Government data, released today, reveals that grapes, kiwi fruit, lemons, and milk from major supermarkets contained residues of pesticides which are known to affect the hormone system.

Friends of the Earth (FOE) is calling on retailers to prohibit the use of these pesticides on food grown in the UK and abroad. But despite claims by the supermarkets that they are acting to reduce pesticide use, our food is still laced with toxic chemicals.

The tests, carried out between April and June 2001, showed residues of pesticides in:
  *    61% of grapes
  *    63% of kiwi fruit
  *    all lemons
  *    8% of milk
  *    25% of canned salmon
  *    29% of breakfast cereals
  *    64% of cereal bars
  *    19% of noodles

None of the goats milk, honey or organic produce samples tested contained pesticide residues.

The milk tested was found to contain lindane, a pesticide which is to be banned across the EU in 2002 because of health concerns. Lindane is known to affect the hormone system and has been linked with increased rates of breast cancer.  Nearly half the samples of kiwi fruit contained vinclozolin – the most common pesticide found in the report – which has anti- androgenic (anti-maleness) effects. In studies, reduced sperm counts have been associated with exposure to this chemical.  One of the most commonly found pesticides in grapes was iprodione and the majority (81%) of lemons contained dicofol. Both these pesticides have been listed by the European Commission as having strong evidence of hormone disrupting effects.

Residues of the banned pesticide DDT were also found in a quarter of the tinned salmon samples. This was probably due to environmental contamination as DDT takes a long time to  break down.

Unborn babies and children are more vulnerable to hormone disrupting chemicals, and the Royal Society has stressed that exposure to these chemicals should be reduced, especially for pregnant women.  FOE believes it is unacceptable for supermarkets to sell food containing pesticides which are potentially harmful to health.

FOE is also concerned about the effect of mixtures of these pesticides. Little is currently known, but growing evidence suggests that the impact on health is increased if we are exposed to a cocktail of similar chemicals.

Sainsburys says that “pesticides are only used as a last resort” in letters to customers, yet one of the lemon samples from Sainsburys contained 9 different pesticides. All the lemons from Asda contained multiple residues of pesticides. Tesco has also made claims to customers about reducing pesticide use, but 3 out of the 5 samples of grapes tested from Tesco contained pesticides.

Earlier this year both the Co-op and Marks and Spencer announced that they were banning some of the most dangerous pesticides and restricting the use of others. Vinclozolin was amongst the pesticides to be banned by MS. There are very few samples from these stores in the Government’s report but both retailers publish the results of their own testing on their websites.

Sandra Bell, Pesticide Campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said “Shopping is stressful enough without having to contend with a toxic lottery on the supermarket shelves. Anyone looking forward to fresh grapes with their cheese and biscuits this Christmas, canned salmon, or sliced lemon in their gin and tonics will be dismayed to find that they come laced with hormone disrupting chemicals. Consumers should expect to find safe food on the supermarket shelves. MS, Co- op and Waitrose are taking steps in the right direction.  It’s time all retailers took action to get these gender-bending chemicals out of our food”