Press Release 14.06.2023

Exposure to Brain Penetrating Pesticides Metabolite in Food has more than doubled

foodwatch Demands Pesticide Exit

The exposure of acetamiprid metabolite, an unregulated and dangerous substance, has more than doubled in the last five years. This is the result of a research done by the consumer organisation foodwatch in the database of the German food control authorities. Following a review of ScoPAFF (Phytopharmaceuticals – Pesticide Residues) meeting minutes, foodwatch also discovered that in September 2022 one EU Member State explicitly flagged the danger of the acetamiprid metabolite and its ability to breach the blood-brain barrier in children. Despite this, the European Commission and Member States in the committee have failed to establish legal limits for this metabolite, leaving its concentration in food unchecked and potentially limitless, foodwatch criticised. The international consumer organisation demands the withdrawal of the approval of acetamiprid until all studies are included in the review and until strict legal limits are set for the unregulated metabolite. 

The foodwatch investigation follows the news that several pesticide manufacturers deliberately withheld unfavourable brain-toxicity study results from European regulators, despite submitting the same findings to U.S. regulators.

“Our research exposes a dangerous loophole in pesticide regulation. How can it be that relevant and unregulated metabolites are overlooked during evaluations of pesticides? This raises critical questions about the approval process itself. This negligence has far-reaching consequences, be it in groundwater contamination or, shockingly, in the brains of our children,” states Lars Neumeister, pesticide expert at foodwatch. “For decades, problematic pesticides have been swapped for equally problematic alternatives. It is high time we put an end to this vicious cycle. What we urgently need is a real phase-out of the use of pesticides.”

Acetamiprid is an insecticide that belongs to the neonicotinoid class of chemicals. Its metabolite can cross the blood brain barrier and even has been found in children’s brains, as studies show. High values of the acetamiprid metabolite N-desmethylacetamiprid were found for example in egg plants, spinache and sweet pepper. The actual exposure is probably much higher, according to foodwatch, because authorities do not test for the substance by default – because there is no limit value.

While certain neonicotinoids were restricted by the EU in 2013 following protests and warnings, the neonicotinoid acetamiprid continues to be used in the EU. With the ban on other active substances, the use of acetamiprid has surged dramatically, making it a popular choice for farmers. However, this popularity comes at a grave cost. Acetamiprid, a potent broad-spectrum insecticide that attacks the nervous system of insects, could poses a significant threat to consumer health.