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Monitoring of lettuce and spinach for nitrate content 2006 - 2008
Project Code: C04056
During 2004 the Food Standards Agency carried out a monitoring programme for nitrate in lettuce and spinach. The results of this monitoring programme are reported here. Two hundred samples of UK lettuces and spinach were sampled from eight growing regions across the UK. The samples were collected by ADAS Ltd. Analyses for nitrate were carried out by Direct Laboratories.
Maximum permitted levels of nitrate in lettuce and spinach are set by EU legislation. This legislation allows an optional transitional period (termed a ’derogation’) during which the limits do not apply. Several Member States, including the UK, applied this derogation, which ended on 1 January 2005 for lettuce. An extension of this derogation is currently under consideration within the EU. The derogation for spinach is currently being reviewed.
During 2004, 118 samples of UK-grown lettuce (excluding iceberg) were collected and analysed. Twelve of these samples (10%) would be above the limits if they applied in the UK. Forty-one samples of iceberg lettuce were analysed, none of which exceeded the limits. Forty samples of spinach were analysed and five (13%) would be above the limits if they applied in the UK. One sample of rocket was also analysed. No sources of winter spinach were found and no frozen or preserved spinach of UK origin were located in retail outlets.
Estimations of nitrate intake show that the highest nitrate levels in lettuce and spinach found during the UK Monitoring Programme are unlikely to cause even high-level (97.5th percentile) consumers of lettuce or of spinach to exceed the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) as set by the Scientific Committee for Food, taking into account all sources of nitrate in the diet. There is therefore no concern for consumer health due to levels of nitrate in UK-grown lettuce or spinach.
The Food Survey Information Sheet (74/05) for this survey can be found at: http://www.food.gov.uk/science/surveillance/fsis2005/fsis7404
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