Pesticides found in two-thirds of fruit and vegetable samples

Tests by Department of Agriculture found one in 40 samples exceeded permissible limits

Over 65 per cent of Irish fruit and vegetable samples were found to have pesticide residues and 2.6 per cent had excessive levels. Photograph: Dave Meehan

Over 65 per cent of Irish fruit and vegetable samples were found to have pesticide residues and 2.6 per cent had excessive levels. Photograph: Dave Meehan

 

Two out of every three fruit and vegetable samples tested by the Department of Agriculture contain pesticide residues and one in 40 exceeds maximum permissible limits, according to a report.

The proportion of samples with excessive pesticide limits doubled between 2012 and 2014, the report by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) says.

Up to 12 different pesticides were found on some samples, including table grapes from India, pears from Portugal and strawberries from Belgium.

The long list of pesticides identified includes glyphosate, a weedkiller which is at the subject of conflicting reports over cancer risks.

Details of almost 1,500 samples tested by Irish officials in 2014 appear in the latest EFSA annual report on pesticide residues.

The report concludes that the probability of European citizens being exposed to excessive levels of pesticide residue leading to negative health outcomes is low. However, for a limited number of samples a possible short-term consumer health risk cannot be completely ruled out.

ESFA says the long-term exposure is negligible or within acceptable levels. “Thus, residues of these pesticides, according to current scientific knowledge, are not likely to pose a long-term consumer health risk.”

Over 65 per cent of Irish fruit and vegetable samples were found to have pesticide residues and 2.6 per cent had excessive levels. The latter figure compared to 1.2 per cent in 2012 and 3.3 per cent in 2011.

Protect from mould

The most commonly detected pesticide was imazalil, found in 17 per cent of samples. Imazalil is used to protect oranges and lemons from mould.

Glyphosate, commonly sold under the Round-Up brand, was found in 11 per cent of samples.

Almost 68 per cent of cereal samples contained pesticide residue and 3 per cent were above permissible limits. One rice sample from India contained eight different pesticides, three of them at excessive levels.

No residues were found in any of the Irish baby food samples that were tested.

The report says 21 warnings were issued to food business operators on foot of the sampling results. Follow-up sampling of similar products was ordered in 12 cases, and three non-compliant lots were destroyed.

Three breaches were detected among domestic products, involving cabbage, kale and mushroom.