`Olives Among Foods with Lowest Level of Pesticide Residues in Europe, Study Finds - Olive Oil Times

Olives Among Foods with Lowest Level of Pesticide Residues in Europe, Study Finds

Apr. 29, 2021
Paolo DeAndreis

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Pesticide residues found on olives grown, processed and mar­keted within the European Union in 2019 mostly fell well below the legal lim­its, accord­ing to a report from the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA).

The lat­est EFSA report shows con­t­a­m­i­nant lev­els on olives among the low­est of all foods avail­able to con­sumers.

Published in April 2021, the 2019 EFSA report ana­lyzed the results of sam­pling on a wide vari­ety of foods exam­ined by the mem­ber states’ national author­i­ties and the ded­i­cated agen­cies of Norway and Iceland.

See Also:Olive Flies in Spain Are Immune to Common Pesticide, Study Finds

For 2019, 96 per­cent of the over­all 96,302 sam­ples ana­lyzed fell below the max­i­mum residue level (MRL),” the report said.

Breaking down those fig­ures, 57 per­cent of all sam­ples did not con­tain quan­tifi­able residue lev­els, while just under 40 per­cent showed residues that did not exceed the legal lim­its. Nearly four per­cent of all sam­ples showed an ille­gal level of pes­ti­cides, which in many cases led to sanc­tions or other enforce­ment actions.


In the unprocessed food cat­e­gory, 84 olives grown for oil pro­duc­tion were sam­pled. Of these, 69 per­cent (58 sam­ples) had neg­li­gi­bly low lev­els of pes­ti­cide residue on them. An addi­tional 26 per­cent (22 sam­ples) had pes­ti­cide sam­ples below the legal limit. However, the last four sam­ples exceeded the legal limit.

The sit­u­a­tion for table olives was very sim­i­lar. EFSA exam­ined 88 sam­ples and found that 84 per­cent (74 sam­ples) did not con­tain quan­tifi­able residue lev­els, while 11 per­cent (10 sam­ples) had pes­ti­cide lev­els below the legal limit. Only four sam­ples exceeded this limit.

In its report, EFSA took into con­sid­er­a­tion the use of mul­ti­ple pes­ti­cides in unprocessed food prod­ucts. The report found that when it comes to olives, the use of more than one pes­ti­cide sel­dom occurs.

Six hun­dred and forty-one sam­ples of olives for oil pro­duc­tion exam­ined by national agen­cies and reported to EFSA did not show any quan­tifi­able pes­ti­cide residues. Meanwhile, 64 sam­ples showed the pres­ence of a sin­gle pes­ti­cide while 17 had residues of mul­ti­ple prod­ucts.

See Also:Europe Plans to Triple Agricultural Land Dedicated to Organic Farming by 2030

These fig­ures place olives among the safest food, far­ing bet­ter than milk, wheat, apples, toma­toes or grapes.

The lat­est report did not include olives in the spe­cial sec­tion of the European Union con­trol pro­gram, which focused on some of the most pop­u­lar foods on the mar­ket.

However, more than 3,000 olive oil sam­ples were taken into con­sid­er­a­tion in the 2018 report, which was pub­lished last year. EFSA found that pes­ti­cide lev­els in olive oil sig­nif­i­cantly dropped. In 2015, 0.9 per­cent of the sam­ples exceeded the MRL, with that fig­ure reduced to 0.6 per­cent in 2018.

Considering all exam­ined sam­ples for its lat­est report, the food agency found 799 dif­fer­ent pes­ti­cides being used within the European Union.

EFSA also observed that unprocessed food exceeded the MRL more often than processed food, with four per­cent and 2.8 per­cent of sam­ples exceed­ing legal lim­its, respec­tively.

Among the study’s con­clu­sions, EFSA found a slight reduc­tion of pes­ti­cides used in 2019 com­pared to the pre­vi­ous year. The per­cent­age of non-com­pli­ant sam­ples dropped from 4.7 per­cent to four per­cent of all exam­ined sam­ples.

The report also found that the amount of sam­ples with no quan­tifi­able residues grew from 50 per­cent in 2018 to 55 per­cent in 2019.



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