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Serbia has massively increased the permitted level of aflatoxins in milk, posing a potential threat to the country's dairy exports.
Serbia has raises the maximum permitted concentration of aflatoxins in milk to 0.5 micrograms per kilo from 0.05 micrograms - a tenfold increase.
Goran Knezevic, the Agriculture Minister, said the government had received assurances from the Health Ministry, the Military Medical Academy, VMA, and the Batut Institute of Public Health that the new maximum level presented no risk.
“Those amounts cannot have a negative effect on people’s health,” Knezevic said on Thursday.
The unexpected decision to raise the maximum permitted level of aflatoxin by a factor of ten comes as Dutch inspectors are due to send back results of their analysis of Serbian milk.
Aflatoxins, toxic substances formed by a fungus on foodstuffs, are considered potentially carcinogenic, which is why EU member states and Serbia's neighbours insist on low permitted levels of only 0.05 per kilo.
The dispute over milk started in February, when Goran Jesic, Agriculture Secretary in the Serbian Province of Vojvodina, leaked results of an inspection in the province showing that levels of M1 in more than 30 samples, from about 10 dairy companies, were up to 200 per cent higher than the legal limit.
It is believed that the M1 got into the milk chain through concentrated animal food.
Miladin Sevarlic, professor at the Agriculture Faculty in Belgrade, criticized the government's decision, saying it would damage the country's dairy exports.
Serbia exports milk and diary products mostly to the EU and to neighbouring countries and in 2011 it earned 23 million euro from milk sales, according the World Trade Organisation data.
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