Annual Report of the
Pesticide Residues Committee
We are the Pesticide Residues This report summarises the
Committee. We oversee a results from our monitoring of
programme to monitor food and samples collected throughout
drink in the UK for pesticide 2004. It also describes the work
residues. The purpose of the we are doing in 2005 and 2006.
programme is to:
Details of all the samples we
• back up the legal process have collected and tested are
of approving pesticides by available on out website at
checking that there are no www.prc-uk.org.
If you have any comments on this
• check that residues do not report or any observations you
go over maximum residue can send them to:
levels (MRLs) set by law;
• check that the residues
people eat and drink are
within acceptable levels.
1. Chairman’s foreword
1 Chairman’s foreword 3
Welcome to our fifth annual report which summarises our work during 2004. We have
continued to publish bulletins of our results every three months throughout the year, together
2 About us 4
with the results of monthly surveys on grapes. We also use our new improved website at prc-
uk.org to provide information.
3 Our monitoring programme 5
Improving the way we give information to the public has been an important topic that we have
4 Our findings from the 2004 programme 8
been working on this year. We have held two public meetings since our last report. The first in
Birmingham last October was an opportunity for the public to observe one of our regular
5 2004 results – fruit and vegetables 9
business meetings. This was well received by those who attended and we will be organising a
similar meeting on 19 October 2005 in York.
6 2004 results – cereals and cereal products 12
We also held a ‘Pesticide residues in food workshop’ which was designed to appeal to a
7 2004 results – animal products 13
wider audience and to cover broader topics of interest. People who attended have given us
good feedback on the workshop and we planning to organise another meeting in May 2006 in
8 2004 results – miscellaneous and special surveys 15
the Bristol area.
9 2004 results – information supplied by the food industry 16
We have also taken an interest in a local initiative run by Stockbridge Technology Centre to
make children familiar with food production. This involves primary school children planting and
10 Residues above MRLs and non-approved uses in the UK 17
harvesting crops on allotments at the centre. Part of the project covered controlling weeds and
pests so that children could explore the ways that this can be achieved and some of the
11 School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme 23
implications for food production. We visited the project in the summer and will be looking to
see if the children’s learning experiences help us to produce information for new audiences.
12 Dietary intakes and the risk to people 24
I have also been busy this year talking with the media when invited and speaking at various
13 Follow-up action 26
events around the country about our work and the process of assessing risk. It is very
important that people have confidence in the safety of our food and that we will recommend
14 2005 programme 28
speedy action if there is ever any cause for concern. This annual report continues to show that
most of our food contains no pesticide residues at all and only 1.09% contains residues above
15 2006 proposed programme 29
the statutory residue levels. We have carried out full risk assessments of these cases, which
included looking at the most vulnerable people such as toddlers and infants.
16 Pesticides regulatory regime 30
This has been a very interesting year and I hope you will continue to give us feedback and
17 Food Standards Agency (FSA) update 31
suggestions on the work that we do.
18 Communications 33
19 Members of the Pesticide Residues Committee 34
20 Common questions 36
21 Contact addresses 40
Dr. Ian Brown BSc Agric. FRCP FFOM DDAM
Chairman Pesticide Residues Committee
2. About us 3. Our monitoring programme
We were set up in 2000. We give: A very wide range of pesticides may be used states. The surveys are usually of
in agriculture and food production, either in fruit and vegetables. The number of
this country or abroad. About 560 active samples to be analysed is greater for
• the Chief Executive of the Food Standards Agency (FSA); and
substances are currently approved for use in the countries with larger populations
• the Chief Executive of the Pesticides Safety Directorate (PSD)
pesticides in one or more EU member (such as the UK). Results from EU
advice on our monitoring programme of checking pesticide residues in food and drink. states. If we take account of old chemicals surveys are published as a single
Our members are appointed jointly by the Chief Executive of the FSA, Ministers from the like DDT, which are now banned but may report on the Commission’s website
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Department of Health, still be present in the environment, we (http://europa.eu.int/comm/food/fvo/specialr
the Scottish Executive, the National Assembly for Wales and the Department of Agriculture could check for residues of around 1000 eports/pesticides_index_en.htm).
and Rural Development for Northern Ireland. One member of the committee is appointed different chemicals.
by the FSA alone. The EU surveys may be aimed at different
The range of food now available throughout pesticides than UK surveys, partly because
We meet four or five times a year. An assessor from the FSA and representatives from the year in the UK is also very broad. To they often focus on checking residues
various government departments come to our meetings. The PSD, an executive agency of make the most of resources, our programme against recently set MRLs. We sometimes
Defra, provides our administration. Every year we hold an open meeting where we invite takes the form of rolling surveys. In other extend the range of pesticides we are
members of the public to join us to discuss issues on pesticide residues in food. words, a lot of the programme changes from looking for in a particular survey to cover
year to year. For most surveys, we collect uses specific to the UK.
See section 18 for more details. samples over a three-month period.
Our members are as follows However, when the source of a particular Our programme cost £2.2 million in 2004.
food changes a great deal with the seasons 60% of these costs came from a levy on the
(and so pesticide residues may be very sale of pesticides and the rest came from
different) we may collect samples for a the Government.
longer period of time. This is the case for
most fruit and vegetables. Most of the samples we test are collected
from shops. In 2004 we collected samples
There are four main categories of surveys. of approximately 3800 foodstuffs from 24
cities throughout the UK. Defra inspectors
• Dietary staples (bread, milk collected about 500 of these samples from
Dr Ian Brown (Chair) Anne Clayson Dr Derek Cull and potatoes). ports, wholesalers, import points and retail
depots to broaden the range of samples.
• Main food groups (fruit and The samples were then sent to one of the
vegetables, cereals and cereal following laboratories to be analysed.
products and animal products).
• Central Science Laboratory (CSL),
• Miscellaneous and special surveys. Defra, Sand Hutton, York
These may include processed foods • Department of Agriculture and Rural
(such as baby foods), fast foods (such Development (DARD), Belfast
as take-away fish and chips), animal • Direct Laboratories, Wolverhampton
Ian Finlayson Dr. Morven McEachern Hazel Phillips feed, or surveys set up at short • LGC Ltd, Teddington
notice to deal with issues which need • Scottish Agricultural Science Agency
to be investigated quickly. (SASA), East Craigs, Edinburgh
• EU surveys conducted as part Our programme is a programme to monitor
of a European Union programme. residues. The PSD runs a separate
All EU countries monitor food for programme to take action when residues
pesticide residues. To co-ordinate above the relevant MRL, or when pesticides
activities each year the European not approved for use on that food, are found
Commission proposes a number of (see section 13).
