It is not known in advance whether the samples being tested have a greater probability of containing traces of a pesticide. However in selecting the fruit and vegetables to be analysed the greatest possible use is made of knowledge from the past. So products that have often contained pesticides in previous years are examined more frequently. Allowance is also made for the seasons in which plant diseases may occur, since this determines the use of the corresponding chemicals.
The goal is efficiency from the point of view of testing and detection. So the results of the monitoring by the Inspectorate for Health Protection, Commodities and Veterinary Public Health do not reflect the average situation.
In addition to the Inspectorate’s work, the sector itself is active in product monitoring. Most Dutch fruit and vegetable auctions, including The Greenery International BV, Auction Zuid Oost Nederland (ZON), Co-operative Fruitmasters Group, Auction Margraten and Auction Zaltbommel have implemented joint residue monitoring.
The wholesale organisations just mentioned have delegated a number of common activities in the sector, including residue monitoring, to the Horticultural Society on Greens, Fruit and Mushrooms (The Vereniging Tuinbouwsector Groente, Fruit en Paddestoelen, VTGFP). The VTGFP has delegated the monitoring itself to the MBT Foundation. The residue monitoring focuses largely on the growing phase. Before the harvest, samples of diverse types of fruit and vegetables are taken and checked for about 25 pesticides.
The results of the residue analysis are used to determine when the crop can be harvested (since pesticides degrade over time). About 20 percent of the batches that were sampled in the cultivation phase are checked again after the harvest. This second round of sampling takes place on the auction floor and is intended as a method of monitoring the first sampling. The auction samples, unlike the samples taken in the cultivation phase, can be seen as representative of the products that enter the market. In order to be representative, only the auction samples of the VTGFP are included in the Quality Programme for Agricultural Products (KAP).
In addition to the activities of Dutch producers of fruit and vegetables, working together in the VTGFP and the Inspectorate for Health Protection, Commodities and Veterinary Public Health, monitoring is also carried out by Waling van Geest. Waling van Geest is a Dutch exporter of fresh fruit and vegetables. Because the company has a top position on the English market it attaches great importance not only to good service, but also to quality aspects, including food safety.
To be able to guarantee these aspects Waling van Geest makes agreements with its suppliers in relation to the use of pesticides. The agreements are checked by means of a monitoring programme, involving measurements of traces of about ninety different pesticides.