Pesticide residues in food (residues of plant protection products)

Plant protection products (PPP) are used in plant production for protecting plants against e.g. plant diseases, weeds, and pests, and for regulating plant growth. The objective is to avoid crop losses and to improve the quality of the crop to ensure adequate food production of a good standard. When PPPs are used in plant protection or kitchen gardens, it is possible that residues of these products are found in food or feed. Fruit, berries and vegetables are foods with the highest probability of containing pesticide residues (residues of PPPs).

Only authorised plant protection products may be used

The use of plant protection products is strictly regulated. A risk assessment and authorisation process at EU level is required of all active substances of PPPs. Only substances assessed to be safe, when appropriately used, to people, animals, and the environment are granted authorisation. Plant protection products are assessed and authorised also at national level.

In the assessment process, permitted maximum residue levels (MRL) are set for residues of the PPP concerned in food and feed. MRL is always set on a level which is safe for consumers and is also in compliance with good agricultural practice (GAP). GAP requires that the farmer minimise the use of PPPs and the use of PPPs is based on an identified need. In practice this means that MRLs are often set on a considerably lower level than what would be necessary to ensure the safety of consumers.

Adding a diversity of vegetables to diet is recommended

Vegetables should be eaten diversely, and their overall consumption should be increased. The health benefits of vegetables by far outweigh the potential adverse effect of pesticide residues.

In Finland the situation is good with respect to exposure to pesticide residues. According to Finnish Food Authority's risk assessment, the long-term exposure of Finnish people is at a safe level. Short-term exposure is also at a safe level, as a rule. The composition of children's diet is different and their consumption of food in relation to their body weight is higher than that of adults. For this reason, it is recommended that domestic and EU products be favoured in children's diet, as imported foods have been found to include more non-conforming products than foods produced in EU Member States.

Pesticides for various purposes

Pesticides are divided according to their intended purpose of use into plant protection products and other pesticides (biocidal products). Plant protection products include e.g. products used in plant production for protecting plants against plant diseases, weeds, and pests, and for regulating plant growth. Other pesticides include e.g. insecticides and rodenticides used in food establishments and livestock housing. Active substances of PPPs refer to substances or micro-organisms which have a specific effect on pests or plants.

Page last updated 4/9/2024