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Pesticide residues in food – EU report for 2018

3 April 2020

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has published its annual report on pesticide residues found in food in the European Union. The report is based on data from the official national control activities carried out by EU Member States, Iceland and Norway and includes both targeted and random sampling.

A total of 91,015 samples were analysed in 2018, 95.5% of which fell within legally permitted levels. For the subset of 11,679 samples analysed as part of the EU-coordinated control programme (random collection), 98.6% of samples were within legal limits.

Of the overall 91,015 samples analysed, 4.5% exceeded the Maximum Residue Level, of which 2.7% were non-compliant, i.e. samples exceeding the MRL after taking into account the measurement uncertainty. For the subset of 11,679 samples analysed as part of the EU-coordinated control programme, 1.4% exceeded the MRL and 0.9% were non-compliant. Table grapes and sweet peppers/bell peppers were among the food products that most frequently exceeded the MRLs.

The report gives a snapshot of the presence of pesticide residues in food in the EU and any possible risk to consumer health. It also provides risk managers with important information on which to base decisions regarding future control measures.

The section on randomly collected data covers the same basket of products on a three-year rotation, which means upward or downward trends can be identified for specific goods.

For example, between 2015 and 2018 the proportion of samples with residue exceedances increased in bananas (from 0.5% to 1.7%), sweet peppers (1.2% to 2.4%), aubergines (0.6% to 1.6%) and table grapes (1.8% to 2.6%). On the other hand, exceedances fell in 2018 compared to 2015 for broccoli (from 3.7% to 2%), virgin olive oil (0.9% to 0.6%) and chicken eggs (0.2% to 0.1%).

This year EFSA has translated the results of the coordinated programme into browsable charts and graphs, to make the data more accessible to non-specialists.

EFSA carried out a dietary risk assessment as part of its analysis of the results. This suggested that the food commodities analysed in 2018 are unlikely to pose a concern for consumer health. However, a number of recommendations are proposed to increase the efficiency of European control systems, thereby continuing to ensure a high level of consumer protection.

Based on the 2018 pesticide monitoring findings, EFSA includes in its recommendations the following:

Several non-approved pesticides in the EU, were found repeatedly in food randomly sampled produced in the EU at levels exceeding the legal limits, e.g.:

  • aubergines: omethoate,
  • broccoli: bitertanol, carbendazim (RD) and flusilazole,
  • melons: dieldrin (RD) and chlorfenapyr,
  • sweet peppers/bell peppers: chlorfenapyr and triadimefon,
  • table grapes: carbendazim (RD), omethoate and acephate,
  • wheat grain: carbendazim (RD) and fenitrothion
  • virgin olive oil: iprodione (RD).

Since these results give an indication of possible misuses of EU non-approved active substances, it is recommended that Member States follow-up on these findings, investigating the reasons and taking corrective measures where appropriate.

Several non-approved pesticides in the EU, were found in food randomly sampled grown outside the internal market, in concentrations exceeding the legal limit:

  • aubergines: carbofuran and chlorfenapyr,
  • bananas: carbendazim (RD),
  • grapefruit: bromopropylate, diazinon, isocarbophos, and fenthion (RD),
  • sweet peppers/bell peppers: carbaryl, fenitrothion, carbofuran (RD) and propiconazole,
  • table grapes: acephate and carbendazim (RD).

Follow-up on imports of these pesticides/crop combinations by Member States is recommended.

Further recommendations are included on pages 54-56 of the report.

For more details see the full report: The 2018 European Union report on pesticide residues in food

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