Report reveals quarter of all food consumed in UK contain pesticide cocktails

Worrying data from a coalition of organisations has revealed that a quarter of all food and over a third of fruit and vegetables consumed in the UK contain pesticide cocktails, with some items containing traces of up to 14 different pesticides.

The report, The Cocktail Effect, released by PAN UK and the Soil Association, details evidence of pesticide cocktails in the environment, with mixtures of as many as 10 different chemicals found in UK soil and water. The report warns that post-Brexit trade deals could lead to a rise in the number of pesticides authorised for use in the UK.

Josie Cohen, from PAN UK, commented: “Because of the overuse of pesticides in UK agriculture, we are constantly exposed to a wide array of different chemicals, which can interact to become more toxic, creating a ‘cocktail effect’. Yet the Government continues to assess the safety of just one pesticide at a time. The truth is, we simply have no idea of the human health and environmental impacts of long-term exposure to hundreds of different pesticides.”

The report’s key findings include that in 2017, 87 per cent of pears, 64 per cent of apples and a quarter of bread contained pesticide cocktails. The Government’s testing data for 2018 shows residues of 157 different pesticides, including 63 known, possible or probable carcinogens, and 41 suspected endocrine disruptors. The report also reveals that 67 per cent of the soil tested contained pesticide cocktails, as did two-thirds of samples taken from seven river catchments.

Rob Percival, from the Soil Association, added: “The UK Government has committed to reducing pesticide use, but the support farmers need to transition away from pesticides simply isn’t in place. The Government urgently needs to support farmers to adopt nature-friendly, agroecological approaches that don’t rely on pesticides, including organic, to better protect both human health and the natural world. Brexit poses real threats to food and farming, but it also provides an opportunity to do things differently, if the right policies and legislation are put in place.”

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