USDA finds pesticide food scare unwarranted

05/25/2012 12:44:00 PM
Tom Karst

(UPDATED COVERAGE, May 31) The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s pesticide residue data on fresh produce and other foods confirms that the residues do not pose safety concerns, according to the agency.

The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service released the 2010 Pesticide Data Program Annual Summary on May 25. The website also features a guide about the report for consumers.

Data from the PDP, which began in 1991, has been used by the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Working Group since 1995 to compose its “Dirty Dozen” list of produce with the most pesticide residues.

Alex Formuzis, vice president of media relations for the Environmental Working Group, Washington, D.C., said May 31 that the group had no immediate comment about the release of the PDP data. However, he did say EWG plans to release its annual “Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce” — including the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists — later in June.

Since 2010, the Watsonville, Calif.-based Alliance for Food and Farming has led industry efforts to refute consumer impressions that produce has pesticide levels that warrant a food safety concern.

USDA and other federal officials emphasized the safety of the food supply in a news release about the report.

“Age-old advice remains the same: eat more fruits and vegetables and wash them before you do so,” according to the release. “Health and nutrition experts encourage the consumption of fruits and vegetables in every meal as part of a healthy diet.”

A statement from the Environmental Protection Agency said the latest PDP data confirms the agency’s success approving safer pesticides and pest control techniques.

“The potential health benefits of increasing one’s produce intake clearly outweigh the hypothetical risks associated with the ingestion of the trace amounts of pesticides that might be associated with these foods,”

Dr. Carl Keen, professor of Nutrition and Internal Medicine at University of California-Davis, said in a news release from the alliance.

Industry sources said the letter should make it clear to consumers that fruits and vegetables are safe.

“It’s irresponsible for anyone to misuse this report to scare consumers away from affordable fruits and vegetables that they enjoy, making the work of improving the diets of Americans more difficult,” Joe Pezzini, chief operating officer of Ocean Mist Farms in Castroville, Calif., said in statement.


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Marilyn F Dolan    
Watsonville, CA  |  May, 25, 2012 at 06:13 PM

Learn more about the issue of pesticide residues on fruits and veggies at www.safefruitsandveggies.com or visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/safefruitsandveggies It's important consumers understand more and have credible information about their food.

John    
Peshastin Wa.  |  May, 29, 2012 at 09:22 AM

This is further proof that the attack on conventional fruit and produce by eco-terrorists misguides a large sector of the population. the statements that any food other than organic being dangerous is an attack on the most incredible industry in the world;modern agriculture, horticulture, packing, shipping and retailing and the overall quality of American food products. Imports and organics are not at fault. The agenda of a small cult needs to be exposed for the fiction of its attack on free enterprise.

J. Appleseed    
Colorado  |  May, 29, 2012 at 10:33 AM

So let me get this straight. Conventional produce growers are highlighting a report by one government agency that reaches conclusions based on another government agency's assumptions about pesticide safety. So the next report will be the EPA announcing that it has confirmed its assumptions based on the USDA report stating that pesticides residues are safe? I think the propaganda folks need to be a little more sophisticated when the put these pieces together. People choose organic argriculture for a myriad of reasons. It is unbecoming of The Packer and PMA to participate in this type of smear campaign. Organic education has done more to increase demand within the produce industry than any other effort. You all should really rethink this negative strategy. Thanks for your time.

Nancy Kelso    
San Francisco  |  May, 29, 2012 at 10:44 AM

I agree with J. Appleseed that Organic education has done so much for the safety of our food sources. I do not see where the above report is a "Smear Campaign" though. I eat organic but for those who do not have access to organic and for those who cannot afford it, it is some comfort that the other choices are becoming healthier choices, especially if we don't have a choice.

J. Appleseed    
EcoTerrorVille  |  May, 29, 2012 at 11:26 AM

LOL. That's me, ecoterrorist. Yep. My point is that this kind of preaching-to-choir pseudo info campaign does not change anything or inform anyone. Someone somewhere spend the Association's money putting this together merely to create content for today's post. I can give you a hundred reasons why GMO and conventional farmers prefer those systems, but I doubt can the PMA communicate why the ecoterrorists prefer organic? With organic consumption tripling in the last ten years, you would think a report on pesticide danger would be placed in a broader context of what factors are diving organic demand. If PMA folks think it is hate of conventional farmers, I can't stop that. But I can tell you there is a lot more to it that the industry should be thinking about. For EcoTerrorists everywhere, please have a great day!

