(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.
“United Fresh is gratified that the USDA’s 2010 PDP report verifies the safety of consuming fruits and vegetables at every meal,” Ray Gilmer, vice president of communications for Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association, said in a statement.
According to the 2010 report, overall pesticide residues found on foods tested are at levels well below the tolerances set by the EPA.
Only 0.25% of samples — fresh and processed fruit and vegetables, oats, eggs, catfish, baby food, groundwater, and treated and untreated drinking water — tested at levels exceeding EPA tolerances, according to the release.
Of the 12,845 samples collected and analyzed, the USDA said 10,974 were fresh and processed fruit and vegetable commodities, 299 were oat samples, 371 were egg samples, 384 were catfish samples, 250 were groundwater samples, and 567 were drinking water samples.
Industry sources said the data affirms that consumers would benefit from eating more produce, whether that produce is conventionally grown or organic.