Prof. Andrew Renwick Graham Ward Maura Wilson surveys to be carried out by member
Background information on our members is given in section 19
Position of shopping centres and laboratories: 2004 Food tested in 2004
Quarter 1 Quarter 2 Quarter 3 Quarter 4
(January to March 2004, (April to June 2004, (July to September 2004, (October to December
results published results published results published 2004, results published
September 2004) December 2004) March 2005) June 2005)
Beef Apples – EU survey Beer Apples – EU survey
Cheese (mature) Asparagus Bread (ordinary) Asparagus
Farmed fish Beef Bread (speciality) Bread (ordinary)
Infant food Cabbage – EU survey Chillies Bread (speciality)
Lettuce – EU survey Carrots Coffee Cabbage – EU survey
Milk (cows) Coffee Corn on the cob Carrots
Orange juice Grapes Farmed fish Cheese (mild)
Salad (pre-packed) Kiwi fruit Marmalade Grapes
Sweetcorn (tinned) Leeks - EU survey Milk (cows) Infant food
28 Lettuce – EU survey Mini/baby sweetcorn Kiwi fruit
Milk (cows) Okra Leeks – EU survey
Parsnips Orange juice Lettuce – EU survey
Pears Plantain Milk (cows)
11 17 Peas (in edible pods) Pulses Nuts
26 Potatoes (maincrop and Salad (pre-packed) Oats – EU survey
25 new) Speciality beans Rye – EU survey
2 21 Soft citrus Tuna (tinned) Parsnips
9 4 Strawberries – EU survey Turkey Pears
Sweet peppers Peas (in edible pods)
Tomatoes – EU survey Potatoes (maincrop and
29 Soft citrus
24 Strawberries – EU survey
19 27 Sweet peppers
13 7 Tomatoes – EU survey
Shopping Centres Laboratories
1 Portsmouth 7 Croydon 13 Lewisham 19 Ealing 25 Central Science
Laboratory - (York)
2 Oldham/Rochdale 8 Newquay 14 Antrim 20 Norwich 26 Department of Agriculture
and Rural Development -
3 Dundee 9 Liverpool 15 Peterborough 21 Bradford (Northern Ireland)
27 LGC Ltd -
4 Sheffield 10 Wolverhampton 16 Wrexham 22 Llandudno (Teddington, London)
28 Scottish Agricultural
5 Maidstone 11 Belfast 17 Darlington 23 Aberdeen Science Agency - (Scotland)
6 Newcastle 12 York 18 Bristol 24 Gloucester 29 Direct Laboratories
Overall Findings - 3854 samples Food from Non-UK sources - 1992 samples
4. Our findings from the 2004 programme 1% 1.9%
We analysed 3854 samples. We found no residues in 69% of samples, residues were
below the MRL in 30% of samples, and residues were above the MRL in 1% of samples.
The results are summarised in sections 5, 6, 7 and 8. You can get full details on our
website (www.pesticides.gov.uk/prc.asp?id=796). 69% 67.2%
We tested each sample for many different pesticides. In all, we have reported the results
for over 223,000 pesticide/sample combinations.
The monitoring programme is aimed mainly at foods where we expect to find residues.
No residues found (2657 samples) No residues found (1339 samples)
Because of this, we cannot assume that our findings represent the UK food supply as a
Residues below MRL found (1155 samples) Residues below MRL found (616 samples)
whole and samples with residues may be over-represented.
Residues above MRL found (42 samples) Residues above MRL found (37 samples)
We publish detailed results from the programme every three months. The following
reports are available on our website (www.prc-uk.org). UK food sources - 1862 samples Results from the food industry - 1700 samples
Report Samples collected Website 28.9% 30.9%
Quarter 1 January to March 2004 www.pesticides.gov.uk/prc.asp?id=1358
Quarter 2 April to June 2004 www.pesticides.gov.uk/prc.asp?id=1465
Quarter 3 July to September 2004 www.pesticides.gov.uk/prc.asp?id=1553
2004 No residues found (1318 samples) No residues found (1104 samples)
Residues below MRL found (539 samples) Residues below MRL found (525 samples)
Quarter 4 October to December 2004 www.pesticides.gov.uk/prc.asp?id=1632 Residues above MRL found (5 samples) Residues above MRL found (71 samples)
You can also get copies of these reports from the PSD
5. 2004 results – fruit and vegetables
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org We analysed 2348 samples for up to 123 pesticides, resulting in 188,379
Phone: 01904 455775 pesticide/sample combinations.
Results of 1700 samples are also supplied by the food industry. Out of those 2348 samples we found residues in 898. 39 samples contained residues
You can find information on the results supplied by the food industry in section 9. above the MRL. We found residues of pesticides not approved for that use in the UK in
two samples of apples, one sample of maincrop potatoes and one sample of tomatoes.
No residues found (1450 samples)
61.8% Residues below MRL found (859 samples)
Residues above MRL found (39 samples)
Main Findings Findings of individual surveys
• We didn’t find any residues in corn on the cob, mini or baby sweetcorn and tinned Food Reporting Number Number of Number of Number of
sweetcorn. quarter of samples these samples these samples these samples
analysed containing containing containing
• Out of 108 samples of lettuce, two contained residues at levels that concerned us – residues at or residues above several
below the MRL the MRL residues
see section 12
• Out of 108 samples of fresh carrot, only one contained low levels of residues. Levels Apples (1st survey) - EU Quarter 2 61 48 1 30
of the main organophosphate (OP) pesticides have been reduced in carrots since high survey
levels were found in 1989. Apples (2nd survey) - EU Quarter 4 83 67 none 39
• One sample of maincrop potatoes contained low levels of tecnazene. Tecnazene Asparagus (1st survey) Quarter 2 47 1 none none
approvals were withdrawn in January 2002 but levels up to 0.1 mg/kg can arise Asparagus (2nd survey) Quarter 4 48 none none none
through contamination from previous use. The source of contamination is likely to be
Cabbage (1st survey) - EU Quarter 2 34 10 none 3
from traces of the pesticide remaining in potato stores from previous approved use.
• Out of 68 UK apple samples, two contained low residues of iprodione. Iprodione is Cabbage (2nd survey) - EU Quarter 4 38 4 none none
not approved for use on apples in the UK. The suppliers think that the residues came
from spray or storage equipment also used for pears (which iprodione is approved for). Carrots (1st survey) Quarter 2 59 1 none none
They assured us they will use completely separate equipment for treating and storing Carrots (2nd survey) Quarter 4 49 none none none
the two crops in future. We will monitor apples again in 2005. Chillies Quarter 3 48 7 7 6
Corn on the cob Quarter 3 26 none none none
• Out of 60 UK tomato samples, one contained residues of procymidone. Procymidone
Grapes (1st survey) Quarter 2 47 25 3 14
is not approved for use on tomatoes in the UK. The supplier explained that imported
tomatoes were being used to check a grading machine at the time our inspector Grapes (2nd survey) Quarter 4 49 27 4 19
visited, and that their own monitoring of their tomatoes showed no procymidone Kiwi fruit (1st survey) Quarter 2 48 22 none 1
residues. Kiwi fruit (2nd survey) Quarter 4 48 4 none 1
Leeks (1st survey) - EU Quarter 2 35 2 none 1
• A relatively high proportion of samples of chillies and speciality beans contained survey
residues above the MRL. However, the MRLs set in these crops were set at the
Leeks (2nd survey) - EU Quarter 4 37 3 none none
lowest level which can be routinely tested for because producers have not supplied survey
information to set a higher level. This is a particular issue with the developing
Lettuce (1st survey) - EU Quarter 1 24 12 2 12
countries that these types of produce are from. Where we found residues above
MRLs, we told suppliers and relevant authorities. The PSD has also met suppliers of
speciality vegetables to discuss reducing these problems in the future. Lettuce (2nd survey) - EU Quarter 2 34 13 none 6
Lettuce (3rd survey) - EU survey Quarter 4 50 11 2 9
Mini or baby sweetcorn Quarter 3 23 none none none
Nuts Quarter 4 48 29 none none
Okra Quarter 3 47 8 none 3
Parsnips (1st survey) Quarter 2 36 4 none 1
Parsnips (2nd survey) Quarter 4 38 2 none 1
Pears (1st survey) Quarter 2 64 51 none 38
Pears (2nd survey) Quarter 4 80 58 none 31
Peas in edible pods Quarter 2 36 13 1 9
Peas in edible pods Quarter 4 36 13 none 9
Plantain Quarter 3 44 16 none 6
Potatoes maincrop and new Quarter 2 70 40 none 17
Findings of individual surveys Main findings
Food Reporting Number Number of Number of Number of • Out of 48 samples of beer, 15 contained low levels of chlormequat.
