Study raises fruit juice pesticide-concerns

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Soft drinks Fruit

Manufacturers of juice and other fruit-based beverages may need to rethink how they make their products amidst fears over the level of pesticides that may reside on their ingredients, suggests a new study.

The research, appearing in the journal Analytical Chemistry, which singled out soft drinks sold in markets like Spain and the UK for containing ‘relatively high’ levels of pesticides, has been dismissed by the industry.

In the findings, researchers from ​University of Jaén in Southeastern Spain, claimed that scare attention has been paid to pesticides in soft drinks derived from fruits and vegetables, despite strict regulations on use of the chemicals in other finished products.

Using lab testing, the researchers tested for a wide range of pesticides in over 100 different fruit soft drink samples sourced across 15 different countries.


According to the report, ‘relatively large’ concentrations of pesticides, measured in micrograms per litre, were found in a number of the subject extracts. Samples from Spain and the UK had the highest levels of pesticides, while samples from the US and Russia were among the lowest,”​ stated the researchers.

Pesticides such as carbendazim, thiabendazole, imazalil and malathion, which are applied to crops after harvesting and can remain on fruits and vegetables, were found in finished products during the study, stated the researchers.

The concentration levels detected were of the micrograms per liter level, low when considering the European maximum residue levels (MRLs) set for fruits but very high – for example, 300 times - when considering the MRLs for drinking or bottled water,”​ stated the report.

Lead researcher Antonio Molina-Díaz and his team suggested that steps may need to be taken during the manufacturing process if potential exposure of pesticides, particularly to child consumers, is to be prevented.

Strict controls

However, The British Soft Drink Association (BSDA), denied the reports findings, claming that residual pesticide levels in the coutnry’s food and drink products were strictly controlled a what it called ‘very low levels’.

“The independent Pesticide Residues Committee (PRC) conducts regular and careful monitoring to make sure that these levels are observed,”​ a BSDA spokesperson told “Findings from the PRC confirm that fruit-based soft drinks are safe to drink.”

In addition, the association claimed that consumption of juices, due to their role in fulfilling one of the five recommended daily portions of fruit and vegetables, should actively be encouraged.


In drawing the study’s conclusions, the researchers claim to have developed a screening method that automatically searched for traces of about 100 different pesticides in soft drinks.

The beverages were represented in extract form using the application of chromatography−electrospray time-of-flight mass spectrometry (LC−TOF MS).

Juice extracts were obtained by a preliminary treatment based around solid-phase extraction, which uses hydrophilic−lipophilic balanced polymer-based reverse phase cartridges and methanol as an eluting solvent, the report stated.

LC−TOF MS analysis was then used to identify and measure pesticide residues in the sample drinks.

“The confirmation of the target species was based on retention time matching and accurate mass measurements of protonated molecules ([M + H]+) and fragment ions,”​ added the researchers.

Source: Analytical Chemistry

Published online, doi: 10.1021/ac8012708

"Determination of Pesticide Residues in Fruit-Based Soft Drinks​"

Authors: J. Garcia-Reyes, B. Gilbert-Lopez and A. Molina-Diaz

Related topics Markets Juice drinks

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