The UK is probably 5-10 years behind the USA in terms of recording data regarding the amounts and types of pesticide residue found in our food supply. The following statement was made in the 2009 report, published in June 2010:
UK Government Studies into pesticide residue
This quarter’s programme (3rd quater 2009) surveyed 1415 samples of 29 different foods for pesticide residue: apples, aubergines, avocados, bananas, beans with pods, beetroot, bread, Brussels sprouts, cauliflowers, eggs, grapefruit, grapes, lamb, lemons, lettuces, melons, milk, pasta, pate, pears, peas, peppers, potatoes, processed potatoes, radishes, speciality vegetables, wheat and white fish. The results show 8 samples contained pesticide residue above the maximum permitted levels.
The objectives of the pesticide residue work are described are:
The programme ensures all the major components of our national diet are sampled (milk, bread, potatoes, fruit and vegetables, cereals and related products, and animal products). The programme is not designed to provide a representation of pesticide residue (s) in our diet – it is carefully targeted and looks more at those commodities likely to contain residues. Some commodities are surveyed every year, whilst others are surveyed less frequently, for example once every three years; this is what we call the rolling programme.
The questions regarding the pesticide residue studies that come to mind are these:
- What basis is used to establish the maximum permitted levels of individual pesticide residue?
- Why were the 8 samples above the maximum levels for pesticide residue?
- The programme doesn’t seek to determine the overall level of pesticide residue in our diets. More importantly I wonder if there is anything being done to look at the total pesticide residue loading on our bodies and what the likely interactions are between these many different pesticides?
This video from TED.com is well worth watching for several reasons. Firstly it shows what data is available if only we knew where and how to look for it. Secondly our health choices need to consider the local environment over and above our health. Lastly if this information is recorded by our government then don’t we have a right to see the data?
A few years ago the Institute of Chemical Engineering published some research which showed that while the levels of individual chemicals in the environment that mimicked the effect of oestrogen (xenoestrogens) were all below the maximum safe levels there was a hitherto unexpected additive effect. The individually low level of each individual chemical unfortunately combined with others and produced an effect that was many times over the ‘safe’ levels.
Is the same thing happening with pesticide residue as is happening with xenoestrogens and if so who is studying it? What do you think? We’d like to know so that we can begin to form an action programme to get the situation changed.
By the way this table is from the USA research into the ‘cleanest’ fruit and vegetables – because we don’t have data for the UK.
- Sweet Corn (Frozen)
- Mango (Subtropical and Tropical)
- Sweet Peas (Frozen)
- Kiwi Fruit (Subtropical and Tropical)
- Cantaloupe (Domestic)
- Sweet Potatoes
- Honeydew Melon
- Plums (Domestic)
- Winter Squash
- Cucumbers (Domestic)
- Cantaloupe (Imported)
- Grapes (Domestic)
- Red Raspberries
- Hot Peppers
- Green Beans (Imported)
- Cucumbers (Imported)
- Summer Squash
- Plums (Imported)
- Green Beans (Domestic)
- Blueberries (Imported)
- Grapes (Imported)
- Kale / Collard Greens
- Sweet Bell Peppers
- Blueberries (Domestic)
[poll id="4" type="result"]
So when you make your choices about what food to eat ask yourself this question. What are the pesticide residue levels in the individual ingredients and in the whole meal.