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The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published its third annual report on pesticide residues, offering an overview of pesticides residues found in food the EU during 2009, as well as an assessment of their exposure to consumers. The report shows compliance rates continuing to rise, with 97.4% of the samples analyzed falling within the permitted maximum residue levels (MRLs), a 1% increase over 2008.
In the EU-coordinated part of the monitoring program, 61.4% of samples were free of measurable pesticide residues. Compared with 2006, the last time the same food commodities of plant origin were analyed under the EU-coordinated program, the MRL exceedance rate has fallen from 4.4% to 1.4%. EFSA said this could be partially ascribed to the harmonization of MRLs, which came into force in September 2008, but other factors—such as the more effective use of legislation compelling producers and other industry players to implement safety systems, and changes in the pattern of pesticide use in Europe—may have contributed to the improvement. EFSA concluded that, based on current knowledge, long-term exposure to residues detected in major foods that make up the European diet would not raise health concerns. In the report, EFSA also makes a number of recommendations aimed at improving future monitoring programs and the enforcement of European legislation on pesticide residues.