The Food Standards Agency seeks comments on nitrate levels

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is inviting comments from the industry on draft EU legislation concerning nitrate levels in green leafy vegetables.

The draft legislation sees rocket brought under the rules for the first time - causing concern among growers. In addition, current derogations for lettuce and spinach will be removed once the regulation is passed.

An update issued last Friday by the FSA states that following further discussions that have taken place at expert working group level, it is anticipated that a draft regulation will "shortly be subject to vote at a standing committee meeting, possibly next month".

The main proposed changes from the current legislation include:

- Discontinuation of a derogation for certain member states.

- Increase in maximum levels for fresh spinach and fresh lettuce.

- Inclusion of maximum levels for rocket.

The FSA said that although the document may still be subject to some change depending on further discussions within the EU, it is unlikely that such changes would be substantial. It added: "Comments from interested parties on the draft regulation are welcome to inform the negotiations in Brussels and provide information for the impact assessment.

"We are interested in the incremental impact of the proposal, including any additional costs, or potential benefits and any other relevant data and information that you may wish to provide."

Stockbridge Technology Centre chief executive Graham Ward said the regulations were becoming more meaningless by the day as medical evidence shows nitrates are good for health. He called the latest proposals a "triumph for bureaucracy over science".

He added that there was still much work to do on the sampling and analytical protocols to reflect the massive variability of single samples and meaningful reaction to any levels set in the regulation.

Comments should be emailed to jonathan.briggs@foodstandards.gsi.gov.uk by 7 March. The draft regulation can be found at www.food.gov.uk/multimedia/pdfs/euleggreenveg.pdf.

DRAFT LEGISLATION MAXIMUM NITRATE LEVELS

- Fresh spinach: 3,500mg NO3/kg

- Preserved or frozen spinach: 2,000mg NO3/kg

- Fresh Lettuce (except Iceberg) harvested 1 October to 31 March and grown under cover: 5,000mg NO3/kg

- Fresh Lettuce (except Iceberg) harvested 1 October to 31 March and grown in the open: 4,000mg NO3/kg

- Fresh Lettuce (except Iceberg) harvested 1 April to 30 September and grown under cover: 4,000mg NO3/kg

- Fresh Lettuce (except Iceberg) harvested 1 April to 30 Sept and grown in the open: 3,000mg NO3/kg

- Iceberg type grown under cover: 2,500mg NO3/kg

- Iceberg type grown in the open air: 2,000mg NO3/kg

- Rucola harvested 1 October to 31 March: 6,000mg NO3/kg.


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