The results are contained in the 1999 report from the Working Party on Pesticide Residues released on 19 September, which details the results from around 2,500 samples of both imported and home produced food collected from retailers and tested for a wide range of different pesticides.

The report found that, although the vast majority of the pesticide residues found were at, or below, legally permitted limits, in 1.6% of the samples pesticides were found at levels which were higher than legally permitted. Two samples were of particular concern: pears which contained the pesticide chlormequat at a level of 16mg/kg and Spanish sweet peppers containing the pesticide methamidophos at a level of 0.8mg/kg. Eleven percent of winter lettuces were also were found to contain higher than legally permitted levels of pesticides.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food maintain that the quantities of pesticide encountered in these foods would only be sufficient to cause a mild stomach upset in toddlers.

“The public will be dismayed to learn that almost half the fresh fruit and veg they are eating contains pesticides. The Government encourages people – including pregnant women and babies – to eat more fresh fruit and veg, so they should be doing more to ensure that they are pesticide-free,” Sandra Bell, Real Food Campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said. “It’s also unacceptable for Government advisors to say that pesticide residue levels are safe when no-one knows what long-term effect pesticides may have on our health.”

Friends of the Earth says that it wants all food for babies to be free of pesticide residues immediately – including fresh fruit and vegetables and points out that there is no testing for hormone disrupters. The organisation says that the Royal Society has recommended that measures should be taken to ensure pregnant women’s exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals is reduced.

The Working Party on Pesticide Residues tests between 30 and 50 different commodities including a range of fruit, vegetables, cereals, animal and fish products from major supermarkets, independent grocers and market stalls.

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