Poisonous mould found in peanuts for garden birds

Peanuts in garden bird feeders may be an increasing danger to birds because of a poisonous mould produced when the nuts are stored for too long, Britain's biggest bird food supplier believes.

Peanuts in garden bird feeders may be an increasing danger to birds because of a poisonous mould produced when the nuts are stored for too long, Britain's biggest bird food supplier believes.

CJ Wildbird Foods, a mail-order company based in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, is to stop selling peanuts because of the high levels of poisonous "aflatoxins" spot checks have detected in some nuts sold in pet shops.

Aflatoxins first caused alarm in the Sixties, before putting out peanuts for garden birds became popular, when more than 100,000 turkey poults and ducks in Britain died after eating food containing Brazilian groundnut cake. Present requirements are that aflatoxin levels should not exceed 20 parts per billion in bird nuts, or two parts per billion in nuts for human consumption. But a local authority trading standards department, in recent checks on peanuts on sale for birds, found aflatoxin levels of more than 20 parts per billion in seven out of 32 samples.

One sample tested by Buckinghamshire County Council showed a concentration of 570 parts per billion - more than 28 times the official safety level. The levels in the other six contaminated samples were 420, 260, 113, 80, 65 and 62. (In checks done on 26 samples of peanuts for humans all satisfied the tolerance level.)

David Collinson, the council's principal trading standards officer, said the tests had a "horrendously high failure rate. A lot of people thought the aflatoxin danger had been addressed - our findings suggest clearly it hasn't."

The tests would be repeated in the winter when birds were more likely to take peanuts, he said. Meanwhile, the importer of the sample with the highest aflatoxin levelshad been cautioned and other trading standards departments alerted.

CJ Wildbird Foods, however, says the danger is serious enough to stop selling peanuts completely. "I think 20 parts per billion is certainly unsafe and I am not prepared to lower our standards by going to less than zero. So we are going to withdraw from the peanut market," said Chris Whittles, the chairman and a former honorary secretary of the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO).

"As this country's largest supplier we cannot find enough peanuts of the quality standard we require. At present we understand there are between 30,000 and 50,000 tonnes of contaminated nuts in the UK and at Rotterdam docks."

The contamination is produced by a minute mould growing between the skin and the kernel. The nuts are often left in humid containers awaiting shipment instead of being stored in dry, cool conditions.

The company would now concentrate on sunflower seeds and hearts as the prime garden bird food, Mr Whittles said. "They provide the oils and proteins birds need - and are preferred to peanuts by a wider range of birds. Also, they are more suited to birds in this country than peanuts, which are produced in tropical countries and grow underground where birds would normally not locate them." He added: "They represent 20 per cent of our turnover, or £1m - but we are not prepared to sell anything that might harm birds."

A spokesman for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said the company's decision to stop selling peanuts affected them as the company was the sole supplier of all peanuts sold under the RSPB logo. "Our current stock is aflatoxin-free. When it runs out we will try to find another source of the same standard, but if we cannot do so we will not offer them for sale. We, like CJ Wildbird Foods, will not compromise on standards."

Meanwhile, Mr Whittles does not suspect contaminated peanuts to be a cause of the big decline in house sparrow numbers in urban areas - which has been suggested in several letters to The Independent. A more likely reason was the insufficient insect food for their young in the early summer - possibly as a result of pollution from the clean-air additive in toxic fuel, he said.

News
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Life and Style
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
tv
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Graduate Pricing Analyst - 6 months / 1 year analytical experience

£20000 - £25000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Maths Teachers needed for roles across Berkshire

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Ar...

Project Manager (retail, upgrades, rollouts)

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Project...

IT Specialist for a one month cover role

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: IC...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits