The Maximum Residue Levels compliance
Every year, according to the rules established by Regulation (EC) No 396/2005, the EFSA releases a report on the pesticides residues in foodstuff over Europe. This report is based on data from the official national control activities carried out by EU Member States, Iceland and Norway. The report shows the results of extensive analyses of more than 800,000 samples from all over Europe to ensure and check the compliance of products on the market.
On the 30th of March 2022, the report for 2020 was released. The summary states
Analysis of the results shows that 94.9% of samples fell within legally permitted levels. For the subset of 12,077 samples analysed as part of the EU-coordinated control programme (EU MACP), 98.2% were within legal limits.
The entire report can be found here: https://efsa.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.2903/j.efsa.2022.7215
Let’s see a bit more about how things work over pesticides and how some definitions would help understand the regulations at best.
The term “pesticide” is commonly misused with the intended meaning of Plant Protection Product (PPP). Pesticides are not only substances used for killing plants’ pests (as the PPPs) but also include substances for non-plant uses. To this extent, biocides are pesticides. EFSA oversees assessing PPT but not biocides.
Plant Protection Products are pesticides made of at least one active substance to keep crops healthy and prevent them from being destroyed by disease and infestation. PPP include herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, acaricides, plant growth regulators and repellents.
Plant protection products cannot be placed on the market or used without prior authorization. As it happens for other substances intended for the food sector (new additives, novel foods), EFSA evaluates active substances used in PPP while the Member States (MSs) authorize the products at the European level. The EFSA role is a scientific role of assessment while the EU Commission and the Member States take risk management decisions on regulatory issues, including approval of active substances. The EFSA scientific role is to evaluate the safety profile of the substance(s) and their potential harmfulness for humans. Based on their opinions, MSs can decide what to do.
The Regulation mentioned above, (EC) No 396/2005, set and harmonized the legal limits for pesticide residues (called Maximum Residue Levels or MRLs) in food and feed and gave the provisions for official controls. These legal limits also apply to imported food, set as “import tolerances” to meet international trade needs. These limits are defined because PPPs may pose a risk to public health if not controlled. Limits are established based on the hazard profile of each substance during the safety risk assessment carried out by EFSA panels. According to Regulation (EC) No 396/2005, maximum residue levels (MRLs) are the upper levels of pesticide residues that are legally permissible in or on food or animal feed, based on good agricultural practice (GAP) and the lowest exposure necessary to protect vulnerable consumers.
The yearly report released by the EFSA on pesticides residues checks the compliance of the pesticides (or better PPPs) residues. That is done also to understand if agricultural practices are done properly and are efficient in guaranteeing human health and whether consumers are protected.
Source: EFSA website available from: https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/topics/topic/pesticides