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ECPA project sharing best practices on residue reduction

ECPA is transferring the knowledge gained in Almeria to the Antalya region of Turkey so it can benefit from the Spanish success in improving residue management.

Almeria’s move from a fairly high rate of exceedance of maximum residue levels (MRLs) to now being among the best in class in Mediterranean greenhouse production is a success story the European Crop Protection Association (ECPA) is using to help farmers in other areas. Under its residue management project, ECPA is transferring the knowledge gained in Almeria to the Antalya region of Turkey so it can benefit from the Spanish success in improving residue management. The project focuses on tomatoes and peppers as they are among the most widely consumed vegetables and, because of tough climatic conditions, they are also difficult to manage in terms of controlling diseases and pests.

Responding to consumer concerns about residues

The 2013 annual residue report by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) showed the vast majority of food contains no measurable residues, or residues below MRLs. However, the recent Eurobarometer shows that the issue of pesticide residues in food is one that consumers are particularly concerned about. “We want to try to address this through our residue management project,” said ECPA director general Jean-Charles Bocquet, “and for consumers to feel confident about the food they eat.” The project aims to support the reduction of residues by promoting use of integrated pest management (IPM) principles and good agricultural practices.

Public affairs director Graeme Taylor told ED that ECPA takes consumer concerns seriously – hence its commitment to address them through dedicated activities. “We want to contribute to fostering consumer trust by addressing and explaining the issues of pesticide residues and residues management. We want to explain that European food is safe and show consumers what it takes to grow a healthy plant, explain why farmers need crop protection products or why sometimes pesticide residues occur. And most importantly, present what our industry and farmers are doing to minimise, if not eliminate, any risk for the consumer,” he said.

ECPA public affairs director Graeme Taylor

Transfer of best practice: train-the-trainers concept the key

The project harnesses the train the trainer concept and started with the training of 7 master trainers in Spain, who have gone on to train trainers for Turkey. Since its start in 2013, there have been 135 attendees in training held in Antalya, with further 60 participants at two sessions held in November 2015. Feedback showed the training was found useful, particularly the topics of IPM, biologicals and sulfur sublimation.

Future activities

Taylor said ECPA is now looking to share the experience and knowledge gained in Spain and Turkey with other EU countries.

Among other goals are:

  • Cooperation and use of synergies with other ECPA projects and initiatives
  • Given imports from third countries are more likely to show MRL exceedances – cooperation with other institutions and projects in countries outside EU (e.g. CropLife International)
  • Extension of tailor-made training from advisors to farmers

Food safety is not an area of competition but an area of cooperation and we want to share lessons learned with other partners,” Taylor said.

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Tighter fruit and veg import checks paying off, says EU

Last year there was a small rise – from 4.1% to 4.4% – in the percentage of consignments of the fruit and vegetable on the list that were refused entry to the EU.

Table grapes from Peru and aubergines and Chinese celery from Cambodia are to be under tighter scrutiny for pesticide residues by the European Union.

They are among food products recently added to a European Commission list of imports targeted for food safety controls over and above the routine ones.

Among other foods joining the watchlist are:

  • Vine leaves from Turkey (pesticide residues)
  • Dragon fruit from Vietnam (pesticide residues)
  • Betel leaves from India and Thailand (salmonella)
  • Dried apricots from Turkey (sulphites)

Some products have now been taken off the list having achieved satisfactory levels of compliance, among them:

  • Pomelos from China (tested for pesticide residues)
  • Oranges from Egypt (tested for pesticide residues)
  • Frozen strawberries from China (tested for norovirus and hepatitis A virus)
  • Coriander and basil from Thailand (tested for pesticide residues)
  • Coriander, basil and mint from Thailand (tested for the presence of salmonella)

Last year there was a small rise – from 4.1% to 4.4% – in the percentage of consignments of the fruit and vegetable on the list that were refused entry to the EU.


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In a report on the results of its reinforced border checks in 2014, the Commission said nearly 100,000 consignments subject to these controls reached EU borders in 2014. “Of those, 11,291 were sampled for laboratory analysis and 496 (i.e. 4.4%, slightly above the 2013 result of 4.1%) were found in breach of EU legislation and were prevented from entering the EU market,” it said.

In a press release, the Commission said the report shows “that the system of controls at EU borders on fruit and vegetable imports from non-EU countries is protecting consumers from potential food safety risks.”

