The Customs Laboratory conducts pesticide residue analyses of about 2,000 imported food products every year. Sampling by Customs is risk-based, and risk products and countries are defined on the basis of Customs’ own previous or reported international experience. One of the tools use within the EU is the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF), coordinated by the EFSA, whereby information on the origin of any non-compliant product batches and the measured residue contents is recorded in a public register.

Customs takes samples of products based on both risk assessment and large import volumes. Samples are also taken of tropical fruit such as oranges and bananas, nuts, cereals and herbs in proportion to their import volumes. Customs controls plant-based foods and compound foods with less than 50% raw material of animal origin.

Some 2-4% of samples taken by Customs are non-compliant, i.e. in about 50 to 100 import batches the limit values ​​are exceeded to the extent that require action. If a non-compliant batch is imported as an organic product, it may in some cases be possible to label it as a standard product instead of an organic one. Sometimes, a batch intended for consumption as food can be used as feed. If a batch cannot be made compliant by assigning it a new purpose of use, the batch will be destroyed or, in some cases, returned to the country of origin. Customs most commonly rejects fairly small batches of products, such as exotic fruits, from third countries.

The table shows a comparison between analysed residues in domestic and imported foodstuffs. It includes products for which a domestic and imported option is available and for which the quantity of analysed batches is so high that a statistical comparison can be made. The consumption of the selected products is also significant.  The measured concentrations of all residues found were so low that none of them exceeded the maximum permitted limits. In four out of five product groups, more residues were found in imported vegetables than in domestic ones. In the case of cucumbers and tomatoes, the differences are rather highly in favour of domestic production.

Most pesticide residues have been found in strawberries and apples, in imported strawberries more than in those of domestic origin, whereas more pesticide residues have been found in domestic apples than in imported ones. The differences are not significant, however. With respect to grains, the results for wheat, rye and products made from them have been compared. No pesticide residues were found in Finnish grains.

Pesticide residues in certain vegetables, fruit, berries and grains, 2016

Origin Cucumber Tomato Strawberry Apple Grains
Finland Analysed batches 10 9 14 10 19
Detectable quantities, pcs 6 3 10 8 0
Detectable quantities, % 60.0 33.3 71.4 80.0 0.0
No detectable quantities, pcs 4 6 4 2 19
No detectable quantities, % 40.0 66.7 28.6 20.0 100.0
Import Analysed batches 28 17 35 56 4
Detectable quantities, pcs 23 13 30 44 2
Detectable quantities, % 82.1 76.5 85.7 78.6 50.0
No detectable quantities, pcs 5 4 5 12 2
No detectable quantities, % 17.9 23.5 14.3 21.4 50.0

Source: Material of the Customs Laboratory and the Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira

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