quarter of samples these samples these samples these samples
analysed containing containing containing • Out of 144 samples of ordinary bread, 96 contained one or more residues of
residues at or residues above several
chlormequat, glyphosate, malathion or pirimiphos-methyl. 35 of 72 samples of
below the MRL the MRL residues
speciality bread contained one or more residues of chlormequat, glyphosate or
pirimiphos-methyl. These pesticides are commonly used on cereal crops, and
Potatoes maincrop and new Quarter 4 73 18 none 1
(2nd survey) residues have been found in other cereal products, so these findings are not
Pulses Quarter 3 84 10 1 2
Salad pre-packed (1st survey) Quarter 1 23 15 none 8 • Out of 68 samples of oats and rye, 58 contained one or more residues of
Salad pre-packed (2nd survey) Quarter 3 73 23 none 9 chlormequat, chlorpyrifos-methyl, glyphosate, mepiquat or pirimiphos-methyl. Two UK
Soft citrus (1st survey) Quarter 2 35 34 1 33 oats samples contained residues of chlormequat above the MRL.
Soft citrus (2nd survey) Quarter 4 61 59 2 57
• None of the residues were a concern for people’s health.
Speciality beans Quarter 3 24 8 11 15
Findings of individual surveys
Strawberries (1st survey) - EU Quarter 2 51 32 2 21
Food Reporting Number Number of Number of Number of
Strawberries (2nd survey) - EU Quarter 4 48 38 none 22 quarter of samples these samples these samples these samples
survey analysed containing containing containing
Sweetcorn tinned Quarter 1 48 none none none residues at or residues above several
below the MRL the MRL residues
Sweet peppers (1st survey) Quarter 2 70 8 1 7
Sweet peppers (2nd survey) Quarter 4 74 16 none 8
Beer Quarter 3 48 15 no MRL set 0
Tomatoes (1st survey) Quarter 2 160 69 1 38
Bread ordinary (1st survey) Quarter 3 72 43 no MRL set 12
- EU survey
Bread ordinary 2nd survey) Quarter 4 72 53 no MRL set 14
Tomatoes (2nd survey) Quarter 4 140 38 none 8
- EU survey Bread speciality (1st survey) Quarter 3 35 14 no MRL set 6
Bread speciality (2nd survey) Quarter 4 37 21 no MRL set 4
Oats and rye Quarter 3 68 58 2 18
6. 2004 results – cereals and cereal products
7. 2004 results – animal products
We analysed 332 samples for up to 31 pesticides, resulting in 8860 pesticide/crop
combinations. We analysed 827 samples for up to 26 pesticides, resulting in 11118 pesticide/sample
Out of these 332 samples, we found residues in 204. Two samples of oats contained
residues above the MRL. Out of these 827 samples, we found residues in 92. No samples contained residues
No residues found (126 samples) No residues found (735 samples)
Residues below MRL found (204 samples) Residues below MRL found (92 samples)
Residues above MRL found (2 samples)
Main Findings 8. 2004 results – Miscellaneous and Special Surveys
• We didn’t find any residues in beef, cheese, milk, tinned tuna or turkey.
The miscellaneous surveys this year were on coffee, infant food (containing meat, egg,
• Out of 108 samples of farmed fish (salmon and trout), 92 samples contained fish or cheese), marmalade and orange juice. One sample of infant food contained
residues, all at low levels. The pesticides found were chlordane, DDT, dieldrin and residues above the MRL.
hexachlorobenzene. These pesticides take a long time to break down after they are
used, and also can build up in fatty tissues. Main findings
• Two samples of salmon labelled as ‘organic’ contained very low levels of DDT. These • We didn’t find any residues in coffee, marmalade and orange juice.
may have come from direct exposure to DDT in the environment or from DDT levels in
their feed. The term ‘organic’ when relating to fish refers to the way they are farmed • Out of 119 samples of infant food, one contained residues above the MRL. A risk
but not their diet. assessment showed there were no concerns for infant health.
• None of the residues were a concern for people’s health. Findings of individual surveys
Food Reporting Number Number of Number of Number of
Findings of individual surveys quarter of samples these samples these samples these samples
analysed containing containing containing
residues at or residues above several
Food Reporting Number Number of Number of Number of
below the MRL the MRL residues
quarter of samples these samples these samples these samples
analysed containing containing containing
residues at or residues above several Coffee (1st survey) Quarter 2 60 none none none
below the MRL the MRL residues Coffee (2nd survey) Quarter 3 48 none none none
Infant food Quarter 1 58 1 1 none
Beef (1st survey) Quarter 1 53 none none none
Beef (2nd survey) Quarter 2 67 none none none egg, fish, cheese
Cheese mature (1st survey) Quarter 1 36 none none none (1st survey)
Cheese mild (2nd survey) Quarter 4 36 none none none Infant food Quarter 4 61 none none none
Farmed fish (1st survey) Quarter 1 48 47 No MRLs 14
egg, fish, cheese
set for fish
Farmed fish (2nd survey) Quarter 3 60 45 No MRLs 23
Marmalade Quarter 3 48 none no MRL set none
set for fish
Orange juice (1st survey) Quarter 1 22 none no MRL set none
Milk cows (1st survey) Quarter 1 84 none none none
Orange juice (2nd survey) Quarter 3 50 none no MRL set none
Milk cows (2nd survey) Quarter 2 75 none none none
Milk cows (3rd survey) Quarter 3 86 none none none
Milk cows (4th survey) Quarter 4 55 none none none
Tuna tinned (1st survey) Quarter 3 60 none No MRLs none
set for fish
Tuna tinned (2nd survey) Quarter 4 60 none No MRLs none
set for fish
Turkey (1st survey) Quarter 3 46 none none none
Turkey (2nd survey) Quarter 4 61 none none none
9. 2004 results – information supplied by the food • Residues above the MRL were found in samples of papaya (pawpaw), passion fruit
and mango. We are monitoring mango, speciality fruit, including papaya and passion
industry fruit, during 2005.
This year we have again worked with the Veterinary Residues Committee (VRC) to gather • None of these residues was a concern for people’s health.
information from the food and farming industries.
These industries produce a large amount of information and we encourage them to share 10. Residues above MRLs and non-approved uses in
the information with us to help with our monitoring programme. It is useful for checking
our findings and helps us to develop monitoring plans for the future. We are grateful to
those who provided the information we asked for.
The section covers those samples, from among the 3854 we tested, where a residue:
If the information shows unexpected results or residues above the MRLs, we assess the
risk to people. We also invite those who provide the information to comment on whether • above the MRL was found; or
they confirmed the results and what follow-up action they have taken. We are reassured • of a pesticide not approved for use on a particular crop was found in a UK crop; or
that appropriate action is taken, which may include inspecting spray records and carrying • was found in an organic sample.
out further monitoring.
We are keen to encourage more people in the food and farming industries to provide Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs) reflect the level of pesticides expected in produce which
information and we hope that the amount of information supplied continues to increase. has been treated in line with good agricultural practice. If it is known that pesticides do
We welcome developments such as major retailers publishing their own findings on their not leave residues, or are not approved for use on particular crops, MRLs are set at the
websites. lowest level which can be identified in routine laboratory analysis.
