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Pesticide warning for school fruit supplies

06 September 2017

Fresh produce supplied through the Department of Health's (DoH) School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme (SFVS) contains "a cocktail of pesticide residues", according to a recent report.

Food for Thought, published by Pan UK, contains the company's analysis of the last 12 years of residue data published by the Expert Committee on Pesticide Residues in Food (PRiF).

It states that residues of 123 different pesticides were found, some of which are linked to health problems including cancer and disruption of the hormone system.

Multiple residues were found "in many cases", says the company, and states that it is "another area of serious concern as the scientific community has little understanding about the complex interaction of different chemicals in what is termed the 'cocktail' effect".

Pan UK also states that residue levels on SFVS produce were found to be higher than those from mainstream produce, including items stocked by supermarkets.

The company says that it would only cost 1p per day per child to source more produce from UK organic growers to resolve the issue.

At present, only around 30% of the produce within the SFVS scheme is sourced from UK growers.

"Whilst we don't in any way wish to alarm parents, or stop children eating the fruit and vegetables provided, we do believe that the scheme should be adopting a precautionary approach," said Pan UK.

Soil Association policy officer Rob Percival said the findings "highlight the benefits of serving organic fruit and veg in schools" and referenced his organisation's Food for Life scheme, which is helping in the supply of organic produce to UK schools and other outlets.

He further stated that the scheme shows that "public procurement can be a powerful tool for change" and the serving of more organic fruit and vegetables sourced from local growers will deliver benefits to both children and British farmers.

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