A generally accepted method for the cumulative risk assessment of pesticide residues on food is missing within the EU, according to the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR).
The scientific institution, based in Germany, proposes a "simple and transparent“ solution to assess cumulative risk based on hazard indices (HI) for the individual active substances.
It added that it the method provides consumers with adequate protection but it can be refined by including additional toxicological information.
A methodology for cumulative risk assessment, which is being tested scientifically within the EU, was the subject of a workshop at the institute with representatives from science, research, public authorities, NGOs and industry.
Issues identified included unresolved points on the establishment of cumulative assessment groups and the methods for calculating exposure.
Any method should be able to beused routinely in regulatory practice: for MRL setting on EU level, authorization of plant protection products and for consumer risk assessment of monitoring samples by the Federal States’ authorities.
Authorities must be able to use the standard to evaluate quickly and safely whether a food sample with residues of several pesticides constitutes a health risk for consumers.
Residues of several active substances which can interact with one another are also being found more and with increased regularity on individual fruit and vegetable samples, said the BfR.
Hazard indices benefits
For the assessment of multiple residues in regulatory practice, the BfR recommends that the cumulative risk be evaluated by means of the determination and addition of hazard indices (HI) for the individual active substances.
"This is a simple and fast method which provides consumers with adequate protection at the same time and which can be refined step-by-step if necessary by including additional toxicological information,“ reported the BfR.
"The hazard index is a measure of the extent to which the residue of an active substance ingested via food reaches its toxicological limit values (ADI, ARfD). "
The possibility of multiple residues of pesticides in food is a concern in the perception of the public but up to respective levels they are permitted in food as long as no health risks exist.
However, the permissible residue quantities or maximum residue levels of pesticides in food may not impair the health of consumers even if several residues are ingested simultaneously or shortly after one another.