The results given to us are available on our website MRLs are set by law in the Pesticides (Maximum Residue Levels in Crops, Food and
(www.pesticides.gov.uk/prc.asp?id=998). Feeding Stuffs) (England and Wales) Regulations 1999 (as amended), the Pesticides
(Maximum Residue Levels in Crops, Food and Feeding Stuffs) (Scotland) Regulations
Main findings 2000 and the Pesticides (Maximum Residue Levels in Crops, Food and Feeding Stuffs)
Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2002. These regulations list all MRLs set under UK
• In general, the residues found are similar to those we found. national or EC procedures. The regulations are amended as levels are set for increasing
numbers of pesticides.
• Chlorpropham in unprocessed potatoes was generally reported at levels similar to
those found in our monitoring. One sample was found to contain a diquat residue There are a number of pesticides which do not yet have MRLs. If there is no MRLs set by
above the MRL. None of these residues was a concern for people’s health. We law for a particular pesticide, we advise food suppliers to keep to any appropriate levels
survey potatoes every year. set by the Codex Alimentarius Commission (a United Nations body which promotes
worldwide trading standards). Codex MRLs have not been set by law but they provide a
• Several residues were reported in some samples of citrus fruit. The findings were suitable basis for measuring residues.
similar to those found in our surveys. We are monitoring oranges during 2005.
• The residues found in the individual ingredients of leafy salads and lettuce samples
were similar to those found in the pre-packed mixed salads we surveyed. One sample • Residue levels above MRLs were found in only 1.09% of the 3854 samples we tested.
of lettuce was found to contain an inorganic bromide residue above the MRL. These samples may show that pesticides have not been used correctly. However,
they do not necessarily give rise to health concerns. When we found residues above
• Residues of cypermethrin above the MRL were found in two samples of spring onion. an MRL, we carried out a risk assessment. A very small percentage of samples
We are monitoring salad onions including spring onions in 2005. contained levels of residues that could be a risk to health. In these cases, if the food
had been eaten without any preparation there could have been a small risk of mild,
• One sample of marrow was found to contain residues above the MRLs of both reversible health effects (see section 12).
thiabendazole and imazalil. We last surveyed marrows in 2001 when we found no
residues above the lowest levels laboratories could test for at that time. • During 2004 we found residues in four samples of organic produce, although these
were below the MRL.
• One sample of organic apples from Chile contained residues of diphenylamine.
• One sample of organic strawberries from Spain contained residues of fenpropimorph, Food Origin Pesticides found Residue MRL
iprodione, mepanipyrim and pirimicarb. found (mg/kg)
• Two samples of organic salmon from the UK contained residues of DDT at very low
Lettuce Spain endosulfan 0.3 0.05 (EC)
levels. There are no MRLs for fish. Risk assessments showed that there were no
methamidophos 7.7 0.02 (EC)
concerns for people’s health. DDT takes a long time to break down after it is used
Lettuce UK inorganic bromide 226 100 (Codex)
and so residues of DDT are still found throughout the environment. DDT residues can
build up in fatty tissues so it is often found in meat and fish with a relatively high fat Lettuce UK dithiocarbamates 7.4 5 (EC)
or oil content. residues we found may have come from direct exposure to DDT in the Oats UK chlormequat 6 5 (EC)
environment from DDT levels in their feed. The term ‘organic’ when relating to fish, Oats UK chlormequat 8.7 5 (EC)
refers to the way they are farmed but not their diet. Peas in edible pods Guatemala dithiocarbamates 1.7 1 (EC)
Pulses unknown acephate 0.07 0.02 (EC)
• We told the relevant authority, the Advisory Committee on Organic Standards (ACOS),
methamidophos 0.02 0.01 (EC)
about these results.
Soft citrus (clementine) South Africa diphenylamine 0.1 0.05 (EC)
Samples containing residues above the MRL Soft citrus (clementine) Morocco dimethoate 0.03 0.02 (EC)
Soft citrus (satsuma) Spain dimethoate 0.1 0.02 (EC)
Food Origin Pesticides found Residue MRL omethoate 0.06 0.02 (EC) - the
found (mg/kg) MRL for
Speciality beans Kenya profenofos 0.2 0.05 (EC)
Apples Argentina captan 3.6 3 (UK) dithiocarbamates 2 1 (EC)
Chillies unknown dimethoate 0.03 0.02 (EC) Speciality beans Kenya chlorpyrifos 0.2 0.05 (EC)
omethoate 0.03 0.02 (EC) - the
Speciality beans Dominican Republic dicofol 0.05 0.02 (EC)
methomyl 0.09 0.05 (EC)
Speciality beans Kenya dimethoate 0.3 0.02 (EC)
Chillies Jordan carbendazim 0.6 0.1 (EC)
omethoate 0.08 0.02 (EC) - the
metalaxyl 0.2 0.05 (EC)
methamidophos 1.3 0.01 (EC)
Chillies Kenya dicofol 0.1 0.02 (EC)
Speciality beans Thailand methomyl 0.2 0.05 (EC)
methamidophos 0.08 0.01 (EC)
triazophos 0.6 0.02 (EC)
Chillies Kenya dicofol 0.1 0.02 (EC)
Speciality beans Kenya dicofol 0.6 0.02 (EC)
Chillies Kenya fenvalerate 2.7 0.02 (EC)
dimethoate 0.2 0.02 (EC)
Chillies Kenya carbofuran 0.2 0.1 (EC) omethoate 0.1 0.02 (EC)
Chillies India carbendazim 0.4 0.1 (EC) - the MRL for
Grapes Chile methomyl 0.4 0.05 (EC)
Speciality beans Kenya dimethoate 0.09 0.02 (EC)
Grapes Chile omethoate 0.05 0.02 (EC) - the
MRL for Speciality beans Cyprus cypermethrin 1.1 0.5 (EC)
dimethoate dicofol 0.8 0.02 (EC)
Grapes Turkey imazalil 0.2 0.02 (EC) Speciality beans unknown dimethoate 0.03 0.02 (EC)
profenofos 0.2 0.05 (EC)
Grapes Egypt dimethoate 0.09 0.02 (EC)
omethoate 0.09 0.02 (EC) - the Speciality beans Cyprus methomyl 0.07 0.05 (EC)
MRL for Speciality beans Kenya dimethoate 0.05 0.02 (EC)
Strawberries Spain carbendazim 1.5 0.1 (EC)
Grapes Spain chlorpyrifos 1.1 0.5 (EC) dicofol 0.5 0.02 (EC)
Grapes Saudi Arabia methomyl 0.2 0.05 (EC) endosulfan 0.6 0.05 (EC)
pirimiphos-methyl 0.06 0.05 (EC) Strawberries Morocco carbendazim 0.6 0.1 (EC)
Grapes Spain chlorpyrifos 1.1 0.5 (EC) Sweet peppers unknown methomyl 0.06 0.05 (EC)
Infant food unknown chlorpropham 0.03 0.01 (EC) Tomatoes Spain chlormequat 1.5 0.05 (EC)
egg, fish or cheese
Lettuce UK inorganic bromide 278 100 (Codex)
PRC - watching what you eat Available from 5pm-8pm
Chilli (Mince) 2002
Available from 7am-9am
Chicken/Turkey Nuggets 2002
Bowl of Cereal Beef 2004
Milk every year Peas 2004
Oats & Rye 2004 Salmon 2004
Wheatgrain 2003 Potatoes 2002/03/04
Toast (bread) every year Wine 2003
Marmalade 2004 Blackcurrant Juice 2002
Orange juice 2004 Strawberries and Cream 2004
Baked beans 2002
Available from 12noon-2pm
Cheese / Tuna
Tuna Salad 2004
Veg Soup 2002
Jacket Potato 2002/03/04
Melon / Peach 2002
White Chocolate 2002
UK samples with residues of pesticides not approved for use on that crop 11. School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme
Occasionally, we find residues of pesticides which are not approved for use on a
particular crop. We only monitor and comment on pesticides not approved for a particular The School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme is part of
use in the UK, as there is no central source of information on pesticide approvals in other a government programme to increase the amount
countries. of fruit and vegetables children eat. Under the
scheme, all four- to six-year-old children in schools
If residues are very low they may have arisen by accident (for example, through spray drift maintained by local education authorities are
or equipment not being cleaned properly between sprays). On other occasions, residues entitled to a free piece of fruit or vegetable each
may indicate illegal use. However, the same residue in an imported crop would not school day. By the end of 2004, the scheme had
automatically suggest illegal use, as the pesticide found may be allowed on that crop in been introduced throughout England, and in 2005
the country where it was grown. it will be distributing 400 million pieces of fruit to
The pattern of pesticide use can vary widely even between neighbouring EU member about 16,000 schools.
