Your Fruits and Veggies
are Safer than you Think
The Expert Panel Report - "Dirty" Produce Lists
- Should I be worried about pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables?
- Repeated government testing has found that any pesticide residue that may be present on fruits and vegetables is so small that there is virtually no risk to you or to your children. Health experts around the world agree the best thing you can do for good health is to eat more fruit and vegetables. In fact, fruits and vegetables should account for half of what you eat every day.
- I have seen and heard a lot about pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables. How do I know for sure that they are safe?
- An analysis conducted by a panel of experts recently found that the often cited "dirty" lists of produce items are misleading to consumers, that there is no evidence that the pesticide levels found pose any health risk, and that these lists should not be used to guide purchasing decisions for fruits and vegetables.
- What about reports which say that we should avoid eating certain fruits and vegetables because of pesticide residues and that we should eat organic instead?
- Advances in science now allow pesticide residues to be detected in such small amounts that it is possible to measure a single molecule of a pesticide on a food. Scientists and toxicologists stress that just because we are able to detect a small amount of a pesticide residue on a food, does not mean it is unsafe. Avoiding certain fruits and vegetables is bad advice since scientists are not sure what components in fruits and vegetables provide the most health benefits. For now, they recommend eating a wide variety and not restricting intake of any certain item. But, consumers should be reassured that whether they choose organic or conventionally grown fruits and vegetables that both are very safe.
- But what about the long-term effects of eating pesticide residues?
- Over many decades of observing people's diets, scientists have found the healthiest people are those who eat plenty of fruits and vegetables — even if these people eat conventionally grown produce. Your mom and grandmother were right. If you want to live a healthy and long life and you want your children to be as healthy as they can be, make sure to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Don't let anyone discourage you from enjoying your favorite fruit or vegetable grown by caring and passionate farming families across the nation.
- What about feeding fruits and vegetables grown conventionally to my small children?
- The amount of pesticide residues that may be found on fruits and vegetables are so small that a child
would have to eat hundreds of servings in a single day and still not experience any health effects
from pesticide residues. It is also important to remember that farmers feed what they grow to their
own children so safety is of the utmost priority to them.
Further, U.S. laws governing the safety of pesticides are required to take into account their effects on
developing fetuses. Additional safety factors are included for infants and children. Combined risks
from other sources or multiple pesticides are also considered when setting safety limits for pesticide
residues on foods.
- Why are these "dirty" lists a public health concern?
- Consumer research and reports from nutrition experts indicate that people may be decreasing their
consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables because of concern about pesticide residues. And, a
recent report by the Centers for Disease Control found that consumption of fruits and vegetables is
actually declining among American consumers. This trend seems to be more prevalent among low
income consumers. Finally, the expert panel which reviewed the "dirty" lists found that this list can
discourage consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables at a time when obesity and heart disease are
on the rise.
- Who ensures that fruits and vegetables are safe?
- The U.S. government requires more testing for pesticides than any other chemical. The U.S.
Department of Agriculture regularly monitors fruits and vegetables sold in the U.S., particularly those
consumed in large quantities by children, to ensure that pesticide residues are at safe levels. Year,
after year, the USDA finds that residue levels, with very rare exception, are well below the legal limits
established by the Environmental Protection Agency.
- What about laws governing farmers and what pesticides they can apply to their crops?
- Farmers who produce fruits and vegetables are under stringent regulations. In California, for
example, farmers must follow over 70 laws before they can apply most pesticides. And, remember,
these farmers feed what they grow to their own families so it is a priority for them to farm safely.
- Is there anything else I can do to ensure the safety of the fruits and vegetables I feed my
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration states that washing fresh produce before eating is a healthful habit. You can reduce and often eliminate residues if they are present on fresh fruits and vegetables by practicing the following tips: Wash produce with large amounts of cold or warm tap water, and scrub with a brush when appropriate. Do not use soap. Throw away the outer leaves of leafy vegetables such as lettuce and cabbage.
About the Expert Panel Report Authors and its Funders
- Who conducted the expert panel review of the "dirty" lists and why?
- The Alliance for Food and Farming, a non-profit organization representing fruit and vegetable
farmers, had a panel of experts review the "dirty" lists to find out if there is any scientific evidence
linking pesticide residues on their products to any adverse health effects.
- Who is behind the Alliance for Food and Farming?
- The Alliance for Food and Farming is a non-profit organization made up of U.S. farmers and groups
representing farmers. The organization operates on voluntary contributions from farmers of all sizes
ranging from large to small farming operations with both organic and conventional production.
- Who are the experts on the panel and what are their qualifications?
- The expert panel includes five independent scientists with expertise in toxicology, pharmacology, risk
assessment and nutrition. You may read more about them here. The report has been submitted to a
scientific journal for peer review. This peer review process is extremely important so the media and
health professionals know the information is credible and the process has been transparent. Without
the peer review process, methodologies, transparency and the scientific validity of an analysis or
study cannot be fully verified.