Illegal pesticide contamination of food imports on the rise

Food imports showing traces of pesticide residue are on the up, while domestic EU levels are remaining constant. [Alf Ribeiro/Shutterstock]

A European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) report has warned that 6.5% of food imports from third countries contain pesticide residue that exceeds the EU’s maximum permitted level. EURACTIV Spain reports.

The EFSA, based in the northern Italian city of Parma, said that its most recent data, collected in 2014, shows a slight increase from 2013, when 5.7% of food was contaminated.

In terms of food produced by the 28 member states, as well as Iceland and Norway, just 1.6% contained limit-exceeding pesticide residue, up from 1.4% in 2013.

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Of nearly 83,000 food samples analysed, 97% complied with the rules, either by being completely pesticide free (53% of the samples achieved this) or by being within the legal limits.

EFSA pesticide unit Head José Tarazona explained that the EU’s results from 2014 “are in line with what was recorded the year before, meaning that the EU is continuing the protect consumers by controlling the presence of pesticides in food”.

In total, 3,265 samples were tainted with over-the-limit levels of pesticide, mostly from imports, and about 1,253 cases were contaminated by pesticides that are not approved in the EU.

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The European agency said that it is “unlikely” that the levels of pesticide it detected would pose a threat to people’s health in the short or long term.

It also proposed recommendations that would make pesticide control programmes more efficient, by, for example, including other products like berries, honey, tea and animal feed.

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