Food Law News - EU - 2004

EP Daily Notebook, 15 December 2004

PESTICIDES - Pesticide residues in food: more emphasis on consumer health

Report on the Council common position for adopting a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on maximum residue levels of pesticides in or on food and feed of plant and animal origin and amending Council Directive 91/414/EEC

Parliament today approved, by a large majority, a compromise package reached by the Environment Committee's rapporteur, Robert STURDY ( EPP-ED , UK ), other political groups and the Council presidency on a new regulation on pesticide residue levels in food or animal feed. The agreement places greater emphasis on consumer protection. In order to close the procedure the Council still has formally to adopt it.

The draft regulation is intended to simplify existing legislation on maximum residue levels (MRLs) of pesticides in food or feed. It replaces four existing directives and amends another. It defines the roles of the different actors in the process, particularly that of the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA). All MRLs are to be harmonised after a transitional 'phasing-in' period and will be set at European level and not national, as is the case now. They will be listed in annexes, to be established by EFSA, the Commission and the Member States for around 1000 pesticides and 160 crops. For the interim, temporary MRLs, already in existence or based on national MRLs, will be used.

In its second-reading vote today, MEPs strengthened the core aim of the regulation by introducing a compromise amendment to the purpose of the legislation. The amendment clarifies the aim of the regulation as being to set harmonised MRLs of pesticides in products in order to "ensure a high level of consumer protection".

Another amendment passed calls on the Member States to publish annually all the results of national residue monitoring on the Internet. Where MRLs are exceeded Member States may name the retailers, traders or producers concerned. The compromise also states that MRLs for imported commodities should not normally exceed the MRL limits set for domestic commodities. The deal also reiterates a demand for a separate assessment for herbal infusions due to their many component parts.

The compromise also seeks to clarify the definitions of certain terms used in the regulation. In the vote today, Parliament supported the compromise view that ”good agricultural practice” should entail integrated pest control in certain climate zones, as well as using the minimum quantity of pesticides and setting MRLs at the lowest level. In addition, the concepts of an "acute reference dose" (the amount of a substance in food that can be ingested over a short time without appreciable risk to the consumer) and of "acceptable daily intake" (the amount of a substance that can be ingested daily over a lifetime) should take account of "the sensitive groups within the population (e.g. children and the unborn)".

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