Pesticide Residue in Food

August 31, 2023 ,

For a little over a decade, the subject of pesticides and the possible health risks has been in the news regularly. Last June, the media reported that Health Canada was planning to increase the maximum residue limit (MRL*) for pesticides that can be detected in certain food products. The government then explained that the idea behind this approach, among others, is linked to the fact that many foods are produced internationally, and that it is necessary to maintain the availability of quality products. Moreover, according to Health Canada, this would not mean that Canadians would automatically be exposed to more pesticides.
The process of increasing the MRL for pesticides was put on hold by the government in 2021, shortly before the elections. We learned at that time that the suggestion to increase this residue limit in food had been suggested by the multinational company Bayer, who is one of the major producers of pesticides.

The increase in pesticide MRLs would include fludioxonil, a fungicide used in sugar beet production. However, the revision of the MRLs should not concern glyphosate, a herbicide recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as being potentially carcinogenic to humans.


It is known that exposure to pesticides via the environment is a risk factor for certain diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease and some forms of cancer. This especially affects farmers and people who have to handle pesticides on a regular basis. In March 2021, the Quebec government notably recognized that there is a link between pesticide use and Parkinson’s, and organizations such as “Victims of Pesticides from Québec” are fighting for compensation for farmers and others suffering the tragic consequences of exposure to these chemicals.

Another route of exposure to pesticides is through food. While in Quebec and Canada, it is still difficult to access data on pesticide residues in food, in the United States, a list is published each year by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), with the 12 foods containing the most pesticide residues. On this list are several fruits and vegetables, including strawberries, spinach, kale and apples. In Europe, a report on pesticide residues in food is published annually (The European Union report on pesticide residues in food), as part of a regulatory control undertaken by the European Union. This report provides information on pesticide residue test results of nearly 88,000 food samples.

Following the news about the increase in MRLs in Canada, we can question whether these changes will have an impact on our health, and if so, how so. Here is a very brief overview of what we know about pesticide residues in our food and how it relates to health.

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Katharina Paul-Mercier
Katharina is a graduate of McGill University in human nutrition and an avtive member of the Order of Dietitians and Nutritionists of Quebec (ODNQ). She holds the Monash University's certification for the FODMAP diet and IBS, and has hands-on clinical experience in that area. She first approaches nutrition through the pleasure of eating, with a holistic perspective of the individual. It is with kindness that she will accompany you in achieving your goals, helping you to ensure that lifestyle changes will be lasting and balanced. In addition to clinical nutrition, Katharina has a keen interest in local food and is an avid outdoor person. She also completed a minor in ecological agriculture during her university career.

One comment to “Pesticide Residue in Food”

November 5, 2023 Donna Morrison said:

Pesticide Residue.
Bayer never ceases to find new ways to increase the profit margin at our expense. My heart feels for the farmers, but the consumers as well. It irritates me to no end to see 12 apple varieties on the Grocers shelves. Between Ontario and British Columbia fruit belts we are easily able to satisfy our domestic needs and in fact, until the 1970’s were able to export as well. Why is it necessary to import substandard, toxic fruits at all?

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