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Ecomonitoring Baden-Württemberg

Organically grown plant foods tested for pesticide residues and specific contaminants

In report year 2020, a total of 343 samples of organically grown plant-based foodstuffs were tested for residues of pesticides and specific contaminants.

As in previous years, organic fresh fruit and vegetables performed better than conventionally produced goods in 2020, both in terms of the frequency of residue findings and the residue levels of chemically-synthesized pesticides. In 68% of the samples from organic production, no pesticide residues were detectable. Where residues were detected, the levels were predominantly within the trace range (< 0.01 mg/kg) and thus well below the concentrations that can usually be detected in the harvested crop after application of corresponding active ingredients.

The mean pesticide residue content of all fruit samples examined and all vegetable samples examined from organic cultivation was 0.004 mg/kg in each case, if all samples designated as organic, including those with misleading organic labeling, are included in the calculation. It was 0.002 and 0.003 mg/kg, respectively, when the calculation is made excluding the offending samples suspected of being conventional produce, a blend with conventional produce, or produce that was not organic with respect to pesticide residue levels.

Conventional fruit, on the other hand, contained an average of 0.44 mg/kg of pesticide residues (excluding surface treatment agents, phosphonic acid and bromide), while conventional vegetables contained an average of 0.29 mg/kg of pesticide residues (excluding phosphonic acid and bromide). This higher level of pesticide residues is due to the use of synthetic chemical pesticides permitted in conventional cultivation, as residues in the treated crops are often unavoidable after their application. A dense set of regulations therefore ensures that these residues do not pose a risk to consumers, provided that the applicable maximum levels are not exceeded.

Overall, the complaint rate for all fresh organic products has stabilized at a low level in recent years and has decreased significantly over the course of 19 years of organic monitoring. In 2020, 2 out of 66 samples of organic fruit (3.0%; bananas from Ecuador and the Dominican Republic) and 3 out of 139 samples of organic vegetables (2.2%; garlic from Spain, coriander and parsley leaves from Germany) were found to be misleading because of elevated pesticide residues. This results in an overall complaint rate of 2.4% for organic fresh produce for the year under review.

Overall, the complaint rates for fresh produce in recent years (2011 to 2019) have always been well below 5%, while in the years before 2010 these figures were significantly higher, in some cases as high as 8.5%. In the year under review, as in previous years, there was therefore no accumulation of complaints about organic fresh produce or other anomalies in individual crops.

In the case of processed produce, the complaint rate (misleading designation as "organic") in this reporting year of 2.4% was in the same range as the corresponding value for organic fresh produce (2.4%), thus as low as rarely in previous years and almost at the level of the previous year (2019: 2.6%). This rate for processed products has been constant between 2.2% and 7.0% in recent years. However, it should be noted here that different priorities are set for processed organic products from year to year, as well as targeted, short-term projects are carried out, and that this product group has only come increasingly into focus in recent years. The complaint rate is therefore only comparable to a very limited extent between the reporting years and also overall in the course of the eco-monitoring.

For more information:
Ministerium für Ernährung, Ländlichen Raum und Verbraucherschutz (MLR)
Web: oekomonitoring.ua-bw.de


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