The government wants “practically no residue” of pesticides on agricultural and horticultural produce, but that doesn’t help fruit production. Figures from the 2021 NVWA show that 9 out of 10 fruit products tested contained pesticides: an average of at least 4 residues per product.
Among the most frequently eaten fresh fruits by children in the Netherlands, mandarins and oranges will be the worst in 2021. Not once has NVWA intervened if apples, oranges and table grapes have acute health risks. The fruit has not been withdrawn from the market. Banned substances were also found on apples and pears from Dutch territory, without follow-up to determine if they were in fact used illegally. These findings come from a new study by Foodwatch, which analyzes NVWA residue numbers for fruits and vegetables each year.
Among the top 10 fruits that children eat in the Netherlands, mandarins and oranges will be on top of the most polluted children’s fruits in 2021 with an average of about 5 pesticides per sample. This is followed by table grapes, strawberries, apples and pears, with an average of 4 different types of toxic residues.
The NVWA should have acted in 2021 when so much of the pesticide flunicamide was found on apples, and analysis revealed severe health risks. NVWA failed to do so. Foodwatch activist Anke Bakker: “These are worrying results. Especially for baby fruit, we want to assume it is safe to eat. Serious contamination must be removed from the market immediately.”
There were often health risks, a total of 4 times with oranges and table grapes. The NVWA didn’t act here either, because it may only take action if the legal limit has also been exceeded (maximum residues – MRL – per pesticide). In practice, these limits do not always comply with health risk criteria. This is because stricter health standards are not being translated quickly enough into new legal standards that can be enforced by the NVWA. Sometimes it takes more than a year. This keeps the food circulating so that it meets legal standards but can still pose a health risk.
In 7 measurements out of 483, residues of a banned substance in European agriculture were found. Unfortunately, this is permissible when it comes to imported products, and then special legal restrictions apply. However, 4 apple samples and 1 pear sample related to products from Dutch soil, which could mean illegal use of the resource. Of these, 4 samples contained poison residues with the so-called CMR classification: they are carcinogenic, damage DNA, or have a diaphoretic effect. No investigation was initiated by NVWA into these cases. NVWA can only take action if the maximum allowable amount of a banned substance has been exceeded or if illegal use is detected directly on farms. Foodwatch finds this unacceptable. If there is a suspicion of illegal use of agricultural toxins, a standard investigation should be carried out, the food watchdog believes.
In the past, a number of supermarkets set requirements regarding the maximum number of residues that fresh fruit may contain. ALDI and LIDL use a maximum of 5 insecticides per fresh produce. Foodwatch believes that all supermarkets should make such agreements with farmers, with the goal of banning agricultural toxins altogether.
In addition, Foodwatch is calling on supermarkets to actively communicate with in-store shelves regarding (lack of) policy on pesticides. Anki Bakker: What are the requirements of shops in terms of agriculture and waste? The consumer is entitled to this information so that he can make a well-informed decision.”
background and context
Foodwatch recently did a ‘Locked Pesticides’ report on how European agriculture is trapped in a devastating pesticide regime and what it takes to get out of this situation. The report describes an exit strategy for each crop that will make it possible to achieve completely pesticide-free agriculture in the EU by 2035. This requires a radical overhaul of European and national agricultural policy.
Foodwatch has also long campaigned against the fact that pesticides banned in EU agriculture are returning to our plates through imports. The situation is even more serious: these banned substances are still being produced in EU member states for export to other parts of the world. This means that EU member states cooperate to ensure that workers in agriculture and horticulture outside the EU remain exposed to proven harmful substances and that toxic waste is later consumed by the Dutch. More than 79,000 people have sent a protest email via the Foodwatch campaign to email pesticide manufacturers Bayer, BASF and Syngenta to stop it and have called on the European Commission to impose an export ban.