Greenpeace exposes two supermarket chains in HK selling vegetables containing illegal pesticide and excessive pesticide residue

Press release - 2006-04-17
Greenpeace today exposes Parknshop and Wellcome, the biggest supermarket chains in the territory, are selling problem vegetables containing illegal pesticide and excessive pesticide residue. Greenpeace’s sampling and investigation was conducted from November 2005 to March 2006, the findings are alarming. In one Choi Sum sample collected in Wellcome’s store, dangerously high level of pesticide residue -- 240 times over the EU standard – was found.

A farmer was spraying pesticides on some Chinese 'Choi Sum' vegetables in Xinlou village, north east of Guangzhou, Guangdong province, China. Greenpeace believe the high levels of toxins found in water in the area is due to the over usage of pesticides and is potentially harmful to humans. Many bottles of Chinese-manufactured 'Butachlor' and other types of pesticide were found disgarded in streams in the area.

We call on both supermarket chains to withdraw those problem vegetables immediately, and at the same time implement more stringent surveillance on vegetable source and pesticide testing so that consumers can eat safe.

Chow Yuen Ping, Food Safety assistant campaigner said, "Being the biggest fresh vegetables retailers, both supermarket chains should make sure their produce are complying with Hong Kong standard and hundred percent safe to consumer.  Neither banned pesticide nor excessive pesticide residue is acceptable in the vegetables we eat." Greenpeace investigation shows that over 70% of the vegetable samples contains pesticide residues, and 30% exceeds international standards.  Banned pesticides are also found in some samples.

Pesticides poisonings have been reported over decades.  Intake of excessive amount can lead to acute intoxication while long time exposure can cause chronic poisoning that affects reproductive and nervous system.  Many pesticides have been identified as potential carcinogens.  Some pesticides can be passed from mother to the foetus during pregnancy, and to infant through breast feeding.  Furthermore, different pesticides consumed together would cause the so-called "Cocktail effect", boost up the adverse effect of pesticide up to a hundred times than standalone[1].  "In one tomato sample of Parknshop, 5 different pesticides, including an illegal type Lindane, was found.  The health hazard of pesticide residues should never be under-estimated," emphasized Chow Yuen Ping.

In response to Greenpeace's findings, Parknshop has conducted their own investigation and presented a report to Greenpeace.  On the other hand, Wellcome has terminated contracts of problematic supplier.  However, our investigation shows that there is an urgent need for Parknshop to expand their farm-checking and surveillance system to non-leafy vegetables such as tomato, whereas Wellcome a full-scale reform on their monitoring in order to identify and fix the loopholes.  Meanwhile, both supermarkets should stop selling any problem vegetable, or else food safety and public health are being put at risk.

Notes:

[1] Pesticide Action Network UK (www.pan-uk.org)

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