The Agency asked the independent Advisory Committee on Pesticides (ACP) to review existing food safety advice from the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) in relation to pesticide residues. It was worried that some consumers were being put off eating fruit and vegetables - which are part of a healthy balanced diet - because they thought they were not safe to eat unless they were washed before eating.
Pesticide residues are the small amounts of pesticides that can remain in the crop after harvesting or storage and make their way into the food chain. The Food Standards Agency wants to see pesticide residues on fruit and vegetables reduced to their lowest possible level.
The ACP began reviewing the CMO advice at its meeting on 18 October 2001. On 4 March 2002 it considered the views of Friends of the Earth that the CMO advice, which also included information about peeling fruit and vegetables where appropriate, should stand. It concluded that washing and peeling fruit and vegetables is not required as a protection against pesticide residues. According to the CMO, peeling is a matter of invidual choice. So, for example, if adults or children prefer to eat unpeeled fruit, that is fine.
The Agency supports the general advice that it is sensible to wash fruit and vegetables before eating to ensure that they are clean, but believes that as a matter of principle, safe use of a pesticide should not depend on such action by consumers.