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UK Study Finds Pesticides in a Quarter of All Food
(Beyond Pesticides, September 30, 2004) Pesticides were discovered in a quarter of all food tested in the UK last year, according to a recently released report. The annual report was compiled by the Pesticide Residues Committee (PRC), which coordinates testing for the presence of pesticides in food and drink on behalf of the government. Some of the highest residues were in fruit and vegetables, with a third of the samples containing traces of agricultural chemicals.

More than 4,000 samples were analyzed last year as part of a program, which cost over £2 million (close to $4 million). Each sample contained quantities of the same product, mixed together. Fruit and vegetables made up more than half the samples analyzed last year. According to the PRC's report, 75 percent of the food and drink tested was free of any trace of pesticides. However, 24 percent of the samples contained small amounts of at least one pesticide although not at a level where the PRC said it caused concern. Less than 1 per cent of the food and drink exceeded what is known as the "maximum residue level" or MRL.

More than 500 products that fell under the heading of "cereals" were tested, of which 38 percent contained pesticides. The study also found that some products labeled organic could still contain pesticides. Additionally, a total of 116 samples contained more than one pesticide, raising fears about the possible "cocktail effect" of the chemicals on humans.

This "cocktail effect" is also a worry for the U.S. population. A report that came out in May by the Pesticide Action Network of North America examined the levels of pesticides in people's bodies. According to the report, " CDC found pesticides in 100% of the people who had both blood and urine tested. The average person in this group carried a toxic cocktail of 13 of the 23 pesticides we analyzed" (See Daily News 5/12/04). Countless studies have documented the health consequences of exposure to such pesticides. To learn more about the health effects of pesticides, see some of our past daily news articles.

Read more about this UK report in The Scotsman or on the PRC webpage.

TAKE ACTION: Curtail your exposure to pesticides by buying organic whenever possible. To learn more about organic food, check out our Organic Food program page. If you cannot buy all organic and would like to know which fruits and vegetables contain the highest and lowest residues of pesticides, see EWG's "Dirty Dozen" report.