Consumers are not at risk from pesticide residues in redcurrants

There is no threat to consumer health from the pesticide residues detected in redcurrants in a study commissioned by Greenpeace. The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) shares the same opinion as the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL). "The assessment of the pesticide residues detected by Greenpeace does not comply with the criteria of scientific risk assessment", says BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. The environmental protection organisation bases its assessment on unrealistic intake amounts. It assumes that a child eats 500 grams of redcurrants every day of its life.

The environmental protection organisation Greenpeace published the results of a study on pesticide residues in redcurrants in July. The organisation feels that the health of consumers is jeopardised by some of the samples examined. BfR has received several inquiries about this evaluation and, therefore, decided to take a look at it.

When assessing the potential risk from a substance in a food, not only does the amount of the substance in the food have to be measured but also what amounts of the food are eaten on average by consumers. In this case, Greenpeace assumes in its assessment that a child eats 500 grams of redcurrants every day throughout its life. Official consumption data, however, indicate that the average daily intake of redcurrants for children is no more than 2.3 grams. Even in the case of one-off consumption of a large portion, an intake no more than 150 grams can be assumed for children and 167 grams for adults. Hence, consumers ingest far lower amounts of pesticide residues from redcurrants than claimed by Greenpeace.  

A scientifically robust assessment of a chronic risk from pesticide residues is based on the ADI (acceptable daily intake) value, i.e. the daily intake of a substance that is acceptable over an entire lifetime. The ADI is a toxicological limit value that already contains a 100-fold safety margin. If one takes realistic intake amounts of redcurrants into account, then the ADI is not exceeded by the levels of pesticide residues measured; less than 1% of that value is exhausted.

Residues of several pesticides were detected, so-called multiple residues, in the samples examined. Greenpeace evaluates these residues in a cumulative manner by calculating and adding up the exhaustion of the respective ADI for all the pesticides detected in one sample. From the scientific angle this method is only the first step and is not recommended by BfR for the assessment of multiple residues. If it is used, then based on realistic intake amounts one comes to the conclusion that the cumulative ADI value is exhausted by less than one percent, too. Hence, there is no health risk for consumers.

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