EFSA evaluates Indian grapes pesticide risk

By Rory Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Toxicology, European food safety authority

An initial assessment from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said current levels of the pesticide chlormequat on table grapes from India pose no threat to consumer health.

But the food safety watchdog said the evaluation was a temporary one and that a more in-depth investigation was needed before it could deliver a definitive maximum residue level (MRL) recommendation. It did not rule out changing the “residue definition”​.

The agency said its short-term appraisal been made in order to provide guidance for risk managers dealing with the consignments of the fruit.

Urgent request

EFSA made its provisional announcement last week after the European Commission raised concerns that grapes from India may contain hazardous levels of chlormequat - an active substance used as plant growth regulator in pesticides. The agency was asked to gauge the threshold residue concentration that would not exceed the EU Acute Reference Dose (ARfD) under the pesticide risk assessment model (PRIMo).

Under Annex I of Directive 91/414/EEC the chemical is restricted for use on cereals and non-edible crops. The MRL for table grapes is set at the limit of quantification - 0.05 mg/kg. EFSA said the acceptable daily intake (ADI) for chlormequat chloride, the salt used in pesticide formulations, was 0.04 mg/kg bw/d, with an ARfD of 0.09 mg/kg. Recalculation of the toxicological reference for chlormequat cation gives an ADI of 0.031 mg/kg bw/d and ARfD of 0.07 mg/kg bw, it said.


No information is currently available on the source of the chlormequat residue in grapes, said EFSA. The body said it assumed the residue was made up solely of the parent compound chlormequat.

Experts calculated that the acute threshold residue concentration for chlormequat on table grapes is 1.06 mg/kg. This means “no acute consumer health risk is expected if table grapes with a mean chlormequat residue concentration of 1.06 mg/kg are consumed”,​ said an EFSA statement.

The calculation was based on the most critical consumer group (A German child weighing 16.15kg eating 211.5g – 13.1g grape per kg b/w- of the fruit in one sitting) and the possibility of an uneven distribution of the residues within the lot of grapes tested.

It added that potential consumer risk “could not be excluded”​ if the threshold concentration level was surpassed in conjunction with other factors: consumption above 13.1g per kg bw and an uneven distribution of the chemical residue of the grapes. An assessment of long-term exposure was also performed using the existing MRLs for chlormequat. The body concluded exposure at these levels posed no risk.

It added: “There is a sufficient safety margin to exclude that a slightly higher exposure for a short period due to the consumption of table grapes with higher residues than the existing MRLs would lead to a critical intake situation.”

EFSA said further scrutiny was need before a final risk assessment could be carried out. Clarification of the source of the pesticide residues and studies looking at the “nature and magnitude” ​of the chemical on the grapes were needed, it added.

Related topics: Food safety

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