This week the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has published the annual report of pesticide residues, based on the analysis of more than 67,000 samples taken by the different Member States of the EU and two countries from the EFTA, on the basis of European and national programmes for official control in 2009, and also assesses the exposure of European consumers to those residues through their diets.
The report reveals that the trend towards greater compliance with the legislation on phytosanitary residue content in food continues to be unstoppable, such that, 97.4 % of the samples analysed complied with these food safety standards (compared to 96.5% in 2008).
In addition, the Authority has assessed the exposure to the risks derived from the presence of these residues in the samples found to be positive, and concludes that in all cases the existence of long-term risk from their consumption can be rejected and that the risk of short-term consequences for health is unlikely.
This year the report has certain special features including the fact that it is the first report to be made following the total harmonisation of the Maximum Residues level (MRLs) in the EU; to permit a direct comparison with figures from 2006, in plant-based food from the coordinated programme, as the same foods were analysed; to be the result of the submission of data from Member States in a new and more complete format; to include animal-origin foods; and lastly, to include recommendations from the Authority for improving the task of guaranteeing food safety for European consumers.
Results at EU level
Some of the more significant data from the study are as follows:
Results in Spain
A total of 1568 samples were analysed under this programme in Spain in 2009.
98.7% of the samples taken in Spain complied with the established MRLs. This percentage is higher than that of the European Union, and therefore Spain has better results.
Residues were found in 13 % of the 145 processed food samples but none of these exceeded the MRL and of the 143 samples of infant food analysed, 100% were OK, without any trace of residues.
This information can be consulted at:
Risk assessment of the results obtained
The EFSA’s Pesticide Risk Assessment Peer Review Unit, which prepared the report for the third year, highlights that the presence of pesticide residues in foods, even in those cases in which the MRLs are exceeded, does not necessarily imply a food safety risk. This is thanks to the special process for establishing the MRL in the EU, and the MRLs should not be considered as toxicological limits.
To assess consumer risk, EFSA estimated chronic (long-term) exposure to pesticides from major foods that make up the diet of Europeans and acute (short-term) exposure for the ten types of products that were monitored in 2009 as part of the EU coordinated programme. In both cases, EFSA followed a conservative approach to estimate exposure to pesticides, that is, the worst case possible, considering vulnerable groups in the population including children, vegetarians… etc.
Further information is available in the full EFSA report at the following Internet address: