More than 50 dangerous pesticides contaminate Britain's food, official tests reveal. All have been found to be poisonous or are suspected of causing cancer or having "gender bender" effects by international regulatory bodies.
The revelation - in a survey of official testing results - will heighten concern about food contamination, after the withdrawal of more than 400 products contaminated with the prohibited dye Sudan 1 from shops and supermarkets.
Concern over the dye, normally used to colour petrol, oils, waxes and polishes, centres on its suspected role in causing cancer. But some of the pesticides found in British fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy products are internationally classified as even more likely to cause the disease.
The survey - carried out by the UK branch of Pesticide Action Network last December - examined the traces of pesticides found in food in tests carried out by the official Pesticide Residues Committee.
The tests - undertaken in 2002 - found 80 pesticides in food ranging from apples to aubergines, butter to bread, and chocolate to chicken nuggets. The survey concluded that 52 of these "have been designated by international authorities as having harmful effects on health". These included 33 identified by the World Health Organisation as acutely toxic, and 28 listed by the WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer, the European Commission and the US Environmental Protection Agency as suspected carcinogens.
Another 12 are suspected by a range of international authorities of disrupting the hormone system, causing "gender bender" effects, cancers and reproductive disorders. Three pesticides - chlorothalonil, lindane and DDT - are identified as more likely to cause cancer than Sudan 1.
The Pesticide Residues Committee says that the levels of pesticides found pose "no safety concerns for consumers" because almost all are beneath the maximum residue levels laid down by law. But it admits these levels are not set to protect health, but to check that farmers are using the pesticides properly.
Many experts believe that there is no safe level for a cancer- causing chemical, and research shows that babies and young children are particularly at risk from low doses of common pesticides.
Meanwhile, Britain has been reprimanded by the European Commission and EU countries for failing to give adequate warnings about the Sudan 1 crisis. They complain that the Food Standards Agency - which has come under attack at home for its slow response to the crisis - flouted an obligation to give full details of the products affected under the EU's rapid alert system for contamination, and merely posted them on its website.
A spokesman for Marcos Kyprianou, the Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, said the countries were concerned that they "were not given sufficient information to allow them to act most effectively" in tracking down contaminated products imported from Britain.
Plus 10 alarming additives in everyday meals
Our diets are crammed with chemical colourings, flavourings and sweeteners, says food writer Joanna Blythman. Although these additives are perfectly legal, their effects can be hair-raising. Here she lists 10 of the worst offenders - along with the foods that contain them
Monosodium glutamate E621
What is it for? Adds flavour to over-processed food and allows producers to skimp on natural ingredients.
What is it in? Chinese food, potato snacks, cup noodles, tinned meat pie, tinned soup, lunchbox treats. …