HARD TO SWALLOW ‘Forever chemicals’ linked to cancer found in up to 95% of fruit & veg sold in UK – worst offenders revealed

TOXIC chemicals have been discovered in half of the fruit and veg from UK supermarkets, according to analysis of Government figures.

The human-made substances, called PFAS, are known as 'forever chemicals' because they may never leave the body once consumed.

Strawberries were found to contain the highest levels of PFAS
Strawberries were found to contain the highest levels of PFASCredit: Alamy

These are linked to a handful of serious health issues, including liver damage, high cholesterol, thyroid disease, obesity, fertility issues and cancer.

It is even feared the chemicals could lead to low birth weight, developmental delays and behavioural changes in infants and children.

Strawberries were found to be the worst offenders, containing the highest levels of these PFAS, with 95 per cent of the samples analysed being contaminated.

This was followed by 61 per cent of grape samples tested, 56 per cent of cherry samples, 42 per cent of spinach samples and 38 per cent of tomatoes.

Peaches, cucumbers, apricots and beans all saw at least 15 per cent of samples containing PFAS.

PFAS - or polyfluoroalkyl substances - are chemicals prized for their indestructible and non-stick properties.

Given the growing body of evidence linking PFAS to serious diseases such as cancer, it is deeply worrying that UK consumers are being left with no choice but to ingest these chemicals

Nick MolePan UK

They are used in household products such as non-stick frying pans, clothing, cosmetics, food packaging and fire extinguisher foam.

The chemicals are also in pesticides, which are assumed to be the primary source of them in fruits and vegetables.The shocking findings came when the government's testing programme checked 3,300 samples of food and drink available in the UK

The Pesticide Action Network UK (Pan UK) analysed the results and revealed that 56.4 per cent of samples tested contained pesticidesHowever, only 1.8 per cent contained a pesticide residue above this legal level.

The UK’s Health and Safety Executive found that even when a food breaches the legal limit, it “rarely finds a likely risk to the health of the people who have eaten the food”.

Call for ban on pesticides 

While the chemicals only breach legal limits in fewer than two per cent of cases, the findings revealing PFAS in nutritious foods have raised concerns.

“The maximum limits do not guarantee the quantity of pesticide found in the food is safe and do not take into account the many other routes of potential PFAS exposure, such as plastic food packaging, drinking water and a wide range of household products,” said Nick Mole, from Pan UK.

“Given the growing body of evidence linking PFAS to serious diseases such as cancer, it is deeply worrying that UK consumers are being left with no choice but to ingest these chemicals, some of which may remain in their bodies long into the future."

Pan UK is urging the Government to ban the 25 PFA pesticides currently in use in Britain, six of which are classified as "highly hazardous".

The organisation said ministers should also increase support for farmers to help them end their reliance on chemicals and adopt safer, more sustainable alternatives.

Mr Mole said: "The UK government's much-delayed plans for limiting the negative impacts of PFAS focus solely on industrial chemicals, ignoring pesticides entirely.

"PFAS pesticides are absolutely unnecessary for growing food and are an easily avoidable source of PFAS pollution.

"Getting rid of them would be a massive win for consumers, farmers and the environment."

Dr Shubhi Sharma, from Chem Trust, which campaigns to protect humans and animals from harmful chemicals, said: "PFAS are a group of entirely human-made chemicals that didn't exist on the planet a century ago and have now contaminated every single corner.

"No-one gave their consent to be exposed to these harmful chemicals, we haven't had the choice to opt out, and now we have to live with this toxic legacy for decades to come.

"The very least we can do is to stop adding to this toxic burden by banning the use of PFAS as a group".

The Environment Department and HSE have been approached for comment.

How am I being exposed to PFAS?

You may not realise it but chances are you already have come into contact with PFAS, a lot.

They have been detected in air, water, soils, sediments, and in rain at levels that would be considered unsafe in drinking water in some countries.

Here is a list of all the things the chemicals have been found in, so far:

  • Soil and water that helps grow food
  • Certain food packaging
  • Some processing equipment
  • Rain
  • Sea foam
  • Certain foods, including fish, meat, dairy, grains, fruit and veg
  • Public water systems
  • Makeup, including: foundation, waterproof mascara, lip products, lotions, cleansers, nail polish, shaving cream, eyeliner, eye shadow
  • Food wrappers
  • Microwaveable popcorn bags
  • Takeout containers
  • Pet food bags
  • Carpet
  • Leather
  • Clothing
  • Packaging material
  • Nonstick cookware

Source: WebMD

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