EFSA gives advice on citrus pests in French overseas departments

The European Food Safety Authority Plant Health (PLH) Panel has today published scientific advice on citrus plant pests and concluded that some of the organisms examined could pose a risk to the French overseas departments of Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique and Réunion. Following a request from the European Commission, EFSA evaluated assessments on 15 citrus plant pests and diseases. These scientific opinions follow the opinions published in March on banana pests for the French overseas departments. The request was made in the light of future revision of plant health regulations to include the French overseas departments within the EU plant health regime.

In addition, the Panel is developing a guidance document on the evaluation of pest risk assessments.

Based on a review of the information provided by the French authorities and on additional scientific data, the Panel recommended that five of the citrus pests evaluated should be added to the EU list of organisms harmful to plants and plant products. Of those five the fungus Ceratocystis fimbriata is considered by far the most likely to cause a serious disease in many plant species.

Ceratocystis fimbriata is a fungal species that infects many economically important plants worldwide, including cocoa, coffee, sweet potato and a variety of tree species. In southern Europe, a fungus from the same genus, Ceratocystis platani, is well known for attacking plane trees grown as ornamentals and recently also those found in natural habitats. In a few countries of Central and South America, C. fimbriata causes a deadly diseases affecting most of citrus plants with the exception of grapefruit. The Panel concluded that the fungus could establish itself in the citrus growing areas of the French overseas departments and that the growth of citrus in household gardens might help spread the disease. The risk of introduction would be mostly associated with the import of infected plants or plant propagation material from the affected areas. Once established, Ceratocystis fimbriata could affect citrus orchards and possibly also coffee and other crops in the French overseas departments.

Evaluation of risk posed by plant pests which can cause harm to plants and plant products is one of the main activities of the EFSA PLH Panel.

It has been EFSA’s experience however, that evaluation of pest risk assessments presents many challenges. The documents presented to the Panel often follow different formats and vary greatly in terms of methodology and the level of detail provided. To address some of these issues, EFSA last year organised a scientific colloquium where over 80 international experts discussed different scientific approaches to pest risk assessment, the methodologies used, the availability of data, and the assessment of the potential impact of new plant pests. The PLH Panel is now developing a guidance document on evaluation of pest risk assessments for plant health regulatory purposes. The guidance document will help evaluate pest risk assessment prepared by Member States and will contribute to effective harmonisation of terminology and procedures. The draft guidance document will be available by the end of the year. For more information: