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How Healthy is Your Salad

19th September 2005, 14:41

They may look green and healthy, but the lettuces we pop in our shopping trolleys are coated in a cocktail of chemicals.

According to a Government study, almost half of lettuces for sale could be affected.

Twenty-one out of 48 lettuces bought on the High Street contained traces of more than one pesticide, according to the Pesticide Residues Committee.

Farmers in Britain and Europe use the chemicals to maintain the ‘beauty pageant’ standards required by major supermarkets for salad leaves.

Most of the residue levels found on the lettuces were within legal safety limits.  But levels in four samples were above permitted levels.  The finding was describes as ‘significant’ in the committee’s report.

Two of the lettuces were grown in the UK, one came from Spain and the other from the Netherlands. Two were sold by Morrisons stores.

The company said: ‘We have investigated the residue found with the supplier of the lettuce and can confirm that only approved pesticides have been used and all label recommendations followed. 

‘We are confident this incident had no safety implications for our customers and we shall continue to work with the industry to investigate how these non-compliances can occur despite the best agricultural practices being followed.’

The lettuces were surveyed by the Government watchdog as part of a wider study of foods, which included swede, cow’s milk, cream, eggs and fruit juice. 

Infant food and infant formula were also looked at, with 435 samples tested. 

Seven per cent of the total contained traces of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. 

A spokesman for Friends of the Earth said: ‘The Government needs to take action to ensure healthy foods such as salads do not contain cocktails of pesticides and ensure safety limits are not breached. 

‘They must stop delaying and help growers find alternatives to risky chemicals.’ 

But the chairman of the committee, Dr Ian Brown, said the vast majority of food was residue-free or contained residue levels within the guidelines. 

‘The results should reassure consumers that the food they eat continues to be safe,’ he added. 

‘It is important to stress that the positive effects of eating fresh fruit and vegetables as part of a balanced, healthy diet far outweigh any concern about pesticide residues.’ 

How can I avoid eating contaminated fresh fruit and vegetables?

 


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