School food tested for pesticide residues

The Pesticide Residues Committee (PRC) today published findings from the Department of Health’s School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme for Autumn 2009.

The third report for the academic year 2009/10 found the fruit and vegetables supplied to schools met legal standards for pesticide residues levels - and the presence of any residues would be unlikely to have any effect on those who ate the food.

The report contained the results for apple, banana, carrot, mango, melon, pear, pineapple, raisin, soft citrus fruit and tomatoes.

The School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme (SFVS) supplies a wide range of fruit and vegetables to primary school children. The PRC has looked carefully at the results and are satisfied in all cases the presence of the residues is unlikely to have an effect on health.

In one sample of bananas, an amount of pesticide residue that was just above the Maximum Residue Level (MRL) was found, but there are no safety implications.

The finding is being followed up with the suppliers.

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 risk to health.

Chairman of the PRC, Dr Ian Brown, said:

"These results should provide reassurance that the food supplied to schools as part of this scheme 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 for children and young people far outweigh any concerns about pesticide residues."

The PRC is an independent body which advises the Government, the Food Standards Agency and the Chemicals Regulation Directorate (CRD).

Since 1 January 2005 the Chemicals Regulation Directorate (CRD) has been contracted by the Department of Health to undertake pesticide residue monitoring of produce supplied under the School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme.