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Pesticide residues in food – EU monitoring report

27 July 2018

Europeans continue to eat food that is largely free of pesticide residues or which contains levels of residues within legal limits, the latest monitoring results published for 2016 show.

More than 96% of samples analysed for the latest annual report by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) on pesticide residues in certain food were found to be within legal limits; around 51% were free of any quantifiable residues.

EFSA analyses the results of the EU coordinated programme under which reporting countries take samples from the same basket of food items, and for the same pesticides.  For 2016 the products were: apples, head cabbage, leek, lettuce, peaches, strawberries, tomatoes, rye, wine, cow’s milk and swine fat.

The lowest MRL exceedance rates were identified for rye (0.7%), followed by head cabbage (1.1.%) and strawberries (1.8%).  The highest exceedances were found for apples (2.7%) and tomatoes (2.6%).

The data dashboards present the results in greater detail and allow comparison with previous years.

The European Food Safety Authority has developed a graphical tool to help users identify key findings by country and type of food.


Main findings

  • EU reporting countries (plus Iceland and Norway) analysed 84,657 samples for 791 pesticides
  • 96% of samples were within legal limits, and 50% were free of quantifiable residues.  This compares with 97% samples being within legal limits, and 53% free of quantifiable residues in 2015.  The difference is attributed mainly to finding residues of chlorate, which was included for the first time in 2016 to support on-going work to establish a Maximum Residue Level.
  • The majority of tested samples (67%) originated from EU Member States, Iceland and Norway; 26% of products were imported from third countries.  The origin of 6% of samples was unknown.
  • Legal limits were exceeded in 2% of samples of products from EU and EEA countries; legal limits were exceeded in 7% of samples from non-EU countries.
  • 5,495 samples of organic food were taken, of which 98% were within legal limits; 83% of the samples were free of quantifiable residues.

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