Healthcare News

Third Set Of 2009 Pesticide Residue Figures Released, UK

April 28, 2017

The Pesticide Residues Committee today published its third quarterly report for samples collected in 2009.

The report found that the majority of foods had no detectable residues and those that did contain pesticides were not likely to be harmful to health. Tests found that 656 out of 911 samples of 14 different foods tested had no detectable residues. Also, 248 samples contained levels below the maximum residue level (MRL) - the legally permitted amount.

Chairman of the committee Dr Ian Brown said: "The majority of food sampled either does not contain detectable residues, or where residues are found, they are in accordance with legal limits. The committee has looked carefully at all of the residues above the MRL and we are satisfied that all the results are unlikely to be of concern for consumer health.

"The results show 7 samples (0.8% of samples covered by the report) contained residues above the legal levels. We have looked carefully at the findings and concluded that in all cases the residues found were unlikely to have resulted in any health effects for consumers.

"These results should reassure consumers that the food they eat continues to be safe. I can understand that some people have concerns about pesticide residues in their food, but as a doctor I cannot over-emphasise the importance of continuing to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Scientific evidence shows that the health benefits far outweigh any concerns about pesticide residues."

The Pesticide Residues Committee is an independent body which advises the Government, the Food Standards Agency and the Chemicals Regulation Directorate.

Today's results are part of a £2 million food and drink monitoring programme which takes place each year. The results cover a sampling period up to September 2009.

The MRL is the maximum concentration of a pesticide residue - expressed as milligrams per kilogram, or parts per million - legally permitted in or on our food and animal feeds. The levels are not safety limits, but are set at levels which protect the consumer. They are primarily a check that good agricultural practice is being followed, and an MRL exceedance does not automatically imply a hazard to health.

The full report is available online at: pesticides/prc.asp?id=2791


1. Dr Ian Brown OBE BSc (Agric) FRCP FFOM is Director of Occupational Health at the University of Oxford and Honorary Consultant Physician in Occupational Medicine to Oxfordshire Primary Care Trust Department of Public Health.

2. The survey was carried out on behalf of the Pesticide Residues Committee, an independent body that advises Ministers, the Chemical Regulation Directorate and the Food Standards Agency. More information about the Pesticide Residues Committee and its work is available via its website: pesticides

3. The Committee oversees a programme to monitor the UK food and drink supply for pesticides residues. It tests samples from a range of foods from retailers, wholesalers, packers, farmers, ports and processors every year. The purpose of the programme is to:
a. Back up the statutory approvals process for pesticides by checking that no unexpected residues are occurring;
b. To check that residues do not exceed statutory maximum residue levels; and
c. To check that human dietary intakes of residues are within acceptable levels.

4. The Pesticide Residues Committee is interested in feedback on their quarterly reports and welcome contact from readers about the content and style.