Evidence that regular testing for pesticides in foodstuffs is valuable to both the consumer and industry comes after a government-backed initiative finds lettuce and farmed fish products among the most contaminated products in the UK food chain from a range of tested foodstuffs.
The Pesticide Residues Committee (PRC) investigated pesticide residues in beef, mature cheese, farmed fish, infant food and lettuce. In addition cow's milk, orange juice, pre-packed salads and canned sweetcorn were monitored, all in the first quarter of 2004.
A total of 24 samples of lettuce were tested for 109 pesticide residues with two samples exceeding the MRLs (Maximum Residue Levels), including one produced in the UK, which contained inorganic bromide at 278 mg/kg (Codex MRL 100 mg/kg).
This level exceeds the Acute Reference Dose (ARfD), the amount that can be consumed without 'appreciable health risk' to the consumer.
Farmed fish, last sampled in 1997, is sampled every few years as part of the rolling programme of commodities at the PRC. Although they have a relatively short life-span (typically 12 months for trout and 24 months for salmon) they may be exposed to residues from feed and the environment.
A total of 28 samples of salmon and 20 samples of trout were tested for 11 organochlorine pesticide residues. The scientists concluded that a massive 47 of the 48 samples tested contained residues. "Risk assessments on the highest levels found showed that there were no concerns for consumer health," said the committee.
Showing the value of a regular testing, the study found one infant food - Heinz vegetable and chicken hotpot - out of 58 samples that gave a test result above the MRL. The product contained a residue of chlorpropham at 0.03 mg/kg (MRL 0.01 mg/kg).
"A risk assessment showed that there were no concerns for infant health," the PRC writes in its final report . They believe that the potatoes in the product could be the link to the pesticide residue.