Unacceptable Levels of Pesticides
Found in Peas, Apples and Grapes
Many fruit and vegetables sold in supermarkets and greengrocers
contain pesticide residues that are above the maximum legal level,
an in-depth report has said.
Apples, peas, and grapes are sometimes covered in crop spray
that is above the maximum allowed levels allowed under European
The findings come from the Pesticides Residues Committee, part
of the Health and Safety Executive, after testing more than 4,000
samples of food and drink.
The levels of pesticides varied considerably, with imported fruit
and vegetables tending to have higher levels, according to its
annual report. One in 7 beans in a pod one in 25
fresh peas (in pods) and one in five yams all had pesticides above
the allowed level. One in 70 apples and pears had illegal levels
The Food Standards Agency insisted the illegal levels did not
necessarily mean that the food was unsafe to eat, and pointed
out that the overall levels of pesticides in food had fallen over
the last year. In 2007 1.8 per cent of food had illegal levels;
2008 it had fallen to 1.2 per cent.
All of the fruit and vegetables supplied to schools contained
pesticides within allowed levels, though nearly all the apples
(49 out of 52 tested) and every one of the bananas had some form
of pesticide in them. Many of the pieces of fruit had more than
The Soil Association, which represents the organic industry,
said the report was alarming nonetheless.
Emma Hockridge, policy co-ordinator at the Soil Association,
said: "Unbelievably we learn yet again that pesticides are turning
up in fruit and vegetables supplied to schoolchildren. Yet again
the government tells us this is nothing to be worried about.
"Yet we know that children’s exposure and susceptibility
to pesticides is likely to be higher as per body weight they ingest
more food and drink than adults and their bodies' ability to process
and excrete any such residues is different to that of adults.
"It is unacceptable that 94 per cent of apples, and 100 per
cent of bananas tested contained pesticides school fruit and vegetable
She argued that the "cocktail" effect of different pesticides
had never been tested properly. "Powerful new evidence is emerging
that suggests the combined effect of pesticide ‘mixtures’
may be more significant than previously realised, especially with
regard to endocrine disruptors," she said.
Pesticides, at high doses, can cause allergic reactions such
as causing itchy skin and breathing difficulties.
Dr Ian Brown, the chairman of the committee that wrote the report,
said: "I understand that people are concerned about pesticide
residues in their food, but as a doctor I cannot state too strongly
the importance of eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables
a day. Scientific evidence shows that the health benefits are
far greater than the risk from pesticide residues."