All EU countries are required to monitor food for pesticide residues and to carry out a number of specific surveys each year. The foods included in the harmonised programme are tested by all EU member states. The food surveys and the pesticides tested are agreed by member states.
EU countries also have a national monitoring programme. The UK programme ensures all the major components of our national diet are sampled (milk, bread, potatoes, fruit and vegetables, cereals and related products, and animal products). The programme is not designed to provide a representation of residues in our diet – it is risk-based and looks more at those commodities likely to contain residues. Some commodities are surveyed every year, whilst others are surveyed less frequently, for example once every three years.
Samples from retailers (supermarkets, independent shops and market stalls) are bought from across the UK by trained purchasers from a market research company.
The Rural Payment Agency’s Horticultural Marketing Inspectors also collect some of our samples from a range of points in the supply chain, such as wholesale markets, retail depots, ports and import points. The samples they will be collecting varies each year depending on foods being surveyed.
Animal and Plant Health Agency’s Plant Health and Seed Inspectors collect samples of potatoes from a range of points in the supply chain including potato merchants, processors (such as crisp and frozen chip factories) and ports.
We test for a range of pesticides in the following food groups:
fruit and vegetables
Our quarterly reports include full details of the pesticides for which we carry out tests.
We publish results from the monitoring programme on a quarterly basis. The data from the programme is published on data.gov.uk.
For some surveys, results are processed and published in advance. These form the rolling reporting programme and are also published on data.gov.uk.
The Department of Health funds the School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme as part of the ‘5 a day’ programme to increase fruit and vegetable consumption. The Department of Health commission their own testing.