MOROCCO – Spain has expressed serious concern over the presence of unauthorized pesticides in watermelon exported to the country from Morocco,  a Spanish notification to the European Rapid Alert for products intended for human consumption and animal (RASFF) has shown.

Spain detected the presence of 0.38+ / -0.19 mg/kg–ppm of methomyl residue in a sample taken on July 3, which exceeds the authorized threshold of 0.015 mg/kg -ppm.

 The National Office of Food Safety (ONSSA) of Morocco said the detection of the residue only concerns one batch of watermelons and not the entire shipment.

The regulator claimed to have banned the use of methomyl, a carbamate insecticide used to control foliage and soil-borne insect pests on a variety of food and feed crops, in all crops since September 26, 2022.

“Upon receipt of this notification, the services of the Office carried out the necessary investigations which made it possible to identify the orchard concerned and to establish the traceability of the exported batch of watermelons. Investigations were carried out at the level of the field and the watermelon packaging station,” explained ONSSA.

In addition, ONSSA added that measures have also been taken against the offenders including the suspension of the health authorization of the packaging station and that of the exporter and a launch of investigations to determine the marketing circuit of the said pesticide.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) details that all methomyl products, except bait formulations, are classified as Restricted Use Pesticides (RUPs), which may only be used by or under the direct supervision of specially trained and certified applicators.

This is because Methomyl is very toxic when exposed by the oral and ocular routes. It is moderately toxic by inhalation and has a severely irritating sensation to the eyes, but little or no to the skin.

“Methomyl can lead to over-excitation of the nervous system, resulting in nausea, dizziness, confusion and, at very high exposures, respiratory paralysis or even death,” EPA points out.

ONSSA carries out regular checks of pesticide residues in agricultural products, both at the local market level and at the import level.

In 2023, ONSSA carried out 8,000 samples of food products marketed in Morocco against 700 in 2018. Meanwhile, ONSSA stated that the countries of the European Union carry out an average of 4,500 samples per year.

“Since the beginning of 2023, fruit and vegetables of Moroccan origin have been affected by 5 notifications from the RASFF system out of a total of 497 notifications issued by this system on fruit and vegetables imported into Europe from all origins,” the agency stated.

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