Calls to Harmonize Pesticide Residue Levels

2000px-FAO_logoConcerns Raised about Inconsistencies in Pesticide Residue Levels

In November the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) brought together delegates from all the major tea producing countries for its biennial session of the Inter-governmental Group on Tea.

Among the delegate’s top concerns is trade. The hot-button discussion during this session concerned maximum residue levels (MRLs) in tea. Producing nations consider stringent MRL standards one of the most significant barriers to trade, much more formidable than import tariffs and supply-chain disruptions.

The level of frustration at these sessions in Bandung, Indonesia was palpable.

There are “horrible discrepancies” between CODEX and EU requirements of maximum pesticide residue levels, said Norman Kelly, chairman of the International Tea Committee. A supply/demand analysis is too simple. “We need a new economic paradigm,” Kelly told delegates.

LOGO-CODEX AlimentariusChina is particularly vexed by what it terms administrative or “non-tariff” barriers to trade. There are glaring examples in which residue standards vary by three hundred to five hundred fold among trading nations despite the fact that the CODEX Alimentarius lists perfectly rational thresholds adopted globally.

There are currently 734 pesticides in use around the world. Japan tests for about 200 and lists 50,000 provisional MRLs in imported foods. The European Union lists more than 140. The United States, in contrast has a much shorter list. In addition to discrepancies on the lists there are standards legally adopted by countries wildly out of sync with the majority of trading partners. Delegates are seeking harmonization of standards.

The CODEX standards were devised by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization were to alleviate discrepancies. The standards are not compulsory but often adopted into law since introduced 1963. The CODEX is updated frequently.


Consumers Worry that Pesticides May Be Linked with Rising Allergies

The Natural Marketing Institute reports that more than half of American consumers link pesticides with increased food allergies.

SConsumerReport_allergies-imageince 2001 the concern has increased 10% from the 43% who agreed with the statement “I believe the use of pesticides has caused increased food allergies. Respondents to NMI’s Health & Wellness Trends geographically and demographically mirror the public. The research is contained in a GMO Consumer Insight Report released this year.

Respondents were sophisticated enough to recognize that pesticides and their residue are on the outside of food sand can be washed off. “How will consumers respond when they understand that some crops are genetically modified to produce their own internal pesticides,” ask NMI researchers. NMI Qualitative Research discovered that “consumers still show confusion over whether chemicals or toxins are safe, some demand proof that they are NOT safe.”

Debate exists over whether something “chemical” is inherently bad. While some consumers say they want to avoid “chemicals” in food, others point out that chemicals are actually another part of nature. Concerns revolve around man-made vs. naturally occurring chemicals, but consumers are using the word “chemicals” to cover both types currently, reports NMI.

“Simply being told something is toxic may not be sufficient – many consumers want some sort of proof of the toxic nature of a pesticide or other artificial substance in their food; otherwise they just consider this a scare tactic,” according to NMI.

Dan Bolton

About Dan Bolton

Dan Bolton edits STiR Tea & Coffee Industry International. He was formerly editor and publisher of World Tea News and former editor and publisher of Tea Magazine and former editor-in-chief of Specialty Coffee Retailer. He is a beverage retail consultant and frequent speaker at industry seminars and conferences. His work has appeared in many beverage publications. He was a newspaper reporter and editor for 20 years prior to his career in magazines. Dan is the founding editor of Natural Food magazine and has led six publishing ventures since 1995. He lives in Winnipeg, Canada.