Pesticides in the EU – How Safe is Our Food?

| European Union | EFSA | Contaminants & Pesticides
Posted By: Lionello Sannuto


The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published on October 26, 2016 its annual report regarding the monitoring of the pesticides residues in food.

More than 83.000 samples were collected in 2014 from 28 EU member states, Norway and Iceland. These have been analyzed for the presence of more than 770 pesticides, and the test results were reported to EFSA for the purpose of compiling the annual report.

The report indicates that more than 97% of food samples coming from the European Union are complaint with the limits imposed by the  Regulation (EC) No 396/2005 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 February 2005 on maximum residue levels of pesticides in or on food and feed of plant and animal origin and amending Council Directive 91/414/EEC and its amendments.

The percentage is higher in the organic products which were analyzed. When it comes to baby foods, no quantifiable residues have been found in 91.8% of the samples.

The EFSA in the conclusion and recommendation chapter of its annual report suggests different proposal to improve the effectiveness of the monitoring in the EU. These EFSA’s conclusions are addressed to the attention of the European Commission, to strengthen future monitoring programs. A quick summary is the following:

  • To include small fruits, berries and tea, which frequently are identified as containing residues, in the testing
  • Extend glyphosate analysis in other crops, like the animal feed
  • Include honey, to better understand the exposure of bees to pesticides
  • Improve communications of changes to permitted residue levels to importers of food from outside the EU.

Recent regulatory changes in the EU

The European Union has recently published several amendments regarding pesticides limits:

Commission Regulation (EU) 2016/1785 on October 8, 2016 regarding the following substance:

Cymoxanil, phosphane and phosphide salts and sodium 5-nitroguaiacolate, sodium o-nitrophenolate and sodium p-nitrophenolate;

Commission Regulation (EU) 2016/1822 on October 18, 2016 on the following substances:  aclonifen, deltamethrin, fluazinam, methomyl, sulcotrione and thiodicarb;

Commission Regulation (EU) 2016/1866 on October 21, 2016 for the following substances: 3-decen-2-one, acibenzolar-S-methyl and hexachlorobenzene;

Commission Regulation (EU) 2016/1902 on November 4, 2016 revising the limits for 19 substances:

acetamiprid, ametoctradin, azoxystrobin, cyfluthrin, difluoroacetic acid, dimethomorph, fenpyrazamine, flonicamid, fluazinam, fludioxonil, flupyradifurone, flutriafol, fluxapyroxad, metconazole, proquinazid, prothioconazole, pyriproxyfen, spirodiclofen and trifloxystrobin.

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