Often credited with a much stronger Farm-to-Table tradition than the United States, the European Union is undergoing similar problems with the food supply chain. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) stated on March 12, 2015 that nearly 50% of all food products in Europe contain pesticide residue. Further worryingly, pesticides were also found on a small percentage of organic foods.
In general, the health impact of these trace levels of pesticides is low, but with many of the present compounds being proven carcinogens, health conscious individuals are raising the alarm. Almost all products where under the legal limit for pesticide occurrence, but one of the most common violators of legal pesticide limits are strawberries.
While many individuals reading this blog are located in North America, and thus do not normally consume produce from Europe, this report should induce connections with the Environmental Working Group in the U.S. The EWG annually releases their “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen.”
In summary, environmental groups like EWG and Europe’s Pesticide Action Network (PAN) take partisan sides to the argument compared to governmental groups like EFSA or the FDA. While the EFSA stated that a product that contained potentially illegal amounts of pesticides does not necessarily mean that it is unhealthy, and that in general, Europeans are at low risk of adverse effects of pesticide exposure from food, the PAN claims that pesticide use in Europe is frighteningly high, and poses a major health concern for the average citizen.
What is the true risk of minute amounts of pesticides in the diet? This is an incredibly complex topic, that has many answers that will be out of reach for years. Conventional practices such as washing fruits and vegetables before use will most likely mitigate a majority of the risk for the typical individual. But perhaps more stringent eating behavior should be applied during the most crucial stages of development, with pregnant women and youth focusing on cleaner / organic products.