AS Watson

Supermarkets taken to task over pesticides

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 August, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 August, 2009, 12:00am

Pesticide residues that could cause cancer and disrupt the human endocrine system have been found in some fruit for sale in supermarkets, Greenpeace said yesterday. It called on the government and markets to regulate how much is too much.

The group staged a protest at Vanguard supermarket's office yesterday after finding harmful residues in nine out of 17 apples, pears and peaches from ParknShop branches in Ma On Shan and Guangzhou, and Vanguard branches in Wan Chai and Guangzhou. Among the residues found, the most dangerous were the pesticides chlorpyrifos and dichlorvos, which are listed as highly hazardous by the World Health Organisation.

Greenpeace's food and agriculture campaigner, Lorena Luo Yuan-nan, said harmful pesticide residues were present in many fruit, and that the government and supermarkets lacked regulations targeting these 'invisible killers'. Consumers were vulnerable because they could not protect themselves.

Relevant regulations are in place on the mainland but absent in Hong Kong. Ms Luo urged the relevant parties to start controlling the use of pesticides on fruit and vegetables, which can harm people and the environment. ParknShop and Vanguard could not be reached for comment.

Wellcome chain marketing manager Annie Sin Pik-kwan said it had its own system of ensuring fruit and vegetables were safe. 'We run lab tests and give instructions to the farmers we use, from time to time, to make sure products we sell are of a good standard,' she said.

Lo Wing-lok, a doctor specialising in infectious diseases, said pesticides has long been a threat because they accumulate in the body, and their bad effects are detected only after consumption over a long period. The residues can lead to decreased sperm counts in men and erratic menstrual periods in women, he said. They can also cause skin irritations.

'It's unacceptable that such pesticides are found in fruit from supermarkets,' he said. 'Consumers can't tell clean from harmful just by the appearance of fruit, and water doesn't wash this away.'