Curious of How Safe is Fresh Produce?

Residue Calculator Helps Public Understand How Safe Food Is

News Release

Recently, we have shared new government residue sampling results from the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR).  These programs consistently show that 99% of the foods sampled had no detectable residues at all or residues found were well below safety levels set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

For those who do not want to review these lengthy government reports, the Alliance for Food and Farming (AFF) created an easy-to-use “residue calculator” on safefruitsandveggies.com, which is based upon the USDA data.  We asked toxicologists with the University of California Personal Chemical Exposure Program to analyze this data.  Their findings: A child could literally eat hundreds to thousands of servings of a fruit or veggie in a day and still not have any health effects from residues.  This analysis shows how very minute residues are, if present at all.

The residue calculator features 19 of the most popular fruits and veggies, and you can click on a man, woman, teenager, or child to see the number of servings one would have to consume.  For example, a child could eat 181 servings or 1,448 strawberries in a day and still not have any effects from residues.  Apples?  A child could eat 340 apples in a day.  Kale?  7,446 servings!

These government reports and the UC toxicological analysis underscore the diligence of fruit and vegetable farmers when it comes to the judicious use of pesticides approved for organic and conventional crops.

“… Growers and farmers are adept at following our comprehensive rules to ensure produce is grown to the highest pesticide standards,” said Brian Leahy, Director of the California Department of Pesticide Regulation.

“Based on the PDP data, consumers can feel confident about eating a diet that is rich in fresh fruits and vegetables,” concludes the USDA report.

Read, learn, choose but eat more organic or conventional fruits and veggies for better health and longer life.

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CDPR: 96% of Produce has No Residue Or Far Below EPA Levels

CDPR Releases New Residue Results

News Release

Recently, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) released its 2017 Pesticide Residues in Fresh Produce report. During its 2017 survey, CDPR found 96 percent of all samples had no detectable pesticide residues or residues were below levels allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The CDPR report complements the recently released United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Pesticide Data Program results which found 99% percent of the foods sampled had no detectable residues or residues were well below EPA tolerances. The Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also conducts pesticide residue sampling.  FDA results mirrored the USDA’s.

The FDA, USDA and CDPR reports all concluded that these residue results should provide consumers with confidence about the safety of eating fruits and vegetables.

All three government reports garnered very little attention. However, this is reassuring food safety information that consumers should know. Instead, they often receive inaccurate assertions about residues carried by activist groups promoting one production method over another.

The Alliance for Food and Farming supports consumer choice by providing science-based facts to help them make the right shopping decisions for themselves and their families. Whether they choose organic or conventional produce, consumers should know that when it comes to residues, both production methods yield safe produce that can be eaten with confidence.


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2017 Produce Samples Survey Show Safeness For Consumers

Tests Show Low or No Pesticide Levels in Most Fruits and Vegetables in California

By Charlotte Fadipe, California DPR

Once again, tests showed that the vast majority of fresh produce collected by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) met national pesticide residue standards. During its 2017 survey, DPR found 96 percent of all samples had no detectable pesticide residues or were below levels allowed by the U.S. EPA.

The findings are included in DPR’s just released 2017 Pesticide Residues in Fresh Produce report.

“DPR carries out an extensive sampling of pesticides on fresh produce, and once again it shows that California consumers can be confident about eating fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Brian Leahy, Director of DPR. “California growers and farmers are adept at following our comprehensive rules to ensure produce is grown to the highest pesticide standards.”

Brian Leahy

The 2017 report is based on a year-round collection of 3,695 samples of produce from 28 different countries, including those labeled as “organic.” DPR scientists sampled produce from various grocery stores, farmers’ markets, food distribution centers, and other outlets throughout California. The produce is tested for more than 400 types of pesticides using state-of-the-art equipment operated by the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) sets levels for the maximum amounts of pesticide residue that can be present on fruits and vegetables, called a “tolerance.” It is a violation if any residue exceeds the tolerance for the specific fruit or vegetable, or if a pesticide is detected for which no tolerance has been established.

California Specific Results

More than a third of the country’s fruits and vegetables are grown in California, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). In 2017 DPR found:

-About 25 percent of all produce samples tested were labeled as Californian-grown,

-About 95 percent of these samples had no residues on them or were within the legal levels,

-About 5 percent of California samples had illegal residues, including kale and snow peas. These are pesticide residues in excess of the established tolerance or had illegal traces of pesticides that were not approved for that commodity. However, none of those residues were at a level that would pose a health risk to consumers.

Other highlights from the 2017 report include:

-41 percent of all produce samples had no detectable residues at all,

-55 percent had residues detected within the legal level.

-4 percent of all the samples had pesticide residues in excess of the established tolerance or had illegal traces of pesticides that were not approved for that commodity.

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Crop Protection: U.S. Food System Very Safe

Crop Protection Products are Highly Regulated

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

There’s no need to worry about crop protection products when you consume food, fruits and vegetables, and all the rest, as the materials are highly regulated.

“Chemicals are all around us. In fact, we are all made of chemicals, so the fear of chemicals is unnecessary. Chemicals can actually be very beneficial,” said Dr. Eliza Dunn, Medical Sciences and Outreach Lead for Bayer Crop Science. “Chemicals make antibiotics and vaccines, and all of that is really important because it’s in public health, and they also protect the food supply.”

And here’s a fact: Pesticides a more heavily regulated that antibiotics that we take and those antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals are highly regulated.

“You have to do lots of testing to get your pharmaceutical in the market. Testing and monitoring pesticides are the same way. Pesticides come up for reevaluation every 15 years, and they look at all of the data that’s involved in that 15 years to make sure there’s nothing new that can be concerning for human health,” Dunn explained.

