The latest available Europe-wide testing me 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 analyzed 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. 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 mes 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 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%.

 

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The results of the EU-coordinated me for 2010 showed that 98.4% of samples analyzed 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%).

Dietary exposure

Based on the findings of the 2010 monitoring mes, 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.