Fruit Cocktail That May Ruin Your Health; Increasing Concern about Pesticide Residues in Food Has Prompted the Government to Order New Research. the Results, Expected Early Next Year, Will Widen the Food Safety Debate. but for the Consumer Only One Question Matters: Is Our Food Dangerous? Keith Dovkants Reports
Dovkants, Keith, The Evening Standard (London, England)
Byline: KEITH DOVKANTS
BURIED in a long and complex paper issued by the World Health Organisation is a reference to an insecticide called Monocrotophos. According to this document the chemical has a "high acute oral toxicity" for humans and, in sufficient doses, causes muscle spasms, convulsion, an inability to breathe and, ultimately, agonising death.
On two occasions last month the EU Food Alert System found dangerously high residues of the chemical in grapes imported into Sweden from Cyprus.
One bunch showed a concentration of 2.1 milligrammes per kilo, enough to set alarm bells ringing all over Europe.
A further consignment from another Cypriot grower also contained high doses and after action by the European Commission, Cyprus's department of agriculture rushed out a Monocrotophos ban.
These events were documented by the Food Standards Agency, the UK watchdog on pesticides, but what the Government could not confirm was whether grapes contaminated by the chemical had been sold and eaten in Britain.
Government work on pesticides is running at a higher level than ever before, but as various departments and agencies attempt to address public concern it is clear that the questions raised by the pesticide issue vastly outweigh the answers.
The consumer magazine Which? has just concluded a study into the Government's monitoring of pesticide residues in food. It found especially high residues in everyday items like lettuce. One sample of lettuce contained eight types of pesticide including Dimethoate, an organophosphate related to Monocrotophos.
Organophosphates have prompted widespread anxiety among scientists and doctors. They are highly effective pesticides used to kill parasites in sheep and cattle. But the active ingredients are similar to those used in nerve gas and they have been blamed for causing serious illness in humans.
Several studies have indicated that exposure to organophosphates can damage the nervous system. …