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Pesticide Residues in food

On average, 4% of the tested food in 2007 exceeded the permitted maximum residue levels (MRL). In fruit and vegetables this value was almost 5%. This is the result of the newest report of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) about tests conducted in 29 EU and EFTA member states. The results are alarming. According to the EFSA report, 52 product/pesticide-combinations were observed, for which an acute health risk for consumers can not be excluded. The percentage of samples with multiple residues remains with 26 % on a high level.

Nine products where examined in detail in the EU coordinated control programme: peaches, strawberries, lettuce, apples, rye or oats, head cabbage, leek and tomatoes. In 47% of the samples pesticide residues were found. Peaches, strawberries, lettuce and apples were highly and frequently contaminated.

For the first time the report was issued by EFSA and not by the EU-General Direction for Health and Consumer Protection. The report is now published with a new design, in which the results are displayed in an abbreviated form. The tables show only results for which the maximum residue levels were surpassed. Samples without traceable residues are not directly shown in the tables. Those who want to know which samples and what food is free of pesticides now have to go through thousands of separate results. This is a step backwards in transparency for consumers, because the amount of pesticide residues at or below the MRLs are no longer observable.

For this reason the display of the results for 2007 on this website has to be altered in comparison to previous years. We can now only distinguish between samples with pesticide residues higher than the allowed maximum residue levels and those samples that are below this limit. As detailed information about pesticide residues below the maximum residue level is no longer available in the current report from 2007, the map shows the percentage of samples of vegetables, fruit and cereals with detectable pesticide residues found in official national monitoring programs in 2006.

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What is a pesticide residue and why do they occur?
A pesticide residue is an amount of a specific pesticide, which occurs in food. There are two main reasons why pesticides residues occur in food:
  1. Pesticides are applied in the growing season and rests of the applied amounts remain in or on the treated crop. Pesticides may also drift to nearby areas and contaminate crops, which have not been treated.
  2. Pesticides occur as contaminants in soils and sediments - and animals such as fish and wild boar, who eat soil or sediment dwelling organisms accumulate these pesticides over time in their body. Usually such pesticides have been used in the past and have a very long half life- they are also known as persistent organic pollutants or POPs.

Pesticide Monitoring Reports