This report summarises the results of the control activities related to pesticide residues in food carried out in 2011 in 27 Member States and two EFTA countries (Iceland and Norway). The report also presents the outcome of the dietary risk assessment carried out on the basis of the national control activities. While assessing the monitoring results, EFSA also derived some recommendations aimed at improving the enforcement of the European pesticide residue legislation. Overall, in 2011 more than 79,000 samples of more than 600 different food products were tested for pesticide residues throughout Europe. Nearly 900 pesticides were sought and less than 400 were detected in measurable amounts.
The analysis of the results of the 2011 EU-coordinated programme, which requested the control of 12 different food products, shown that 1.9 % of the samples numerically exceeded the MRL (245 out of the 12,676 samples); of those, 1.1 % was also found to be non-compliant with the legal limits when the measurement uncertainty was taken into account. 44.7 % of the samples (5,660 samples) contained measurable residues within the legally permitted levels. In 53.4 % of the samples (6,771 samples), no quantifiable residues were found (residues below the limit of quantification). Out of the 179 pesticides covered by the EU-coordinated programme, 40 pesticides were not detected in any of the samples analysed. Overall, the most frequently detected residues were bromide ion (36.4 %), followed by propamocarb, thiabendazole, boscalid, dithiocarbamates, chlorpyrifos, imazalil and chlormequat; these substances were found in 5 to 25 % of the samples analysed. It is noted that positive results for bromide ion do not necessarily reflect the use of the pesticide methyl bromide since bromide is naturally occurring in food plants. In certain food products the detection of dithiocarbamates (measured as CS2) is resulting from naturally occurring plant compounds and not from the use of pesticides containing dithiocarbamates. The food products for which the highest MRL exceedance rate was recorded were spinach (6.5 % of the samples exceeding the MRL), beans with pods (4.1 % MRL exceedances), oranges (2.5 %), cucumbers (2.1 %), rice (2 %), carrots (1.6 %), mandarins (1.4 %) and pears (1.1 %). The lowest percentage of samples exceeding the MRL was identified for wheat flour (0.3 %) and potato samples (0.6 %). In animal products (1,429 samples of liver and poultry meat were analysed) no MRL exceedances were identified. The pesticide/crop combinations for which residue concentrations were quantified above the reporting level most frequently were imazalil/mandarins (65.1 %), imazalil/oranges (64.5 %) and chlorpyrifos/mandarins (51.7 %). High frequencies were also reported for bromide ion in carrots and spinach (55.7 % and 54.2 %, respectively). The highest percentages of MRL exceedances were found for dithiocarbamates in spinach (4.8 % of all spinach samples), followed by residues of bromide ion in rice (2.4 %), clothianidin in spinach (1.4 %) and carbendazim in rice (1.1 %).
In 2011, in total 79,035 samples were taken in the context of the national programmes. Compared to the previous monitoring year, the number of samples analysed in 2011 represented an increase by 2.5 %. 71,164 samples were classified as surveillance samples. 97.5 % of the surveillance samples analysed was at or below the MRL; thus, in 2.5 % of the samples, the legal limits were numerically exceeded for one or more pesticides (1,764 samples). For 1.5 % of the samples legal actions were triggered since, considering the measurement uncertainty, they were also found to be non-compliant with the MRL legislation. The total number of different pesticides sought among all the EEA countries was 888. Out of these, 381 pesticides were detected in measurable quantities. The percentage of food samples imported from third countries that exceeded the legal limit amounted to 6.3 %, while the exceedance rate in EU and EFTA countries was of 1.5 %. A similar ratio was calculated regarding the MRL non-compliance rate: 3.7 % versus 0.9 % for food produced in third countries and the EEA, respectively. Products originating from Cyprus, Malta, Bulgaria, Portugal, Slovenia, Iceland, Luxembourg, France, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Austria, Greece and Spain were found to be above the calculated average non-compliance rate (0.9 %). For third countries the highest non-compliance rates (expressed in percentage of the samples analysed for the single countries) were identified for food originating from Vietnam (26.8 % of 421 samples), Kenya (15.2 % of 355 samples), Malaysia (14.0 % of 108 samples), Guatemala (12.1 % of 33 samples) and Thailand (10.3 % of 458 samples). More specifically, the highest percentage of MRL exceedances was identified for Vietnamese peppers (61.5 %, mainly due to residues of hexaconazole, carbendazim and difenoconazole) and for Vietnamese basil (59.5 %, mainly due to residues of chlorpyrifos, carbendazim and hexaconazole), followed by okra produced in India (43.3 %, mainly because of residues of acephate, monocrotophos and endosulfan).
In total 1,796 samples of baby food were analysed among all reporting countries except Iceland. Measurable residues were found in 39 samples (2.2 %). The MRLs for baby food were exceeded in four samples (0.2 % of 1,796 samples). Compared to other food products, the frequency of residues detection and MRL exceedances in baby food was significantly lower.
In 2011 4,117 organically produced food products (5.8 % of the total number of samples) were analysed by the reporting countries except Bulgaria, Hungary and Iceland. Compared to conventionally grown food products, for organic samples a lower MRL exceedance rate was observed (0.5 % for organic products versus 2.6 % for conventional products).
7,711 samples of processed food products (10.8 % of the total number of samples) were taken by all reporting countries except Iceland. Overall, 1.1 % of the processed samples exceeded the MRL. The exceedance rate for processed products was found to be lower than the one determined for the corresponding unprocessed products. All reporting countries observed multiple residues in the samples analysed. Residues of two or more pesticides were found in 18,881 samples (26.5 % of all samples). 0.4 % of the samples were found to exceed more than one MRL. Pepper was the food product with the highest number of samples with multiple MRL exceedances. Among the food products covered by the EU-coordinated monitoring programme, pears were identified as the product with the highest number of multiple residues (corresponding to 52.7 % of the pear samples). The most frequent combinations of two pesticides measured in the same sample were reported for boscalid/pyraclostrobin (240 samples, 11.0 % of the 2,184 pears samples), boscalid/chlorpyrifos (164 samples, 7.5 %) and boscalid/dithiocarbamates (152 samples, 7.0 %).
The dietary risk assessment performed to estimate the long-term exposure of consumers concluded that no consumer health risk was expected for 169 of the 171 pesticides assessed. For two pesticides (dieldrin and heptachlor) the worst-case exposure estimates exceeded the toxicological reference value, indicating a potential impact on the consumer health. Neither compound is nowadays authorised for use as a pesticide, but due to the historical use and the high persistence of the molecules and their capacity to bio-accumulate, these two substances are still present in the food chain. The risk assessment that focussed on the short-term exposure revealed that potential consumer health concerns could not be excluded in 253 instances, if the products that contained residues in high concentrations were consumed in large amounts. Finally, an acute risk assessment was carried out considering pear samples that contained multiple pesticide residues sharing the same toxicological effects. Two samples of pears exceeded the toxicological threshold for cumulative effects.
Based on the detailed analysis of the monitoring results, EFSA issued a set of recommendations to be considered for the future control programmes. Some of the recommendations aimed at improving the clarity and efficiency of the EU-coordinated monitoring plans and reducing the rate of MRL breaches. Finally, some proposals were made which focus on data that would allow improving the dietary risk assessment.