Fruit and vegetables ‘should be washed with baking powder’ The traditional raising agent, usually added to flour for cakes and sponges, beat both water and weak bleach at removing traces of the chemicals in trials. Pesticides can help increase crop yields but concerns over their effects on health have been raised in recent years. Last month it was revealed that the fruit and veg handed out to children by schools in a Government scheme carried even more pesticide traces than standard supermarket produce. In the latest study, scientists put two common pesticides – the fungicide thiabendazole, which is absorbed through apple skin, and the insecticide phosmet – on to organic Gala apples. They then washed them with three different liquids – tap water, a bleach solution and one per cent baking powder mixed with water. Baking powder proved to be the most effective but it took up to 15 minutes of gentle cleaning to get rid of all the lingering chemicals, scientists found. Peeling apples was the only way to remove pesticides that had been absorbed. Research leader Dr Lili He, of the department of food science at Massachusetts University, in the US, said: “The use of pesticides in agriculture has led to an increase in farm productivity. “However, pesticide residues may remain on agricultural produce where they contribute to the total dietary intake of pesticides. “Concerns about potential hazards of pesticides to food safety and human health have increased and therefore it is desirable to reduce these residues. “The standard post-harvest method with bleach solution and a two-minute wash did not effectively remove these pesticides. ” She added: “For apples, the peel can easily be removed. “However, important nutrients such as polyphenolic compounds, fibres, pigments, vitamins and minerals will also be lost. ” In September, analysis by Pesticide Action Network UK (PAN UK) found British schoolchildren are being exposed to pesticides. Millions of portions of fruit and vegetables are given to 2. 3 million children aged four to six under a £40million-a-year scheme funded by the Department of Health. Samples of fruit and veg handed out included apples that had traces of 11 chemicals. One sample of raisins imported from Turkey contained residue of 13 pesticides. A pear imported from Portugal bore traces of nine. PAN UK said more of these carry pesticide traces than regular supermarket fruit and veg.