Fifteen farmers are currently facing court action after they were caught selling fruit and vegetables containing excessive levels of pesticide, authorities told the Times of Malta.

Pesticide residues in greens sold in Malta are tested at random by the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority at a number of different sites every year.

Last year the issue of excessive pesticide use, that could potentially be dangerous to consumers, was flagged by Times of Malta in a series of reports that revealed the extent of the problem.

As much as 20 per cent of the products tested last year were found to contain too much chemical residue.

The information came out after a series of e-mail exchanges between Times of Malta and the authorities, which at first said only 13 per cent of the fruit and vegetables were over the limit, rather than 20 per cent. 

Producers found to be over the limit had been banned from the market

Asked for an update on the situation in 2018, the MCCAA provided Times of Malta with a table that showed around six per cent of the greens had failed pesticide tests.

The latest data was in the same format as the incorrect information provided in 2017.

 The MCCAA said legal action had been launched against the farmers involved, and at present, the authority was in court against 15 local producers.

Sources at the farmers’ market have confirmed that producers found to be over the limit had been banned from the market to sell their produce for the rest of the season. Court action had also been taken against a few producers, they said.

“I am in favour of it. I use some pesticide too, but I am careful. If there are people who are going overboard, then I agree with them facing penalties of some kind,” a farmer who sells his produce at the Ta’ Qali market said.

Last year a report by the European Food and Safety Authority found that Maltese fruit and veg was the most likely to contain illegal levels of pesticides in Europe.

Based on 2015 data, the study found that some five per cent of the Maltese produce tested by the EU authorities was over the limit for chemicals sprayed by farmers.

The EU average was less than two per cent.

The local situation in 2014 was actually twice as bad, the report said. An updated version of the report is expected later this year.

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