Crops imported into Denmark contain “significantly more” pesticide residues than equivalent Danish products, according to the annual pesticide report published by the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration and the Technical University of Denmark's National Food Institute.
“As such, consumers can minimize their intake of pesticides by choosing Danish fruits and vegetables – or they can choose organically produced products in order to avoid pesticide residues altogether,” said a statement by the National Food Institute.
However, the residue levels are low enough to not pose a health risk, it said.
“As a whole, pesticide residues in the concentrations that have been detected do not give rise to health concerns – regardless of production method and where the crops originated.”
“The National Food Institute estimates that pesticide residues in the concentrations detected in the Pesticide Report 2016 generally do not constitute a health risk, when you eat a standard, varied diet - regardless of production method and where the crops originated.”
Using data from over 2,500 samples taken in 2016, the scientists found pesticide residues in 45% of fruit samples of Danish origin, 72% of fruit grown in other EU countries and 74% of fruit samples from outside the EU.
Numbers for vegetables were lower, but Denmark still came out top, with 27% of Danish samples containing traces of pesticides compared to over half of EU samples (55%) and 43% for non-EU countries.
Imported fruit and vegetables were also more likely to contain a combination of different pesticides – one third (33%) of total EU and non-EU samples had a mix of pesticides compared to Danish samples at 10%.
The Institute’s researchers calculated that individuals could halve their pesticide intake by choosing Danish produce “where possible”.
The vast majority of conventionally grown, unprocessed fruit, vegetables and cereals were either pesticide-free or contained levels within safe limits.
However, the survey did prompt the Danish Veterinary and Food and Administration to recall consignments of mangoes imported from Laos from the market, and send out a pan-EU alert as the residues exceeded the acceptable daily intake (ADI).
It looked at 2,515 samples taken from around 200 different types of foods, collected quarterly., and analysed them for traces of over 300 pesticides.
The sample size included the 25 foods that make up 95% of the Danish population’s pesticide intake, as well as the foods that are most likely and least likely to contain residues.
Residues were found on eight of the 246 organic samples (3.3%). Of those eight, three were found to be in breach of rules on organic food production.
No residues were found in baby food samples.
“In the Danish and foreign focus crops (carrots, strawberries, tomatoes, pears, apples and wheat), the proportion of samples with pesticide residues has remained at a fairly stable level past five years.
“There are fluctuations between the individual years, but there is no basis for concluding significant trends in development,” the report authors concluded.
The full report can be downloaded here (in Danish).