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Pesticide residues in food




  • U eat pesticidesAny pesticide that remains in or on food or feed is called a residue. Residues that remain in food or feed at harvest or slaughter are monitored to avoid hazards to the humans and domestic animals that will eat them.The Food Quality Protection Act, passed in 1996, establishes a strong, health-based safety standard for pesticide residues in all foods. The food safety standard for pesticide residues in food is a “reasonable certainty of no harm” standard for aggregate exposure using dietary residues and all other reliable exposure information.

     

    Tolerances: EPA establishes maximum residue levels (tolerances) when registering a pesticide. A tolerance is the maximum amount of pesticide residue that may legally remain on or in treated crops and animals (and animal products such as milk or eggs) that are to be sold for food or feed. Tolerances are enforced by the Department of Health and Human Services/Food and Drug Administration for most foods, and by the U.S. Department of Agriculture/Food Safety and Inspection Service for meat, poultry, and some egg products. Surveys of pesticide residues in food typically reveal that the vast majority of samples are below tolerance.

     

    Risks to Children: When setting new or reassessing existing tolerances or tolerance exemptions under the new standard, EPA must focus explicitly on exposures and risks to children and infants. EPA must

     

    explicitly determine that the tolerance, or exemption from tolerance, is safe for children

    consider the need for an additional safety factor of up to ten-fold to account for uncertainty in the data base relative to children unless there is evidence that a different factor should be used

    consider children’s special sensitivities and often unique exposure patterns to pesticides.

    Non-Occupational Exposures: In addition, when making a determination as to whether or not there is a reasonable certainty that a pesticide chemical will cause “no harm,” EPA must consider other non-occupational sources of pesticide exposure when performing risk assessments and setting tolerances. This includes dietary exposure from drinking water, non-occupational exposure, exposure from like pesticides that share a common mechanism of toxicity, as well as other exposure scenarios.

     

    Endocrine Disruptors: When setting new or reassessing existing tolerances and tolerance exemptions, EPA must also evaluate the potential for endocrine disruption. The law directs the Agency to use its authority to require specific tests and information on estrogenic effects for all pesticide chemical residues.

     

    Consumer Actions: Consumers can reduce exposure to pesticide residues by washing fresh fruits and vegetables with water, peeling, scrubbing with a brush, and throwing away the outer leaves of leafy vegetables such as lettuce and cabbage, unless such trimming has already been done by the grocer. Although these activities may not remove all residues, they may significantly reduce the amount of any remaining pesticides. In addition, cooking often removes or reduces pesticide residues

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