Public 'fear pesticide in foods'
26 June, 2004
Source: BBC News
Most Britons are worried about traces of pesticides in food, a poll by organic milk suppliers suggests.
Of the 1,000 people questioned in an NOP survey, 77% said people should be concerned about food pesticide levels.
Half of those questioned were not convinced maximum pesticide residue levels set by the government are safe.
But Dr Ian Brown, of the government's Pesticide Residues Committee (PRC), said only "absolutely minute" traces were ever found and tests were robust.
The Organic Milk Suppliers Co-operative (OMSC), which commissioned the survey, wants more food to be tested and more money spent on health research.
It says the PRC tested 1,372 food samples in 1999, compared with Italy's 8,000 and Germany's 6,000.
Scientist Dr Vyvyan Howard, from the University of Liverpool, also says the PRC only tests for single chemicals, rather than potentially dangerous mixtures consumed from different foods throughout the day.
He told BBC News: "There are indications that the mixture could be associated with cancer, a number of hormone-disrupting effects which could affect the foetus.
"We have animal evidence that might be the case, [but] it is very, very difficult to sort out as to whether that is happening in humans."
But those responsible for testing food say samples of all foods, particularly staples such as milk, bread and potatoes, have been examined for many years.
Dr Brown said the number of samples tested had now increased to 4,000 a year.
And he said the number of tests on each sample meant almost 200,000 tests were carried out - above the European average.
He told BBC News: "The residues are not only low, but are usually hardly measurable at all, they are parts per million or per billion.
"I monitor the system to make sure public health is not being compromised and so far I am satisfied that it has not been.
"There is nothing to worry about, our food is safe."