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The commodity-specific monitoring on pesticide residues in the EU

How can consumers better protect themselves from food with high pesticide residue levels? It is not easy for consumers to find out which foods contain high levels of pesticide residues. A good beginning is the EU co-ordinated monitoring programme. In this programme, the EU asks member states to provide information on selected commodities.

The aim of this programme is to work towards a system which allows the estimation of actual dietary pesticide exposure throughout Europe. The monitoring programme was designed as a rolling programme covering major pesticide-commodity combinations in a series of 3-year cycles in order to draw a picture of the dietary intake situation after a defined period of time. The choice of commodities includes the major components of the Standard European Diet by the World Health Organisation.

For example, in 2007 the European Commission recommended that eight commodities should be tested: apples, head cabbage, leek, lettuce, tomatoes, peaches, rye or oats, and strawberries. The list of pesticides analysed in 2007 includes 71 substances, 16 more than in 2006.

The PAN Germany webpage "Commodities" provides the results of the EU co-ordinated monitoring. It shows the results since the year 2000 at a glance. Most of the commodities were analyzed several times already, which allows commodity-specific temporal evaluations of pesticide residues and the percentages of exceedance of the legal residue limits (Maximum Residue Limits, MRLs).

"The Worst Five" webpage shows a ranking of the five commodities with the highest level of pesticide residues respectively the five commodities with the highest amount of samples above the legal residue limits. PAN recommends to buy these worst five commodities organic. All other produce should be rinsed, although not all pesticide residues can be eliminated by rinsing. The best approach for consumers to protect themselves from pesticide residues is to eat a varied diet, to rinse well or peel all produce and to buy from organic producers whenever possible.

Table All Bad Fruits