The study found that 96 per cent of the 74,000 samples of almost 350 different food types complied with legal maximum residue levels (MRL), with only four per cent exceeding them, compared to five per cent in 2006. The report authors explained that MRLS are often incorrectly understood as being toxicological safety limits when in fact they are employed to ensure the residues on food pose no unacceptable risk for the health of consumers.
These results represent a summary of testing carried out by both the European Union and member states. EU testing targeted areas where previous non-compliance was more likely in a bid to form an accurate picture on legal compliance throughout the bloc.
A second set of findings published in the research based on harmonised tests carried out solely by EU officials in a less targeted way found that only 2.3 per cent of the samples exceeded MRLs. This second finding gave an indication of consumer exposure to pesticide residues as a whole, an EFSA spokesman told FoodProductionDaily.com.
In assessing both chronic long-term and acute short-term consumer exposure, EFSA said it took a “cautious approach” and used conservative assumptions that overestimated exposure. It raised concerns about only one pesticide – diazinon – and noted “that since December 2007 all authorisations concerning this substance have been withdrawn and MRLs have been lowered”.
“Once again the report confirms that the risks residues might actually pose are far outweighed by the benefits of the affordable, balanced and healthy diet that pesticides help provide.”