More than a third of food in government tests has been found to contain pesticide traces – including some fruit destined for schools.
Chemical traces were found in some samples of fruit destined for four to six-year-olds as part of the government’s free School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme.
Analysis of 3,562 food and drink samples showed 60 of them – 1.7% of the total – had chemical residues above the legally permitted limits.
These were mainly in fruit and vegetables – including one apple destined for a school as part of a Government scheme. More than one third of all 3,562 items tested contained some pesticide residues, the Pesticide Residues Committee’s (PRC) 2006 report says.
These were all at or below the maximum residue levels set by law with the exception of one apple sample. Products tested included fruit and vegetables, animals products, cereal products, soya milk, orange juice and infant food.
Five a day
More than a quarter (26.6%) of the 1,547 UK-produced items tested contained pesticide residues. This rose to 41.1% of the 2,015 samples tested which came from outside the UK.
Only a “very small percentage” of samples had residue levels which could be a risk to health, the report says.
In a foreword to the report, PRC chairman Dr Ian Brown said residues above the limit were illegal but did not necessarily pose a health risk.
He said: ‘I can understand people have concerns about pesticide residues in their food, but as a doctor I cannot overemphasise the importance of continuing to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
‘Scientific evidence shows that the health benefits far outweigh any concerns about pesticide residues.’
Emma Hockridge, campaigner at the Soil Association, which promotes organic food, said: ‘Every year the government’s pesticides survey finds pesticides in our food and we are told this is nothing to worry about.
‘The public say they do not want any pesticides in their food – and that’s what the government should be seeking to achieve, not provide annual justifications for the pesticides industry.’