England’s School Lunch Program Tainted with Multiple Pesticides, Signaling Need for Organic Transition
(Beyond Pesticides, September 12, 2017) A new report released by Pesticide Action Network-UK finds that children in England’s schools are exposed to 123 pesticide residues in their daily lunches. The results call attention to the health and safety implications of pesticide exposure to children, which have developing body systems more sensitive to pesticide exposure. PAN-UK and other health groups are calling for a wholesale changeover to serving onlyorganic fruits and vegetables in schools.
England’s Department of Health runs a School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme that provides children aged four to six with one free piece of fruit or vegetable each school day. There is no doubt of the scheme’s good intentions, as it aims to help children reach a recommended five servings of healthy food each day. However, PAN-UK discovered over 123 different pesticide residues found on the food items distributed to school children. Well over 70% of raisins, soft citrus, pears, strawberries, and apples had more than one pesticide residue found on them.
There is a well-known and developing body of scientific literature which finds that mixtures of pesticide residues can result in synergistic impacts which increase toxicity when compared to an active ingredient alone. And because children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of pesticide exposure, the results of the report are particularly concerning for parents.
PAN-UK’s findings indicate that pesticide residues on fruit and vegetable served under the Department of Health’s Scheme were consistently higher than mainstream produce sold in grocery stores. “While we applaud the DoH’s efforts to get children eating more fruit and vegetables, our research shows that the produce they are being given is generally worse than on the supermarket shelves,” said Nick Mole, Policy Officer at PAN-UK.
According to calculations conducted by PAN-UK, switching the scheme to organic food would cost only 5.6 million pounds ($7 million dollars), which works out to 1 British penny per child per day. Nick Mole indicates that, “Given how little it would cost to switch the scheme to organic, the government shouldn’t be putting our children’s health at risk when there are other options available.”
Studies find that switching children from a conventional to an organic diet reduces or eliminates the presence of toxic residues in their urine. Further, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in 2012 indicated that organic food is the right choice for children’s health. AAP states in its report, “in terms of health advantages, organic diets have been convincingly demonstrated to expose consumers to fewer pesticides associated with human disease. Organic farming has been demonstrated to have less environmental impact than conventional approaches.”
In the U.S. concerned Moms and Dads across the country have worked to transition their child’s school system to serving organic foods, no national scheme exists to provide children with these healthier fruits and vegetables.
In the absence of such a scheme, Beyond Pesticides encourages parents to pack lunches with organic food for now, but in the long term, get involved with the food choices being offered in their child’s school system. You can even help start an organic garden to get the school on the right track. Take action today by sending a letter to your local officials, urging them to tell school systems to adopt organic school lunches, and maintain school landscapes through organic practices.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.
Source: PAN-UK Press Release