Pesticides Residues in Food: PAN Europe’s Member, Générations Futures reveals data manipulation


New scandal concerning the Maximum Residue Limits of pesticides in food: reveals Générations Futures how in its calculations the European Commission artificially divides by 2 the amount of pesticides found in food to bring down the number of MRLs exceeding…on paper!

Controversy concerning MRLs. We remember that a few years ago a strong controversy took place Europe during the harmonization of maximum residue limits (MRLs) for pesticide residues in food. Back many European NGOs protested against the raising up of a large number of MRLs on this occasion, allowing larger quantities of pesticides to be tolerated in food in the EU. Today, Générations Futures reveals a new sleight of hand of the Directorate General for Health and Consumer (DG Sanco), which is in charge, in the European Commission, for monitoring pesticide residues in food.

Explanations. To take into account the uncertainty of analytical laboratories analyzing pesticide residues and possible differences between laboratories, DG SANCO in a document official guide (1), stopped the value of the analytical uncertainty of +/- 50 % of the measured value (X). Thus, for a measured value of X = 2 mg / kg, the uncertainty interval is between 2+1 and 2-1 (50% of 2 = 1). The uncertainty interval is therefore included in this example between 1 and 3 mg / kg. So far, so good...

Figures nicely lowered… The sleight of hand comes next and it is huge: DG Sanco arbitrarily consider the value that will be used for judging any potential exceeding of the MRL. In fact it is not the measured value but the lower value of this range (measured value - 50%). In the example above 1mg/kg, instead of 2 mg / kg measured! The thing is huge: it is nothing else than use the measured value divided by 2 before comparing it to the MRL! For sure with this method the MRL exceedings will decrease ... but artificially. DG Sanco requires the Member States of the EU to apply this method. «In terms of MRLs concerning pesticides, DG Sanco invented the machine to divide by 2 the amount of pesticides found in the food! In practice it doubles the tolerance for pesticide residues and therefore exposes the European population to even larger quantities of these toxic chemicals in their diet which is a pure scandal. » Declares François Veillerette, Générations Futures Spoke person.

Results in France: this provision, applicable from the 2010 campaign analyzes which Générations Futures just got the results (2) which have just been published, leads to an artificial drop of percentage of fruits and vegetables containing pesticides beyond MRLs: 1.5% in 2010 against 3% in 2009! This decrease does not correspond to an improvement of the situation, but only to the application of this trick of arithmetic requested by DG Sanco.

Indeed, in the meantime the percentage of fruits and vegetables containing pesticides increased by 37.9% in 2009 to 40.7% in 2010, but the hocus-pocus of DG Sanco allowed believing an improvement on MRL exceedings due to a trick of arithmetic! (Note that surprisingly France applies directives from DG Sanco, by considering as exceeding MRL values only the ones > 150% of the MRL, which is “less worse” than what the EU advocates, but also negative ( and fanciful!)

"We urge the European Union to put in place provisions to protect public health concerning pesticide residues, considering the analytical value measured increased (of the 50% uncertainty value) as the value that should be used for comparison with the MRLs and not the low value of the range as it is done currently. In fact, uncertainty should benefit to the health protection and not to pesticides industries! “ he concludes.

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Further information

1: Document SANCO 10684/2009 on Method Validation and Quality Control procedures for pesticide residue analysis.
2: Information Note No. 2012-105 of DGCCRF.

For further information please contact:

Nadine Lauverjat – 0033 6 87 56 27 54, Press Contact Générations Futures

Hans Muilerman - 0031 655807255, PAN Europe Chemicals Coordinator

© PAN Europe, Rue de la Pacification 67, 1000, Brussels, Belgium, Tel. +32 2 318 62 55

PAN Europe gratefully acknowledges the financial support from the European Union, European Commission, DG Environment, Life+ programme. Sole responsibility for this publication lies with the authors and the funders are not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained herein.