According to the Salad Days Report, a new annual report launched in September 1999 and prepared jointly by Sustain (the alliance for better food and farming) and the Pesticides Trust (an independent charity), the UK government is totally failing consumers through inadequate pesticide residue testing in foodstuffs. The report says the UK government has the worst pesticide residue testing in Europe and its results and testing methods are dubious.
Between 1998 and 1999, the UK Pesticide Safety Directorate (PSD) checked its own testing methods by spiking samples of apples, lettuce, oranges and tomatoes with measured levels of residues and sending them to three different laboratories. Once analysed, all three laboratories came up with results which understated the real amount by 20% or more. In 1998, routine PSD testing of lettuces consisted of only 21 lettuces. In 1996, the UK tested only 113 lettuce samples, while the Netherlands, at the top of the league, tested 1,200.
Only three categories of staple foods – milk, bread and potatoes – are routinely tested every year in the UK. Otherwise, there is a hit-or-miss, ongoing rolling programme which looks at a different selection of foods every year. One year it might include grapes, the next, burgers. Look at the results over the last five years, and many foods and drinks – such as plums and coffee – have never been tested at all.