Free school fruit given to pupils found to contain numerous pesticides

Fruit and vegetables given to four to six-year olds as part of a government scheme to promote healthy eating have been found to contain residues of 123 different pesticides.

According to a new report by Pesticide Action Network UK (PAN UK), these include endocrine disruptors which interfere with hormone systems and organophosphates that can negatively affect children’s cognitive development.

PAN UK analysed the results of government testing of the produce supplied through the scheme between 2005 and 2016.

In two-thirds of the items tested, residues of more than one pesticide were detected, with some individual samples containing as many as 13 different chemicals.

PAN UK also states that for an additional rough cost of 1p per child per day, or £5.6 million each year, all the produce given out through the Department of Health’s School Fruit and Vegetable scheme could be switched to organic.

Nick Mole from PAN UK, commented: “Our aim is not to alarm parents but they do have a right to know what chemicals are in the food being given to their children.

“While we applaud the Department for Health’s effort to get children eating more fruit and vegetables, our research shows that the produce they are being given is generally worse than on the supermarket shelves.”

Mole added: “Given how little it would cost to switch the scheme to organic, the government shouldn’t be putting our children’s health at risk when there are other options available.”

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