The report is published in the framework of Regulation (EC) No 669/2009 on an increased level of official controls on certain imports of food and feed of non-animal origin, which contains the list (reviewed on a quarterly basis) of imports subject to increased border controls.

The following tables are excerpts from the report, which can be read in full here.
The list of “Feed and food of non-animal origin subject to an increased level of official controls at the designated point of entry” can be seen here.




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EFSA: pesticide residues under legal limits in 97% of foods in EU

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More than 97% of food samples evaluated by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) contain pesticide residue levels that fall within legal limits, with just under 55% of samples free of detectable traces of these chemicals, EFSA reported today. The findings come from its 2013 annual report on pesticide residues in food, which includes results for almost 81,000 food samples from 27 EU Member States, Iceland and Norway.

The majority of samples (68.2%) were taken from food originating in Europe, with 27.7% coming from food imported from third countries. The percentage of samples from third countries exceeding legal limits was higher (5.7%) than for EU countries (1.4%). However, exceedance rates for imported food have fallen by nearly two percentage points (from 7.5%) since 2012.

For the EU co-ordinated programme, the reporting states tested 11,582 samples from 12 food products – apples, head cabbage, leek, lettuce, peaches, rye, oats, strawberries, tomatoes, cow’s milk, swine meat and wine. The results showed that 99.1% of the samples contained residue levels within permissible limits and almost 53% contained no measurable residues. 

Strawberries had greatest MRL exceedance rate and highest % of multiple residues

The highest MRL exceedance rate was found for strawberries (2.5 % of the samples), followed by lettuce (2.3 %), oats (1.3 %), peaches (1.1 %) and apples (1.0 %). The MRL exceedance rate was below 1 % for the remaining products – head cabbage (0.9 %), tomatoes (0.9 %) leek (0.5 %) and wine (0.1 %).

The products with the highest percentage of samples with multiple residues were strawberries (63 %), peaches (53 %), apples (46 %) and lettuce (36 %). Lower occurrence levels were recorded for oats (28 %), tomatoes (27 %), wine (23 %), rye (16 %), leek (14 %) and head cabbage (4.8 %).

Comparison with 2010 results

Compared to its analysis in 2010, However, EFSA noted a lower number of MRL exceedances related to non-approved pesticides in 2013 in apples, head cabbage, peaches and strawberries. In apples, lettuce and tomatoes some pesticides were found in exceedance of the MRL that were not present or were within the legal limits in 2010.

Assessment of consumer exposure

Considering the frequency of pesticide residues detected in food commonly consumed, a wide range of European consumers are expected to be exposed to these substances via food. To quantify the expected exposure and the related risk, EFSA performed short-term and long-term dietary risk assessments for the pesticides covered by the EU-coordinated programme (EUCP).

The short-term (acute) exposure was calculated for the 12 food products covered by the 2013 EUCP. For the majority of the pesticides assessed, the short-term exposure was found to be negligible or within a range that is unlikely to pose a consumer health concern. The exposure exceeded the toxicological reference value (ARfD) for 218 samples of the total of 18 747 samples taken into account for the short-term dietary exposure assessment (1.16 %), assuming that the product was consumed in high amounts without washing or any processing which would reduce the residues (e.g. peeling).

Most of the cases exceeding the ARfD were due to chlorpyrifos residues (145 determinations), mainly in apples and peaches. The high number of exceedances of the ARfD is related to the fact that the toxicological reference value for chlorpyrifos was recently lowered, which triggers the need to re-evaluate the existing MRLs for chlorpyrifos. Excluding the results for chlorpyrifos, 73 samples contained residues exceeding the ARfD.

Based on the results of the 2013 EUCP, EFSA concluded that the probability of European citizens being exposed to pesticide residues exceeding concentrations that may lead to negative health outcomes was low.

Organic produce

In 15.5 % of samples of organic products (717 of the 4 620 samples analysed) pesticide residues were detected within the legal limits whereas 0.8 % of the samples exceeded the MRL. In these samples, 134 distinct pesticides were identified. In most cases the detected residues were related to pesticides that are permitted for organic farming, persistent environmental pollutants or residues of substances that are not necessarily related to the use of pesticides but which may come from natural sources.

Read more from EFSA here.