Toxic pesticides cocktail found in Chinese herbs sold in Europe and North America

Press release - 2013-07-02
A Greenpeace East Asia investigation has revealed traditional Chinese herbal products being exported to Europe and North America are laced with a toxic cocktail of pesticide residues, many of them exceeding levels considered safe by food and agriculture authorities.

The new results are part of a Greenpeace East Asia investigation published on June 24 that showed similar alarming pesticide residues on Chinese herbal products in China, highlighting the urgent need to end the use of chemicals in industrial agriculture.

Beyond China, further test results in the US, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands have now shown that consumers in these markets are being exposed to pesticides classified highly hazardous by the World Health Organisation. Out of the 36 samples tested, 32 samples contained three or more pesticides (1).

Greenpeace has contacted European and North American authorities to demand more stringent controls and monitoring systems for pesticide residues in food products. Companies should also implement deeper scrutiny of pesticide residues in food products imported, distributed and sold to consumers. 

Long-term exposure to pesticide residues in food may cause the toxic chemicals to accumulate inside the body. Chronic pesticides poisoning may lead to learning difficulties, hormone disruption and reproductive abnormalities.

The pesticide residues found on Chinese herbs are a stark reminder of the intensive use of agricultural chemicals both in China and globally. A recent Greenpeace International report on the effects of pesticides on bees and pollinators in Europe highlighted how the industrial agriculture’s chemical addiction is not only decimating bee colonies but also putting European food security at risk.


(1)  In total, 36 samples of Chinese herbal products collected from Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, the UK, the US and Canada were tested. It was found that 32 samples contained three or more kinds of pesticides. For example samples of honeysuckle collected from Canada and Germany had 24 and 26 types of pesticides respectively. 17 samples showed residues of pesticide classified by the World Health Organization as highly or extremely hazardous. Some 26 samples showed pesticide residue levels that exceeded what the European authorities consider the maximum level for safety (MRLs).


To download the full report with Chinese and International test results in English please visit:


Greenpeace International press desk: +31 (0)20 718 24 70 or