- 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 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
- 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
- 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.
- What's the problem? Some people's reactions include nausea,
headache, tiredness, respiratory problems and burning sensations.
- Chemical colours including E102,Tartrazine, E104, Quinoline
yellow, E107, Yellow 2G.
- What is it for? Bright colour.
- What is it in? GlacÈ cherries, fizzy drinks, sweets,
jellies, tinned fruit, farmed salmon, trout, sausages, red cheese, cooked
- What's the problem? Some provoke extreme reactions in
children. Physical symptoms include nausea, eczema and anaphylactic shock.
- Calcium propionate E282
- What is it for? Prolongs shelf-life of wheat products
by inhibiting the natural growth of mould.
- What is it in? Bread, rolls, croissants, cakes.
- What's the problem? Some children start climbing the
walls as soon as they encounter it. Linked with aggressive behaviour, hyperactivity
and sore stomachs.
- Propyl gallate and gallates E 310-312
- What is it for? Stops fats going rancid as quickly as
normal and so extends the shelf-life of foods.
- What is it in? Salami, long-life meat products, frankfurters,
tinned soup, chewing gum.
- What's the problem? Some authoritative studies on laboratory
rats and mice suggest that there may be a causal link with cancer.
- Artificial and natural flavouring
- What is it for? Fake flavour.
- What is it in? Sweets, crisps, sweet drinks, herbal teas,
cakes, ready-basted meat, sausage, margarine, flavoured waters.
- What's the problem? Some components in flavourings have
been shown to cause depression of the central nervous system, bronchial,
eye or skin irritations. Some are carcinogenic in animals.
- Butylated hydroxyanisole E320 and Butylated hydroxytoluene
- What is it for? Stops fats turning rancid.
- What is it in? Breakfast cereal, chewing gum, crisps
and potato snacks, biscuits, oils and fats.
- What's the problem? Most studies indicate it is safe
but some show that it causes cancer in rats.
- Sulphur dioxide and other sulphites E220-28
- What is it for? Stops the natural discolouration of foods
and bacterial growth.
- What is it in? Dried fruits (vine fruits, stone fruits),
soft drinks and wine.
- What's the problem? It destroys vitamin B1 in food and
can cause extreme reactions, from sneezing and runny eyes to wheezing,
asthma and even death.
- What is it for? Mildly addictive so helps get buyers
hooked on a product.
- What is it in? Natural in coffee and tea but is added
to colas and chewing gum.
- What's the problem? Too much caffeine means your body
metabolises calcium less well so increases risk of osteoporosis. Increases
risk of miscarriages and slows down foetal growth.
- Hydrolysed vegetable protein (HVP)
- What is it for? Gives savoury taste to over-processed
- What is it in? Gravy, stock and sauce mixes, ready meals,
tinned soup and stew, vegetarian meat substitutes.
- What's the problem? Components include MSG and amino
acids from soy or corn. Studies on baby animals link imbalance of these
with brain damage.
- Sweeteners (includingE953 Isomalt, E965 Maltitol)
- What is it for? Low-calorie sweetness.
- What is it in? Low-calorie food, drinks and desserts.
- What's the problem? Linked with cancer in lab rats.
- - "Shopped: The Shocking Power of British Supermarkets"
by Joanna Blythman is published this month by Harper Perennial
- ©2005 Independent News & Media (UK) Ltd.