Schools serve up fruit chemical cocktail

Fruit and vegetables served in schools are far more likely to contain pesticides than those bought on an average shopping trip.

This is the claim of the Soil Association, based on Government statistics.

The organic lobby group’s report Pesticides in school children’s fruit says 84% of produce supplied under the official School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme (SFVS) contains pesticides, compared with 57% from a random sample from shops.

More than one pesticide was found in 65% of the SFVS sample while that figure shrank to 36% in the retail sample.

The Soil Association blames the discrepancy on cost-cutting by buying in cheap, sub-standard produce for schools.

“It’s wrong for a scheme that provides fruit and vegetables to the most vulnerable in society to source lower quality fruit and vegetables, apparently containing a higher proportion of pesticides and pesticide cocktails than the fruit and vegetables available in the shops,” said Peter Melchett, policy director for the organisation.

Almost all the pesticides were recorded within the Government’s Maximum Residual Level, with just 1% of both samples exceeding these limits.

But the Soil Association believes more research undertaken looking at the compound effects of multiple pesticide residues in food.

“The Maximum Residue Limits are not actual safety levels,” the association’s Mike Green told edie.

“It’s also important to remember that the Government doesn’t test for the effects of these cocktail pesticides on health.

“There is a whole area of uncertainty and a number of scientists consider there is a risk and that there is evidence to suggest children are uniquely vulnerable to exposure to different chemicals.”

He said the Soil Association’s concerns were shared by many others.

“The Food Standards Agency recognises people don’t want pesticides in their food and most supermarkets are working with producers to reduce the amount of pesticides they are using,” he said.

By Sam Bond

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