21/09/2005

‘More pesticides’ found in school fruit

Fruit and vegetables given to children in schools contain over 25% more pesticides than those sold in shops, research has revealed.

The Soil Association said that the Pesticide Residues Committee – an independent government advisory group - tested 167 samples of fruit and vegetables supplied to schools as part of the School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme last year, as well as 882 samples of non-organic produce sold in shops.

The study found that 84% of the produce supplied to schools contained pesticides, compared with 57% of shop-bought produce.

Peter Melchett, Policy Director of the Soil Association, said: “The Soil Association strongly supports the school fruit scheme. But it is wrong for a scheme that provides fruit and vegetables to the most vulnerable in society to source lower quality fruit and vegetables, apparently containing a higher proportion of pesticides and pesticide cocktails, than the fruit and vegetables available in shops.”

The PRC said that the pesticide residue profiles of school fruit and vegetables appeared “similar” to those of shop purchased produce.

The Soil Association said that, in comparison, 96% of 55 samples of organic produce purchased in shops were completely free from pesticides.

The group cited a recent US study, which found that school children who followed organic diets showed “significantly reduced” exposure to organophosphorous pesticides.

The Soil Association has urged the government to reduce the proportion of fruit and vegetables containing pesticides in the SFVS scheme by increasing the use of in season UK-grown fruit and vegetables, as well as the use of organic produce.

Mr Melchett added: “It is vital that children eat more fruit and vegetables; to encourage this the school fruit scheme needs to focus on sourcing high-quality produce, wherever possible from the UK and work towards achieving zero pesticides as quickly as they can.”

(KMcA/SP)

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