Consumption of fruit and vegetables can be safely increased


<p>Consumer risks posed by pesticides residues have been examined in an extensive risk assessment study. The project was accomplished under the auspices of the risk assessment research unit of the Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira. While the study evaluates the pesticide exposure of Finnish adult consumers, it includes, for the first time, assessment of pesticide exposure among Finnish children. Short-term, or acute, exposure is also examined for the first time using Finnish data. The report conludes that exposure to pesticides residues can be reduced by eating a varied range of fruit and vegetables.</p>

No specific food consumption recommendations

Based on the study, it was concluded that consumption of fruit and vegetables can be increased safely. The results indicate that long-term exposure of children and adults is at a safe level and has not changed during the 2000s.

Thus the major health benefits of fruit and vegetables are not compromised by pesticides residues. Consumption of fruit and vegetables by Finnish consumers has been among Europe's lowest. Based on data from 2007 and 2008, the likelihood of adults exceeding the acute reference dose has decreased to an acceptable level, 0.01%. This means that one in ten thousand people is likely to exceed the acute reference dose (aRfD).

Children an especially vulnerable population group

Children have a different diet and, by body weight, their food consumption is greater than that of adults. In 2008, at the end of the review period, the likelihood of three-year olds exceeding the aRfD, was 0.1%. This indicates that one child in a thousand has exceeded the aRfD.

Carbamates and organophosphates were the main groups of active substances underlying the observed exposure. Organophosphates and carbamates are mostly found in products imported into the EU. When examining short-term exposure, spinach, cucumber, apple, salad and beans were the products had the highest impact on the probability of exceeding the toxicological reference value, the aRfD, for three-year olds. Consequently, it was concluded that the exposure of three-year old children to carbamates and organophosphates requires further attention.

Varied consumption of fruit and vegetables recommended

 In 2010, dimethoate was the only organophosphate approved for agricultural use in Finland. Also elsewhere in the EU, there has been a significant decrease in the number of different organophosphates on the market. EU level risk assessment related to the approval of active ingredients has markedly decreased the number of active ingredients in products available in the common market.

Some of the highest occasional exposures result from large-scale consumption of individual fruit and vegetables imported into the EU. To a certain degree, these can be prevented from affecting children by favouring fruit and vegetables produced in the EU. Varied consumption of fruit and vegetables also lessens the likelihood of occasional excessive exposure.

Data consisted of nearly 11,000 food samples

The cumulative exposure risk assessment is based on residue measurements of up to 250 different active ingredients in 10,565 food samples, collected by the Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira, Finnish Customs, the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and health Valvira, the City of Helsinki Environment Centre and Kotimaiset Kasvikset ry (Finnish Horticultural Products Society). The measurements were conducted between 2002 and 2008 at the Finnish Customs Laboratory and MetropoliLab. Concentration data consisted of selected substances, covering both approved and banned substances in the EU.

Information on food consumption is based on data on adult and children food consumption, collected in the nutritional surveys Finravinto 2007 (in Finnish) and DIPP (in Finnish) conducted by the National Institute for Health and Welfare.

Why pesticides are used

Pesticides are used in food production, to prevent plant disease, to limit the impact of organisms harmful to plant health, such as weed, insects and mites, and to regulate growth.

Read the risk assessment report Plant protection product residues in food – a cumulative risk assessment (in Finnish) (Evira)
The abstract (in English) can be found here (pdf, 12 kb)

Get acquainted with the Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira's risk assessment research

Further information on the monitoring of plant protection product residues

Further information on the study:
Juha Laakso, PhD, European Registered Toxicologist, Senior Researcher, Risk Assessment Research Unit, the Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira As of 1 January 2001, Juha Laakso is working as a senior researcher at the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency TUKES. Tel. + 358 (0)40 489 3369, juha.laakso at-merkki.gif : 1Kb

For more information on monitoring:
Ulla Karlström, Senior Inspector, Evira, Product Safety Unit, Section for Risk Management of Chemicals Tel. +358 (0)40 487 7798, ulla.karlstrom at-merkki.gif : 1Kb

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