Pesticides 'in a third of UK food'

Nearly a third of food and drink products in the UK contain traces of pesticides, according to a new report.

The 2005 annual report by the Pesticide Residues Committee found that 30.2% of the 3,787 products surveyed during last year had pesticide traces within the maximum legal limits. However, the residues exceeded legal limits in 1.7% of the cases - an increase from 1.09% the previous year.

The committee said that the levels were not a cause for health concerns and the increase was due to more imported exotic fruit and vegetables.

The committee said that the pesticides found in fruit and vegetables in the school fruit and vegetable scheme were "broadly similar" to those sold in the supermarket.

Of the 166 samples tested which were destined for school children, 132 contained chemical traces at or below the maximum permitted levels. Another three samples had residues above the legal limits.

However, Peter Melchett, policy director at the Soil Association, criticised the committee's report, saying that they were being "extraordinarily complacent and unscientific" over the levels of pesticides in food, particularly that which was destined to be served to school children.

The items tested in the survey included fruit and vegetables, meat and poultry, cereal products, tea, olive oil, fruit juice and infant foods, which were collected from UK shops, markets, ports and wholesale suppliers.


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