Munich Environmental Institute in Germany recently announced the findings of a surveillance project. German beer samples from 14 most well-known brands were all found to contain a pesticide “Glyphosate”, at a level up to 29.74 micrograms per litre.
According to a risk assessment conducted by The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) of Germany, an adult would have to drink roughly 1000 litres of beer during one day to trigger a health problem1. Normal consumption of beer with reported levels of glyphosate will not lead to excessive intake of the pesticide and cause adverse health effect.
Glyphosate is one of the world’s most widely used herbicides. It can kill different types of weeds in farms and other areas (e.g. gardens, railways, highways, forests, lakes, etc.).
However, the toxicity of glyphosate is a controversial subject. For example, on early 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the World Health Organization classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans”. However, on late 2015, European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded that glyphosate would not be classified as a human carcinogen. Yet, the EFSA’s judgement has been criticized by scientists from different countries, and they call for governments around the world to stop permitting the use of glyphosate.
Pesticide Residue and Food Safety
Since glyphosate is extensively used, its residue can be found in the natural environment (e.g. soil and water), pass along the food chain and accumulate in plants and/or animals. If raw materials (e.g. cereals) used for beer production is contaminated with glyphosate, the beer products may contain the pesticide residue too.
Strengthening Control at Food Sources
Many food companies who care about food safety understand the concept of “garbage in = garbage out”. In this connection, I always suggest food trade including importers should enhance management on their suppliers, especially conducting farm audit.
1.Test raw materials, semi-finished products and end products regularly;
2. Manage and evaluate food suppliers (e.g. farm is away from pollution, farmer follows good agricultural practice, use permitted pesticides & observe withdrawal periods, etc.);
3. Record sources and movements of raw materials i.e. enable traceability once food incident occurs.
If food companies only have limited resources (e.g. qualified staff) for conducting supplier audit themselves, the assessment of farms and food processing plants can be done by an independent party on their behalf. This allows a complete and objective evaluation of food control “from farm to fork”.