Greenpeace testing finds illegal pesticide levels in Tesco's China produce

Press release - 2011-09-08
Greenpeace has called on UK supermarket giant Tesco to sell safe food in China after testing revealed illegal levels of pesticides in agricultural products sold at Tesco's China stores. Greenpeace-commissioned testing of fruit, vegetables and rice showed traces of pesticide that the EU indicates can harm unborn babies, disrupt hormones and may be linked to male infertility. Samples of strawberries, for example, sold at a Tesco store in China contained levels of pesticides above China's national legal limit.

Greenpeace volunteers at Tesco's China headquarters in Beijing.

“I am sure British people expect the fruit and vegetables they buy at Tesco shops in the UK are safe to eat, so why shouldn’t this be the case in China?” said Greenpeace Food and Agriculture Campaigner Wang Jing. “Tesco is not complying with the law in China. It is shirking its responsibility to protect the wellbeing of its customers and the environment. Its negligence is in stark contrast to overseas retailers operating in China that have already committed to remove the more harmful pesticides from their produce, such as France’s Carrefour and Auchan, and Japan’s Aeon (Jusco) and Ito Yokado.”

Earlier this week, Greenpeace personally presented a letter to Tesco’s China headquarters in Beijing requesting the supermarket chain ensure its agricultural suppliers stop using harmful and, in some cases, illegal pesticides, and to make its produce supply chains are transparent. Testing found that a type of leafy spinach sold at a Tesco store contained two kinds of pesticides, methamidophos and monocrotophos, which have been banned in China since 2007. The World Health Organisation classifies these two pesticides as highly hazardous.

The disturbing Tesco test results were revealed as part of a wider Greenpeace study of pesticide residues on agricultural goods sold at Chinese stores owned by Tesco and two other major supermarket chains, Thailand’s Lotus and China’s Bailian Group. Greenpeace tested a total of 50 vegetable and fruit samples, along with 12 rice samples bought between April and July in the Chinese cities of Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Wuhan, Chengdu and Hangzhou.

Wang said that among the tested 50 vegetable and fruit samples, 35 contained pesticides, many of which are proven to be harmful to shoppers and - even more so - to the farmers that use them. “Minor residues were found on the rice sample,” she said. “Since some of the grain tested was harvested more than a year ago, this indicates the persistence of these chemicals. It is worrying to see that there has been little improvement since Greenpeace last measured the pesticide levels of agricultural produce sold by major supermarket chains in China three years ago.”

Greenpeace is calling on all supermarket chains to immediately ban the use of the most harmful pesticides from food grown to be sold in their stores. According to its website, Tesco currently operates 93 hypermarkets and 12 Express stores throughout China.

Media Contacts:

Simon Pollock, International Communications Officer

Mobile: +86 139 1151 5405

Wang Jing, Food and Agriculture Campaigner

Office: +86 10 6554 6931*153