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Pesticide Residues in Food: Akademie Fresenius Conference discussed European regulation and analytical methods and tools

The tenth international “Pesticide Residues in Food” conference, hosted by Akademie Fresenius on 27 and 28 June, provided an overview of the latest methods and tools for determining pesticide residues in food. In addition, international experts discussed current regulatory and monitoring issues. The organiser has won the support of many top-ranking experts from the analytics field, the industry and the authorities for this event.

Luc Peeters from the European Association of Farmers and agri-cooperatives, Copa-Cogeca (Brussels), took a critical look at European Pesticide Regulation (EC) No. 1107/2009. In his opinion, this regulation damaged the competitiveness of European agriculture because it caused individual active substances to lose their authorisation without heaving proper alternatives in place – leading to higher costs for the farmers. 

Peeters was also worried about the results of the consecutive re-evaluation programmes for the regulation of plant protection products. Peeters feared that the options open to farmers would be further restricted and considered their ability to fight pests and diseases effectively to be in jeopardy. The evaluation programmes are not looking at the negative impact on farm level. “We insist that the availability of proper tools, mechanical, chemical or biological, is a key element to properly implement crop protection (Integrated Pest Management, IPM)”. 

Required: More information on biological plant protection products

According to Peeters, farmers are facing increasing obligations to use alternative non-chemical pest control techniques, despite having insufficient information on how to apply them. Additionally, the regulatory requirements and authorisation processes for new biological pesticides (biocontrols) are so long-winded that these cannot yet be considered a viable alternative. Inconsistent legislation – for example, for fertilisers and pesticides – further complicated activities.

EU Regulation (EC) No. 396/2005 still not concrete

Magnus Jezussek of the Bavarian Health and Food Safety Authority took a critical look at Regulation (EC) No. 396/2005 on the maximum residue levels in food and feed which has harmonised MRLs across Europe. He said that although this regulation provided a legal frame, legally binding information – for example, processing factors for mixtures and composite products – was still not available eleven years after the regulation took effect. The planned Annex to this regulation still lacked specific processing, dilution, concentration and mixing factors.

Recommendations for using processing factors for specific pesticide-matrix combinations

Until a corresponding, legally binding regulation is on the table, Jezussek recommends using a position paper of the German Chemical Society for orientation. This paper recommends using the processing factor for a specific pesticide-matrix combination for evaluation purposes. This processing factor was more suitable than a generalised factor (e.g. drying factor) as it also took the effects of the processing on the substance into account, he continued. This position paper states that if several processing factors are available for the specific pesticide-matrix combination (average or median of several individual values), the average, resp. median, value which is “advantageous” for the food supplier should be referred to, in as far as the studies upon which this is based have been rated acceptable and where the values are derived from comparable databases.

Exposure assessment of pesticides through human biomonitoring 

Hans Mol from Wageningen Food Safety Research presented the latest studies on assessing exposure of pesticides through human biomonitoring. Biomonitoring is the analysis of biological matrices for biomarkers of contaminants; the preferred biological material is urine. According to Mol biomonitoring is emerging to assess exposure to pesticides. He said that multiple pesticide biomarkers have already been detected in urine demonstrating feasibility, but that further investigations are needed into the quantitative relationships of urinary concentrations of biomarkers and dietary intake of pesticides.  

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