Food Law News - UK - 1999
16 September 1999: CONTAMINANTS - Results from Pesticides Monitoring Published
MAFF News Release (318/99), 16 September 1999
Results from Pesticides Monitoring Published
The annual report of the Working Party on Pesticide Residues (WPPR) was published today. It shows that over 98 per cent of foods tested in 1998 had residues below the legal maximum residue limit (MRL).
Of the 2,187 food samples tested 73 per cent had no detectable residues, 26 per cent contained residues below the MRL and 1.3 per cent were found to have levels above MRLs. MRLs are not safety limits and none of the residues which exceeded the MRL were high enough to cause concern for consumer safety.
The monitoring programme covers the main food groups such as bread, milk and potatoes and also incorporates a range of fruit, vegetables, cereal products and animal products. The samples are purchased mainly from retailers throughout the United Kingdom. The annual report includes brand name details on the samples analysed for the first time. A short summary leaflet explaining the work of the WPPR and the main findings in 1998 is also available.
Professor Ian Shaw, Independent Chairman of the WPPR, said:
"These findings are reassuring with almost three quarters of the food samples tested being free from detectable residues. This is particularly pleasing when set against a background of the increasing number of individual tests being carried out on the food samples analysed. We will keep a close watch on any areas where standards are being breached, and ensure that all results are published. The extremely small proportion of samples which exceeded the legal limits would not cause harm to consumers. The results demonstrate clearly that residues in food are not a cause for concern."
A sub-group of the Working Party is responsible for setting the annual monitoring programmes. The food tested and pesticides sought depends on the importance of the food in the diet and the likelihood of finding residues. Key findings of the 1998 monitoring programme are set out below.
The food groups analysed include: fruits and vegetables, cereal products, products of animal origin, fish and fish products. The Working Party on Pesticide Residues was established in 1977 to co-ordinate the monitoring of pesticide residues in food and animal feeding stuffs, in human tissues and in wildlife and the environment. The Working Party reports to the independent Advisory Committee on Pesticides and the Food Advisory Committee
- Milk - in 1998 for the first time in many years no residues of lindane were detected in the milk. This followed an unexpected rise in the level of lindane in milk in 1995. As a result of this in 1996 and 1997 milk was tested on a monthly basis so that any further increase would be detected early.
- Infant Food - safeguarding the health of infants and children is a high priority for the Government and the Working Party. Regular monitoring of baby foods and foods popular with children is therefore carried out. In 1998 the survey of meat based infant food found no detectable pesticide residues. A survey was also carried out on fruit and vegetable based infant food with low level residues detected in 16% of the samples. None of the residues detected would be harmful to infants.
- Pears - results for pears have already been published (Food Safety Information Bulletin July 1999). Residues of chlormequat in imported pears were found above the statutory maximum residue level. Residues were also detected in some UK pears which suggests non-approved of this pesticide as it is not permitted for use in the UK on fruiting pear trees. The Government are currently monitoring pears on a monthly basis for this pesticide and will publish results from the first six months of the 1999 pear survey later this year. As a result of these findings an enforcement programme has commenced on both UK and imported pears. This will allow legal action to be taken on growers/retailers who sell pears found to contain non-approved levels of chlormequat. Additionally representations have been made to the Belgian and Dutch authorities to tighten controls on exported pears.
- UK Winter Lettuce - Over the last few years the Working Party has reported that a small minority of UK lettuce growers were using illegal pesticides on their crops. MAFF's enforcement programme has so far resulted in five successful prosecutions for illegal use of a pesticide on winter lettuce. The 1998/99 enforcement campaign saw an improvement; only two residues were found which suggest an illegal use and these are currently being investigated further. The Working Party also tested winter lettuces from retailers in 1998. Nearly half of these lettuces were found to contain residues which either exceeded the MRL or contained a non-approved pesticide. None of the residues found presented a health risk to consumers. The Government will continue to keep the level of residues in winter lettuce under close review.
- Yams - the Working Party also includes foods which are significant in ethnic diets. In 1998 yams were surveyed. A majority of the samples tested were found to exceed the MRL. The pesticides found were used to treat the yams following harvest. Most of the residues will therefore be on the skin of the yams. A risk assessment was carried out on the levels found and none were a consumer health risk. The MRL for yams is currently set very low i.e. effectively a "no residue" level. This reflects the fact that there has been no application to the European Commission to set a maximum residue levels for these crops. The exporting countries have been informed of these results and will be encouraged to apply for MRLs within the EU. The Working Party intends to monitor yams again.
The Annual Report this year includes for the first time brand name details for samples tested. This information is included as an Annex to the main report. Samples which were found to contain non-approved pesticides or those exceeding the MRL are highlighted in bold in the Annex. The interpretation of this information is explained in Section 3 of the main report.
The Pesticides (Maximum Residue Levels in Crops, Food and Feeding Stuffs) Regulations 1994 (SI No 1985) as amended, are quoted throughout the report. These Regulations superseded the Pesticides (Maximum Residue Levels in Food) Regulations 1988. The Regulations apply throughout Great Britain and equivalent Regulations are in force in Northern Ireland. A full list of the relevant legislation is included in Appendix VII of the main report.
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