Health and Safety Executive
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School fruit and vegetables tested for pesticide residues

The Pesticide Residues Committee (PRC) today published findings from the Department of Health's School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme for Summer Term 2009.

The third and final report for the school year 2008/9 found that the fruit and vegetables supplied to schools met legal standards with regard to pesticide residues levels and that the presence of residues would be unlikely to have any effect on those who ate the food. The report contained the results for apple, banana, carrot, pear and soft citrus fruits.

The School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme (SFVS) supplies a wide range of fruit and vegetables to primary school children. Residues found are within European legal levels and the committee has looked carefully at the results and are satisfied in all cases the presence of the residues is unlikely to have an effect on health.

Chairman of the PRC, Dr Ian Brown, said: "These results should provide reassurance that the food supplied to schools as part of this scheme continues to be safe. I can understand that some people have concerns about pesticide residues in their food, but as a doctor I cannot over-emphasise the importance of continuing to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Scientific evidence shows that the health benefits for children and young people far outweigh any concerns about pesticide residues."

The Pesticide Residues Committee is an independent body which advises the Government, the Food Standards Agency and the Chemicals Regulation Directorate (CRD). Since 1 January 2005 the Chemicals Regulation Directorate (CRD) has been contracted by the Department of Health to undertake pesticide residue monitoring of produce supplied under the School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme.

CRD has requested that the PRC consider the results and examine the risk assessments from this monitoring.

The MRL is the maximum concentration of a pesticide residue - expressed as milligrams per kilogram, or parts per million - legally permitted in or on our food and animal feeds. The levels are not safety limits, but are set at levels, which protect the consumer. They are primarily a check that good agricultural practice is being followed, and an MRL exceedance does not automatically imply a risk to health.

The full report is available online at: http://www.pesticides.gov.uk/prc.asp?id=8261

Notes to editors

  1. Dr Ian Brown OBE BSc (Agric) FRCP FFOM is Director of Occupational Health at the University of Oxford and Honorary Consultant Physician in Occupational Medicine to Oxfordshire Primary Care Trust Department of Public Health
  2. The survey was carried out by CRD on behalf of the Department of Health.
  3. The Pesticide Residues Committee, an independent body that advises ministers, the Chemical Regulations Directorate and the Food Standards Agency peer review this information.
  4. More information about the Pesticide Residues Committee and its work is available via its website: www.pesticides.gov.uk2
  5. The Committee's main work involves overseeing a programme to monitor the UK food and drink supply for pesticides residues. It tests samples from a range of foods from retailers, wholesalers, packers, farmers, ports and processors every year. The purpose of the programme is to:
    • Back up the statutory approvals process for pesticides by checking that no unexpected residues are occurring.
    • To check that residues do not exceed statutory maximum residue levels.
    • To check that human dietary intakes of residues are within acceptable.

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