Pesticides found in 43% of fruit and vegetables traces of pesticide

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The Independent Online

More than four out of ten items of fruit, vegetable and cereals on sale in Britain contain traces of pesticide, according to a new report which reveals the extent of chemical contamination in the food chain.

More than four out of ten items of fruit, vegetable and cereals on sale in Britain contain traces of pesticide, according to a new report which reveals the extent of chemical contamination in the food chain.

Of a total of 2,087 samples, 889 - or 43 per cent - were found to contain some form of pesticide. Meanwhile 34 items, or 1.6 per cent of the total, exceeded the maximum safety levels laid down by the authorities.

The findings for 2002 are the latest in a series of annual tests carried out to monitor the extent of pesticide contamination in food in Europe.

A related survey discovered that "safe" levels of pesticides were to be found in 78 per cent of oranges and mandarins, 67 per cent of pears, 56 per cent of bananas and 45 per cent of peaches or nectarines. Recommended safety levels, known as maximum residue limits, were exceeded most often in spinach (13 per cent of cases), beans (7 per cent), oranges and mandarins (4 per cent) and peaches or nectarines (3 per cent).

Of the British fruit, vegetables and cereals tested, more than one fifth had at least two pesticides.

Across Europe, more than 46,000 samples of mostly fresh food were analysed for traces of 170 pesticides. Compared with previous years the percentage with no detectable residues has decreased and those over the maximum threshold has risen as has those with some pesticide traces.

Beate Gminder, spokeswoman for the European Commissioner for health and consumer protection, said: "We would caution against over-interpretation of the maximum residue limits: you have to eat large quantities to face a health threat."

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