Food Law News - EU - 1999

26 May 1999: CONTAMINANTS - The European Commission adopts Directives on pesticide-free baby foods

Commission Press Release (IP/99/345), 26 May 1999

The European Commission adopts Directives on pesticide-free baby foods

The European Commission has decided to include new rules, in the Commission Directives on infant formulae and follow-on formulae (91/321/EC) and on cereal-based and other baby foods for infants and young children (96/5/EC) under which baby foods may not contain any demonstrable residues of pesticides. Certain pesticides will be banned in farm products intended for use in baby foods. In future, baby foods will not be allowed to contain more than 0.01% mg/kg of pesticide residues. A figure of zero is regarded as non-detectable because the methods of measurement available are not totally accurate. Directive 89/398/EEC on foodstuffs for particular nutritional uses allows the Commission to change individual directives for products such as baby foods if qualified-majority agreement is given by the Standing Committee for Food, which consists of representatives of the Member States. The Committee accepted the Comission's proposal of 14 October 1998 in March.

The Commission has based its decision on the rules applied by Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and Austria. In the past, free trade has suffered disruptions because of discrepancies between the rules applied by different Member States. The Commission now considers a cautious approach to be necessary because of recent scientific opinions. More than 800 different pesticides have been notified to the Commisison, but for most of them there are no scientific findings to show what maximum residues levels can be regarded as totally safe for young children. The figure of 0.01 mg/kg for all pesticides must therefore be regarded as provisional. The Directives allow individual residue levels to be specified in future for individual pesticides as soon as this is justified by new scientific findings.

About 40% of European products already conform to the new rules. However, some manufacturers will need time to modify their product range, their production methods and in particular their raw materials. They must be allowed a reasonable transitional period for this. Trade in products not conforming to the Directives is therefore not totally banned until 1 July 2002.

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