Pesticide cocktails in European food

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Over a quarter of the food consumed in Europe contains residues of two or more pesticides, according to the annual report published by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). For certain foods the situation is much worse: more than 60% of the popular summer fruits tested (currants, sweet cherries, strawberries and bananas) come with pesticide “cocktails”.

PAN Europe highlights that the absence of a safety assessment for pesticide mixtures present in our food not only fails to address the EU law requirements, but it also puts consumer health at risk in a clear violation of human rights. 

For fourteen years, EU law has required to address cumulative and synergistic effects of pesticides in safety assessment, yet Regulators continue to carry out safety assessments as if humans were exposed to a single pesticide - which, according to the report, is far from the truth.

The EFSA report, which is based mainly on fruit and vegetable samples collected in 2017 across all EU Member States, reconfirms the worrying results from previous years: just over half (54%) of the food tested was free of detectable pesticide residues, whereas over one in four (27.5 %) contained 2 or more pesticide residues (Fig. 1 and 2). The maximum number of residues in a single sample (peppers) was 30 and a total of 353 pesticides were detected across EU. Two in three (62%) EU fruits and nuts from conventional farming contain pesticides. Higher rates of pesticide mixtures may be found in our summer salads: 70% of the currants and blackberries, and over 60% of cherries, strawberries, lettuce, rocket and bananas were found to have two or more pesticide residues.    

For decades scientists have been raising the alarm that chemical mixtures may magnify the toxic potential of individual chemicals alone, including pesticides, making the safety assessment of “one chemical, one assessment” unfit to guarantee consumers’ safety. Furthermore, persistent and highly toxic pesticides (DDT, hexachlorobenzene) and other persistent organic pollutants (POPs) that have already been banned, continue to be present in our food (meat particularly) establishing a continuous background exposure level to toxic chemicals.



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