Molly in San Diego    
San Diego  |  May, 29, 2012 at 12:00 PM

I'm an "industry insider" in San Diego who owns a distribution business shipping country-wide. As one who regularly speaks with growers, both conventional and organic, let me tell you candidly that I don't eat organic produce - ever. The fertilizer used on organic produce, and its many specific requirements that often are not followed accurately because they're apparently too time-consuming, have convinced me that I would rather ingest trace amounts of pesticides than take the chance of ingesting potentially harmful or fatal pathogens. If you're growing your own organic produce, and can rest assured that you have accurately prepared the fertilizer applied, then you are probably safe eating organic produce. Otherwise, I'll stick with conventionally-grown produce, thank you!

Clint Albano    
Muscat, Oman  |  May, 29, 2012 at 02:32 PM

Ooooh, now I have an ever so small hope that the silly fraud that is organic farming will one day take its place along side other frauds like phrenology, astrology, alien invadors,psychics, and on and on. The USDA was incredibily stupid and derilict to have ever gotten involved in "organic" standards in the first place. I am happy that finally they have the courage to buck the fashionable nonsense about "organic" (note the quotation marks) food.

Dr R    
Seattle  |  May, 30, 2012 at 03:40 PM

Absolutely absurd and technically fraud. At issue is the definition of what the USDA delineates as safe and as safe levels. If the EPA does not forbid the use of a pesticide then the USDA does not have the legal authority to monitor it in any way defensive to your health. Put another way: atrazine is listed as an endocrine-disruptor yet it is legal for farmers to use it. Therefore residue amounts of atrazine are not monitored by USDA. Same for Roundup/Glyphosate which is classified as a carcinogenic compound BUT perfectly legal to use. The real issue is why the USDA has decided to kta of the EPA and farmer associations by touting that the foods grown here are safe. That is the issue. Wait: is there an election coming up this year? Oh that explains everything. Odumma not wanting to upset any voting block…

Bernie    
Victoria, BC  |  May, 30, 2012 at 06:14 PM

It would have been nice to see an intelligent discussion on this topic with a little more depth of information. J.Appleseed's point has merrit. So what if the USDA, the EPA and PDP all back each other up. Is that really a surprise. What about an independent, non-government, non-ag marketing agency researcher. The EPA is famous for backing up large industry players and even using chemical company employees to conduct the "independent" studies approving use. We're supposed to believe they are on the side of the consumer?

    
May, 31, 2012 at 05:53 AM

As usual will sort out the information. I am both, an ecoterrorist, and since retired more time to sort out the information. Plus reflect over the history in the last few years. I read things like the radical newspaper New York Times and traveled some, retired from nursing, much to reflect in that area regarding its connection with nutrition , health and evidence. I wonder why Cuba, with all its negative side is living as long as us......??? It is their medical model....or is it the pristine primal agriculture. Again, sort the information. Likewise all the new chapters of information about China on different frames. It is nice to have cheap food in the U.S. at what costs...to environment, ?? We must never forget the instant answers of the Iraq WAR..and all its dynamics. I hope we do not suffer the fate of the Greeks at its height, Athens...and in the war with Sparta...lost in history. I will continue doing my small experiments on a 5 acre plot, biotechnical journals, and keep posted for the best choices in our nation.

Alliance for Food and Farming    
Watsonville, CA  |  June, 01, 2012 at 02:33 PM

Why would Alex Formuzis of EWG decline to comment on the USDA PDP report? Since EWG repeatedly states that consumers should be eating more of both conventional and organic produce it would seem that EWG would be satisfied with a report that underscores the safety of these products. Maybe EWG will rethink their "no comment" and post something here.

ksteddom    
Texas  |  June, 03, 2012 at 05:54 PM

Just because something is natural does not mean it is safe. The most potent toxin know to mankind, botulism toxin, is 100% natural. Likewise the most potent carcinogen, aflatoxin, is also natural. Consider all of the reports on this site about food borne illness; also 100% natural. A pragmatic approach is needed in this discussion. Simply labeling one side as "ecoterrorists" or "in the pocket of corporate fat cats" leaves the consumers unprotected. Both sides of this argument need to back off and have meaningful discussions backed by scientific data, not hyperbole. Consumers are confronted daily by numerous "toxins", from the air we breath, the food we eat, and the goods we surround ourselves with. The EPA has developed standards for pesticide residues based on scientific data that try to minimize the risk to consumers. Their methods aren't perfect. Arguments should be focused on those specific residues that should have lower tolerances, not on ideological positions. We are busy telling consumers not to eat apples because they may have a very slight risk of exposure to a pesticide when they are exposed to a huge dose of toxins just by putting gas in their car while driving to the store.

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