Give Children Organic Fruit, Urges Professor

An Ulster professor has urged parents to consider buying organic after new tests revealed potentially cancer-causing chemicals were found on fruit given to millions of children each day.

Three-quarters of fresh produce provided free to children through a Government healthy-eating scheme tested positive for harmful pesticides, prompting fears children as young as four could be at extra risk because their bodies are still developing.

While none of the fruit had illegal levels, Dr Vyvyan Howard, professor of bio-imaging at the University of Ulster, said the discovery was of some concern.

The tests were carried out by the Pesticide Residues Committee between September and December last year. They found all the bananas, pears and soft citrus fruits were contaminated, along with three-quarters of apples.

Half of the items provided through the Department of Health-funded School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme in England contained more than one pesticide, with some having several in them or on the surface.

Dr Howard, who is also on a Government pesticide advisory committee, said this was where the problem lay. “One thing I want to stress is that the testing of pesticides, which is laid down by the EU, is a job which is done very thoroughly,” he said. ” Each pesticide is tested in isolation. But there are some areas of uncertainty around mixtures.”

He said because pesticides are tested individually, the full effects of mixtures aren’t known. He said the issue was of greater concern when considering children because it was not known if the mixtures would cause changes in development.

While none of the findings were likely to cause adverse effects, Dr Howard believes the issue is still of some concern. “One of the problems with this is that we can’t measure how great a risk this is. The best advice I can give to parents is to take precautionary measures such as buying organic.”