FEATURED INFORMATION

Plant protection product residues in food: Assessment, management and implications for the RASFF rapid alert system

César Casado de Santiago
Head of the Residue Service
Subdirectorate-General for Food Safety Promotion

There is still much to be done. Effective risk communication is an important outstanding task for Food Safety. In 2002 it was established that risk analysis* with its three stages (assessment, management and communication) would be the basis for all subsequent EU food law. The newest component was in fact communication, i.

There is still much to be done. Effective risk communication is an important outstanding task for Food Safety. In 2002 it was established that risk analysis* with its three stages (assessment, management and communication) would be the basis for all subsequent EU food law. The newest component was in fact communication, i.e. how to connect all the stakeholders involved in the process and, above all, how to explain the results of the risk assessment and the reasons underlying management decisions.
Regulation (EC) No. 396/2005** setting maximum residue limits (MRLs) for pesticides is a perfect example of this working approach in which assessment and risk management tasks are separate, and shared between the European institutions – the European Commission and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) – and the national authorities (MAGRAMA and AECOSAN, ìn Spain).
In this first phase, the cornerstone of risk assessment combines toxicological data on the active substance with the results of residue testing, leading to the proposed MRL. Next, this proposal is backed up by a positive opinion from EFSA, which becomes a guarantee of food safety throughout the EU, and therefore must be respected. Any foodstuff that does not exceed European MRLs is safe for consumers, regardless of the distance from threshold values.
The MRL is defined as "the upper legal level of a concentration for a pesticide residue in or on food or feed (...) based on good agricultural practice and the lowest consumer exposure necessary to protect vulnerable consumers". Therefore it is not a toxicological limit like those that apply in other areas, such as pollutants, but rather a toxicologically acceptable, or safe, limit based on a good agricultural practice, rather than a maximum dosage. This peculiarity makes a key difference in the interpretation of, and hence compliance with, MRLs. For example, the EU's Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) does not consider simply exceeding an MRL to be a serious risk. Further evaluation is required to confirm that the excessive level could endanger consumers.
The results of the latest Eurobarometer survey*** tell us that, of all the possible risks associated with food, Spaniards identified pesticide residues as the most worrying. On the other hand, only 56% of respondents thought that the authorities were doing a good job of informing the public about the risks associated with food. As stated above, there is still much to be done: Let's get to it!

* REGULATION (EC) No 178/2002 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 28 January 2002 laying down the general principles and requirements of food law, establishing the European Food Safety Authority and laying down is procedures in matters of food safety (OJ L 31, 1.2.2002, p. 1)
** Regulation (EC) No 396/2005 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 February 2005 on maximum residue levels of pesticides in or on food and feed of plant and animal origin and amending Council Directive 91/414/EEC  (OJ L 70, 16.3.2005, p. 1)

*** Special Euro barometer 354 on food-related risks http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/factsheet/docs/reporten.pdf 

Featured highlights

Legal notice

In accordance with the Organic Law on the Protection of Personal Data 15/1999, of 13 December, Promotora de Exportaciones Catalanas SA (hereinafter PRODECA), whose address is Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, 620, principal, 08007 Barcelona, with tax reg. no. NIF A58241316, declares that the images contained on the website www.smartfruitcongress.cat are included in a file belonging to PRODECA. The purpose of this file is to promote the activities conducted by PRODECA – SmartFruit IPM International Congress via its website.

PRODECA guarantees that you may, at any time, exercise your right to access, rectify, cancel or oppose by writing to the aforesaid postal address, using the reference "PROTECCIÓN DE DATOS - SMARTFRUIT", or to the email address smartfruitcongress@smartfruitcongress.cat.

Specifically, to correctly exercise these rights you must clearly provide the following items in that communication:
- Name, surname(s) and photocopy of National Identity Document or Passport.
- Statement of the purpose of the request.
- Address for notification purposes.
PRODECA also reserves the right to delete from its website any content that it considers violates current and applicable legislation.

D’acord amb l’article 17.1 de la Llei 19/2014, la ©Generalitat de Catalunya permet la reutilització dels continguts i de les dades sempre que se'n citi la font i la data d'actualització i que no es desnaturalitzi la informació (article 8 de la Llei 37/2007) i també que no es contradigui amb una llicència específica.

Data protection policy

In accordance with the Organic Law on the Protection of Personal Data 15/1999, of 13 December, Promotora de Exportaciones Catalanas SA (hereinafter PRODECA), whose address is Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, 620, principal, 08007 Barcelona, with tax reg. no. NIF A58241316, declares that the images contained on the website www.smartfruitcongress.cat are included in a file belonging to PRODECA. The purpose of this file is the promotion, via its website, of the activities conducted by PRODECA – SmartfFruit IPM International Congress.

PRODECA guarantees that you may, at any time, exercise your right to access, rectify, cancel or oppose by writing to the aforesaid postal address, using the reference "PROTECCIÓN DE DATOS - SMARTFRUIT", or to the email address smartfruitcongress@smartfruitcongress.cat.

Specifically, to correctly exercise these rights you must clearly provide the following items in that communication:
- Name, surname(s) and photocopy of National Identity Document or Passport.
- Statement of the purpose of the request.
- Address for notification purposes.
PRODECA also declares that it reserves the right to delete from its website any content that it considers violates current and applicable legislation.

D’acord amb l’article 17.1 de la Llei 19/2014, la ©Generalitat de Catalunya permet la reutilització dels continguts i de les dades sempre que se'n citi la font i la data d'actualització i que no es desnaturalitzi la informació (article 8 de la Llei 37/2007) i també que no es contradigui amb una llicència específica.