Pine nuts from China

Last updated:
11 April 2012
Following consumer complaints about a long lasting bitter taste (‘pine-mouth’) that can occur after eating pine nuts originating from China, rules are being applied in China prior to export to the EU.

While there is not an identified risk to health, ‘pine-mouth’ is an unpleasant condition that can last for weeks and is believed to be associated with the presence of nuts from the species Pinus armandii and lower grade products. The FSA has received a steady flow of reports, which showed that 99% of cases were linked to pine nuts from China. The European Commission has liaised with the China Chamber of Commerce of Import and Export Foodstuffs, Native Produce and Animal By-Products (CCCFNA) to try to resolve the problem.

There are seven documents available from the Chinese Authorities that summarise the steps being undertaken on the products prior to export.

The rules for export of Chinese pine kernels to the EU include:

  • All pine nut exporters should be members of CCCFNA.
  • The outer packaging of exported pine nuts should clearly show the name of the pine kernels in Chinese, English and the botanical name.
  • Every carton should be clearly marked with a logo from SGS and CCCFNA. The logos for CCCFNA as well as SGS can be seen in the included documentation.

Consignments of pine nuts from China should be accompanied by a Certificate of Export and an Inspection Certificate and Pine nut exporters should be members of CCCFNA. The certificates should be signed by an authorised SGS inspector.

Where consignments are not accompanied by the relevant documentation, food authorities at the ports will raise the issue with the importer and inland local authorities (trading standards).