The Advisory Committee on Pesticides (ACP) will consider revoking pesticide safety advice aimed at children when it meets later today (Thursday 18 October).

The advice, originally issued by the Government’s Chief Medical Officer in 1997, is that fruit and vegetables should be peeled before being given to small children. The advice is now routinely given by Government departments in response to inquiries about pesticide residues in food.

The review has apparently been prompted by the Food Standards Agency which has taken the view that fruit and vegetables shouldn’t need to be peeled to make them safe to eat. FOE agrees that peeling should not be required but does not believe that the situation with residues has significantly changed since the advice was issued for it to be withdrawn.

  • In the latest annual report of the Pesticides Residues Committee levels of one pesticide(chlorfenvinphos) in a carrot sample were so high that the committee concluded that “If the carrots were eaten unpeeled, then safety margins would be eroded”;
  • FOE’s analysis of Government data shows that about half of fruit and vegetables sold in supermarkets contain pesticide residues;
  • Residues occurring in fruit and veg include organophosphates such as chlorpyrifos which has recently been severely restricted in the US due to children’s health concerns but is still used here.
  • there has been growing concern since 1997 about exposure to pesticides with suspected hormone disrupting effects – these occur regularly in fruit and vegetables.
  • fruit and vegetables can contain residues of more than one pesticide e.g. over a third of apples tested recently contained multiple residues.

Friends of the Earth believes that the advice should be improved rather than withdrawn. FOE has criticised the current advice because it misleads consumers into believing that all residues can be peeled away.Systemic pesticides are taken up by the whole fruit or vegetable so peeling will not remove them. Lettuce commonly has high levels of residues but cannot be peeled.

FOE wants the Government and retailers to take more action to ensure that fruit and vegetables are free of dangerous pesticide residues so that they do not have to be peeled to make them safe for young children to eat.

Sandra Bell, Pesticides Campaigner at Friends of the Earth said:
“The Food Standards Agency is right to take the stance that fruit and vegetables should not have to be peeled to make it safe for young children. But rather than trying to get rid of current safety advice, the FSA should be acting to ensure that children’s food is free of dangerous pesticides and looking at how information to consumers can be improved. The ACP must stand firm. Consumers need more advice on pesticide residues not less”.