have for years and decades considered normal,” he said.

“For example, in the United States permitted level of aflatoxin in milk is ten times higher than ours. So, Barack Obama drinks milk of the same or of lower quality than the citizen of Serbia.”