More than 97% of European food products contain pesticide residues, according to analyses carried out by the EU’s national authorities. EURACTIV’s partner Journal de l’Environnement reports.
The European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) annual compilation of results from studies across the EU on the presence of pesticides in food products held no surprises. Of the 84,341 samples of produce from conventional agriculture analysed, 97.2% contained traces of one or more of 774 pesticides.
Very limited values
53.3% of the samples tested in 2015 were “free of quantifiable residues” – which does not mean they were pesticide-free – while 43.9% contained residues “not exceeding legal limits”. Meanwhile, 99.3% of organic food was free from residues or within legal limits.
To meet EU standards, the residues of any pesticide present in a product must not exceed two times the legal limit. But these values are highly contested, particularly for endocrine disruptors, which can be active at very low concentrations.
Bananas, the multi-residue champions
In 2015, the analysts’ shopping basket included bananas, aubergines, broccoli, virgin olive oil, orange juice, peas, peppers, raisins, wheat, butter and eggs. While some samples of each product were found to contain residues of multiple pesticides, the results for bananas (58.4%) and raisins (58.3%) were the most striking, followed by peppers (24.4%).
Three quarters of the sample batch came from EU countries (plus Norway and Iceland), with the other quarter coming from unspecified third countries. These imports pose the greatest risk to consumers, with 5.6% found to contain pesticide residues above the EU limits. Among EU-sourced produce, 1.7% of samples were over the legal limits. One third of all the pesticides detected are illegal in the European Union.