Dangerous food products found online by West Sussex Trading Standards

A sampling program funded by the Food Standards Agency and carried out by West Sussex County Council Trading Standards found nearly half of packets of dried beans bought online contained unsafe amounts of pesticide residues.

Officers bought a total of 30 bags of various dried beans and from this sample, 14 were found to contain unsafe levels of pesticide residues and a further six had issues with labelling, health claims and in one case claiming to be “organic” when the product was not.

The products were bought from businesses directly online and via online marketplace sites.

Peter Aston, Trading Standards Team Manager, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has meant that many people haven’t been able to go out and visit shops to buy their food products first-hand, so buying habits have changed to reflect this and sometimes it is just easier to find and buy certain products directly from independent websites and via online marketplaces.

“However, this means that the safety measures that are in place with supermarkets, local food businesses and other retailers to make sure that the food they sell to consumers is safe for consumption isn’t always being followed by people selling these products online, whether that is knowingly or unknowingly.

“In the case of one pack of honey beans from our sample testing, levels of the insecticide Dichlorvos was found in concentrations at least 100 times the legal permitted limit. Dichlorvos causes neurotoxic effects and the maximum amount that can be left on foods when sold is set at a safe level by law.

“Although none of the sellers were based in West Sussex, the products were of course available to consumers across the county and it is a timely reminder that we should all be more vigilant when we look to purchase anything online and make sure we are buying from a reputable seller.”

Recalls are taking place on the affected products and investigations are continuing into the reasons for the excessive levels of pesticides residues on the products, including what checks the sellers made or didn’t make to ensure the safety of the beans.

Duncan Crow, Cabinet Member for Community Support, Fire and Rescue at the county council said: “Whether people shop with local businesses, big supermarket chains or with online retailers, they should always be confident that the products they are buying meet the standards set out by the Food Standards Agency.

“In the case of the dried beans purchased by Trading Standards, out of the 30 bags bought, two-thirds had issues, which is a real concern. I would encourage anyone buying food products online to really take the time to research what they are buying and make sure it comes from a reputable retailer. However, if you do buy a product and find that there is an issue with it, you can always report it to our Trading Standards Team who will be happy to investigate further.”

Anyone who thinks they have been a victim of an unfair trading practice can contact Trading Standards via Citizens Advice on 0808 223 1133 or report it online by clicking here.

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