The monitoring of foodstuffs for contamination with pesticides is fundamentally regulated by the EU: plant protection product residues in EU member states are tested on the basis of the Control Programme coordinated across the EU, in which annually alternating goods are to be analysed as a matter of principle for the presence of specific pesticides and their breakdown products. Monitoring is also carried out on the basis of national objectives: Austria specifies an obligatory national monitoring programme every year.
If the measured concentration of a pesticide is significantly in excess of a stipulated maximum limit, then the foodstuff sample tested is flagged as unacceptable. The setting of maximum limits and the design of the control programme are intended to protect consumers as much as possible from potentially harmful substances. Since not all pesticides and all breakdown products from pesticides are equally harmful to humans, clear distinctions must be made here. As well as toxicity data, consumer exposure is also taken as a basis - in the form of customary consumption behaviour, which is established in surveys and is continually being updated. Previous measurement results are also taken into account. To enable as extensive a degree of monitoring of Austrian foodstuffs as possible, a statistical approach is taken during sampling. Foodstuff imports from non-EU countries (import inspections) in particular are closely scrutinized for possible contaminations. In Austria sampling is carried out by trained inspectors from the regional official food supervisory authorities of the federal states. During sampling it is important to ensure that the sample is representative of the entire batch, so that in case of contamination of the foodstuff the relevant batch can be tested or sale of the contaminated batch can be prohibited.
As of 1 September 2008 the maximum residue levels of pesticides in food and feed have been harmonised across all EU member states following commencement of Regulation (EC) No. 396/2005.
Authorisation for certain particularly dangerous substances, e.g. endosulfan or quintozene, was withdrawn following a re-evaluation of the possible risks. Their use is therefore no longer permitted.
Due to legal amendments and additions to the list of active substances, constant further development of the existing analytical procedures is indispensable. Both single and multi-methods are being developed and optimised not only nationally but also in the international network of reference laboratories. The LSI has firmly established itself in national and international research partnerships, thus ensuring that in the future it can provide a service in consumer protection - at the cutting edge of research.