Consumers who eat a lot of fruit and vegetables are in danger of being exposed to unsafe levels of pesticides, campaigners claim.
Monitoring by the Pesticide Residues Committee (PRC) found that 1.7 per cent of samples checked in 2005 contained residues above the permitted maximum levels. These were mostly in imported exotic fruit and vegetables.
The Pesticide Action Network says this means that anyone eating large quantities of fruit and vegetables might expect to exceed the safe intake five or six times a year.
Dr Clare Butler Ellis, of the Pesticide Action Network, said: ‘The Pesticide Residues Committee almost always finds no cause for concern with these levels of pesticides, but we think the public is right to be concerned and to try to do something about it.’
The network says that, in the UK, many people exposed to even small amounts of pesticides suffer a chronic, severe allergic reaction.
Residues above limits
However, the Chairman of the Pesticide Residues Committee, Dr Ian Brown, said it was important that consumers had confidence in the safety of their food.
‘This annual report continues to show that in most of our food we did not find pesticide residues, but 1.7 per cent of food contained residues above the maximum residue levels set by law. This is a higher percentage than in recent years, and is mainly because we have targeted certain exotic fruits and vegetables where residues are likely to be above these limits.
‘We have carried out full risk assessments of these cases, which included looking at the most vulnerable people such as toddlers and infants. Most of the residues did not give us any concerns for the health of any group of people who might have eaten the foods.
‘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.’