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EFSA report finds more pesticide residues in strawberries and cabbage

EFSA report finds more pesticide residues in strawberries and cabbage
Photo: EFSA

The latest report on pesticide residues in food in the European Union is now available, giving a snapshot of residue levels found in a basket of products widely consumed in the territory. A total of 96,302 samples were analysed in 2019, 96.1% of which fell within legally permitted levels. For the subset of 12,579 samples analysed as part of the EU-coordinated control programme (EUCP), 98% were within legal limits.

The EUCP analysed samples randomly collected from 12 food products – apples, head cabbages, lettuce, peaches, spinach, strawberries, tomatoes, oat grain, barley grain, wine (red and white), cow’s milk and swine fat. Of those samples analysed:

  • 6,674 or 53% were found to be free of quantifiable levels of residues.

  • 5,664 or 45% contained one or more residues in concentrations below or equal to permitted levels.

  • 241 or 2% contained residues exceeding the legal maximum of which 1% led to legal actions.

The coordinated programme covers similar baskets of products on a three-year rotation, which means upward or downward trends can be identified for specific goods. So, compared to 2016, the exceedance rate fell for peaches (from 1.9% to 1.5%), lettuce (2.4% to 1.8%), apples (2.7% to 2.1%) and tomatoes (2.6% to 1.7%).

Exceedances rose for strawberries (1.8% to 3.3%), head cabbages (1.1% to 1.9%), and wine grapes (0.4% to 0.9%). The results of the coordinated programme are available on EFSA’s website as browsable charts and graphs, making the data more accessible to non-specialists.

 

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European consumers not threatened by pesticides

European consumers not threatened by pesticides

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has published its latest report on pesticide residue use in 2017 and its presence in food products estimated. The dietary risk assessment indicates that European citizens are unlikely to be exposed to harmful pesticide residue levels. The EFSA used the results to make several recommendations to increase the efficiency of the European control systems and protect consumers. Taking a look at the results, 4.1% of the 88,247 samples analysed fell outside of the legal limits. This is up from 3.8% in 2016. The product for which the highest number of cases was recorded was currants, followed by lemons. In 54.1% of the tested samples, no quantifiable residues were reported, while 41.8% contained quantified residues at or below the maximum residue levels (MRLs).

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Biobest opens new production facility for biological controllers of aphids

biobest

On 24th April, Biobest announced the opening of a new €1.2 million state-of-the-art production facility at Biobest Maroc. The brand new facility covers an area of ​​2000 m2 and is equipped with climate cells. These climate cells are comparable to the concept of ‘vertical farming’. This is part of Biobest’s ongoing strategy to enlarge and improve its worldwide production capacity of organic pesticides against aphids.

The gall midge Aphidoletes aphidimyza is a voracious predator of aphids and plays a crucial role in their successful control. “When aphids begin to develop, the grower must act quickly to keep the plague under control,” said Karel Bolckmans, COO of Biobest. “This investment doubles our Aphidoletes production capacity, and represents a crucial contribution to the worldwide fight against aphids in horticultural crops With our multiple production facilities all over the world, our goal is to reach growers anywhere in the world quickly and our team in Morocco has done an excellent job with the timely and successful building of this new production facility.”

“Growers cannot successfully control aphids with just a single product. That is why we recommend strategies that use an effective combination of different applications,” said Marc Mertens, sales manager at Biobest. For instance, the gall midge Aphidoletes can work in a powerful tandem with different types of parasitic wasps.

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French pesticide ban could aid US cherry exporters in other EU markets

While US cherry exports to France will be prohibited this year, due to the Dimethoate ban, on the positive side for US cherry exporters is that France’s production is likely to be impacted by the ban on the pesticide – the French cherry crop is likely to be smaller and pricier – thus creating opportunities for France’s competitors in the EU, such as the UK.

France’s ban on cherry imports from countries where the pesticide Dimethoate is used has left fruit importers and traders fearing the country may soon apply similar bans involving other EU-approved pesticides or chemicals, according to a report by the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS).

Should their fears come true, this would be akin to a “de-facto shutting down the free movement of EU and third-country fruits and vegetables into France,” the report says.

While US cherry exports to France will be prohibited this year, due to the Dimethoate ban, on the positive side for US cherry exporters is that France’s production is likely to be impacted by the ban on the pesticide – the French cherry crop is likely to be smaller and pricier – thus creating opportunities for France’s competitors in the EU, such as the UK, the report says.

“On April 22, 2016, France temporarily banned the import and sales of cherries imported from countries where the chemical product dimethoate can be used on cherries and cherry trees. It follows the ban of its use for domestic production. Dimethoate was used to fight Drosphila suzukii, an Asian fruit fly which causes considerable damages in cherry orchards but is suspected by France of being dangerous to human health.

“France imports roughly one fifth of its consumption, the bulk coming from EU countries including some (such as Spain, Italy and Spain) that have already banned dimethoate. The French prohibition will de facto suspend imports of cherries from the United States, valued at around $1 million annually.

On the other hand, as France’s production is likely to be impacted by the ban on the pesticide, French cherries are likely to be scarcer and more expensive, creating opportunities for competitors on traditional French export markets such as the UK.”

Overview of French cherry production and trade

France is a minor producer of cherries in the EU and its production has been declining steadily over the past few years. Most of its cherry production is concentrated in the country’s south and southwest. Its cherry exports go mostly to neighboring countries, such as Germany, Belgium and the UK.

A net importer of cherries, the bulk of France’s imports come from the EU (Spain, Belgium, and Germany) and Turkey. Chile is the main supplier of winter cherries.

The US has a niche market in France for late summer cherries (from mid- July to August) and French imports of US cherries (mainly from Oregon and Washington) are valued at about $ 1 million annually. It should also be noted that about half the cherries listed as imported from Netherlands are in fact US or Canadian cherries that cleared customs in that country.

Source: GAIN Report FR1606, 5/20/2016 “U.S. Cherries Exports to France hit by French Pesticide Ban”

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EU Minor Uses Coordination Facility underway

An EU secretariat has now been set up to share information and experience and coordinate Member State work on making more plant protection products available to growers for minor uses and specialty crops.

An EU secretariat has now been set up to share information and experience and coordinate Member State work on making more plant protection products available to growers for minor uses and specialty crops.

Such niche crops may be of a high economic value for farmers, but are usually of low economic interest for the agro-pesticide industry, according to a press release from the new EU Minor Uses Coordination Facility.

Its mission is “to enable farmers in the EU to produce high quality crops by filling minor uses gaps through efficient collaboration to improve availability of chemical and non-chemical tools within an integrated pest management (IPM) framework.”

As of September 1, Jeroen Meeussen has been the coordinator for the new EU Minor Uses Coordination Facility. Speaking from his office in Paris, Jeroen said he looks forward to the challenge of improving co-ordination between countries, grower organisations and industry to develop solutions for minor uses.

“One of my priorities will be to liaise with applicants, growers, Member States and other relevant stakeholders. I will also be drawing on experience from other minor use projects around the globe,” he said.

Jointly funded, initially, by the EU and the governments of France, Germany and the Netherlands, the facility is hosted by the European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organisation (EPPO) in Paris. The EU has committed to provide 50% of the costs for the first three years.

The main task of the facility will be to address gaps in pest and disease control measures available for so called ‘minor crops’ and for minor pests on other crops for farmers as well as for gardeners.

Visit the new EU Minor Uses Coordination Facility website.

More articles on minor uses 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.