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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Pesticides in your foods and how the US deals with the issue

The issue of pesticides in or on your food is important. Scientists do not know how long exposure to low levels of pesticides, or other chemicals, affect people and their health. In 1997 the US FDA tested 4501 domestic and 5342 imported food. According to this source, imported foods account for 10% of the US market. Imported foods come from 97 countries. Pesticides were found on 34% of the combined imported and domestic foods. Pesticide residues that violated FDA guidelines made up 1.2% of domestic foods, and 1.6% of foods imported to the US.

The issue of pesticides on imported foods is important because some countries do not have laws regarding pesticide residue on foods, or they simply don't enforce them. And some countries have more pesticide risk on their foods than others.

Some notes from a Consumer Reports article about pesticides on foods:
  1. The average American has 29 pesticides in their body. 
  2. Eating one serving of US green beans is 200x more risky than eating one serving of US-grown broccoli. 
  3. Consumer reports has a 31 page PDF paper entitled "From Crop To Table". It is a pdf that is free at the time of this blog post. 
Notes taken from "From Crop to Table".
  1. 10,000-20,000 pesticide poisonings are confirmed by doctors each year among 2 million farm workers. That's about 1% of farm workers.
  2. Studies show a correlation between fields where 2,4-D is used and people who live near these fields.  
  3. Almost all, but not all, pesticides are banned on US organic farms (page 25).
  4. PLU codes used on US produce are a standard code used to label produce in retail stores. A 4 digit code means it is not an organic product. A 5 digit code beginning with "9" means it is an organic product. (I am personally involved in making produce signs that use this PLU code.)
  5. Consumer Reports created a DRI (Dietary Risk Index) that takes into account the serving size of the food, the amount and frequency of the residues found, and other factors. 
  6. Starting on page 34, CR includes tables for each food and country of origin and calculates a DRI for each food based on the country, food, and farming method. Take a look, it's interesting. 
  7. Here are some non-organic fruits that are in the Very High risk category: peaches, tangerines, plums, nectarines, apples, strawberries. For a strawberry crop to remain profitable the farmers must use some pretty dangerous pesticides. Always wash foods thoroughly.  
  8. Here are some non-organic vegetables that are in the Very High risk category: green beans, sweet bell peppers, hot peppers. Here are veggies in the High risk category, excluding the duplicates from the Very High category: winter squash, cucumbers, summer squash, snap peas, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, cherry tomatoes. 
  9. This report also has DRI risk scores over time. Some scores have gone down (now with lower risk).
On this page is an interactive "wheel". Click on the food in the horizontal bar, and it will tell you the country or origin that is the safest for you (has the lowest DRI). For examples, apples from New Zealand have a lower DRI than apples from the US. This is why Country Of Origin Labeling laws, very much opposed by industry, are so important.

And why the EPA guidelines are broken:
In a 2010 report on environmental cancer risks, the President’s Cancer Panel (an expert committee that monitors the country’s cancer program) wrote: “The entire U.S. population is exposed on a daily basis to numerous agricultural chemicals. … Many of these chemicals have known or suspected carcinogenic or endocrine-disrupting properties.” Endocrine disruptors can block or mimic the action of hormones, even at low doses. “Endocrine effects aren’t sufficiently factored into the EPA pesticide-tolerance levels...”

1 comment:

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