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Pre-Export Check (PEC) Program Key to Industry’s Future


The widely successful Pre-Export Check (PEC) program helps ensure California almond exports flow to the European Union (EU) without extra regulatory scrutiny. But a noticeable uptick in Rapid Alerts for aflatoxin for almond consignments this past year has raised concern among EU officials regarding the quality of California almond exports.

Ships at dock

The PEC program, developed by the Almond Board of California (ABC), provides a system for managing potential aflatoxin contamination in almonds going to the EU to ensure shipments are in line with regulatory aflatoxin limits. It is an effective sampling and analytical tool to help reduce the number of lots shipped, which could exceed EU regulatory limits for aflatoxin. Over the years, the industry has built trust and credibility in the PEC program with the European Commission and European Ports. In fact, a benefit of participating in the PEC program is reduced controls at the European Port.

Currently, consignments shipped with PEC certificates are checked at a frequency of less than 1 percent compared to random controls (often in excess of 5 percent) for consignments shipped without. But should rejections continue at the current rate, a loss of confidence in the PEC system could mean port inspections would increase in frequency, along with more regulations and the potential for almonds to be considered a high-risk product subject to some form of mandatory controls.

To help preserve the EU’s trust in the PEC program, handlers should follow these guidelines:

  • Product shipped under PEC should not exceed 5 percent serious damage and foreign material content should be less than 0.2 percent
  • Sampling should be conducted to ensure a large number of incremental samples representative of the lot are taken
  • Lots which fail upon testing in the U.S. must not be shipped to the EU without sorting for insect damage removal and additional aflatoxin testing

Handlers are encouraged to contact Bryce Spycher to learn more about participation in the PEC program.

In addition, it is important that handlers work with their huller/shellers to ensure proper stockpile management practices are adhered to in order to help reduce the potential for aflatoxin development. For more on stockpiling, check out the Almond Board’s Stockpile Management Best Practices.

The Almond Board of California (ABC) is actively engaged with the EU Commission to reinforce the industry’s commitment to quality and the PEC program. Julie Adams, Vice President of Global Technical, Regulatory & Government Affairs, recently traveled to Brussels, Belgium, to provide context behind the recent increase in Rapid Alerts, as well as to explain what efforts have been proactively undertaken.

“The European Commission recognizes there can be variability in aflatoxin presence due to crop conditions,” said Adams. “They also appreciate what the industry is doing here in California – but ultimately, their concern is to see that rejections decrease.”

In terms of orchard practices that contribute to aflatoxin, ABC is also involved in research trials focused on AF36, a possible new tool for combating aflatoxin development by displacing the mold which produces aflatoxin with a strain that does not.

Together, ABC and industry members can work to ensure the food quality and safety of California almond exports — and continue a reasonably regulated and profitable relationship with the EU for decades to come.

For more information about the PEC program, visit the links below:

The 411 on the PEC Program

PEC Program Frequently Asked Questions