Page last updated at 09:20 GMT, Wednesday, 27 September 2006 10:20 UK

Pesticides 'in a third of foods'

Image of salad
Many fruit and vegetables were surveyed

Nearly a third of UK food and drink, including fruit and vegetables, contains pesticide, a government advisory body says.

The Pesticide Residues Committee found traces exceeded legal limits in 1.7% of cases - up a third on the year before due to more exotic food being tested.

A further 30.2% of the 3,787 items surveyed during last year had pesticide traces within those limits.

The committee said the levels were not a health concern, but others disagreed.

The report said levels of pesticide residues in fruit and vegetables destined for schools as part of the "five a day" scheme were broadly similar to those in the general supply chain.

The health benefits far outweigh any concern about pesticide residues
Dr Ian Brown

Of the 166 samples tested which were destined for school children, 132 contained chemical traces at or below the maximum permitted levels.

Another three samples had residues above the legal limits.

Items tested in the overall survey included fruit and vegetables, meat and poultry, cereal products, tea, olive oil, fruit juice and infant foods.

No residues were found in chicken, eggs, infant formula, kidneys, milk or swede.

The 3,787 samples of imported and home produced food were collected from UK shops, markets, ports and wholesale suppliers as part of an ongoing monitoring programme.

Dose dependent

Committee chairman Dr Ian Brown said the findings were not a cause for health concerns.

"I cannot overemphasise the importance of continuing to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

"The health benefits far outweigh any concern about pesticide residues."

David Coggon, professor of occupational and environmental health from Southampton University, said it was important to remember that the analytical techniques used in the report can detect pesticides at very low levels.

"At very low levels they are not a concern to health. We are all exposed to chemicals in the environment every day, but whether they are toxic or not is down to the level of the dose."

Peter Melchett, policy director of the Soil Association, said the committee was being "extraordinarily complacent and unscientific" especially over the pesticides in food product destined for schools.

And Georgina Downs, a campaigner against pesticides, criticised the Pesticide Residues Committee for underplaying any risks associated with the chemicals.

Pesticide levels 'pose no threat'
29 Jun 05 |  Science/Nature
08 Feb 03 |  Medical notes

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