While Activists Attempt to Heighten Concern, Let’s Take a Look At the Science

While Activists Attempt to Heighten Concern, Let’s Take a Look At the Science

6/7/2017 1:35 PM

To capitalize on recent events and the current political climate, certain activist groups have sought to inflame health concerns about minute levels of residues on produce as well as raise doubts about the stringent regulatory process in place to protect consumers.  But toxicology analyses and decades of nutrition research support that Americans enjoy very safe food and we should work to encourage, not discourage, consumption of fruits and veggies to improve public health and lifetime longevity.

Let’s review some of those studies and analyses.

Regarding activists’ residue exposure claims, a peer reviewed study in the International Journal of Food Contamination examined those exposures.  The study titled, “Chronic Dietary Exposure to Pesticide Residues in the United States,” provided updated estimates of dietary exposure to pesticides using Total Diet Study findings.  Among the conclusions:

  • Dietary exposure to pesticides continues to be at levels far below those of health concern.
  • Consumers should be encouraged to eat fruits, vegetables and grains and should not fear the low levels of pesticide residues (if present at all) found on such foods.

Another peer reviewed study published in Food and Chemical Toxicology examined the benefit of consuming a diet rich in conventionally grown produce with pesticide residue exposure and cancer risks. The findings: 

  • If half of all Americans increased their consumption of fruit and vegetables by a single serving each day, 20,000 cancer cases could be prevented each year.
  • The overwhelming difference between benefit and risk estimates provides confidence that consumers should not be concerned about cancer risks from consuming conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables.

Regarding claims about the regulatory system evaluating the safety of pesticides, the Alliance for Food and Farming (AFF) asked a group of experts in the areas of toxicology, risk analysis, medicine and pharmacology to examine that system.  Their findings: 

  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s current process for evaluating the potential risks of pesticides on food is rigorous and health-protective.
  • The EPA's testing requirements for pesticides used on food are more extensive than for chemicals used in any other category, and include testing targeted specifically to assess the potential risks to fetuses, infants and children.” 

(The AFF has a comprehensive list of those regulations governing the approval and use of organic and conventional pesticides here.)

Interestingly, the authors of the International Journal of Food Contamination paper also raised this concern in their conclusions:  "Consumer fears from pesticide residues provide the potential for consumers to reduce their consumption of fruits, vegetables and grains, negating the positive health benefits attributed to consumption of large amounts of such foods in one's diet.” 

Recently published peer reviewed research found this stated concern was warranted.  A study published in Nutrition Today found that misleading messaging which inaccurately describes certain fruits and vegetables as having “higher” pesticide residues results in low income shoppers reporting that they would be unlikely to purchase any fruits and vegetables – organically or non-organically grown.

Read, learn, choose but eat more organic and conventional fruits and veggies every day for better health and a longer life.


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