Pesticides watchdog reveals low residues

The public has virtually nothing to fear from pesticide traces in food, according to the UK's top watchdog, which revealed almost conclusive proof this week.

The Pesticide Residues Committee tested 1,140 samples of 21 different foods and found only 11 contained residues above the allowed limits.

But not one of those 11 - amounting to one per cent of the total - was likely to cause any harm to people's health, said chairman Dr Ian Brown.

"The majority of food sampled does not contain detectable residues or, where residues are found, they are within legal limits," he added. "The committee has looked carefully at all of the residues above the maximum residue level (MRL) and we are satisfied that all the results are unlikely to be of concern for consumer health.

"Results show about 1% contained residues in excess of the legal levels. We have looked carefully at the findings and concluded that, in all cases, the residues found were unlikely to have resulted in any health effects for consumers."

Dr Brown spoke after last week's publication of the 180-page Pesticides Residues Monitoring Report for the second quarter of 2008.

The watchdog looked at apples, beans in pods, carrots and courgettes, lettuce and melons, parsnips, pears and peppers as well as meat, cereal, fish and milk.

"These results should reassure consumers that the food they eat continues to be safe," he said. "As a doctor, I cannot over-emphasise the importance of at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day."

He added: "Scientific evidence shows that the health benefits far outweigh any concerns about pesticide residues."

The Pesticide Residues Committee advises the Government, the Food Standards Agency and the Pesticides Safety Directorate.

The results are part of the Government's £2m food and drink monitoring programme, which takes place each year. They cover a sampling period up to June 2008.

- The full report is available online at


The Government tested 1,140 samples of 21 different foods.

- 565 samples had no detectable residues.

- 564 samples had levels below the MRL.

- 11 samples contained residues above the MRL but none of these residues were likely to cause concern for health.

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