"We are concerned that 1.6% of samples exceed the legal limits and that is unacceptable. However they are will within safety margins. We are pleased that measures are in place to detect breaches of safety limits and that action is being taken promptly where ever the legal limits are exceeded. Of course, the whole point of setting these standards are that they at levels which allow for very large margins of safety for consumers. There should be no doubt that the overall picture is one that shows that food safety standards are being maintained but we will continue to review pesticide levels."
Sir John added that the FSA was taking action to deal with consumer concerns on the so-called 'cocktail' effect of pesticide residues. He said:
"There have been consumer concerns about the possibility of multiple residues of pesticides in commonly-eaten food, such as oranges, apples and celery. The Agency is seeking expert advice on this from a working group of the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products, and the Environment (COT)."
The FSA recognises that consumers are concerned about different combinations of pesticide residues that are in food although there is no current evidence that they present any health risks.
The recently-formed Pesticide Residues Committee has an independent membership, and will in future report surveillance results more frequently. This will offer consumers more information, faster. The release of brand names is now established, mirroring the approach taken by the Food Standards Agency in its own food surveys.
The 1999 Report of the Working Party on Pesticide Residues has been published today on behalf of the Pesticide Safety Directorate (PSD), a MAFF Agency. Copies of the report and the Press Notice issued on behalf of the PSD are available from the MAFF Press Office, Tel: 020-7238-6044 or 7238-6027.
Around 2,500 samples were tested, using 85,000 different tests. The two samples which gave rise to concern involved chlormequat in a pear sample, and methamidophos in a sweet pepper.