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Third set of 2009 pesticide residue figures released

11 March 2010

The Pesticide Residues Committee has published its third quarterly report for samples collected in 2009. It found most foods had no detectable residues and those with pesticides weren't likely to be harmful.

Tests found that 656 out of 911 samples of 14 different foods tested had no detectable residues. Also, 248 samples contained levels below the maximum residue level (MRL) – the legally permitted amount.

Chairman of the committee Dr Ian Brown said: “The majority of food sampled either does not contain detectable residues, or where residues are found, they are in accordance with legal limits. The committee has looked carefully at all of the residues above the MRL and we are satisfied that all the results are unlikely to be of concern for consumer health.

“The results show 7 samples (0.8% of samples covered by the report) contained residues above 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.

“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 health benefits 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 Chemicals Regulation Directorate.

Today's results are part of a £2 million food and drink monitoring programme which takes place each year. The results cover a sampling period up to September 2009.

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:

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