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Food Safety and Trade

We all deserve safe and affordable food. Irrespective of its origin.

Couple with child at the supermarket

Thus, competent authorities around the world assess food for its safety towards consumers. This includes but is not limited to natural components, food and feed additives, contaminants and residues.

For conventionally grown food, the authorities assess its safety for all consumer groups towards expected residues of plant protection products after their intended use.

These assessments are performed before a plant protection product gets authorized and can be used by a farmer. For such safety assessments, the authorities need information on expected residues of plant protection products and consumption habits of different consumer groups, like toddlers or adults, in order to estimate the dietary exposure and to compare it with health-based guidance values. This ensures that only those plant protection products that will produce safe food will get authorised.

In addition, residues of plant protection products are analysed in food monitoring programs around the world to determine the realistic residue behaviour of plant protection products and to assess their associated safety. For example, in the EU more than 90,000 food samples are analysed per year for residues of plant protection products and the evaluating European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concludes that the findings suggest that the assessed levels for the food commodities analysed are unlikely to pose concern for consumer health.

As an additional but different parameter for assessment of proper use of plant protection products, maximum residue levels (MRLs) are set which allow for quick and easy decision making on whether food commodities can be placed on the market. These can be domestic or international markets, when food commodities are traded. When traded across borders, food must always comply with the MRLs set in the destination market. The results from the various monitoring programs confirm that the vast majority of food commodities complies with the respective MRLs.

MRLs are set individually for each plant protection product and each crop and serve as a check that good agricultural practice is being followed which ensures protection of human health and the environment. And, MRLs are not set at the maximum safe level but at levels needed to cover occurring residues which were assessed safe as described above. Thus, MRLs are usually set at much lower residue levels than those that would lead to an inappropriate dietary exposure when comparing with health-based guidance values.

All those assessments and standards aim to ensure healthy diets for consumers around the world.