states. Although EU regulations are gradually reducing differences, some differences will
remain, even among member states. This reflects different crop patterns, pest and One of the main quality-control measures for
diseases present and market sizes in particular. produce supplied under the scheme relates to
pesticide residues. In common with other
Food Pesticide found Residue found(mg/kg) MRL(mg/kg) produce supplied to the general public, residues
in these fruit and vegetables must stay within
Apples iprodione 0.04 10 (EC) MRLs. The scheme buys produce from suppliers
Apples iprodione 0.5 10 (EC) whose growers follow UK assurance schemes or
Potato, maincrop tecnazene (see note below) 0.05 0.05 (EC) equivalent schemes abroad.
Tomatoes procymidone 0.2 2 (EC)
We take samples of fruit and vegetables for the
Note: Up to 0.1 mg/kg of tecnazene can arise through contamination during storage. The scheme from distribution depots and analyse
source of contamination is likely to be small amounts of residues of the pesticide (too them for residues at Defra’s Central Science
small to be measured) remaining in the potato stores from previous approved use. Laboratory. We compare the results of each
sample with MRLs and then assess whether any
Residues in organic samples residues found would be likely to affect the health
of children. The levels of pesticide residues found in fruit and vegetables included in the
We do not specifically target organic samples in our surveys. We test them as part of our scheme are similar to that found in the ‘general’ supply chain.
monitoring programme because they are available for people to buy. The proportion of
organic samples tested in a survey is roughly the same as the proportion of organic food We publish our findings on our website (www.prc-uk.org). Results up to and including the
people buy. Residues we found in our surveys may include some of the small number of spring 2005 term are currently available there.
pesticides approved for use on organically-produced food.
Monitoring fruit and vegetables provided to schools in 2004
The following organic samples we tested contained residues.
Number of Number of Number of Number of
Food Origin Pesticides found Residue found (mg/kg) MRL(mg/kg) samples these samples these samples these samples
containing containing containing
residues at or residues several
Apples Chile diphenylamine 0.2 5 (EC) below the above the residues
Strawberry Spain fenpropimorph 0.06 1 (EC) MRL MRL
iprodione 0.09 10 (EC)
mepanipyrim 0.05 2 (UK)
pirimicarb 0.1 0.5 (EC) Apples 43 35 0 23
Farmed fish UK DDT 0.01 No MRLs set Bananas 39 38 0 14
(salmon) for fish Soft citrus 34 33 1 31
Farmed fish UK DDT 0.009 No MRLs set Tomatoes 7 4 0 2
(salmon) for fish Pears 33 27 1 19
Strawberries 3 3 0 2
Carrots 9 1 0 0
12. Dietary intakes and the risk to people • One sample of lettuce imported from Spain was found to contain two residues
above the relevant MRLs (endosulfan at 0.3 mg/kg when the MRL is 0.05 mg/kg
and methamidophos at 7.7 mg/kg when the MRL is 0.2 mg/kg). A risk
One of the main objectives of monitoring residues in food is to make sure that people do
assessment for endosulfan showed that there were no concerns for people’s
not take in, in their food, levels of chemicals which are harmful to their health.
health. A risk assessment for methamidophos estimated short-term intakes for 4
to 6-year-old children and 18 months to 4 year-old children (toddlers) were 13.7
The amount of residue a person receives depends on:
and 9.3 times the ARfD. Short-term negative effects on people’s health are
unlikely, but sensitive children might briefly have symptoms such as sweating,
• the level of residues in their food; and
producing too much saliva or stomachs. Longer-term health problems from this
• the amount of that food eaten.
residue level are unlikely.
The calculation also has to take account of a number of factors. For example, the residue
• One sample of speciality beans (yard-long beans) imported from Thailand contained
may relate to the whole food, including parts that are not normally eaten. And the
two residues above the relevant MRLs (methomyl at 0.2 mg/kg when the MRL is
residue levels we measure do not take account of any processing of the food, which may
0.05 mg/kg, and triazophos at 0.6 mg/kg when the MRL is 0.02 mg/kg). A risk
reduce or increase the level in the food that is eaten. Our estimations of residues eaten
assessment for methomyl showed that there were no concerns for people’s health.
take these factors into account. They are based on information from dietary surveys for
A risk assessment for triazophos showed that intakes for adults and infants were
various groups of people, including adults, schoolchildren, toddlers and infants. This is
1.7 and 3 times the ARfD, based on the highest triazophos residue found in
combined with the information gathered from our surveys. We publish these estimates in
speciality beans. The highest intake we have assumed is a quarter of the dose
the reports we issue every three months.
given to volunteers every day for three weeks without any harmful effect. It is also
very unlikely that someone would regularly have this intake, as out of the 24 bean
There are two types of acceptable levels of intake for pesticide residues in food. The
samples we analysed, only one contained residues above 0.02 mg/kg.
Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) is the amount that can be eaten every day for a lifetime
without harming health. The Acute Reference Dose (ARfD) is the amount that can be
eaten at one meal or in one day without affecting people’s health. ADIs and ARfDs are
set by the Advisory Committee on Pesticides (ACP) and the EC.
MRLs are set at levels that would not result in intakes high enough to cause health risks.
In most cases, residues at the MRL would result in intakes considerably below both the
ARfD and the ADI. So, even if a residue is above the MRL, this does not automatically
result in an intake above the ARfD or the ADI.
In all cases where residues are above MRLs, or where there is any concern about intakes,
we carry out a risk assessment. This finds out whether the level of residues present
could lead to the intake being above the ADI or, where appropriate, the ARfD, by a person
who eats about three times the average amount eaten by most people.
Main findings, (see also sections 10 and 13)
• One sample of round lettuce grown in the UK was found to contain inorganic
bromide at 278 mg/kg (the Codex MRL is 100 mg/kg). We are concerned about
this level because short-term intakes of inorganic bromide for adults and 4 to 6-
year-old children could be 2.9 and 5.4 times the ARfD, based on the highest
bromide residue found in lettuce. However, the ARfD for bromide may be lower
than necessary because of the information available for working it out. The highest
intake we have assumed is just over half the dose given to volunteers every day for
two or three months, without any harmful effect. It is also very unlikely that
someone would have a high intake regularly, as of the 24 lettuce samples we
analysed only one contained more than 20 mg/kg of bromide (the one that
contained 278 mg/kg).
