Food pesticide testing unsafe – FoE

26 September 2001

Food pesticide testing ‘unsafe’ – FoE

PESTICIDE residue testing of UK food is so inadequate that its safety cannot be guaranteed, Friends of the Earth (FoE) has warned.

The environmental group attacks UK testing practices in a report published Wednesday (26 September).

It claimed: “The UK lags behind most of Europe in the testing of food … in fact most food types are not tested at all.”

The report used data from 1998, the latest year when a comparison with EU countries could be drawn.

During 1998 the UK tested a total of 732 samples of fruit and vegetables, the report said. Only four EU countries tested fewer.

“Taking such a small number of samples means that the vast majority of food consumed in the UK is not checked for pesticides.”

Richard Dixon, head of research for FoE Scotland added that the effects of the mixture of chemicals consumed is relatively unknown, and urged consumers to buy pesticide-free food at all costs.

“Organic food is largely pesticide-free and we will be strongly supporting the Organic Targets Bill when it is introduced to Scottish Parliament,” he said.

A spokesman for the independent testing body, the Pesticide Residues Committee (PRC), admitted that the UK analysed fewer samples than some countries in the EU.

“But we look for a wider range of pesticides and often undertake more individual tests,” the spokesman said.

“The government testing is additional to that already carried out by the food industry, [and we] have boosted the total number of samples [including processed food] collected for analysis from 2300 in 2000 to 4000 in 2001.”

“When a maximum residue limit is exceeded or a residue of a non-approved pesticide is found, it does not necessarily mean that there is a concern for consumer health.

“It may indicate that pesticides have not been properly applied.”

“In 2000, only two out of 2300 samples were of potential consumer concern,” says the PRC.

Christopher Wise of the National Farmers Union urged careful interpretation of the FoE statistics, adding that the element of variation between samples is more important than the number of samples.

“Organic food is not pesticide-free; they use organic pesticides such as sulphur and oils.

“In fact, the largest selling pesticides in the USA are used on organics.”

But Sandra Bell, “real food” pesticides campaigner for (FoE) responded: “There should be an overall reduction in all residue levels, and there should be produce available that is residue-free for consumers to make up their own minds.”

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