9 August 2002

New purge on chem residues

SUPERMARKETS are being urged by green campaigners to aim for zero tolerance on pesticide residues.

But a leading manufacturer claims the target is unrealistic and takes no account of existing standards to protect consumer safety.

Friends of the Earth is calling on retailers to phase out the use of the most "risky pesticides", such as carbendazim, used widely in the UK on a number of food crops.

The organisation issued a league table of pesticide residues found on food taken from leading UK retailers on Wednesday (7 August).

The survey found that 60% of fruit and vegetables sold in Somerfield over the past four years contain traces of pesticide.

FoE real food campaigner Sandra Bell said that supermarkets are not doing enough to cut pesticide use.

"Stricter limits for pesticide residues in fruit and vegetables must be introduced and more is needed to help UK farmers produce pesticide-free food," she said.

Some chemicals, such as carbendazim, have been identified by the European Union as potential hormone disruptors, she said.

But BASF, which first manufactured the fungicide, said that a zero tolerance was unrealistic and that the figures used bore little relation to food safety. &#42

Pesticide residues are tested regularly by the Pesticides Residue Committee, which checks levels found against the Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) for a particular product.

"MRLs provide a check that products have been used as directed; they are not safety limits," states the British Crop Protection Council UK Pesticide Guide.

In the most recent report from the Pesticides Residue Committee, only one sample of food – yam from South Africa – had any detectable residue of carbendazim, which was below the MRL.

The human safety measure, the Acceptable Daily Intake is set at a much higher level than MRL.

Somerfield said that all the products the company sells comply with UK regulations and are safe.

"Our focus is on developing improvements through integrated crop management with our growers – this will deliver long term sustained benefits," said a statement from the retailer.