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Europe: Danish fruit, vegetables found to contain fewer pesticide residues than imports

Danish fruits and vegetables continue to contain fewer pesticide residues than imported produce.

The residues from more than one pesticide in the same sample are also found more frequently in imported fruits and vegetables compared to similar Danish foods.

This development has remained stable over the last five years according to an analysis contained in this year’s Pesticide Report 2013 from the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration and the National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark.

The two organizations analyzed 2,429 samples from the Danish pesticide control in 2013.

The analysis shows that imported fruits and vegetables still contain more pesticide residues than Danish produce, and that pesticide residues are more often found in samples of conventionally grown fruit (69%) than in samples of conventionally grown vegetables (34%).

In fruits of Danish origin pesticides residues have been detected in 49% of samples.

However, in fruit from EU countries pesticide residues have been found in 70% of samples, while the figure for fruit from outside the EU is 75%.

In vegetables produced in Denmark pesticides have been found in 18% of samples, while the figures for vegetables produced in the EU and outside the EU are 48% and 54% respectively.

In samples of imported fruit and vegetables residues from more than one pesticide have also been found more frequently in the same sample compared to the tested Danish produce.

In total 37% of the foreign samples contained more than one pesticide compared with 8.7% of the Danish samples.

About 161 of the samples are organic foods, and pesticide residues have been found in four (2.5%) of the samples, all of which are imported.

However, it has been deemed that the rules for organic farming have only been breached in one case.

As in previous years pesticide residues have not been found in baby food or meat.

No findings of health concern in Danish produce

In 98% of the tested samples the pesticide residues are below the allowable limits set by the EU.

No samples of Danish fruit have exceeded the limits, and the limits have only been exceeded in four (1%) of the samples of fruit produced in the EU and in 15 (4%) of the samples of fruit produced outside the EU.

In conventionally grown vegetables of Danish origin the limits have been exceeded in just one (0.3%) of the samples.

In comparison, the figures for conventionally grown vegetables produced within the EU and in countries outside the EU are three (1.2%) and two (3%) respectively.

Overall the National Food Institute assesses that the pesticide residues found in the tested samples do not give rise to health concerns, apart from three foreign samples, which the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration have either withheld or withdrawn from the market.

The institute continues to conclude that the pesticide residues found in foods overall on the Danish market should not give consumers reason to be concerned about their health.

Stable development over time

According to a comparison of analytical data from the last five years for six of the crops that are very common in the Danish diet, the general trends have been stable over the years.

This analysis compares pesticide residues in carrots, strawberries, pears, tomatoes, apples and wheat.

Many factors influence the amount of pesticides that are needed in the production of fruit and vegetables.

These include fluctuations in weather and resulting problems with for example fungus or insects.

However, the results of the analysis indicate that Danish-produced fruits and vegetables in general contain lower levels of pesticide residues.

Story by Miriam Meister from the Technical University of Denmark.