The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Pesticide Unit has published its fifth annual report of the monitoring of pesticide residues in food in the EU. The report shows that more than 97% of samples tested contained residue levels within permissible limits.
The report is based on analysis of more than 79,000 food samples by national food authorities from 27 EU member states, plus Norway and Iceland, in 2011. A total of 647 different types of food were tested for almost 900 pesticides, partly for national control programmes and partly for an EU-coordinated programme.
The results showed that 97.5% of the samples tested for national programmes contained pesticide residues within EU legal maximum residue levels (MRLs). Imported foods were more likely to exceed MRLs than foods produced in the EU and organic foods were less likely to exceed MRLs than conventionally produced foods. More than 98% of the samples analysed for the EU-coordinated programme contained residues within with current permissible limits and 53.4% contained no detectable residues. Highest MRL exceedance rates were found in spinach, beans in pods, oranges, cucumbers and rice. The lowest were in wheat flour and potatoes.
EFSA has concluded that the surveillance results show that there is no long-term risk to consumer health through dietary exposure to 99% of the 171 pesticides assessed so far, although a risk from two pesticides could not be ruled out. However, both of these have been banned in the EU for more than 30 years and are only present in the food chain because of their persistence in the environment. The Authority has also carried out a risk assessment considering the effect of combined exposure to multiple residues in pears. The assessment found that only two out of 1,364 samples contained residues that could result in combined exposure above the acceptable level.
The full report can be found on the EFSA web site here.