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Pesticide breakthrough gives consumers faith in their food

Consumers will be offered better protection from pesticides in their food following policy-changing research carried out at Brunel University London.

Studies, led first by Professor John Sumpter and then Professor Andreas Kortenkamp from the Institute for the Environment, investigated an area of research that had rarely been identified, namely exposure of people and wildlife to a large number of chemicals simultaneously.

This cumulative cocktail effect of chemicals in food and water was formerly thought to be safe, but the research shows the potential for harm.

The impact from the work carried out at Brunel was made clear when translated into a political context, in a report on Mixture Toxicology for the European Commission. Following the publication of this report, in which Prof Kortenkamp was actively involved, a number of pieces of European chemicals legislation now require consideration of mixture effects, from the Plant Protection Product Regulation to Biocidal Products Regulation.

In 2013, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Plant Protection Product Regulation Panel adopted the scientific opinion that cocktail effects of chemical could occur. This scientific opinion is now shaping the way in which maximum residue levels are set for pesticides in food. In some cases these levels may need to be lowered, leading to better protection for people and wildlife.