Pesticides are used to protect crops before and after harvest from infestation by pests and plant diseases. A possible consequence of their use may be the presence of pesticide residues in the treated products.
It is necessary to ensure that such residues should not be found in food or feed at levels presenting an unacceptable risk to humans. Maximum residue levels (MRLs) are therefore set by the European Commission to protect consumers from exposure to unacceptable levels of pesticides residues in food and feed.
In the EU, as from 1 September 2008, a new legislative framework (Regulation (EC) No 396/2005 of the European Parliament and of the Council) on pesticide residues is applicable. This Regulation completes the harmonisation and simplification of pesticide MRLs, whilst ensuring better consumer protection throughout the EU. With the new rules, MRLs undergo a common EU assessment to make sure that all classes of consumers, including the vulnerable ones, like babies and children, are sufficiently protected.
Moreover, the new harmonised Community provisions also facilitate commerce, by eliminating inappropriate technical barriers to trade.
All decision-making in this area has to be science-based and a consumer intake assessment has to be carried out by the European Food Safety Authority before concluding on the safety of an MRL.
Press release: New rules on pesticide residues to strengthen food safety in the European Union (01/09/2008)