Pesticide residues ‘clearly exceed’ legal limits in 1.5% of European foods

By Caroline SCOTT-THOMAS contact

- Last updated on GMT

Strawberries were most likely to contain excessive levels of pesticides, with 2.5% above the legal limit
Strawberries were most likely to contain excessive levels of pesticides, with 2.5% above the legal limit

Related tags: Pesticide residues, European union

Pesticide residues in raw and processed foods clearly exceeded legal limits in 1.5% of European foods in 2013, according to a new assessment from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

EFSA’s latest annual analysis of pesticide residues in foods sold in 27 EU member states, Iceland and Norway found 54.6% of foods had no detectable residues at all, while 1.5% had levels high enough to warrant sanctions against the food business operators responsible, beyond any margin of error in the way residues were measured.

EFSA said 97% of foods’ residues were within legal limits and the chance of exposure to pesticides at levels that could affect long-term health outcomes was low.

“Overall, EFSA concluded that dietary exposure to the pesticides covered by the EU-coordinated monitoring programme of 2013, for which toxicological data are available, was not likely to pose a long-term health risk,”​ it said.

Apples and peaches

However, it did not rule out the risk of some European citizens being exposed to high levels of pesticide residues in the short term, mainly chlorpyrifos residues in apples and peaches if the fruits were not washed or peeled.

“EFSA concluded that the probability of European citizens being exposed to pesticide residues exceeding concentrations that may lead to negative health outcomes was low,”​ it said.

Most of the nearly 81,000 samples (68.2%) were foods from Europe. The percentage of samples from third countries exceeding legal limits was higher (5.7%) than for EU countries (1.4%), EFSA said, although the proportion of imported foods that exceeded legal limits was down from 7.5% a year earlier.

Fewer residues in processed foods

Processed foods were less likely than unprocessed foods to have any detectable pesticide residues, which were found in 28.2% of the samples, with 1.2% found to be over the limit. Meanwhile, 48.9% of unprocessed foods contained residues, with 2.8% over the legal limit.

EU member states were also asked to assess pesticide residues in 12 food products: apples, head cabbage, leek, lettuce, peaches (including nectarines), rye or oats, strawberries, tomatoes, cow’s milk, swine meat and wine.

The results found all rye, cow’s milk or swine meat samples were within legal limits. Strawberries were most likely to contain excessive residues, with 2.5% of samples over the legal limit, followed by lettuce (2.3%), oats (1.3%), peaches (1.1%), apples (1%), head cabbage (0.9%), tomatoes (0.9%), leek (0.5%) and wine (0.1%).

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3 comments

despite never found, NVWA insists lab testing

Posted by Harry Romijn,

In fresh fruits + veg - despite being only a few percent - still a substantial number of cases found and mentioned in the RASFF database of the combined EU food authorities.
For frozen ( washed, peeled, blanched), just 26 notifications since 2000.
For canned ( treatment like frozen, but +sterilised) only 2 ( TWO) cases ever, of which one a BIO product see RASFF 2011.0334 .
Still, in an official under oath standing penalty report, the Duch food authority NVWA insists lab testing of incoming shipments, despite the overseas manufacturer is BRC etc certified, so do these testing already annually, to secure no pesticide residues anymore in canned fruits + veg .
Same for aflatoxin in canned fruits + veg ( never ever found, except... pistachio-almond mix in can, RASFF 2009.AZO ).
Same for aflatoxin in Thai white ( polished + sortexed) rice + its products. Also here... never ever any afla case be found in the RASFF database, despite 10 million tons imported into the EU in that period.

Statement of the NVWA: "certifications of third countries.. are even more as handed out in the Netherlands ( 59 % NOT sufficient) to be seen as "untrustworthy" till even "FRAUD ".

So, auditors of organisations like Bureau Vertitas, Det Norske Veritas, IsaCert, Intertek, LRQA, Moody, SGS, TUV... despite your food science education at Uni or Bacherlor level, and following food safety schemes like BRC, IFS, ISO 22000 the NVWA sees your work for a substantial part... as FRAUDE !

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Pesticides use in fruits, vegetables, and crop plants.

Posted by Manohar DrThakur,

The high amounts of pesticides are dangerous for brain, liver, lungs, kidneys, heart and blood of animals and humans. Many nations use pesticides in limited amounts because these are deadly, toxic substances for health. In some nations, such as US and UK, pesticides are used in tonnes and kilos by plane spray on the agricultural fields. So the population living in that area gets contaminated and have serious health and brain problems. The small amounts of pesticides should be used by hand spray in a tractor on the fields. These maximum limits of pesticides use are given in the Agricultural Books. People should follow these guidelines carefully.

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exceeding the legal limit is not equal to a health risk!

Posted by Dieter E,

It must be noted -indispensably- that any legal limits are dirived from a distribution of measured values and some probalility estimate. This implies that the legal limits are set intetionally below the no-effect-level. In consequence, exceeding the legal limit moderately does not imply a health risk. GThis is also valid for pesticides!

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