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In an annual survey carried out by researchers from the EU and EFTA countries, pesticide residue levels in food were found to be higher in 2002 than the previous year. The percentage that exceeded Maximum Recommended Levels (MRLs) in food rose to 5.1%, compared to 4.5% in 2000 and 3.9% in 2001, while 37% of produce contained pesticides at or below the MRL and 58% had no traces of detectable residues.
The percentage containing multiple residues also rose, from 14% in 1999 to 20.7% in 2002. Fungicides were responsible for most of the residues on fruit and vegetables, while insecticides were the main residues found on cereals.
In a related EU-coordinated monitoring programme, eight categories of fruit and vegetables were analysed in all countries for pesticide residues. Spinach, potatoes, carrots, beans, bananas, pears, peaches/nectarines and oranges/mandarins were tested. Residues at or below the MRL were most often found in oranges/mandarins (78%) followed by pears (67%). Residues exceeding MRLs were most frequently found in spinach (13%) and beans (7%). As the Acute Reference Dose was exceeded in a number of samples, the report concludes that a health risk cannot be excluded, particularly for vulnerable groups.