EFSA Annual Pesticide Report: Residue Compliance Rates Remain High

13 Mar 2013 --- The latest available Europe-wide testing programme of pesticides in food has found that over 97% of samples contained residue levels that fall within permissible limits, said the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

The European Union Report on Pesticide Residues in Foods also assessed dietary exposure and concluded the chemical residues on the foods analysed did not pose a long-term risk to consumer health. The evaluation of short-term dietary exposure excluded a risk to consumers from 99.6% of food samples.

The fourth annual report, published today, gives an overview of pesticide residues found in food in 2010 in the 27 EU Member States, as well as Iceland and Norway[1]. As part of this analysis, EFSA tested an innovative approach to dietary exposure known as cumulative risk assessment. In contrast to established techniques that evaluate pesticide residues individually, this approach considers the potential effects of combined exposure to a number of chemicals that have similar toxicological properties.

EFSA Pesticides Unit head Herman Fontier said: “This annual report on pesticide residues makes important recommendations for improved monitoring at national and EU level. It ensures risk managers have the most accurate and relevant information upon which to make decisions.”

Key findings:

The national programmes found that 97.2% of samples contained residues within the European legal limit– known as the maximum residue level (MRL).  The lowest MRL exceedance rates were found on foods of animal origin – with 0.1% of samples above permissible limits. MRL exceedance rates of foods imported into the EU, Norway and Iceland were more than five times higher than those of foods originating in these nations - 7.9% compared to 1.5%. MRL values for organic food[2] commodities in the EU are identical to those for non-organic foods. Analysis of 3,571 organic food samples showed an MRL exceedance rate of 0.8%.

The results of the EU-coordinated programme[3] for 2010 showed that 98.4% of samples analysed were compliant with permissible limits. MRL exceedance rates have been broadly stable over the last four years – with the percentage of samples above the legal limits ranging from 2.3% in 2007 to 1.2% in 2009.  The 2010 report found the foods with the highest percentage of samples exceeding the MRL were oats (5.3%), lettuce (3.4%), strawberries (2.8%) and peaches (1.8%).

Based on the findings of the 2010 monitoring programmes, EFSA concluded there was no long-term risk to consumer health from the pesticide residues through their diets. In assessing short-term acute exposure, the report found that a risk could not be excluded for 0.4% of samples – or 79 out of a total of 18,243. This conclusion is based on a worst-case scenario that assumed consumption of the largest portion of a food type that contains the highest residue measured of each pesticide.

In addition to the established dietary exposure evaluation, EFSA performed for the first time a cumulative risk assessment as part of the 2010 report. The main aim of the pilot programme was to assess the need for improvements in the way Member States report monitoring data. EFSA highlighted the value of this trial cumulative risk assessment in paving the way for the better use of the approach in future reports. But it also recognised the need for additional data collection by national authorities and modifications to the methodology in order to reduce the significant uncertainties found in the results.

Mr Fontier said: “Cumulative risk assessment relies on a refined analysis and understanding of the possible types of combined toxicity of chemicals in food. It requires sophisticated methodologies capable of handling and combining huge amounts of data. This is why the pilot cumulative risk assessment presented in the latest report focuses on methodology rather than results, which are inconclusive as they contain a high degree of uncertainty.”

EFSA has been working intensively on the development of these methodologies and on data collection over the last five years. This undertaking, which is also central to the Authority’s work on chemical mixtures in foods, is ongoing and will result in a wider coverage of the combined effects of pesticides residues in future reports.

The 2010 report recommends a series of measures to further improve future monitoring programmes and the enforcement of pesticide residue legislation in Europe.

Related Articles

Food Ingredients News

EU Bans Use of Perilla Aldehyde Food Flavoring

05 Oct 2015 --- EU Member States have voted in favor of prohibiting the use of the flavoring substance p-mentha-1,8-dien-7-al (also known as Perilla aldehyde (FL 05.117)) from the EU list of authorized flavoring substances set out in Annex I of Regulation 1334/2008/EC.

Food Research

Arsenic Found in Many US Red Wines, But Health Risks Depend on Total Diet

30 Sep 2015 --- A new University of Washington study that tested 65 wines from America's top four wine-producing states -- California, Washington, New York and Oregon -- found all but one have arsenic levels that exceed what's allowed in drinking water. 

Food Ingredients News

French Constitutional Council Rules Bisphenol A Can Be Made and Exported

23 Sep 2015 --- The highest constitutional authority in France, the French Constitutional Council, has stated that the French law of 24 December 2012 suspending the use of Bisphenol A (BPA) unjustifiably restricts trade and that manufacturers can make and export the substance.

Food Ingredients News

Controversial Enzyme Approved for Use in Food Processing

22 Sep 2015 --- The European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) has declared the controversial enzyme thrombin as safe for use in food processing. Thrombin is derived from blood of pigs or cattle. It is used in food processing together with fibrinogen, a protein also obtained from the blood of these animals, to bind pieces of meat or fish.

Business News

Clean Eating is Viewed as a Lifestyle Versus a Diet or Fad, Claims NPD Report

16 Sep 2015 --- Clean eating is what is making the perimeter of grocery stores a popular spot, but a new report by The NPD Group, a leading global information company, finds that many consumers feel that clean eating can include some processing and packaged foods. NPD’s How Consumers Define Clean Eating report shows that 61 percent of primary grocery shoppers feel packaged foods are acceptable when eating clean, and 44 percent of shoppers say some processing is also acceptable.

More Articles