Of all the food samples collected in the EU in 2014, 97% were free of pesticide residues or contained traces that were within legal limits, according to research by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

This finding came as a part of EFSA’s latest annual report on pesticide residues in food, which analyses the results of almost 83,000 food samples taken from the 28 EU Member States.

The high compliance rates recorded for 2014 were in line with previous years, the Head of EFSA’s Pesticides Unit, Jose Tarazona, said.

This means that the EU is continuing to protect consumers by controlling the presence of pesticide residues in food, he also said.

“Our annual report is a major undertaking that is rooted in the data we receive from Member States.

“It would not be possible without the commitment and expertise of our European partners, and we thank them for their contribution.”

Main findings in the report

As previously stated, 97% of samples analysed were within legal limits, in total 53.6% were free of quantifiable residues, the research shows.

With regards to organic products, 98.8% of products tested were free of pesticide residues or contained traces that were within legal limits.

Meanwhile, no quantifiable residues were found in 91.8% of baby food samples, according to the EFSA research.

EFSA also used data from the report to assess whether current dietary exposure to pesticide residues presents a risk to the health of humans in the long term (chronic) or short term (acute).

In both cases, the authority claimed that exposure is unlikely to pose a threat to human health.

Meanwhile, EFSA believes more could be done to improve the effectiveness of the monitoring of pesticides in the EU.

Including food products such as small fruits, berries and tea, which were frequently identified as containing residues, could improve the monitoring of pesticides, the EFSA has said.

Shifting the monitoring focus to animal feed such as soya bean, rapeseed and barley, while also including mandatory analysis of glyphosate in these crops, would also make a difference, according to the authority.

By improving the communication of changes to permitted pesticide residue levels to importers of food from outside the EU the EFSA believes cases of high residue levels would fall.