Food processing workers prioritised in new pesticide risk assessment

By Rory Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: European food safety, Risk, Efsa

Workers in food processing plants have been included in a new assessment of acute risks posed by exposure to the most hazardous pesticides, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has said.

The issued has been examined as part of new guidance from the European food safety watchdog on the assessment of the risk posed by pesticides to workers, operators, bystanders and, for the first time, residents. EFSA has urged further investigation into the exposure of workers, including food packers, to pesticides as a “particular priority”.

New toxicological reference value

The guidance has been published after EFSA’s Panel on plant protection products and their residues (PPP) tabled a series of changes to the way exposure to the chemicals are evaluated through skin contact and inhalation.

The body has launched a public consultation and is urging any interested parties, including food processors, to comment on the guidance.

In particular, the paper has introduced additional risk assessment for pesticides where toxicity could arise from acute exposure over a single day. It has introduced a new toxicological reference value: an Acute Acceptable Operator Exposure Level. This can be used as “reference for realistic estimates of exposure in a single day for operators, workers and bystanders”,​ an EFSA spokesman told The latter will also include risk assessment for residents.

Consistent Approach

EFSA said the improved risk assessment measures and the statistical estimates of risk scenarios they produced would bolster protection for these groups. The availability of a harmonised model will mean safety bodies throughout the EU would be able to approach the issue in a consistent manner.

The EFSA panel also listed a series of options corresponding to various levels of protection those managing risk protection may need to take into consideration when thinking about the safe use of pesticides.

Further research

Further research was recommended into certain situations around exposure to the chemicals to “reduce uncertainty”, added an EFSA statement. These include transfer coefficients for worker exposure scenarios that have not yet been investigated, dislodgeable foliar residues (DFR), as well as worker exposure during both crop inspections and post harvest activities such as parking vegetables, said the EFSA guidelines.

EFSA said comments on the guidance should be sent befote 15 September, 2009, in order to be considered for the final opinión in Spring next year. A full copy of the guidelines can be viewed via the following link.

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