All 26 food samples that failed a recent pesticide residue test were derived from imports, a food safety watchdog has revealed.

The Pesticide Residues Committee’s latest survey of 1101 food samples found that 56% of samples tested had no detectable residues and 41.6% contained levels below the maximum residues level (MRL) – the legally permitted level.

Another 26 samples (2.4%) contained residues above the maximum permitted levels, although the PRC said none of the residues above the limits caused concern for people’s health.

The food types affected were mainly beans (long, green, yard and dwarf), passion fruit, pomegranate, Sharon fruit, navel oranges and spinach.

Dr Ian Brown, chairman of the committee, said: “The results show 26 samples contained residues in excess of the maximum permitted levels. This is a slightly higher proportion than we have found recently.

“But we have looked carefully at each of these and in every case the presence of these resid-ues would not have resulted in any adverse health effects for consumers.

“It is possible that many of these ‘exceedances’ are technicalities, arising because MRLs have not been set to reflect legitimate use of pesticides in exporting countries.”

NFU deputy president Peter Kendall said the report highlighted the professionalism of British farmers and underlined the benefits of specific programmes like the Voluntary Initiative on pesticides.

The union said data from 2003, which has only recently become available, showed 67% of samples tested by the PRC had no detectable residues. This put Britain third in a group of 18 EU countries when it came to minimising residues.

Countries with higher residue levels included Ireland (56% residue-free), Belgium (53%), Denmark (51%), the Netherlands (42%), and Germany (41%).

“It shows that as the British public stock up on fruit and vegetables in the lead up to Christmas, they can be confident that by looking for the red tractor logo and buying British their produce will be some of the best the EU has to offer,” said Mr Kendall.