Banned pesticides found in fruit and vegetables from overseas in the pesticide test by GLOBAL 2000 and AK Upper Austria
The environmental organisation GLOBAL 2000 and the Chamber of Labour of Upper Austria have tested mangoes, pomegranates, sweet peas and green beans for pesticides.
Pesticide residues were found on more than three quarters of the products, in half of the cases even multiple contamination with up to seven different active substances. In addition to two cases where the legal maximum levels were exceeded, the testers also discovered several active substances that are banned in the EU.
Especially in the winter months, the products examined come from countries such as Kenya, Morocco, Brazil or Turkey. These countries are not subject to EU legislation and can therefore use pesticides that are banned in the EU. However, the inconsistent approach of the EU makes this situation very delicate: In the EU, pesticide active substances lose their authorisation if a risk to consumers or the environment cannot be ruled out (anymore). The EU then sets the legal maximum residue levels for all products to a minimum value, the so-called limit of detection (usually 0.01 mg/kg). For some foodstuffs imported from non-EU countries, however, alarmingly high maximum residue levels of up to 10 mg/kg are set.
Double standards of the EU
Waltraud Novak, pesticide expert at GLOBAL 2000, says: “The EU grants so-called import tolerances within the framework of trade agreements in order to ‘meet the requirements of international trade’. This allows countries where these pesticides – banned in the EU – are still allowed, to export their products to the EU. In this way, food containing harmful pesticides, from which consumers should be protected by the EU ban, can legally end up on European plates.
Novak continues: “An example of this double standard are the tested mangoes: The active ingredient Carbendazim found in our test is banned in the EU since several years because of its health effects. It can cause genetic defects, impair fertility and even harm the child in the womb. In mangoes, however, this pesticide has a maximum value of 0.5 mg/kg, so it is fifty times above the detection limit of 0.01 mg”.
Health must come before profit
Novak also points to the effects outside the EU: “Workers in the producing countries have to handle those highly dangerous substances – often with inadequate protective equipment. We also found pesticides, which are banned in the EU, in green beans and sugar snap peas from Kenya.
GLOBAL 2000 and the Chamber of Labour of Upper Austria are therefore calling on Health Minister Johannes Rauch to take action at EU level to ensure that pesticides that are harmful to health do not end up on our plates via detours. No import tolerances for dangerous substances into the EU!
What can consumers do?
Novak recommends consumers to pay attention to seasonality and regionality when shopping: “Seasonal, regional products are usually less contaminated with pesticides. However, only products from organic farming are really safe, as no synthetic chemical pesticides are used in organic farming.
Consumers can also find out about the current pesticide contamination of fruit and vegetables, for example at www.billa.at/prp.
There, the supermarket chain Billa, in cooperation with GLOBAL 2000, regularly publishes the results of its in-house residue controls. Every week, random samples of the entire fresh fruit and vegetable assortment are tested for pesticide residues in accredited laboratories and the results are published on the homepage.
Sign GLOBAL 2000’s petition for rapid implementation of EU pesticide reduction at https://www.global2000.at/pestizid-reduktion-fordern