Ed Bedington Somerfield has hit back at environmental campaigners, branding their report into pesticide residue levels as "scandalous". Friends of the Earth had placed the multiple top of a league table of nine retailers, claiming 60% of its fruit and veg contained residues. The survey was based on data published by the Pesticides Safety Directorate between 1998 and 2001. The information is published quarterly, with the latest figures for 2002 out this week. Sandra Bell, pesticide campaigner at FoE said: "Both the government and retailers aren't doing enough to help farmers reduce pesticide use and find alternatives." Praise was given, though, to M&S and the Co-operative Group for their efforts to reduce levels. However Somerfield said the report ignored the fact the levels of pesticides discovered were all within government safety limits. A spokesman said: "Pesticides are part and parcel of conventional farming which supplies 95% of fresh produce. For a safe, efficient industry, pesticides are a reality." He said Somerfield was looking to reduce those levels through its integrated crop management scheme. The Food Standards Agency had acknowledged the huge benefits of increased fresh food consumption far outweighed any risk, he said. A printed statement to reassure customers is now being distributed to stores, even as Somerfield prepared to launch its Five-a-Day project to encourage more fresh produce consumption. Marks and Spencer, placed second in the league with 49%, welcomed the survey and said it highlighted the work it had undertaken to reduce levels. Tesco, placed joint fourth with Asda and Sainsbury on 48%, issued a statement reassuring customers and insisting they were working hard to reduce levels. {{NEWS }}