The rules, which came into force at the start of the year, are already bearing fruit, said John Dalli, European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy. Since the new regime was introduced in January, some 13,600 consignments of imported and domestic fruit and vegetables have been checked - with10 per cent of products being tested, as per the new regulation. As a result, 10 per cent of the fruit and vegetables tested have been rejected by European authorities.
Under the new regulation, member states are responsible for implementing and funding the heightened inspection systems based on a list reviewed every quarter by the Commission. The register contains products, such as Thai vegetables and tropical fruits from the Dominican Republic. Among other things, the new regime provides for documentary checks and analysis for pesticides on a large variety of fruit and vegetables, like mangoes, bananas, aubergines, courgettes and pears imported from specific third countries.
Dalli also hailed the strengthening of rules over pesticides, labelling European legislation as probably the strictest in the world. Some 700 pesticide substances, from 1,000 evaluated, have been banned from circulation after a Commission exercise to harmonise rules on maximum residue levels.
New rules, adopted last year and due to come into force in June 2011, will beef up approval for chemicals that are carcinogens, mutagens and substances that are toxic for reproduction and endocrine systems. Approval for these chemicals will be withheld “unless exposure to humans is negligible”, said a Commission statement.
After conducting a site visit in Belgium to see first-hand how the new regime was working in practice, Commissioner Dalli said: "What I have seen today fully reassures me that the fruit and vegetables that reach our tables are safe.”
He said he was convinced that “food safety best practices” were spreading across Europe.
"Member States have allocated a considerable amount of resources to make the new system work. And it has been a success,” he added.