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Pesticide levels in school food "unacceptable", says Soil Association

26 June 2006

The Soil Association has branded new research showing that nearly two-thirds (65%) of fruit and vegetables supplied to schools contained traces of pesticides, as "disappointing".

The Pesticide Residues Committee (PRC) survey of 44 food samples found that 29 contained pesticides within the maximum residue level (MRL), one had above the MRL and 15 had traces of more than one pesticide

The MRL is not a safety limit but shows the residue levels expected if pesticides are used according to the instructions.

Although Dr Ian Brown, chairman of the committee, said the findings did not give any cause for concern, but Michael Green, policy officer at the Soil Association, described them as "unacceptable"

Green said: "Young children are most at risk from any potential damage from exposure to pesticides and this is a matter of concern considering the uncertainty about the cocktail and cumulative effects of long-term exposure."

Green said it was disappointing that the figures showed the same results each year but no action had been taken. He added that levels of pesticides in food would not be reduced while farmers kept using thousands of toxic pesticides each year.

  • The PRC's survey of 893 fruit and vegetable samples during the last quarter of 2005 found that 40% (or 354) contained pesticides below the MRL and 3% (25) carried traces that were above the limit.

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By Angela Frewin

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