The release of the United States Department of Food and Agriculture’s Pesticide Data Program results should reinforce to consumers that both conventional and organic fruits and vegetables are being grown in an extremely safe manner.  Moreover, consumers shouldn’t hesitate to follow the advice of the First Lady and health officials everywhere and eat more servings of produce every day.  

“For all of us involved in promoting better consumer health, increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables is among our main objectives,” says Dr. Carl Keen, Professor of Nutrition and Internal Medicine at University of California, Davis.  “The health benefits of consuming a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is indisputable.  Currently research suggests that most individuals would benefit from increasing their intake of fruits and vegetables, and this is true regardless if the produce is grown using conventional or organic practices.  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.  This new USDA report, in my opinion, underscores this point.”

According to a USDA press release, this year’s report shows that overall pesticide residues found on foods tested are at levels below the tolerances (maximum legal residue levels) set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Using a rigorous statistical approach to sampling along with the most current laboratory methods, the PDP report findings show that more than 95 percent of food samples analyzed did not contain pesticide residues above safety levels set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  The USDA PDP tracks and monitors pesticide residues on foods and provides the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with the pesticide information to ensure that EPA’s stringent use standards are being followed.  

This year’s report is accompanied with information for consumers including a list of frequently asked questions and statements from a number of government entities stating as follows:

“Based on the PDP data from this report, parents and caregivers can continue to feed infants their regular baby foods without being concerned about the possible presence of unlawful pesticide chemical residues.”  U.S. Food and Drug Administration

“The data confirms EPA’s success in phasing- out pesticides used in children’s food for safer pesticides and pest control techniques.  The very small amounts of pesticide residues found in the baby food samples were well below levels that are harmful to children.” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“Age-old advice remains the same: eat more fruits and vegetables and wash them before you do so.  Health and nutrition experts encourage the consumption of fruits and vegetables in every meal as part of a healthy diet.  This message is affirmed in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans released last year, in USDA’s My Plate, as well as federal nutrition guidance that urges people to make half their plate fruits and vegetables.” United States Department of Agriculture.

A full copy of the report and accompanying materials can be found at www.ams.usda.gov/pdp.