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First set of 2010 figures on pesticide residues released

The Pesticide Residues Committee (PRC) today published findings from its first quarterly report for food samples collected in 2010.

The report found that the majority of foods had no detectable residues and those that did contain pesticides were not likely to be harmful to health. Tests found that 214 out of 349 samples of 10 different foods tested had no detectable residues. A further 112 samples contained levels below the maximum residue level (MRL) the legally permitted level.

No residues were detected in any samples of beef or milk.

The PRC undertook several surveys this year following up findings in previous years. It was in these surveys of chilli, okra and speciality vegetables that more evidence of non-compliance was found. However, the committee looked carefully at all residues above the MRL and is satisfied that all results are unlikely to be of concern for consumer health. This is due to the fact that an MRL exceedance does not automatically imply a hazard to health

Chairman of the committee Dr Ian Brown said:

The results show 23 samples contained residues in excess of the legal levels. This is higher than average for the report as a whole but this is because we have deliberately focussed on following up instances where we have found non-compliance before.

We 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.

The PRC organised several surveys for 2010 where samples were collected and tested throughout the year. Working closely with Horticultural Marketing Inspections from Defras Rural Payments Agency Inspectorate we are now publishing the results online and following up non-compliance with the suppliers and importers soon after collecting the sample. This enables traders to take steps to address non-compliance quickly.

He added:

These results should reassure consumers that the food they eat continues to be safe. I can understand that some people have concerns about pesticide residues in their food, but as a doctor I cannot over-emphasise the importance of continuing to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Scientific evidence shows that the benefits of a healthy balanced diet far outweigh any concerns about pesticide residues.

The Pesticide Residues Committee is an independent body which advises the Government, the Food Standards Agency and the Health and Safety Executives Chemicals Regulation Directorate.

The results cover a testing period up to March 2010.

The MRL is the maximum concentration of a pesticide residue – expressed as milligrams per kilogram, or parts per million – legally permitted in or on our food and animal feeds. The levels are not safety limits, but are set at levels, which protect the consumer. They are primarily a check that good agricultural practice is being followed, and an MRL exceedance does not automatically imply a hazard to health.

The full report is available online at:

1. The committee is chaired by Dr Ian Brown (OBE BSc Agric, FRCP, FFOM), who is Director of Occupational Health at the University of Oxford and Honorary Consultant Physician in Occupational Medicine to Oxfordshire Primary Care Trust Department of Public Health.

2. The Pesticide Residues Committee is an independent body that advises Ministers, the Health and Safety Executive’s Chemicals Regulation Directorate (CRD) and the Food Standards Agency (FSA). More information about the Pesticide Residues Committee and its work is available via its website at

3. The Committee oversees a programme to monitor the UK food and drink supply for pesticides residues. It tests samples from a range of foods from retailers, wholesalers, packers, farmers, ports and processors every year. The purpose of the programme is:

a. To back up the statutory approvals process for pesticides by checking that no unexpected residues are occurring;
b. To check that residues do not exceed statutory maximum residue levels; and
c. To check that human dietary intakes of residues are within acceptable levels.

4. The Pesticide Residues Committee is interested in feedback on their quarterly reports and welcome contact from readers about the content and style. Comments should be sent to the committee Secretariat (email, Tel: 01904 455756) or to PRC Secretariat, Mallard House, Kings Pool, 3 Peaseholme Green, York YO1 7PX

5. The Horticultural Marketing Inspectorate is part of the Rural Payments Agency. It is responsible for enforcing European Community marketing standards for fresh horticultural produce at all points of the distribution chain, including retail shops. They have been specifically authorized to undertake monitoring work for the Chemicals Regulation Directorate in support of official testing of food for pesticide residues.

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