EUROPE – The European Food Safety Authority, the agency of the European Union that provides independent scientific advice and communicates on existing and emerging risks associated with the food chain, has made recommendations to further protect young infants from potential risks posed by pesticide residues in food.

According to the agency, the proposals are part of a comprehensive evaluation of the safety of pesticide residues in foods intended for infants and young children.

To carry out the evaluation, EFSA experts applied guidance developed by the authority’s Scientific Committee in 2017 on assessing substances in food intended for infants below 16 weeks of age, and the results of a literature search for new evidence on developing systems in infants and young children.

EFSA recommended that the maximum levels of certain types of pesticide residues that can be present in foods intended for infants and young children be reviewed.

This would ensure ample protection for infants under 16 weeks even at the very highest possible exposure levels.

Specific safe intake levels of pesticide residues for infants below the age of 16 weeks could be established in accordance with the guidance of EFSA’s Scientific Committee.

For infants older than 16 weeks the current approach to establishing health-based guidance values is still considered appropriate.

“Advances in our knowledge of child development plus the availability of EFSA’s guidance enabled us to arrive at the conclusion about the higher levels of protection for certain pesticides that are desirable for infants below 16 weeks,” said Gerrit Wolterink, chair of the working group that drafted the scientific opinion.

“The evidence shows that the current protective measures can continue to be applied to infants older than 16 weeks.”

The new evaluation was requested by the Commission in the light of these advances in knowledge and updates the advice provided in 1997/1998 by the Scientific Committee for Food, which, prior to the establishment of EFSA in 2002, provided the Commission with advice on food safety.