The Sunday Times
Jon Ungoed-Thomas and Jonathan Leake
Fruit juice drinks sold in Britain contain larger amounts of pesticides than products sold elsewhere in the world, according to new research.
A study sampling more than 100 drinks from 15 countries found those in Britain had the highest concentrations.
The levels were on average more than 34 times greater than those permitted in drinking water, with some up to 300 times.
There are, however, no maximum recommended limits for pesticide residues in fruit juices.
Peter Melchett, of the Soil Association, said: “The government fails to protect people from pesticides. There needs to be more work on the cumulative effect of residues and this report provides further evidence of a laissez-faire approach.” The researchers bought 102 drinks from countries including the United States, Russia, Italy, Germany, France and Switzerland. In Britain the drinks were bought in London, Cambridge and Edinburgh.
The concentrations of pesticides were compared with the levels permitted in drinking water in the European Union. These are 0.1 micrograms per litre for each pesticide and 0.5 micrograms per litre for the total concentration.
The average concentration of pesticides was the highest in Britain at 17.4 micrograms per litre, ahead of 12.3 in Spain and 4.9 in France. Drinks bought in the United States, Russia and Morocco had significantly lower levels of pesticide, according to the report in the journal Analytical Chemistry.
Georgina Downs, of the UK Pesticides Campaign, said: “Children should not be exposed to these chemicals. This research should act as a serious alarm bell to the soft drinks industry.”
By Sean Poulter
Fizzy drinks sold by Coca-Cola in Britain have been found to contain pesticides at up to 300 times the level allowed in tap or bottled water.
The research team called on the Government, the industry and the company to act to remove the chemicals and called for new safety standards to regulate the soft drinks market.
The industry denies children are at risk and insists that the levels found by researchers based at the University of Jaen in southern Spain are not harmful.
The chemicals detected included carbendazim, thiabendazole, imazalil, prochloraz, malathion and iprodione.
A total of 19 products were bought in the UK, all made by Coca-Cola.
Two orange drinks bought in the UK contained imazalil at 300 times the limit permitted for a single pesticide in drinking water.
The average level of the total pesticide contamination of the British drinks was 17.4 parts per billion – 34.6 times the EU maximum residue level for water.
Coca-Cola GB insisted the products are safe.