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Nutrition Library: Food Safety

Pesticides and Food



Pesticides are used to protect food from pests, such as insects, rodents, weeds, mold, and bacteria. While pesticides have important uses, studies show that some pesticides cause health problems at certain levels of exposure. To protect your health, the Environmental Proctection Agency (EPA) sets standards on the amount of pesticides that may remain on food, if pesticides are applied.

The Food Quality Protection Act, signed into law by President Clinton in 1996, now sets a tougher standard for pesticide use on food. EPA will consider the public's overall exposure to pesticides (through food, water, and in home environments) when making decisions to set standards for pesticides use on food.

Infants and children may be more vulnerable to pesticide exposure

The Food Quality Protection Act, signed into law by President Clinton in 1996, now sets a tougher standard for pesticide use on food. EPA will consider the public's overall exposure to pesticides (through food, water, and in home environments) when making decisions to set standards for pesticides use on food.

Most importantly, each of these decisions must protect infants and children, whose developing bodies may be especially vulnerable to pesticide exposure.

Since their internal organs are still developing and maturing, infants and children may be more vulnerable to health risks posed by pesticides. In relation to their body weight, infants and children eat and drink more than adults, which may increase their exposure to pesticides in food and water. Certain behaviors -- such as playing on floors or lawns or putting objects in their mouths -- increase a child's exposure to pesticides used in the homes and yards.

By 2006, EPA must review all old pesticides to make sure that their use on food meets the new, tougher safety standard. At the same time, the federal government is encouraging the innovation of safer pesticides that are less likely to cause health problems.

Health, Sensible Food Practices

WASHING: Wash and scrub all fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water. Running water has an abrasive effect that soaking does not have. This will help remove bacteria and traces of chemicals from the surface of fruits vegetables and dirt from crevices. Not all pesticide residues can be removed by washing.

PEELING and TRIMMING: Peel fruits and vegetables when possible to reduce dirt, bacteria, and pesticides. Discard outer leaves of leafy vegetables. Trim fat from meat and skin from poultry and fish because some pesticides residues collect in fat.

SELECTING A VARIETY OF FOODS: Eat a variety of foods, from a variety of sources. This will give you a better mix of nutrients and reduce your likelihood of exposure to a single pesticide.

What about organic or IPM-grown food?

Your grocer may be able to provide you with information about the availability of food grown using Integrated Pest Management (IPM) or organic practices; however there are currently no national standards on these farming practices.

 

(Reprinted with permission from the US General Services Administration)





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