The Food Standards Agency is urging Agriculture Ministers to begin an immediate phase-out of certain pesticides in order to meet new EU regulations.

Directive 2000/42/EC reduces the maximum residue levels for several hundred pesticide/foodstuff combinations to such low levels that they cannot effectively be used, thereby banning their sale and use. This means that some pesticides will not be permitted for sale or use at all, others will not be able to be used with certain specified foodstuffs.

The new limits are due to come into effect on 1 July. Under current EU rules, member states can allow growers to continue to use these pesticides until 30 June which would mean that produce grown next year and coming onto the market after 1 July could exceed the new limits.

But the Food Standards Agency has written to the Ministry for Agriculture Fisheries and Food advising that, although this is not a food safety issue, the use of these pesticides should be phased out well before the end of June.

Chairman of the Food Standards Agency, Sir John Krebs, said:

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“This is not a food safety issue, but I believe that consumers should rightly expect their exposure to unnecessary pesticide residues should be minimised.

“Therefore, the Agency is calling for the use of these pesticides to stop as soon as possible and for them not to be used during the coming growing season where this might mean that residues could appear in grain and produce sold after 1 July.

“I hope that MAFF will support this position and issue appropriate guidance to growers and others who might be thinking about using these pesticides next year.”

The Agency has a powerful watchdog and veto role regarding the use of pesticides in the UK and can publish its advice to any Minister or Government Agency. The Agency works to ensure that:

any pesticide used in food production will not harm consumers;

decisions about their use are based on regularly reviewed scientific information;

  • any MRLs should be set as low as practically possible even though higher levels may be perfectly safe;
  • the surveillance programme is designed to pick up potential problems;
  • any problems are dealt with quickly and effectively with consumers being kept fully informed; and
  • consumers are informed of the work on pesticides in an open and easy-to-understand way.

Note to Editors:

  1. Maximum residue levels (MRLs) are numerical values which show what the maximum crop or food residue should be if the pesticide is used according to the statutory conditions of use.
  2. MRLs are not safety standards, they are legal limits set well below levels that can be potential harmful. The EU has a programme to set MRLs for all pesticides which are authorised for use in EU member states.
  3. EU Directives give a date by which time they must come into effect. But it is left to national discretion to decide how far in advance of that deadline changes to the conditions of use must be made to ensure that the new MRLs are complied with.
  4. Details of the pesticide/foodstuff combinations affected by the new directive are available from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.