Plant Protection Products
Combined effects of pesticides in food
Report no: 2022:25
VKM has assessed the risk associated with analyzed samples of fruit and berries containing residues of several pesticides in the same sample.
For most of the samples, the assessment shows that consumption of these products does not pose any health risk. However, this does not apply to all samples.
The conclusion is, however, uncertain, due to limitations and weaknesses in the knowledge base for the risk assessment.
This is the key message in VKM´s risk assessment of the combined effects of pesticide residues in food, undertaken for the Norwegian Food Safety Authority.
Routine tests in the Norwegian Food Safety Authority's monitoring and control program for pesticide residues in foodstuffs in 2021 detected several pesticide residues in food samples. VKM has assessed ten of the samples. Four of them were from Norwegian strawberries, and six from imported raisins, grapes, and pears.
Separately, all findings were below the maximum residue level (MRL) for pesticide residues allowed in food. VKM has assessed the risk which exposure to several active substances in one food may pose to consumers.
VKM assessed the samples using a two-tiered approach. In the first tier, the effect of the mixture was estimated by adding up the hazard quotient (HQ) for the substances, that is, the ratio of exposure to a chemical and an associated toxicological reference value.
In the second tier, VKM assessed the risk of combined effects where the hazard index exceeds 100 percent in tier 1, for substances that act on the same organ – the nervous system, the thyroid gland, or both.
The samples of grapes from Spain, raisins from the USA, pears from Turkey and strawberries from Norway did not contain levels of pesticides that result in exceedance of the hazard index in tier 1, in VKM's assessment. This indicates no health risk is associated with the consumption of these food samples.
Regarding the samples of raisins and grapes from Turkey, VKM's risk assessment indicates that consumption of these products may pose a health risk to children. These calculations are based on consumption data from EU consumers regarding raisins and scenario calculations for Norwegian consumers regarding grapes.
VKM emphasizes that consumption of foods containing residues of several pesticides which exceed threshold values does not necessarily result in health concerns. Safety factors have been included in the calculations. Moreover, there are uncertainties as to how the active substances work.
The risk assessment has been approved by VKM's Panel on Plant Protection Products.