According to Directive 90/642/EEC, all European Member States are obliged to prepare a National Plan for Horticulture Products which shows how they will implement the monitoring for traces of pesticides in the coming year. The plan is implemented after approval by Brussels. The results from the previous year must also be reported to the European Commission.
In July 1998 the European results were compiled for the first time under the title Monitoring for Pesticide Residues in the European Union and Norway Report 1996. This report describes the national monitoring programmes of all fifteen Member States and Norway over the year 1996. In addition to the EU, the United States also has a monitoring programme focussing on residue analyses.
Differences in national regulation
There are many differences in the set-up and implementation of the monitoring, including the choice of different fruit and vegetables to be tested and the choice of pesticides, the relationship between domestic and imported products, the definition of a violation and the sampling strategy. For example, some national programmes emphasise crops in which more violations are expected (such as lettuce). Several countries take samples in proportion to the quantities consumed, producing results that are more representative of dietary risks.
The number of pesticides that are looked for also differs per country. Another example of the existing differences are the national MRLs (maximum residue limits). MRLs may be set for substances that are not harmonised, in which case the national limits differ from one country to another. Some countries may have zero tolerance levels, some others set national residue limits and other countries apply the Codex MRLs or set import tolerances.
These differences in national regulation often explain the differences in residues found in imported products as compared to domestic production. In the EU the definition of a violation is left to the Member States, which again results in differences. Finally, the sampling strategy may differ per country. Products may be chosen at random or in a directed (targeted) strategy. Sometimes sampling seems random but in practice more samples are taken in periods when the use of pesticides is highest.
In view of the multiplicity of differences named above, it is difficult to compare the residue results from different countries with one another. Comparisons which will be made in this chapter are only indicative. Where possible we describe the strategy followed in each country below.
In its report to the EU Austria says that in 1996 mainly cereal grains and potatoes were analysed for pesticides. No data was available on fruit and vegetables.
The General Foodstuffs Inspectorate of the Belgian Ministry of Social Affairs, Public Health and the Social Environment, reports on the monitoring of pesticides in fresh fruit and vegetables on the Belgian market. Diverse factors are taken into account in selecting the products, methods of analysis and the number of products to be sampled. These include the average consumption, Belgian production data, results from the previous year and the analytic and budgetary possibilities. In 1996 a total of 932 samples were tested, of which 228 were from fruit, 650 from vegetables and 54 from potatoes.
The National Food Agency of Denmark reports on the Danish monitoring programme. The sampling plan is drawn up on the basis of data on consumption and production and the results from previous years. The samples are taken at random and the emphasis is on raw products. A sample contains at least 1 kg of the product, and consists of ten or more individual types of fruit or vegetable. In 1996, 1,273 samples of fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables and 110 samples of cereal grains were analysed.
In England the Pesticide Safety Directorate (PSD), which is part of the English Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF), reports on the monitoring results. The sampling plan makes allowances for consumption levels, residue levels and the requirements of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC). It covers a wide range of products. In 1996, 878 samples of fruit and vegetables (including potatoes) were examined for pesticides.
In Finland the National Food Administration reports on the national monitoring. The Finish sampling strategy makes allowance for consumption and risks. Biologically grown products and vegetarian products are monitored separately. The relatively large number of samples of imported products is striking.
The EU has not received any monitoring data from France regarding fruit and vegetables.
In Germany the individual states are responsible for monitoring foodstuffs. The Federal Institute for Consumer Health Protection and Veterinary Medicine (Bundesinstitut für gesundheitlichen Verbraucherschutz und Veterinärmedizin) reports on the combined results from the national and state monitoring programmes. In 1996 a total of 11,870 samples were examined for pesticides. Of these samples 7,218 were samples of animal origin, 395 were of cereal grains and 4,257 were fruit and vegetables. The sampling plan makes allowance for the volume of production.
In 1996 five laboratories participated in the Greek pesticide monitoring programme. The Ministry of Agriculture established four of these laboratories in 1995. The samples of fresh products are taken in the central fruit and vegetable markets of Athens, Thessalonika, Patras and Heraklion. Imported products are obtained in the harbours of the same cities. In 1996 a total of 1,132 samples were tested.
The Irish body responsible for the monitoring of pesticides is the Department of Agriculture and Food. The Irish sampling plan makes allowance for the relative importance of products in the Irish diet. The samples are obtained from the wholesale trade. In 1996 the Irish monitoring programme included the analysis of 505 samples of fruit and vegetables.
In Italy the monitoring data is supplied by the Laboratories of the National Health Service. No information was available about the sampling strategy.
The Luxembourg monitoring programme is carried out by the National Health Laboratory. In general domestic samples of fresh fruit and vegetables are collected in the central market in Luxembourg. Imported products are taken from the wholesale trade. Each sample contains at least 1 kg of the product. The sort of vegetable or fruit that is sampled, varies per year. In 1996 212 samples were analysed.
The Norwegian monitoring programme for pesticide residues in fruit and vegetables has been in existence since 1977. The programme now measures about 3,000 samples of fresh products of vegetable origin per year. More than seventy different products are collected from the wholesale trade in various parts of Norway. The selected samples approximately reflect market shares, but suspect products are sampled more frequently.
In 1996 the Portuguese monitoring programme for pesticides analysed a total of 600 samples of fruit and vegetables, including potatoes. The Directorate General for Inspection and Food Control collects most of its samples from wholesalers.
In Spain each province is responsible for its own monitoring of pesticides. The results are studied in the Spanish Working Group of Pesticide Residues and are sent to the General Subdirectorate of Plant Protection. In 1996 3,022 samples were examined. The EU has not received any information about the sampling method in 1996.
In the Netherlands the Inspectorate for Health Protection, Commodities and Veterinary Public Health implements the government monitoring of pesticides. In 1996 a total of thirteen local Inspectorates took samples from auctions, importers, wholesalers and the processing industries. The Dutch figures in this section are the results as presented to the EU. The reported violation rate is 3.6%. The sampling is to some extent based on experience, i.e., products with a higher probability of violations are more frequently sampled.
The previous edition of the KAP report, with data for 1996, reported a violation rate of 1.4%. The difference is explained by a number of factors. In the first place, the figures in the KAP do include a weighting for consumption volumes, which cancels out the effect of products with a greater probability of violation being more frequently sampled. In the second place the KAP report distinguishes between domestic production and imports.
The violation rate of 1.4% in the previous KAP report relates to products produced in the Netherlands. About 75 percent of the samples on which the report of the Inspectorate for Health Protection, Commodities and Veterinary Public Health is based are of Dutch origin, and about 25 percent come from other countries. Infringements of the limits are found more frequently in imported products.
The Swedish National Food Administration checks vegetables, fruit and grains. The number of samples collected approximately reflects the Swedish consumption of the product concerned. At least one hundred samples of the most important products are taken. The samples are derived from the wholesale trade, mills and, in the case of imported products, at ports. In 1996 a total of 3,908 samples of fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables (including potatoes) were analysed for pesticides.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports annually on the results of the Pesticide Program Residue Monitoring. In planning the type and number of samples, the FDA takes the following factors into consideration: recent residue data, regional information about the use of pesticides, the importance of the product in the dietary pattern, information about the quantities of domestically grown and imported products, chemical characteristics and the toxicity of the pesticide and patterns in the volume of production and pesticide use. In 1996, 4,336 samples of vegetables and 2,929 samples of fruit were checked.