13. Follow-up action Exporting countries told about residues above MRLs
If we find a residue above the relevant MRL, this could be a ‘one-off’ (an isolated finding). Country Food Pesticide residue found above
However, if residues above the MRL are repeatedly found in a single survey, or in the MRL
successive surveys of the same food, this suggests that:
• the pesticides’ approval is not in line with the MRL; or Argentina Soft citrus Imazalil
• growers may be misusing pesticides. Chile Grapes Methomyl
UK approvals are rarely out of line with MRLs, but this may be the cause of a problem in Cyprus Speciality beans Cypermethrin
imported produce. If we are concerned about any finding, we can take the following Dicofol
action. Cyprus Speciality beans Methomyl
Dominican Republic Speciality beans Dicofol
• For any sample containing a residue above the MRL or a pesticide not approved Methomyl
for use on that product, we tell the supplier about the result and ask them to
Egypt Grapes Dimethoate
investigate the cause. Omethoate
• Give the authorities in the exporting country details of the samples with residues India Chillies Carbendazim
above the MRL. Jordan Chillies Carbendazim
• If the residues found are a health concern, inform other member states using the Methamidophos
EU’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF). Kenya Chillies Carbendazim
• In serious cases involving another EU member state, inspectors from the Kenya Chillies Dicofol
Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office will investigate the problem. Kenya Chillies Dicofol
• If we suspect illegal use of a pesticide on UK produce, the Pesticides Safety Kenya Chillies Fenvalerate
Directorate (PSD) may carry out a special survey, with a view to prosecuting any
Kenya Green beans Chlorpyrifos
growers or suppliers they find breaking the law.
Kenya Speciality beans Chlorpyrifos
Main actions Dithiocarbamates
Kenya Speciality beans Dicofol
• We reported all the samples referred to in section 10 to the retailers, suppliers Dimethoate
or growers. We asked them to provide explanations, and we published any Omethoate
we received. Kenya Speciality beans
(two samples) Dimethoate
• We reported residues found in organic samples to the Advisory Committee on
Organic Standards (ACOS). Kenya Speciality beans Dimethoate
• We continued our rapid-response survey of grapes. Defra Horticultural Marketing Kenya Speciality beans Dithiocarbamates
Inspectors collected samples twice a month through the year. The samples were Profenofos
tested for 13 pesticides and the results were published on our website Saudi Arabia Grapes Methomyl
(www.pesticides.gov.uk/prc.asp?id=1628). Saudi Arabia Grapes Pirimiphos-methyl
• Where we found residues above the MRL in imported produce, we wrote to the South Africa Soft citrus Diphenylamine
relevant authorities in the exporting countries. Details are listed in the table on Spain Grapes (two samples) Chlorpyrifos
the next page. Spain Lettuce Endosulfan
Spain Soft citrus Dimethoate
• The PSD’s Enforcement Team use the results of our monitoring programme as
part of the evidence which enforcement action is based on. Enforcement action Spain Soft citrus Omethoate
includes surveys of particular crops. In these surveys samples are taken so that Spain Tomatoes Chlormequat
growers, suppliers or retailers can be prosecuted if it is discovered that they Thailand Speciality beans Methomyl
have broken the law. Triazophos
Turkey Grapes Imazalil
Zimbabwe Peaches Methamidophos
14. 2005 Programme 15. 2006 proposed programme
Work on the 2005 programme is already well underway and you can view details on our The proposed programme for 2006 is shown below. Full details, including the pesticides
website (www.pesticides.gov.uk/prc.asp?id=924). we will test for, will be published on our website (www.prc-org.uk).
The food we have chosen to include in our surveys takes account of: Food Minimum number of
• the foods covered by the EU programme of surveys;
• the importance of the food within our diets;
• evidence of residues in earlier surveys or other information; Apple 144
• information on approvals of pesticides on various foods; Aubergines 96
• the time that has passed since they were last tested; Baby salad leaves 72
• the balance of food types (for example, fruit and vegetables, cereals, and so on); and Bacon 96
Our list of surveys and the dates the reports will be published is shown below. Blueberries 96
Report Publication date Cheese (speciality) 72
Currants (red, white and black) 48
Quarter 1 - Samples collected between January
and March September 2005 Flour (including bread flour) 72
Quarter 2 - Samples collected between April and June December 2005 Fruit juice (orange) 96
Quarter 3 - Samples collected between July and Grapefruits 72
September March 2006 Grapes 96
Quarter 4 - Samples collected between October and Ham 120
December June 2006 Honey 48
Infant food (fruit based) 120
Plums and prunes (tinned and dried) 48
Rice cakes 48
Sea fish 96
Soya milk products 120
Speciality fruits 48
The aim will be to significantly reduce the risks arising from pesticide use while not
16. Pesticides regulatory regime reducing the protection given to crops. We expect the European Commission to propose
a directive outlining controls on using pesticides throughout the EC at the end of
There are legal controls on selling, supplying, using, storing, importing and advertising 2005/early 2006. The draft is likely to cover the training to be given to professional
agricultural pesticides. There are also controls on pesticide residues in food. The main users of pesticides, the certification and regular testing of spray machinery, and special
rules on selling and using pesticides and on residues in food are increasingly set by the protection measures for conservation areas.
EC. Pesticide controls effectively work at three levels – an EC Directive authorising active
substances, EC Directives setting, maximum residue levels, and national pesticide
EC Directive on approving pesticides
17. Update from the Food Standards Agency (FSA)
Risk assessment of mixtures of pesticides and similar substances
Directive 91/414/EEC governs the authorisation of pesticide products. This directive:
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) asked the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food,
Consumer Products and the Environment (COT) to assess the potential for residues of
• sets up a list of active substances that can be used in pesticide products in the EC;
pesticides and veterinary medicines to interact, and whether these combinations could
• sets rules for adding active substances to the list
result in risks to people’s health. The FSA’s request arose because of people’s concerns
• sets common rules under which member states may approve products containing
about the potential ‘cocktail effect’ of exposure to several different pesticide residues in
active substances once they are on the list.
food. A Working Group on the Risk Assessment of Mixtures of Pesticides and Veterinary
Medicines (WiGRAMP) was set up to take this work forward. The COT report was
Active substances are gradually being added to the list through a long-term review
published in October 2002 and its recommendations were approved by the FSA’s Board at
programme. This programme, which is due to be completed by the end of 2008, is
its June 2003 meeting.
considering all the active substances which were approved in one or more of the 25 EC
member states. Any new active substance has to be approved at EC level before it is
The COT found that the chance of any health hazard from exposures to mixtures of
added to the list of approved active substances. Member states may then approve
pesticides is likely to be small. However, it identified areas of uncertainty in the risk-
products containing that active substance as long as they meet further safety
assessment process and made recommendations for further work. These
requirements laid down in the directive.
recommendations fell under the broad headings of regulatory, surveillance, research and
Towards the end of 2005 the European Commission is due to present a proposal for a
regulation to replace Directive 91/414/EEC.
