Many every foods are contaminated with chemicals, says a report by the World Wildlife Fund.
A series of tests looked for eight groups of chemicals, including banned pesticides, artificial perfumes and industrial chemicals, in 27 different supermarket food. These included fish fingers, cheddar cheese, sausages, smoked salmon, tinned tuna and brown bread.
All the samples contained traces of at least one pollutant. Some were contaminated with several. Although the levels of toxins individually are not dangerous, the cumulative effect over years could be damaging.
Many of the compounds have been linked to cancers, genital abnormalities and birth defects. Even babies in the womb are in danger, as compounds enter the bloodstream through the umbilical cord, studies have shown.
Fish fingers were found to contain traces of several different types of chemical, including PCBs, industrial chemicals linked to liver cancer and male fertility problems.
Bought in a British supermarket, they also contained remnants of DDT, a banned pesticide linked to cancer.
Scottish cheddar contained one of the highest levels of flame retardants, compounds used in furniture and electrical products, and linked to problems with brain development and learning difficulties.
Meanwhile, olive oil had some of the highest levels of phthalates. Used in soap, make-up and plastics, they have been shown to disrupt the development of baby boys’ reproductive organs.
Some of the foods tested were bought on the Continent, but the majority were bought in the UK. The report warns that no one knows how the different pollutants interact and affect the body.
The WWF, which wants laws governing the use of chemicals to be bolstered, blames years of lax regulation for allowing them to enter the food chain.
All the chemicals are or have been used in everyday products such as food packaging and saucepans and are widely dispersed in the atmosphere and soil.