Europeans continue to eat food that is largely free of pesticide residues or which contains levels of residues within legal limits, the latest monitoring figures show.
More than 96% of samples analysed for the latest annual report on pesticide residues in food were found to be within legal limits; around 51% were free of any quantifiable residues.
Vytenis Andriukaitis, EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said: “As in previous years, this report confirms the high level of compliance of food on the shelves in the EU. Every year, thousands of food products are controlled by the Member States to check that the legal limits are being respected: we owe it to European citizens to make sure that the EU’s food chain not only remains the most stringent and controlled in the world but is one that we are very serious about continuously improving.”
To coincide with the publication of this year’s report, EFSA has developed a simple graphical tool that enables users to see the main findings by country and food product. The new tool is available in four languages and complements the existing data “dashboards”, which present the results in greater detail and allow comparison with previous years.
Main findings for 2016
- The reporting countries analysed 84,657 samples for 791 pesticides.
- 96.2% (81,482) of the samples were within limits permitted in EU legislation and 50.7% of the tested samples were free of quantifiable residues. In the previous reporting year (2015), 97.2% of samples were within the legal limits and 53.3% were free of quantifiable residues. The difference is mainly attributed to the finding of chlorate residues, a compound that was included for the first time in the 2016 control programmes to support ongoing work to establish maximum residue levels (MRLs).
- The majority of the tested samples (67%) originated from the EU Member States, Iceland and Norway; 26.4% concerned products imported from third countries. For 6.6% of the samples, the origin of the products was unknown.
- Legal limits were exceeded in 2.4% of samples for products from EU and EEA countries, legal limits were exceeded in 7.2% of the samples from non-EU countries.
- Of the 1,676 samples of food intended for infants and young children, 98.1% were within the limits permitted in EU legislation; 89.8% of the samples were free of quantifiable residues.
- 5,495 samples of organic food were taken in 2016, of which 98.7% were within legal limits; 83.1% of the samples were free of quantifiable residues.
EU coordinated programme
As part of its annual report, EFSA analyses the results of the EU-coordinated control programme (EUCP), under which reporting countries analyse 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%).
EFSA performed an acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term) dietary risk assessment, based on the results of the EUCP programme. In both cases, the health risks to consumers were considered to be low.