EFSA advises on harmful fruit fly found in imports from Egypt

EFSA has just delivered scientific advice on the risks posed by a plant pest commonly known as the peach fruit fly (Bactrocera zonata), which Spanish authorities recently detected in consignments of citrus fruit from Egypt. EFSA confirmed the view of Spanish experts that the introduction of the pest, which is not present in the EU, would pose a serious threat to fruit production in the Mediterranean region and that control measures should be considered.

The peach fruit fly infests ripe fruit rendering it inedible, and while it particularly targets peach, mango and guava, many fruit species in the EU could potentially be affected. European legislation lists the pest as a harmful organism which Member States must prevent from entering and spreading in the EU, using protective measures if necessary (Council Directive 2000/29/EC).  It has also been discussed by the European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organisation (EPPO), which underlined its economic importance for the Mediterranean region.

EFSA’s Plant Health experts confirmed that the peach fruit fly is capable of entering, establishing itself, spreading and causing significant impact on fruit production in southern EU Member States. However, more work is needed to identify the countries/ regions and fruit species most at risk, the various ways the pest could enter the EU and the potential impact on export markets.

The control measures proposed by Spain involve mandatory plant health treatments before export, targeted port-of-entry inspections and prohibiting all fruit carried by passengers. EFSA’s experts recommended a more systematic approach, noting that a combination of management options may be effective, including surveillance trapping and male annihilation technique, which combines the use of a sex attractant and insecticide to attract and eliminate male flies, thus stopping mating. The peach fruit fly has been successfully eradicated in some regions such as California and Israel, where early detection was crucial.

EFSA’s scientific opinion has been delivered to the European Commission, which will discuss the issue with Member States in the Standing Committee on Plant Health with a view to deciding on appropriate control measures.