Surveillance results from 1996 show responsible use of pesticides for food production in the UK.
The surveillance programme, carried out by the Working Party on Pesticide Residues (WPPR), covers the main food groups and also incorporates comprehensive diet studies to estimate overall human dietary exposure to pesticides.
Professor Ian Shaw, Chairman of the WPPR, said:
"The WPPR's surveillance programme has been operating since 1977. Increasingly, we have seen evidence that where pesticide residues are present in the diet, they are virtually always at low, safe levels. From a variety of 3,400 samples of foodstuffs analysed last year, results show that 66 per cent showed no detectable residues, 34 per cent had residues below the maximum residue level (MRL), and less than one per cent were found to have levels above MRLs. As analytical techniques become more sensitive we must expect to find more residues, albeit at very low levels. They have probably always been there, but it is only as techniques develop that they are being found.
"While the results show that consumers would not be at risk from the MRL exceedance, any findings of levels of pesticides above the MRL are investigated to ensure growers follow the rules set out to ensure that consumers can be confident in the safety of the food they buy."
The results are found in the Working Party on Pesticide Residues Report for 1996 published today, and available free of charge. The report also contains a questionnaire seeking the views of readers on how the presentation of these important results can be further improved.
The key findings of the 1995 report are as follows:
b) More enforcement of Pesticide Residues
MAFF's commitment to ensure safe use of pesticides was given a boost today as Food Safety Minister Jeff Rooker announced an extended residue enforcement programme.
Jeff Rooker said:
"I am determined to ensure that growers follow the rules for safe food production, and this includes keeping control over pesticide residues in our food. The results of our pesticide residues in food surveillance show that a small problem with residue levels in lettuce has persisted. I am therefore expanding enforcement in order to guard against any further misuse of pesticides. We have already successfully prosecuted three growers for misuse, and will continue to take strong action if a grower is found negligent."
The new enforcement programme will concentrate on winter lettuce, as a result of earlier programmes which discovered misuse of particular fungicides. Because of these earlier programmes, the negligent growers were prosecuted for using a product (vinclozolin) which is not approved for use on UK lettuce. Seven other growers have been sent warning letters as a result of misuse.
The level of residues detected, in all cases, were not a concern in terms of consumer health. Use of this non-approved product could, however, have jeopardised the health of those applying the pesticide.
The Working Party on Pesticide Residues (WPPR) is responsible for the Government's surveillance programme on pesticide residues in food and animal feedingstuffs
The following notes are added to the News Release: