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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 June, 2005, 16:51 GMT 17:51 UK
Pesticide levels 'pose no threat'
There is controversy about what pesticide level is safe
Most foods are free from pesticide residues and pose no threat to consumer health, an independent watchdog says.

Of 1,450 samples from 25 different food and drink commodities, 63.5% had no detectable residues, reported the Pesticides Residues Committee.

It said 35.8% tested below the maximum legal level, and none of the other 0.7% should prompt concern for health.

Environmental campaigners said it was a "complete fallacy" to suggest food produced using pesticides was safe.

Asparagus, canned tuna, carrots, mild cheese, infant food, milk and turkey were free of residues in the study.

Traces of pesticides were found in apples, ordinary bread, speciality bread, cabbage, kiwi fruit, leeks, nuts, parsnips, pears, edible podded peas, potatoes, strawberries and tomatoes.

The positive effects of eating fresh fruit and vegetables far outweigh any concern about pesticide residues
Pesticides Residues Committee Chairman Dr Ian Brown

Committee chairman Dr Ian Brown said the results, part of a 2.2m food and drink monitoring programme, showed "the vast majority of our food is residue free or contains residue at levels in accordance with guidelines".

None of the results "gave me any concern for consumer health", he said.

"The positive effects of eating fresh fruit and vegetables as part of a balanced, healthy diet far outweigh any concern about pesticide residues."

The committee, which advises the government, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the Pesticides Safety Directorate, said the legal maximum residues level (MRL) was primarily a check that good agricultural practice was being followed.

Exceeding it did not automatically imply a hazard to health, it said.

Consumers are entitled to no contamination at all
Pesticide Action Network spokeswoman Alison Craig

But Pesticide Action Network spokeswoman Alison Craig told BBC News the MRL was "completely irrelevant to human health".

The report failed to take into account the "cocktail effect" of combining different pesticides or the "lifetime of exposure to pesticides that starts in the womb", she said.

"Pesticides are poisons, and consumers are entitled to no contamination at all."

An FSA spokesman told BBC News "long-term use" had been factored into the committee's findings.

But he warned consumers to continue to wash and peel fresh fruit and vegetables - not to remove traces of pesticides, but to ensure food was free from bacteria.

Caroline Drummond, chairman of charity Linking Environment and Farming (Leaf), told BBC News the results showed farmers were responding to consumer demand with "good pesticide use and management".

"It is worth people recognising the care and attention that goes into good British food," she said.

Pesticide levels 'high in fruit'
30 Jul 04 |  Science/Nature
Public 'fear pesticide in foods'
26 Jun 04 |  Science/Nature
Concern over pesticide levels
27 Feb 03 |  Health
08 Feb 03 |  Medical notes

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