The number of olive oil samples found to exceed the maximum residue level (MRL) for pesticides in the European Union decreased once again, according to a recently published report from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
The proportion of olive oils in excess of the pesticide MRL dropped from 0.9 percent in 2015 to 0.6 percent in 2018, the last year in which the tests were conducted. Virgin olive oil samples that did exceed the pesticide MRL tested positive for iprodione, a fungicide banned by the European Union.
Overall, 3,167 different olive oil samples were tested, including both internally produced oils and imported ones. Of the 19 samples that exceeded the pesticide MRL, eight originated from Spain, five from Greece, two from Germany, two from Cyprus, one from Italy and one had an unknown origin.
Every three years, the European Union control program (EUCP) samples 12 of the most commonly consumed food products in the trading bloc, including virgin olive oil. The EUCP analyzes the samples for residues from a list of 177 different pesticides.
“The EUCP randomly samples the food products most commonly consumed by E.U. citizens, giving a statistically representative snapshot of the situation of pesticide residues in those products,” co-authors Paula Medina-Pastor and Giuseppe Triacchini wrote in the report.
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In 2019, the EUCP tested 91,015 food samples and found that 95.5 percent of them fell below established pesticide MRLs.
Along with olive oil, broccoli and chicken eggs also experienced a decreasing rate of exceedance.
Table grapes, sweet peppers and bell peppers, eggplants and bananas experienced the largest increases in rates of exceedance.
“For many years this report has supported the work of the European Commission and Member States in ensuring the proper use of pesticides in line with E.U. legislation and targets,” Bernhard Url, the executive director of EFSA, said, “Efficient collection and rigorous analysis of such data will continue to be of central importance in ensuring the safety of food sold in the European Union.”