Pesticide residues in food: latest report from EFSA

On March 30, 2022, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has published its latest annual report on pesticide residues in food with samples being collected in 2020. A total of 88 141 samples and 659 pesticides were analyzed by 30 reporting countries.  

Among the 88 141 food samples analyzed, 94.9% of them fell below the maximum residue level of pesticides under EU regulations, which is slightly lower than that figure of 2019 (96.1%). More than 50% of them do not contain quantifiable residues. Meanwhile, the maximum level of pesticides is exceeded in 5.1 % of the sample, and 3.6% of the total samples triggered legal sanctions or enforcement actions for being non-compliant.    

The EFSA’s annual report is carried out under the European Commission Regulation No. 396/2005, combining both data from the official national control activities carried out by the EU Member States, Iceland and Norway, and from the EU-coordinated multiannual control programme (EU MACP). The national control programmes are risk-based, they target products that are likely to contain pesticide residues or that were non-compliance in previous years. Meanwhile, the EU MACP covers the most consumed food products by EU consumers, sampled randomly across a three-year cycle, meaning that the same products are examined every third year.  

Regarding the data from the EU-coordinated control programme (EU MACP), 12 077 samples were analyzed. For 2020, EU MACP analyses 12 food products, including carrots, cauliflowers, kiwi fruits (green, red, yellow), onions, oranges, pears, potatoes, dried beans, brown rice, rye grain, bovine liver, and poultry fat. The results show that 68.5% of the samples show no quantifiable level of residues and 29,7% are within the legal limits. Maximum residues levels are exceeded in 1.7% of the samples, with 0.9% being non-compliant based on the measurement uncertainty.  

A risk assessment is also carried out to assess the health risks associated with exposure to pesticide residues in food. In most cases, dietary exposure to pesticides residues is unlikely to pose a risk to EU consumer health. In the rare cases where there are health risks concerned, the competent authorities addressed potential risks to consumers with appropriate measures.