An action plan to take forward the COT’s recommendations has been drawn up in
consultation with officials from those agencies and departments with responsibilities for
Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs)
approving agricultural pesticides and biocides (these include non-agricultural pesticides
and disinfectants and preservatives). The plan was issued for full public consultation, and
There are controls on the amount of pesticide residues allowed in food. These controls
the responses have been published on the FSA’s website (www.food.gov.uk). The final
are based on a system of MRLs which set maximum levels of individual pesticides
action plan was published on the FSA website in March 2005. Details of some of the
allowed in individual foods. MRLs are not safety levels. They are based on the maximum
work already underway are given below.
residue of a pesticide that will be present when the relevant product is used in line with
the terms of its approval. MRLs will always be set below the ‘safe’ level for people. It is
Regulation of agricultural pesticides, biocides and veterinary medicines is governed by
illegal to sell a food with residues above the MRL.
the EC. The UK cannot act alone to add requirements to the authorisation process of
these substances. Also, much of the UK's food supply is imported and standards for
EC law on MRLs is currently laid down in four directives. The directives are continually
imported foods must be as strict as for foods grown or made in the UK. So the COT
amended as new MRLs are set. A new EC regulation was adopted in April 2005. This
recommendations will be introduced in a two-stage process:
will bring the rules in the directives together into a single piece of law. The new regulation
will come into force at the end of 2006. The European Commission is currently
• Stage 1 will carry out the necessary work to underpin the recommendations,
discussing the detailed arrangements needed to bring the new regulation into force at the
as highlighted by the COT.
end of 2006.
• Stage 2 the FSA and other government departments will argue vigorously in
Pesticide approvals the relevant bodies (for example, the European Commission and the
Codex Alimentarius Commission) for changes to EC laws and
Detailed rules on how each pesticide product may be used, such as the rates and timing international standards.
of applications, are laid down in each pesticide product’s approval. But there are also Work on Stage 1 has already started. The FSA and other government departments are
more general controls on pesticide use, such as rules on the training people who apply identifying and prioritising pesticides and similar substances into groups that work in
them must have had. This area is currently governed by UK rules, but we are expecting chemically similar ways leading to the same type of effects. These will be used to assess
proposals for new EU-wide laws from the European Commission. combined exposure for the highest priority groups. The Interdepartmental Liaison Group in
Risk Assessment (ILGRA) has also reviewed of some of the methods available to estimate 18. Communications
people’s exposure to several sources of pesticides and similar substances, and the most
suitable method to reflect the situation in the UK has been identified. The FSA’s initial
requirements for new research were published in May 2003, and commissioning work is We are keen to publicise our work and make sure everyone can understand what we do.
progressing under the direction of a research programme co-ordinator. The Pesticide and For this reason:
Veterinary Residues Committees have also been consulted on the COT’s
recommendations. • we publish all our results on our website every three months;
• we publish this annual report and make sure it is written in plain English;
Minimising pesticide residues • one of our four or five meetings each year is open to members of the public; and
• our chairman is available for media interviews.
At its meeting in June 2002, the FSA’s board confirmed its commitment to minimising
pesticide residues (that is making levels as low as possible). Following extensive After publishing our 2003 annual report, we held a routine open business meeting in
meetings with interested bodies and organisations, an action plan was developed which Birmingham in October 2004. At this meeting, members of the public could ask us
the FSA Board approved in May 2004. It has been published on the FSA’s website questions. We are holding another open business meeting in York on 19 October 2005.
boardmeeting051304/boardminutes130504). In May 2005 we also held a one-day workshop in York. Speakers debated a wide range of
issues relating to pesticide residues. We are arranging another workshop in Bristol in
The action plan identifies what the FSA can do to help the industry to minimise residues, May 2006. We will provide more details nearer the time.
by bringing examples of best practice together into useful guidance. The FSA will also
work with others to identify measures that can be taken to give people the information If you would like to come along to one of our meetings or workshops, please contact our
they need about the regulatory controls and organisations which currently exist to protect secretariat (contact details are at the back of this report).
In March 2004, the FSA funded research to improve its understanding of people’s
concerns about pesticides. The research also aimed to find out:
• whether concerns about pesticides influence what foods people buy;
• whether concerns about pesticides influence how people prepare food;
• what information people want about pesticides; and
• the best ways of providing the information that people want.
The full report is available on the FSA website (www.food.gov.uk/safereating/pesticides/
To build on this research and to investigate how to provide the information people need,
the FSA is funding more research during 2005.
19. Our Committee Members Maura Wilson • Head of Department of General Education at Bradford
• Served on a range of regional and national
Dr Ian Brown • Consultant occupational physician and toxicologist at committees in the field of education.
– Chairman Southampton General Hospital. • Graduate in Food Science and worked in the food
• Director of Occupational Health and Safety at industry on quality assurance and flavour chemistry.
Southampton University Hospital’s NHS Trust. • Previously taught science in schools and colleges.
• Graduate in medicine and agricultural biochemistry and • Keen allotment gardener.
• Member of the Advisory Committee on Animal You can inspect the Register of Interests, which lists organisations and issues
Feedingstuffs (ACAF). members have declared a particular interest in (including any financial interest) on our
• Member of the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council (IIAC). website (www.pesticides.gov.uk/prc.asp?id=835).
Anne Clayson • Senior lecturer in Environmental Health at Manchester
Metropolitan University. We are advised by a group whose main function is to review analysis results before
the laboratories send them to us to make sure we are using reliable results. The
Dr Derek Cull • Fresh produce consultant and agronomist for Produce group is made up mainly of members drawn from the laboratories which carry out
Services International Ltd, working on farms to advise analysis for us. The group’s members are as follows:
and audit to Assured Produce/EUREPGAP standards and
in factories to BRC Global Technical Food Standards for
food safety and quality assurance. • Helen Kyle – Pesticides Safety Directorate - Chair
• Active consultant for EU and World Bank projects • David Mason – Central Science Laboratory
worldwide. • Dr Sadat Nawaz – Central Science Laboratory
• Stewart Reynolds – Central Science Laboratory
Dr Morven McEachern • Lecturer in Marketing and Consumer Behaviour at the
University of Salford, Manchester. • Dr Sam Mitchell – Department of Agriculture and Rural Development
• Background in agricultural production. • George Merson – LGC Ltd
• Andrew Wyeth – LGC Ltd
Ian Finlayson • Managing Director of Practical Solutions International • David Lindsay – Scottish Agricultural Science Agency
(a product quality and safety consultancy working with
retailers and suppliers worldwide). • Colin Allchin – Centre for Environment,
• Has worked with many companies and organisations on Fisheries and Aquaculture Science
reducing pesticides and Integrated Pest Management • Dr Jack Kay – Veterinary Medicines Directorate
(IPM) strategies including the Food and Agriculture • William Walls – Glasgow Scientific Services
Organisation (FAO), International Institute of Biological
Control and Australian government.
Hazel Phillips • Public Affairs consultant and works part time for an MP
in the House of Commons.
• On secondment to Defra from April to October 2004.
Professor Andrew Renwick • Professor of Biochemical Pharmacology in the School of
OBE Medicine at the University of Southampton.
• Member of the Contaminants Panel of the European Food
• An advisor at meetings of the Joint Food and Agriculture
Organisation (FAO) and World Health Organisation (WHO)
Expert Committee on Food Additives.
Graham Ward • Executive Consultant to Snaith Salad Growers, a growers’
• Director of Stockbridge Technology Centre Ltd.
