Marks & Spencer was ranked in first place for its policies on pesticide use © Getty Images/iStockphoto
Marks & Spencer was ranked in first place for its policies on pesticide use © Getty Images/iStockphoto

Supermarkets 'not being open' about pesticides in supply chains

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
28 November 2019

UK supermarkets have been criticised for a lack of transparency around the use of pesticides in their global supply chains.

Pesticide Action Network UK (PAN) said supermarkets “aren’t being open about pesticides” and are “not doing enough to protect human health and the environment from the most hazardous pesticides”.

PAN has ranked 10 supermarkets based on factors including supporting suppliers to cut pesticide use, residues in food, highly-hazardous pesticides, and bees and pollinators.

Marks & Spencer (1), Waitrose (2) and Sainsbury’s (3) came top, described as “making good progress”, while Co-op (4), Aldi (5), Tesco (6) and Morrisons (7) were described as “could do better”. Asda (8), Iceland (9) and Lidl (10) were “lagging behind”. Lidl was the only supermarket that failed to respond to the PAN survey and so came last.

Josie Cohen, head of policy and campaigns at PAN UK, said: “UK shoppers are increasingly concerned about the impact of pesticides on their own health, the health of farmers and the natural environment.

“But supermarkets aren’t being open about pesticides, so a concerned shopper trying to find out what chemicals they and their family are exposed to has nowhere to go. The information isn’t on food labels or supermarket websites.

“Customers have the right to know which food contains the most pesticides so, at the very least, supermarkets should be publishing the results of their in-house residue testing schemes.”

PAN said Aldi was the only supermarket that does not allow the use of any pesticide banned by the EU anywhere in its global supply chains. M&S, Waitrose and Sainsbury’s were ranked as “outstanding” in their efforts to support suppliers to use non-chemical alternatives. 

M&S was the only supermarket to publicly publish lists of pesticides that are monitored, restricted or banned.

Cohen said: “Most of the pesticides used in global agriculture are entirely unnecessary. There are tried and tested non-chemical alternatives which protect human health and don’t trash the environment but still produce the amount of food we need.”

In a statement provided to the Guardian, Elizabeth Andoh-Kesson, food policy advisor at the British Retail Consortium, said: “Food safety is a top priority for our members and they expect their suppliers to comply with all legal requirements.

“The approval of pesticides used on food is governed by EU regulations and underpinned by a comprehensive scientific review. The UK government regularly reviews and reports on the presence of pesticide residues in food and this considers the effect of multiple residues.”

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