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The items tested included fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry, cereal products, tea, olive oil, fruit juice and infant foods. No pesticide residues were found in chicken, eggs, infant formula, kidneys, milk or rutabagas.
The excessive levels of pesticides were present in produce set aside for schools' "Five a Day" program, which encourages the consumption of fruits and vegetables by making them readily available at no cost to some students. The committee tested 166 samples earmarked for the program, and found 132 contained chemical traces at or below the legal maximum, and three samples exceeded the limits.
The official stance of the committee is that the pesticide levels are not a concern to public health.
"I cannot overemphasize the importance of continuing to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day," said committee chairman Dr. Ian Brown. "The health benefits far outweigh any concern about pesticide residues."
David Coggon, professor of occupational and environmental health from Southampton University, supported this notion, pointing out that the report's analytical techniques can detect pesticides even at very low levels.
"At very low levels they are not a concern to health," he said. "We are all exposed to chemicals in the environment every day, but whether they are toxic or not is down to the level of the dose."
Many in the health community disagree with this assessment, however. Peter Melchett, policy director of the Soil Association, called the committee "extraordinarily complacent and unscientific," especially in regards to the levels of pesticides in products allocated to schools.
Mike Adams, consumer health advocate and author of "Grocery Warning," agreed.
"There is no such thing as a 'safe' level of a toxic pesticide chemical," Adams said. "Any level of pesticide residue is a threat to human health, and with most consumers now showing hundreds of different chemicals in their livers, hearts and brains, the cumulative health consequences are potentially horrifying.
"No one has tested these chemicals in combination. Consumers around the world are being used as guinea pigs in a grand food experiment to see what happens when you poison an entire civilization with synthetic chemicals."