Advocacy group asks UK government to ban ‘forever’ pesticides from use on fruits and veg

Produce Business report

A new report released by a charity focused on ensuring safe and sustainable growing shows “worrying” levels of pesticides in fresh fruits and vegetables in the UK.

The Pesticide Action Network UK says 10 ‘forever’ pesticides can be found in everything from peaches to cabbage to apricots. The biggest offender they say is strawberries, “with 95% of the 120 samples tested by the government in 2022 containing PFAS pesticides.”

The dangerous pesticides get their forever tag because they not only can linger a long time in the environment – sometimes as much as 1,000 years – but in humans, as well.

“Given the growing body of evidence linking PFAS to serious diseases such as cancer, it is deeply worrying that UK consumers are being left with no choice but to ingest these chemicals, some of which may remain in their bodies long into the future,” Nick Mole, Policy Officer, PAN UK, said. “With some plastic food packaging also contaminated with PFAS, and PFAS present in UK drinking water and soil, we urgently need to develop a better understanding of the health risks associated with ingesting these ‘forever chemicals’ and do everything we can to exclude them from the food chain.” 

PAN UK’s studies were done based on the UK government”s residue testing programme, which tests 2,500 1kg samples of food annually from supermarkets.

Besides strawberries, the produce with the next most pesticides found were grapes at 61%, followed by cherries (56%), spinach (42%) and tomatoes and stone fruit (38%).

Though only one-fifth of cucumbers and apricots were found to contain PFAS, the results are still concerning because those pesticides have been linked to cancer, lower fertility and the ability of the body to ward off infection.

Of the samples tested, the best performers (or those with the fewest PFAS found) were apples and potatoes at 2% each. Lettuce and cabbage also fared decently at 7%.

There are some 25 forever pesticides being used here, including a half dozen that are highly hazardous. According to PAN UK, “farmers are generally unaware that they are spraying ‘forever chemicals’ on their crops because there is no information on the label.” PAN UK is both urging government to ban these pesticides and get farmers to use safer methods when growing.



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