Latest pesticide survey shows some decreases in pesticide residues in food

There has been a decrease in pesticide residues in potatoes, with no organic produce containing any residues, according to the latest report by the Government’s Pesticides Residues Committee which examined butter, milk, processed potatoes and infant foods that are meat, fish and egg based, during first three months of this year.

With regards to butter, 19% of samples that were packaged in the UK contained residues of DDE – a decay product of DDT, at levels of 0.03-0.07mg/kg, which is a level that is not of any risk to consumer health, says the report. Of two organic samples that were analysed, neither contained any residues.

In 1995, samples of milk were found to contain lindane, resulting in monthly testing of the product. However, samples taken for this report found no residues in either organic or non-organic milk, reflecting the findings of surveys from the past four years.

The latest report marks the first time that the Pesticides Committee has looked at fish and egg-based baby foods. The only pesticide found was oxadixyl, in only two of 68 samples, neither of which exceeded recommended levels. Again, none of the organic samples contained any pesticide residues.

The processed potatoes sampled in the survey included products such as potato wedges, waffles and instant mash, which are of concern because of their popularity, particularly among children, and can form a significant part of their diet. Residues of chlorpropham and maleic hydrazide – used to prevent sprout production – and oxadixyl – used to control potato blight – were found in 23% of the samples. The findings are a considerable reduction on those of a 1998 survey that found 60% of samples contained pesticide residues, although it was the same pesticides that were discovered.

The results of the Committee’s survey during the fourth quarter of last year has also been released, which examined apples, broccoli, head cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, fruit-based infant food, fruit juices, parsnips, fresh peas, pears, potatoes, yams, bread and bottled water. The report reveals that on the whole, pesticide residues on products did not exceed recommended safety levels, although 81% of pears, 72% of apples, 65% of carrots and 44% of bread samples contained very low levels of pesticides. One carrot sample exceeded recommended levels to an extent sufficient to have caused a toddler to have a mild stomach upset had the carrot been eaten raw. A problem with imports of tropical produce from developing countries was illustrated by an examination of pesticide residues in yams. Although there was a decrease in residues from previous surveys, a number of samples exceeded recommended safety levels. There was also cause for concern with organic produce which, although the vast majority of samples had no pesticide residues at all, a very small number – probably from imported produce – did contain residues.

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