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UK monitoring – pesticide residues in food

6 November 2017

The UK’s Pesticide Residues in Food Expert Committee has published a series of reports on its UK monitoring programme:

2016 Annual Report

In 2016, a total of 3,451 samples of food and drink were tested for pesticide residues, with up to 374 pesticides tested for in some commodities. 

Around 48 percent of the samples tested did not have any residues of the pesticides tested for. Less than 4 percent of the samples contained a residue above the Maximum Residue Level.

Dr Paul Brantom, Chairman of the Expert Committee on Pesticide Residues in Food commented: “Part of the monitoring programme is targeted at foods where we expect to find residues… From the results of these assessments we can see that even where food contains a residue above the MRL, there is very rarely any risk to the health of people who have eaten the food.”

A total of 1, 658 samples of fruit and vegetables were tested, with residues found in 1,118 samples (67 percent) and 66 of those samples (3.98 percent) containing a residue over the MRL.  PRiF commented ‘This year the MRL exceedance rate is similar to the higher level seen last year (5.05 precent in 2015), this is linked to the continued sampling of speciality beans and okra which have a known high non-compliance rate.’

Seven of the okra samples were actually frozen, not fresh.

These results included some 627 samples of UK grown fresh fruit and vegetables; residues were found in 316 (50.4 percent) of UK samples, with 5 samples (0.8 percent) containing a residue above the MRL (2 lettuces and 3 speciality vegetables)

The Annual Report is available here and all the 2016 results are also published in an accessible format.  

 

2017 Quarter 1

The Quarter 1 2017 report covers samples collected between January and March 2017.

The summary tables and brand name annex are published in an accessible format. 

A total of 560 samples of 21 different foods were analysed, including: apples; beans with pods; carrots; cauliflower; cucumber; oily fish; grapes; kiwi fruit; lamb and mutton; lettuce; milk; okra; onions; oranges; pears; peppers; potatoes; poultry; prepared fresh fruit; rice; dried speciality beans.

The following samples of fresh produce had residues levels above the Maximum Residue Levels:

Beans with pods

Seven samples: 4 from Malaysia; two from India; and one from Bangladesh.

Okra

Nine samples: 5 from India; two from Egypt; one from Honduras, and one from China.

Peppers

One sample from Iran.

Prepared fresh fruit

Five samples had residues of chlorate above the 0.01 limit of determination: 3 samples from the UK and two samples from Ghana.

The Committee commented: ‘We are testing a limited number of foods for chlorate in 2017, to provide evidence on consumer safety and confirm that it is necessary to review the existing default MRL in order to take account of non-pesticide sources. In particular, chlorine-based treatments of drinking and irrigation water as well as chlorine-based surface disinfectants are widely used to ensure microbiological safety. We agree with HSE and the FSA that the current MRL does not take account of these often unavoidable sources.’

Speciality beans

PRiF commented: ‘We have looked carefully at all of the findings including the risk assessments. In most cases the presence of the residues found would be unlikely to have had any effect on the health of the people who ate the food. In the case of oranges, we found residues in some samples where short-lived effects were possible if people ate all of the peel as well as the flesh, but not when the fruit was peeled before eating.’

 

 

School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme 2017 report

This covers the Spring Term (January – Easter)

62 samples of fruit and vegerables were analysed as part of the Department of Health’s School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme testing programme: 11 apple samples; 14 banana samples; 4 carrot samples; 6 raisin samples; 6 strawberry samples; 6 sugarsnap pea samples; 6 sweet pepper samples and 9 tomato samples.

All of the samples either contained no detectable residues of any of the pesticides tested for, or contained residues below the Maximimum Residue Level for those pesticides: 13 samples continued no detectable residues; and 49 samples contained residues at or below the relevant MRLs.

PRiF commented: ‘None of the residues found was likely to result in any adverse health effects for school children.’

 

Rolling reports for samples of beans with pods, grapes, okra, potatoes and prepared fresh fruit collected in July and August

The reports can be found here

Beans with Pods        

  • 1 sample from Kenya contained a residue of carbendazim (sum) 0.5 (MRL=0.02). The risk assessment screen identified that none of the residues detected by the laboratory would be expected to have an effect on health 
  • 1 sample from Kenya contained a residue of profenofos 0.4 (MRL=0.01*). The risk assessment screen identified that none of the residues detected by the laboratory would be expected to have an effect on health           

Grapes           

None of the residues detected by the laboratory would be expected to have an effect on health. 

Okra   

One sample from Egypt contained a residue of BAC (sum) 3.5 (MRL=0.1). The risk assessment screen identified that none of the residues detected by the laboratory would be expected to have an effect on health.                 

Potatoes         

One sample from UK contained a residue of pencycuron 0.2 (MRL=0.1). The risk assessment screen identified that none of the residues detected by the laboratory would be expected to have an effect on health.   

Prepared Fresh Fruit 

  • 1 sample from Belgium contained a residue of chlorate 0.03 (MRL=0.01*). The risk assessment screen identified that none of the residues detected by the laboratory would be expected to have an effect on health           
  • 1 sample from UK contained a residue of chlorate 0.05 (MRL=0.01*). The risk assessment screen identified that none of the residues detected by the laboratory would be expected to have an effect on health.            

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