New EU Directive on Pesticides

A new European Union directive on the minimum residue levels (MRL) of pesticides on cocoa beans takes effect on September 1, 2008. Starting that date, cocoa beans that surpass that level will be rejected. Cocoa farmers who use pesticides (and that is the vast majority in the world) will have to learn how to apply the proper pesticides in the proper amounts, warned the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) yesterday.

The Nigerian newspaper This Day, reported that some farmers use pesticides of dubious origin and use them in quantities that are not regulated. The Nigerian Cocoa Producers Alliance has produced a pesticide manual for its members to insure that Nigerian cocoa beans are not excluded from the European market. Given the low reputation of Nigerian cocoa, that is important advice.

This story began in 2007 when the EU began to harmonize rules that govern MRLs not only on food grown inside the EU but also on imported food  and cocoa falls into that category. Since then, the ICCO has coordinated the efforts to establish a list of the pesticides used in cocoa producing countries and their manner of application. When the list was completed, it turned out that only one of the producer countries would pass the requirements contemplated by the EU. All others used pesticides with at least one ingredient that was considered toxic by the EU. As late as 2007, Brazil and Nigeria had not yet submitted their lists.

Most producer countries, however,  have tried to be in compliance. The timely reminder from the ICCO should be a warning to those producers who have not yet gotten there. In case someone tries to game the system by using a pesticide not on the list and not tested, the EU plans to use a lowest level of detection possible (1mg/kg).

Of course, you can all avoid that by purchasing chocolate made from organic beans. Most of those are made from Latin American beans.

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