Press Release 10.10.2023

foodwatch report reveals: One third of cereal products are contaminated with pesticides

Consumer organisation demands from EU retailers pesticide-free bread and cereal products 

One third of cereal grain products in Europe are contaminated with pesticide residues, according to a new report by foodwatch. The international consumer organisation called on European retailers to commit to making their entire range of bread and other cereal products pesticide-free by 2025. Grain production contributes significantly to the excessive pesticide use in the EU, foodwatch criticised. A transition to a pesticide-free production of grains and cereals is therefore crucial for biodiversity, climate protection and soil quality. In France, for example, around half of all pesticide applications target cereals; in Germany, wheat and barley alone account for 45% of all pesticide use.

“Making our daily bread pesticide-free, would be a huge step towards a sustainable and environmentally friendly EU agriculture”, said Jörg Rohwedder, Executive Director from foodwatch International. Pesticide-free grain production would help to reach many of the targets set in the upcoming EU sustainable use regulation (SUR) that aims to reduce pesticides by 50% in 2030, foodwatch underlined. The consumer organization called on retailers to take responsibility: “Supermarkets like to give fine-sounding environmental promises, but much of their produce – from bread to pasta – is made by using enormous amounts of harmful pesticides like Glyphosate. The companies do not want to talk about this dark side of grain.”

In its report “The Dark Side of Grain” foodwatch international analyses the European Food Safety Authority's (EFSA) database of public residue tests. It shows that among 2,234 samples, 837 (37%) contained one or more pesticides. These contaminated samples contained 1,215 residues from 65 different pesticides. Of these, 18 residues in 14 samples exceed the maximum residue limits (MRLs). Considering the cocktail effect, in which the combined impact of multiple low-level contaminants is considered, the results are worrisome. The prevalence of pesticide residues varies widely, ranging from less than 10% in samples of emmer grain and rye to nearly 90% in wheat bread and rolls.

“Stop the toxic harvest!”: Protest action against retailers

foodwatch also investigated 20 retailers in Germany, France, the Netherlands, and one retailer in Switzerland. Although supermarket chains often promote labels and programmes related to biodiversity, not a single company has adopted a biodiversity strategy that includes cereal production, foodwatch criticised. At, the consumer organisation launched an international online petition, urging retailers such as Albert Heijn, Carrefour, Aldi and Lidl to sell only pesticide-free grain products by 2025. Each year, the supermarkets should publish data indicating which products are produced without pesticides and which are not. As a positive example, foodwatch pointed to the Swiss retailer Migros, which is committed to pesticide-free grain production. 

“If supermarkets do not use their market power now to produce pesticide-free, we are endangering the entire food production in the EU in the long term”, said foodwatch’s Jörg Rohwedder. “Pesticide-free cereal production is not only necessary, but also possible and already actively practised in some European regions.”