Turkish lemons, listed by EU as risky due to pesticide residues

In recent months, Bulgarian health authorities have prevented the entry of three batches of Turkish lemons that were intended to be sold in the European markets after detecting an excess of imazalil residues. This is a post-harvest product used to prevent the fruit from rotting. Last season, there was a total of 6 health alerts for Turkish lemons, raising doubts about the food safety of products from this origin.

Although imazalil is an active substance allowed in the EU, it was found that Turkish lemons had exceeded the MRL (maximum residue limit) by more than 100%. The legal limit is 5 milligrams/kilo and the residues detected reached 10.764 mg/kilo.

With these three new health alerts affecting Turkish lemons, and which coincide with the end of the campaign, the country has already had six such incidents during the current 2017/2018 campaign. Each lot prevented from entering amounted to 20,000 kilos (20 tonnes).

Turkey is an important competitor for the Spanish lemon sector, mainly for the Fino variety. Its production amounts to around 700,000 tonnes and around 100,000 tonnes are exported to the European Union each year, especially to the countries of the East. In terms of prices, it is more competitive than Spain because of its low production costs.

"What is clear is that they cannot compete with us in terms of quality and food safety, and that is what counts the most for us in the European Union," explains the general director of the Spanish Lemon and Grapefruit Interprofessional (Ailimpo), José Antonio García.

García says that the controls on Turkish products are the result of the work carried out by AILIMPO as a Spanish lemon lobby in the European Commission over the last two years. "We have worked hard, first to have this country included in the list of suppliers that need to be inspected regularly, and then to have 20% of the trucks entering the EU inspected, instead of just 10%."

Recently, José Antonio García travelled to Brussels to meet with the department responsible for pesticide controls on imports of non-EU products, in an attempt to prevent Turkey from being removed from the Official Risk list, as despite the six batches rejected this year, there have been fewer health alerts affecting products from this country so far this year than in previous campaigns.

"We explained that this decline is due to the fact that the volume exported has dropped as a result of a smaller harvest. Since there were 'only' six alerts, the Commission decided to study removing Turkish lemons from the Risk List, but AILIMPO has asked for this not to happen, even if the share of batches inspected is reduced." Eventually, the European Commission has decided that in the period from 1 July to 31 December 2018, 10% of Turkish lemons will be checked for pesticide residues. This decision will be published in the Official Gazette of the EU in the coming days.

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