Potentially harmful toxins have been found in more than 50% of tested food and drinks in the UK, scientists have said.

Campaigners from Pesticide Action Network (Pan) UK are now urging the Government to ban 25 pesticides after 3,300 food and drink samples contained forever chemicals.

Otherwise known as PFA chemicals, forever chemicals are potentially harmful toxins that take centuries to break down in the environment.

Previous research has found that PFAs can trigger the development of severe health conditions because the chemicals can accumulate in living organisms.

During the testing process, the food and drink samples were tested for more than 401 pesticides.

According to the test results, 95% of the 120 tested samples of strawberries contained PFA chemicals, making them the worst affected.

In addition, at least 15% of the beans, peaches, apricots and cucumber samples contained PFAS, the study has reported.

More than 56% of the samples contained pesticides, however these were all below the legal maximum residue level (MRL). A total of 1.8% of the samples had a pesticide residue higher than the legal level.

“The UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) conducts a risk assessment of all pesticide residues found in the testing programme and takes further action if risk to health is identified,” said the report.

It added: “It is useful to note, even when a food contains a residue above the MRL, HSE rarely finds any likely risk to the health of the people who have eaten the food.”

Pan UK disagrees with this statement and has stated: “MRLs do not guarantee the quantity of pesticide found in the food is safe.”

The campaign group believes that people can also be exposed to PFAs by drinking water, handling food packaging and using a wide range of household products.

Other foods that contain PFAs include tomatoes, grapes, spinach and cherry, according to Pan UK.

Nick Mole, from Pan UK, said: “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.

“We urgently need to develop a better understanding of the health risks associated with ingesting these ‘forever chemicals’ and do everything we can to exclude them from the food chain.”

The organisation is also urging the Government to provide farmers with alternative chemicals that do not contain harmful toxins.

A spokesperson from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs said: “We set strict limits on the pesticide residue levels in both food for consumers and feed for animals.

“These limits are set to protect public health and are set below the level considered to be safe for people to eat as well as applying to both food produced in the UK and those imported from other countries.”

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