New USDA Report Again Shows Consumers Can Eat Organic and Conventional Produce With Confidence

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  February 24, 2014

Contact:  Marilyn Dolan or Teresa Thorne

(831)786-1666

Watsonville, CA – As it does each year, the United States Department of Food and Agriculture’s (USDA) Pesticide Data Program (PDP) released the most recent results of its pesticide residue monitoring program this month.  This year, as in previous years, the USDA concluded that the “report confirms that U.S. food does not pose a safety concern based upon pesticide residues.” The findings illustrate again that both conventional and organic fruits and vegetables are safe and that consumers can eat more of both with confidence.

According to the USDA press release, “The Pesticide Data Program provides reliable data through rigorous sampling that helps assure consumers that the produce they feed their families is safe.” And, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stated that, “The newest data from the PDP program confirm that pesticide residues in food do not pose a safety concern for Americans.  EPA remains committed to a rigorous, science-based and transparent regulatory program for pesticides that continues to protect people’s health and the environment.”

Similar to previous years, the 2012 report shows that overall pesticide chemical residues found on foods tested are at levels well below the tolerances set by the EPA. Using a rigorous statistical approach to sampling along with the most current laboratory methods, the PDP report findings show that 99 percent of food samples analyzed did not contain pesticide residues above safety levels set by the EPA.  The USDA PDP tracks and monitors pesticide residues on foods and provides the U.S. EPA with the pesticide information to ensure that EPA’s stringent use standards are being followed.  A full copy of the report can be found here.

In addition to USDA and EPA, the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as well as numerous state and county agencies monitor, oversee and enforce pesticide regulations in the U.S.  In fact, the government testing requirements for pesticides allowed for use on foods are more extensive than for chemicals in any other category.  The U.S. system regulating pesticides is also more stringent than the European standards.  To learn more about the regulatory standards in place governing the approval and use of organic and conventional pesticides, visit the Alliance for Food and Farming’s (AFF) new and updated webpage launched in January.

Consumers should also be reassured by the decades of nutritional studies that show increased consumption of fruits and vegetables improves overall health and can prevent diseases.  These studies were largely conducted using conventionally grown produce.  Most recently, a peer reviewed analysis that appeared in Food and Chemical Toxicology showed that if half of all Americans simply increased their consumption of fruits and vegetables by a single serving each day, 20,000 cancer cases could be prevented per year.  The same study also concluded that 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.”

In 2010, the Alliance for Food and Farming began an effort to provide consumers with credible, science-based information about the safety of all fruits and vegetables in an effort to counter misinformation about produce safety which may be negatively impacting consumption. The cornerstone of this effort is the website www.safefruitsandveggies.com which contains information from experts in toxicology, nutrition, risk analysis and farming.  The site is designed to encourage increased consumption of all fruits and vegetables – whether they are organic or conventionally grown. 

“A key piece of information on this website is an Expert Panel Report conducted by five scientists who reviewed claims made by activist groups about the safety of fruits and vegetables with respect to pesticide residues,” said Marilyn Dolan, Executive Director of the AFF.  “This panel of scientists was clear that the food safety systems imposed by the government are health protective for all consumers, including infants, children and pregnant women.”

The website also has a “calculator” section where consumers can calculate the very high number of servings of various fruits and vegetables that children, teenagers, women and men could eat and still not experience any effect at all from minute amounts of pesticide residues that may be present.  This “calculator” section is based upon analyses by a toxicologist with the University of California’s Personal Chemical Exposure Program.

But, what if consumers are still concerned about pesticide residues?  “Follow the advice of FDA and USDA and just wash it,” Dolan says.  The FDA states that by simply washing produce under running tap water, you can often remove or eliminate any minute residues which may be present.  And, the USDA states that “We encourage everyone to continue to eat more fruits and vegetables in every meal and wash them before you do so.”

“Washing is a healthful habit that consumers should use for both organic or conventionally grown produce,” Dolan adds.

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The Alliance for Food and Farming is a non-profit organization formed in 1989 which represents organic and conventional farmers and farms of all sizes.  AFF contributors are limited to farmers of fruits and vegetables, companies that sell, market or ship fruits and vegetables or organizations that represent produce farmers.  Our mission is to deliver credible information to consumers about the safety of all fruits and vegetables.  The AFF does not engage in lobbying nor do we accept any money or support from the pesticide industry.