HC Deb 27 April 1998 vol 311 cc29-30W
Mr. Ben Chapman

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if the review of the arrangements for reporting surveys on pesticide residues in food has been completed; and if he will make a statement. [40011]

Mr. Rooker

The Government are committed to informing the public about all food safety matters. Following the changes announced last year, and the new arrangements announced for veterinary drug surveys on 6 April 1998, I have now agreed to further improvements in the reporting of surveillance results for pesticide residues surveys. To continue to improve openness and information to consumers, the brand names of products tested in future pesticide residue surveillance exercises will, subject to some minor exceptions, be published on a regular basis.

The UK has in place a pesticide residues surveillance programme to fulfil its Community obligations to monitor pesticide residues in fruit and vegetables, cereals and products of animal origin. This programme is undertaken each year under the auspices of the Working Party on Pesticide Residues. The results are published in the Working Party's annual report although any results of public interest are published earlier together with any necessary advice to consumers.

The publication of brand names will require some restructuring of the pesticides surveillance programme to ensure that surveys are representative of particular produce on the market. The new arrangements will, therefore, apply for surveys conducted from 1998 onwards. As with the other programmes there will be certain minor exceptions, such as surveys whose sample are pooled, where publicising brand information would be inappropriate.

Planned surveys for residues of pesticides will continue to be announced in advance, as has been practice for some years. However, the sheer scale of this programme precludes releasing the brands to be sampled in advance.

We are committed to giving consumers the maximum possible information on the presence of pesticide residues in food and will ensure that this is provided with appropriate advice on the public health significance of any results. Of course, we will make every effort to ensure the fairness of any tests and not seek to select one manufacturer or source over another. I believe the new arrangements will allow consumers to make a more informed choice about the food that they buy.