After a 200 metric ton (7,873 bushels) lot of U.S. food corn exported to Japan showed aflatoxin levels of 18 parts per billion (ppb) of aflatoxin, Japan's Ministry of Health Labor and Welfare (MHLW) has mandated that all U.S. food corn be tested. Taiwan's Department of Health (DOH) also announced this week that it will test all U.S. corn for aflatoxin.
Testing every lot of food corn to Japan could disrupt shipments, notes Cary Sifferath, U.S. Grains Council senior director in Japan. "If MHLW demands that vessels remain in port until aflatoxin testing is complete, it could cause unloading delays and extra expense, driving up the cost of U.S. corn," he says.
Sifferath adds that Japanese trading companies are moving toward voluntary testing of food corn shipments to avoid delays and assure food corn shipments are not rejected due to aflatoxin. USGC/Tokyo is working with Japanese traders and end-users to ensure the U.S. corn supply and identity preservation system are the best in the world to meet their requirements. Japan's MHLW has established 10 ppb as the maximum for corn imports, compared to 20 ppb for exports set by the United States.
Japan imports approximately 16.4 million tons (645.6 million bushels) of corn a year, the majority for feed use. Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries set the aflatoxin level in feed corn at 20 ppb.
Last week, Taiwan's DOH notified the Taiwan Feed Industry Association and related associations that it was initiating inspections of all U.S. corn shipments for aflatoxin until Feb. 28. U.S. corn shipments with Federal Grain Inspection Service certificates of negative aflatoxin tests may clear customs and be sent to warehouses and/or feed mills after sampling, but cannot enter commercial channels before a satisfactory aflatoxin test is completed. Shipments without FGIS certificates will be held until testing is completed.
The aflatoxin level set by Taiwan is 15 ppb for food corn and 50 ppb for feed corn. A meeting between USGC/Taiwan staff and representatives from TFIA and Bureau of Food Safety resulted in recommendations including requesting Taiwan's Council of Agriculture to differentiate feed and food corn and to simplify import regulations.
"We don't expect the smooth flow of U.S. corn exports to Taiwan to be interrupted by the new measure," says C.M. Lynn, USGC director in Taiwan. Taiwan imported approximately 175 million bushels of U.S. corn during the 2004/2005 marketing year, 95% for feed use. Food safety concerns in Japan and Taiwan continue to make IP shipments of corn for food use very important in these markets.