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What is in our honey has increasingly become an important question for consumers.

A Bee Pollinating

The EU has published new technical guidelines to determine pesticide residue levels in honey and producers have until January 1, 2020, to make the necessary preparations.

In September 2018, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) issued technical guidelines (SANTE/11956/2016 rev.9) to determine pesticide residue levels and set Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs) for honey. The industry now has until January 2020 to prepare for its implementation.

The current regulation treats bees like other farm animals. Regulation (EU) No 37/2010 considers pesticide residues as only resulting from the use of veterinary medicinal products or the treatment of accommodation (beehives). Specific MRLs are therefore only established in terms of veterinary use.

Research into bee death has simultaneously led to the monitoring of residues in pollen and nectar and it has become clear that residue levels in bee products can vary greatly. It is obvious that the pesticides used on the crops that provide the nectar, honeydew and pollen collected by the bees is having a direct impact on the bees and the products we derive from them.

Honey has, until now, been excepted from supervised field trials for the MRL setting process, instead a default value of 0.05mg/kg was used for dietary risk assessment. The issuing of new technical guidelines for supervised field trials, will close the gap between the data requirements for risk assessment and the lack of guidance on the conduct of supervised field trials to assess the scale of residue levels of pesticides in bee products.

A list of the main agricultural crops in Europe from which it is possible to produce honey is included in the Appendix to the guidance document.

Conducting Supervised Field Trials

SGS has extensive experience of conducting field trials for customers. Utilizing our global capabilities, and those of trusted external partners, we have developed and validated methods for analyzing active substances and relevant metabolites in complex matrices like honey.

The lack of metabolism data associated with honey means the definition of residue must be taken into account in supervised field trials. This is:

  • Parent compound and metabolites included in the risk assessment residue definition for primary crops
  • Degradation products formed during pasteurization conditions
  • Metabolites included in the risk assessment residue definition for rotational crops in case of metabolites and/or an active substance remaining in the soil

The results present a ‘worst case’ scenario in terms of residues in honey, with the highest total application rate being used for systemic pesticides. In case of non-systemic pesticides, the use rate during flowering is recommended.

Why SGS?

SGS offers a range of services to help producers undertake gap analysis and prepare for the January 1, 2020 deadline. Over the years, our experts have established robust sampling procedures for both the aerial part of the crop (flower, nectar) and the leaves.

To achieve accurate results, we recommend conducting trials using spiked syrup or forage plants, such as phacelia or rape seed. Our teams can maintain bee colonies at a particular site for a sufficient period to allow enough honey to be produced to get accurate analytical results. Suitable systems include the tunnel tent, or though syrup feeding.

We recommend early booking for the studies as they require considerable preparation to ensure the colonies are in place when the crops reach the flowering stage.

SGS is first choice for agricultural businesses looking for safe, fast and accurate analysis of their agricultural products.

Learn more about SGS Seed and Crop Services >

For further information, please contact:

François Gemrot
GLP Study Director
m: +33 6 03 32 32 40