EU fruit shows 53% increase in hazardous pesticides in past 9 years
This report shows that European consumers have been exposed to a dramatic rise of toxic pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables over the past nine years.

EU fruit shows 53% increase in hazardous pesticides in past 9 years

25 May 2022 --- European consumers have been exposed to a dramatic rise of toxic pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables over the past nine years, flags a new report by the Pesticide Action Network (PAN). 

The frequency of “more hazardous pesticide” residues on fruits increased by 53%, while vegetables showed a 19% increase from 2011-2019, states the report.

“More hazardous pesticides” are classified as those which are currently seeking to be replaced due to suspected danger to health. 

Moreover, over a third of contaminated fruit contained a cocktail of at least two of the more hazardous pesticides, based on 97,170 fruit samples collected over the time period. 

These findings are somewhat at odds with a report from the European Commission (EC) published last year showing that 2019 marked a significant decline in the use of “more hazardous” pesticides.

The EC cites a 12% reduction in the use of more hazardous pesticides in the EU in 2019 compared to the 2015-2017 baseline period. 

However, the EC does recognize that until 2019, pesticide use had increased since 2011. 

Problematic chemicals 

PAN’s study focused on pesticides known as “candidates for substitution” pesticides. These refer to pesticides that should have already been banned or phased out by EU member states. 

This category includes substances suspected of being toxic to reproduction, carcinogenic to humans, endocrine-disrupting or those that do not fully meet the criteria for being identified as Persistent, Bioaccumulative and Toxic for the environment.

Candidates for substitution are regulated more strictly but can remain on the market until solid science confirms they no longer meet the criteria set in Regulation (EC) No. 1107/2009. 

This has been observed several times already, notes PAN, including in the case of the insecticide Thiacloprid. 

In 2020, Thiacloprid was withdrawn from the EU for its classification as being toxic for reproduction and a risk to bee health. Prior to this finding, it was classified as a Candidate for Substitution due to its endocrine disrupting properties.

Top 5 culprits and products 

The countries that most frequently produced contaminated fruits and vegetable samples during the study years were Belgium (34%), Ireland (26%), France (22%), Italy (21%) and Germany (20%).

The most prominent fruit examples were kiwi fruits (+397% increase to 30% in 2019), cherries (+152% to 50%), apples (+117% to 33%), pears (+103% to 45%) and peaches (+52% to 53%).

Within vegetables, the most increased contamination was in samples of celery (+68% compared to 63%), cucumber (+59% to 20%), spinach (+59% to 18%) and lettuce (+19% to 23%).

By Missy Green

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