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Food and pesticides: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help


Pesticides are widely used all over the world; in agriculture, in the home, in the garden, for preserving timber and treating textiles and in a wide range of everyday industrial processes. In agriculture they have helped to increase yields and protect crops both in developed countries and in the Third World.

But pesticides do more than that. They are used after a crop has been harvested. This increases the life of the crop by protecting it from pests and diseases while it is being stored. This means that a wider range of produce is available. They improve hygiene by killing flies and cockroaches and by preventing other good risks. They fight plagues of locusts and rodents. Pesticides protect human health by, for example, controlling mosquitoes which carry malaria.

What Are Pesticides?

Pesticides kill pests. Pests are animals, or other organisms such as moulds, that harm our food, our health, or our environment - in other words, the way we live. The term also covers weedkillers (herbicides) which are used to help crops grow better.

'Pesticides' is a very wide ranging subject. It raises issues as varied as residues in food, effects on wildlife and the environment, and the safety of people who work with them.

It is not possible to discuss all these issues here. This booklet answers the most common questions about pesticides and food - their control; their entry into the food chain; and what is being done to make sure that or food is safe.

The following are all pesticides:

  • Bird and animal repellents
  • Food storage protectors
  • Industrial and domestic pest control products
  • Insecticides
  • Mould-killing substances
  • Paints to stop marine growth on boats
  • Plant growth regulators
  • Products to prevent lichen, moss and fungi growing on buildings
  • Rat poisons
  • Soil sterilants
  • Weedkillers
  • Wood preservations

Why Use Pesticides?

We enjoy a good supply and a wide range of quality food all year round. We would not have this supply of fod at the quality we now expect at today's prices, without using some pesticides.

It is estimated that without pesticides, 30% of the world's crops would be lost before they were harvested.

When we buy food, we usually try to avoid anything that's mouldy or has been damaged - not only does it look unattractive, it may also be bad for our health.

Pesticides can improve the quality of food and increase its yield, helping to keep prices down.

Pesticides help to preserve exotic food from around the world so that it reaches our shops in good condition, and so we have a wider choice.

Pesticides can lengthen storage times to extend the seasons and give a year round supply of the most popular foods.

Pesticides are important for food hygiene. They prevent rats, mice, flies and other insects from contaminating foods while they are being stored, on display for sale, in restaurants or in kitchens in homes.

However, the Government has strict controls on pesticides and aims to ensure that the amount of pesticides used is limited to the minimum amount needed to control pests effectively. Human health and environmental factors are taken fully into account.

Aren't There Enough Chemicals Already?

Pyrethrum is a natural insecticide produced by a kind of chrysanthemum. The stinging nettle produces a natural poison as a defence mechanism. We only eat the stalks of rhubarb - no the leaves, because the leaves contain too much natural oxalic acid.

Chemicals have to be put in perspective - even we are made up of chemicals. Therefore, it is a mistake to think that all chemicals are man-made. Nature produces some highly effective chemical pesticides and poisons.

What Are The Risks?

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