Spinach bought at Asda and six samples of baby food were found to contain high levels of pesticide residues, according to the government’s latest pesticide tests.

The Pesticide Residue Committee (PRC) concluded that levels of the pesticide methomyl found in Asda’s Spanish spinach meant that the “safety margins would be significantly eroded”. Levels were 150% of the safety level for adults and 240% of the safety level for toddlers.

The PRC said that it was possible that “symptoms such as increased salivation, an upset stomach or a mild headache could occur, but these effects would be expected to be short-lived (lasting not longer than 6 hours)”. Methomyl is a carbamate pesticide which affects the nervous system. It is also suspected of interfering with the hormone system.

Levels of pesticides in spinach bought in Waitrose and Safeway stores also exceeded legal limits, but not safety limits, the data showed. Most dried fruit, almost half of the bread tested and a quarter of chips from fish and chip shops also contained pesticide residues. Six samples of infant food, four of which were made by Heinz, contained residues at levels which would now be illegal, since the introduction of strict limits on processed infant foods.

The results did show that milk and blackcurrant juice were completely free of residues. UK carrots were clear of organophosphate residues, which have been a major problem in the past, but do contain other pesticides of concern.

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Friends of the Earth real food campaigner Sandra Bell said: “Although there is some good news in the latest pesticide results, we must remain very concerned that supposedly-healthy food contains pesticides which exceed the safety levels for toddlers.”

An Asda spokeswoman said the company had rigorous controls in place.
“We and our suppliers test thousands of products every year and just a handful are found to contain pesticide residues that exceed the maximum residue limit,” she was quoted by the Guardian as saying.