PCR-test for ToBRFV in seeds

2 June 2021 - Articles

The EU has tightened up the rules for controlling the spread of the highly damaging Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus (ToBRFV). From 1 April 2021 onwards, imported tomato and sweet pepper seeds must be tested for the presence of this virus with a PCR test. Eurofins Agro can perform this test for in-house information gathering.

All batches of tomato and sweet pepper seeds placed on the market must have undergone prior testing. For mother plants this can be done with ELISA. For seed, an RT-PCR must always be used unless the seed was tested before 1 October 2020. This also applies to imports from third countries. On import, Naktuinbouw checks whether the correct declaration is provided on the phytosanitary certificate.

As of 31 March 2021, all seed previously imported into or produced in the EU must also be RT-PCR tested before being placed on the market for the first time. Old test results based on ELISA will no longer be valid from 31 March 2021 onwards. Seed that has been tested with ELISA must be retested, even if part of the same batch has already been placed on the market. The obligation to retest seed stocks does not apply to seed that was purchased and placed on the market for the first time before 31 March 2021 and whose ownership has therefore changed.

Highly damaging

ToBRFV is a highly infectious plant virus that causes damage to tomato crops and can also infect sweet pepper plants (Capsicum sp.). ToBRFV is not harmful to humans or animals. The virus can occur anywhere in the plant and it can also be spread via infected seeds. Exporting countries are therefore obliged to demonstrate that all batches of tomato and sweet pepper seeds are free from ToBRFV prior to transport.


In June 2020, the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) started monitoring tomato and sweet pepper seed on import. Since 15 August 2020, this monitoring has been required by law and at least 20% of incoming consignments must be sampled. Sweet pepper seeds that are resistant to ToBRFV according to their accompanying phytosanitary certificate are not sampled.

EU legislation stipulates that batches may not be released for import while they are being laboratory tested. The turnaround time for testing is approximately  and this may increase during supply peaks. If the presence of the virus is suspected, a second test is carried out on the same sample.

The batch will only be released if the laboratory test is negative, i.e. if the virus is not present. If the batch is infected, it must be destroyed or returned. Sampling and laboratory testing are the responsibility of the importer.

More information

Please contact horti@eurofins.com