Pesticides in food: new EFSA report published

5 APRIL 2022

EFSA’s latest annual report on pesticide residues in food covers more than 88,000 food samples collected in the European Union in 2020.The EU MACP covers the most consumed food products by EU citizens as indicated in the EU MACP Regulation (EU) 2019/533 and sampled randomly. The listed food products are distributed across a 3-year cycle, so that every 3 years the same products are analysed. A snapshot of the situation in 2020 of the pesticide residues present in those food products is provided and compared with 2017 and 2014.

For the 2020 EU MACP, 12 food products were selected: carrots, cauliflowers, kiwi fruits (green, red, yellow), onions, oranges, pears, potatoes, dried beans, brown rice, rye grain, bovine liver and poultry fat. A total of 12,077 samples were analysed.

Of those samples analysed in the coordinated programme:

-68.5% (8,278 samples) were found to be free of quantifiable levels of residues.

-29.7% (3,590) contained one or more residues in concentrations below or equal to permitted levels.

-1.7% (209) contained residues exceeding the legal maximum, of which 113 (0.9%) were non-compliant.

Some countries were unable to meet the sampling targets required by the EU MACP Regulation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pesticides found to be most responsible (more than 10 samples) included phosmet (RD= Residue Definition) (57 samples), cypermethrin (RD) (24 samples), dimethoate (RD) (17 samples) and chlorpyrifos (RD) (11 samples). The chronic exposure assessment was conducted on 62,850 samples. The estimated exposure was below the 100% of Acceptable Daily Intake for all the pesticides assessed for both lower and adjusted middle-bound scenarios.

It should be noted that for organic products, no specific MRLs are established. The MRLs set in Regulation (EC) No 396/2005 apply equally to organic food and to conventional food. However, Article 5 of Regulation (EC) No 889/200817 on organic production of agricultural products defines the restrictions in place for the use of plant protection products.

Several EU non-approved pesticides were found repeatedly in randomly sampled food grown in the EU territory at levels exceeding the legal limits, namely:

-oranges: dimethoate (RD), linuron (RD),

-dried beans: triadimenol (RD),

-carrots: iprodione (RD), linuron (RD), dieldrin (RD), chlorpyrifos-methyl (RD)

-pears: chlorpyrifos (RD), iprodione (RD), diphenylamine (RD),

-potatoes: chlorpyrifos (RD), fipronil (RD),

-kiwi: dimethoate (RD),

-rye grain: chlorpyrifos (RD), thiacloprid (RD),

-rice: thiamethoxam (RD),

-poultry fat: hexachlorobenzene (RD)

The EU non-approved active substances with the highest MRL exceedance rate (%) were found to be ethylene oxide (RD) (21.3%), chlorates (RD) (2.9%), chlordecone (RD) (0.9%), chlorpyrifos (RD) (0.4%) and anthraquinone (RD) (0.2%). Remarkably, the MRL exceedance rate reported for chlorate decreased compared with previous year (7.2%). National authorities should consider the following pesticide/sample groupings when planning their monitoring programmes:

-ethylene oxide (RD) in sesame seeds, peppercorn and buckwheat,

-chlorates (RD) in leafy crops (lettuce, lamb’s lettuce/corn salads), tomatoes and beans with pods

-chlordecone (RD) in cassava roots and chicken eggs,

-chlorpyrifos (RD) sweet peppers/bell peppers, grape leaves, dried beans, pomegranates, potatoes and teas,

-anthraquinone (RD) in tea.

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