April 14, 2021

The overwhelming majority of food samples tested in the European Union were within permitted limits for pesticide residues, a new report from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has revealed.

The study – based on testing 96,302 samples – found that 96.1% of the food tested fell below the maximum residue level (MRL) allowed.

As part of the analysis, random sampling was carried out on some of the main foods consumed in the EU, including apples, barley, oats, cabbages, strawberries, tomatoes, wine and milk.

Taking into account health guidelines and immediate and long-term risks from pesticide consumption, the report indicated that results were in line with what was hoped for.

“The findings suggest that the residue levels for the food commodities analysed are unlikely to pose any concern for consumer health,” the report stated.

Published in the European Food Safety Authority’s Journal, the report said that, while 3.9% of samples exceeded MRL, only 2.3% were actually “non-compliant” in that they exceeded MRL even after measurement uncertainty was accounted for.

While results overall were acceptable, the report noted that several EU non-approved pesticides were found “repeatedly in randomly sampled food grown in the EU at levels exceeding the legal limit”. Examples included acephate in apples and dieldrin in peaches.

There were similar findings with imported foodstuffs, leading the report to recommend member states look into the results and take action, including considering import controls.

The work involved samples tested by member states as well as by an EU-coordinated programme, which accounted for 12,579 of the data points, plus results from Iceland and Norway.

Spinach was found to be have a particularly high rate of MRLs being exceeded, at 6.7%, leading the report to say that the vegetable should continue to be monitored through the EU-coordinated programme.

Although the 89-page report has just been published, the samples it relates to were collected back in 2019.

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