20. Common questions Should I be worried?
No. The process of approving pesticides carefully considers the type and amounts of
residues that may result from the use of a pesticide. A pesticide will only be approved if
What are agricultural pesticides? any residues which remain are below the levels that may affect people’s health. The
They are chemical and biological products used on growing or harvested food crops. They approval process will also consider whether residues will become concentrated or diluted
help farmers and growers to supply us with good-quality. reasonably priced, food all year when treated crops are eaten by animals, and the levels which will be present in produce
round. They do this by protecting crops from weeds, insects, fungal diseases (moulds), coming from various animals (for example, meat, eggs and milk).
slugs, snails, rats and mice. They can also be used to influence the growth of plants (for
example, by stopping potatoes from sprouting). It is, of course, more difficult to control residues resulting from contamination in the
environment. We and the food industry know which foods are vulnerable to environmental
I am not sure that I like these chemicals going on my food. Are there any controls? contamination and the types of pesticides which may be responsible. We make a point of
Yes. Making sure that our food is safe is important to the Government. However, as carefully monitoring those foods.
pesticides are used to control unwanted pests, weeds and moulds, they may also harm
people, wildlife and the environment. This is why the UK, like most other countries, sets OK, so residues in food won’t necessarily affect my health, but should I be worried by the
laws on how and when pesticides can be used. No pesticide can be supplied or used on amounts you are finding?
food in the UK without government approval. To get this approval the manufacturer of the No. About three-quarters of the food we tested this year was free from residues. Almost
pesticide must show that its use does not present a risk for people’s health or the all of the rest contained residues within the levels allowed (the maximum residue level or
environment. MRL). Around 1% of the food we tested had residues above the levels allowed and in
less than 0.1% of cases we identified residues which might have affected a person’s
In the UK pesticides are approved by the Pesticides Safety Directorate (an Executive health had they eaten a large quantity of the particular food (effects were likely to be mild
Agency of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs). They work closely and temporary, such as an upset stomach or headache).
with the Food Standards Agency and Department of Health to protect people’s safety.
You should also bear in mind that our programme targets foods where residues are
What are residues? expected and so does not represent the UK food supply as a whole.
The term residue is used to describe the traces of pesticides found in our food. The
residue may be found either in the same form as the original pesticide applied to the crop How do I know what the safe limit is?
or may be found as a different chemical formed from the original pesticide breaking down To be honest, this question isn’t easily answered in a few sentences. It’s difficult to
after it is applied. define a ‘safe’ level because we are all different. Some of us are larger than others; we
eat different kinds of food and in different quantities. And some of us may be more
How do residues get in my food? easily affected by particular pesticides.
Most residues are a direct result of pesticides being applied to crops. In order to work
effectively, pesticides must be applied in appropriate amounts and at the right time. The To work out whether residues will affect our health, the levels found in foods are ‘risk
amount of residue in a food depends on: assessed’. The first step in risk assessment involves identifying, from scientific tests, the
• the amount of pesticide applied; amount of pesticide that does not cause any unwanted effects. This amount is then
• when the pesticide was applied; reduced to take into account the possibility that some people may be more vulnerable,
• the chemical properties of the pesticide; and these reduced values are called ‘reference doses’. The next step in the assessment is to
• the type of crop. estimate how much residue a person could eat (exposure). This is done using high levels
of intakes of the food from surveys carried out by the Foods Standards Agency. The last
Occasionally, residues can result from contamination in the environment. Residues of a part is to compare the exposure to the reference dose. If exposure to that pesticide
small number of ‘persistent’ pesticides remain in the environment. residue is within the reference dose, it is acceptable. Exposures to that pesticide residue
above the reference dose do not necessarily mean that harmful effects are likely. In such
cases, the assessment takes account of the nature of possible effects and how far below
the test levels the estimated exposure is.
Some foods have residues of more than one pesticide - should I be worried?
No. It’s perfectly normal for more than one pesticide to be applied to a crop in order to
deal with different kinds of pests.
We know that some consumers are concerned by the ‘cocktail effect’ - the possible
implications of there being residues of more than one pesticide in a single portion of a
food. The independent Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products
and the Environment reviewed this issue and found that although the risks to people were
extremely small further research would be useful. In March 2005 the Food Standards
Agency published their action plan to take forward these recommendations. The reports we What exactly is an Acute Reference Dose (ARfD)?
publish every three months contain risk assessments for samples containing residues of The definition of Acute Reference Dose (ARfD) is similar to that of the ADI, but it is the
more than one organophosphate or carbamate pesticides. These are groups of different amount of a chemical that can be taken in at one meal or on one day without any health
pesticides in the same chemical families the residues could in theory act together instead of risk. It is normally worked out by applying an appropriate ‘uncertainty factor’ to the
separately. lowest NOAEL found in studies.
How much information on residues is available to the public? I don’t understand another term I’ve read in this report. Where I can find out what
Our reports include details of the residues found and the supplier or grower of the samples it means?
we test. We have published this information to help you to make informed choices about the We have a standard glossary that explains the technical terms we often use in our
food you buy. Our monitoring programme has shown that residues in all the foods we reports. You can find it on our website (www.pesticides.gov.uk/prc.asp?id=128).
sampled, and from all the retail or supply points, were present at levels which are unlikely to
have a harmful effect on your health.
Although fruit, vegetables and cereal products tend to contain more residues than animal
products, the residues found will not harm your health. The risk to health from cutting fruit,
vegetables and cereal products out of your diet would far outweigh the risks associated with
Our monitoring programme samples foods roughly in line with the market share of the main
retailers. Individual programmes cannot produce valid information on residues in particular
crops from particular retailers.
What are MRLs?
MRLs (maximum residue levels) are the maximum amounts of residue of a pesticide that is
legally acceptable in any foods available. Virtually every kind of food we eat has a large
number of MRLs for different pesticides. They typically range from 0.01 to 5 milligrammes of
pesticide in every kilogram of food.
The appropriate level to set the MRLs at is decided when a pesticide is being approved. The
approval will make sure that any residues resulting from using the pesticide will be below the
levels known to affect people’s health. Trials will have been carried out on crops to find the
highest residue likely to be present. This information is used, with information about the
amount of the particular food which can be eaten by different groups of people, to compare
the possible intake of the pesticide with levels known to be safe and levels known to be
dangerous to people’s health. The MRL reflects the maximum residue expected from normal
use of the pesticide and will be set at a level which protects people.
So MRLs are a check that pesticides are being used correctly. They provide standards for
foods treated with pesticides. MRLs are not safety limits and residues above an MRL are
not necessarily a risk to health.
What exactly is an Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) and how is it set?
The internationally accepted definition of the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) is “the amount
of a chemical which can be consumed every day for a lifetime in the practical certainty, on
the basis of all known facts, that no harm will result” (i.e. the amount of a chemical which
taking account of all known facts can be eaten every day for a lifetime without causing harm).
It is expressed in milligrams of the chemical for every kilogram of the consumer’s body
weight. The starting point for working out the ADI is usually the ‘No Observed Adverse Effect
Level’ (NOAEL) that has been set by animal studies. This is then divided by an ‘uncertainty
factor’ (most often 100) to allow for the possibility that animals may be less sensitive than
humans and also to account for differences in sensitivity between people. The studies
NOAELs and ADIs are based on take into account any impurities in the pesticide active
substance, and any toxic products when the pesticide breaks down.
21. Contact addresses
Pesticide Residues Committee
Pesticide Residues Committee
c/o Pesticides Safety Directorate
Consumer Safety and European Policy Branch
3 Peasholme Green
Phone: 01904 455751
Fax: 01904 455733
Pesticides Safety Directorate
Pesticides Safety Directorate
3 Peasholme Green
Phone: 01904 455775
Fax: 01904 455733
Food Standards Agency (England)
Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Branch
Primary Production Division
Phone: 020 7276 8521