“These agencies have the best interests of people at heart. I wouldn’t feed my kids something that I thought was worrisome. And I feed my kids fruits, vegetables, and other foods, and I don’t worry about the residues because it’s not going to cause harm,” she said.

Dunn also commented on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen List that they release each summer.

“It’s very unfortunate because it winds up causing people to get very worried about their food supply, and you can be absolutely reassured that the food supply in this country is safe and healthy and nutritious,” said Dunn. “We are so lucky to have access to such a fabulous food supply because there are other places in the world that don’t have access to that, and it’s because we have things like crop protection products that make sure that we have an access to that kind of food supply.”

As for the EWG’s statements that certain fruits have higher residues?

“That’s misinformation, unfortunately. They’re not toxic. We know that fruits and vegetables are healthy. If you are worried about residues, you can wash them off. It’s really fear-mongering, and that is irresponsible,” Dunn said.

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Safe Food Alliance Helps Farmers Cope with MRL Disharmony

California Farmers Cope with MRL Disharmony

 

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

 

California farmers are careful with crop protection products because they know the importance of producing safe and wholesome food for their customers across the nation and in their export markets. “However, I think that there are some real challenges facing growers in California today,” said Thomas Jones, senior analytical services director for the Fresno-based Safe Food Alliance.

“As growers send their commodities around the world, they’re facing increasing challenges of knowing the right chemicals to apply and at what levels. We have our own strict regulations within California, if needed, [that govern] not only the application but also the maximum residue levels (MRL) or tolerances allowed for various crops,” said Jones.

Thomas Jones, senior analytical services director, Safe Food Alliance, MRL Disharmony
Thomas Jones, senior analytical services director, Safe Food Alliance

“That’s also carried onto the federal level; we have very strict EPA regulations. But as we [export] into other countries, they may have entirely different regulations,” said Jones. He noted this could be confusing not only to farmers, but also to registrants of crop protection materials because there is a lack of standardization of MRLs in different countries.

“Historically, there was the CODEX system, a UN-based system geared towards a more international standard for pesticide residues. It was very thought out, and very scientifically based,” Jones said.

However, as Jones explained, many countries do not want to follow the important scientific standard. “Increasingly, we are seeing countries want to establish their own systems, their own tolerances. They may be responding to their own political pressures within their countries.”

“We are seeing a process called ‘deharmonization’ in which every country wants to establish its own positive list of what is allowed and what is not allowed in [farm] products. Sometimes, those are in agreement with U.S. regulations and California state regulations; sometimes they are not. So it is important that [our] growers know not only what is legal in this country and in our state, but also what is allowed in their target [export] markets.”

Jones commented it is now known that some of these marketers [apply] random low MRLs and keep other MRLs high on some of their own products in order to get a marketing edge. “Some of those MRLs may or may not be based on any scientific standards.”

“There are a number of great tools out there,” he said. “There are a number of great software programs. Obviously, anything that [information growers] can get out of the print media or any educational courses are really essential. It is important to work with your Pest Control Adviser (PCA), as well. It’s important that [farmers] know what they are up against, as far as growing these crops,” said Jones.

The Safe Food Alliance is available to growers to help them qualify to meet the standards in the U.S. and abroad. “We [provide] training twice a year on fumigation safety for the various processors of dried fruits and tree nuts. We focus particularly on commodity fumigations and on what treatments are allowed and not allowed. We also have a full-service pesticide-testing laboratory and are very aware of the requirements in these other countries, so we’re happy to help both processors and growers with our monitoring efforts,” noted Jones.


Featured Photo: For these California-grown peaches to be shippable to any out-of-state U.S. consumers or international export markets, they must meet scientific Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs).

C O D E X  A L I M E N T A R I U S, the international food standards, guidelines and codes of practice contribute to the safety, quality and fairness of the international food trade. Begun in 1963, Codex standards are based on the best available science assisted by independent international risk assessment bodies or ad-hoc consultations organized by Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO). Consumers can trust the safety and quality of the food products they buy and importers can trust that the food they ordered will be in accordance with their specifications.

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Fear-Based Messaging Reduces Produce Consumption – Both Organic and Conventional

New Study Finds Fear-Based Produce Safety Messaging Negatively Impacts Low Income Consumers’ Produce Consumption

 

New peer reviewed research, “Low-Income Shoppers and Fruit and Vegetables: What Do They Think?” published in Nutrition Today, shows fear-based messaging tactics used by activist groups and some organic marketers that invoke safety concerns about non-organic produce may be having a negative impact on produce consumption—fruits and veggies—among low income consumers, according to the Alliance for Food and Farming (AFF).Alliance for Food and Farming logo

Researchers at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s (IIT) Center for Nutrition Research surveyed low income consumers to learn more about what terms and information about fruits and vegetables may influence their shopping intentions. Among the key findings, misleading messaging which inaccurately describes certain fruits and vegetables as having “higher” pesticide residues results in low income shoppers reporting that they would be unlikely to purchase any fruits and vegetables – organically or non-organically grown.

illinois-institute-of-technology-institute-for-food-safety-and-health“We were surprised to see how informational content that named specific fruits and vegetables as having the highest pesticide residues increased the percentage of shoppers who said they would be unlikely to purchase any type of fruits and vegetables,” says Britt Burton-Freeman, associate professor of food science and nutrition, ITT’s Center for Nutrition Research. “The concern is that depending on the structure of the communication about pesticides and fruits and vegetables, this could turn people away from wanting to purchase any fresh produce.”

“Despite efforts by the health community, consumption of fruits and vegetables is stagnating,” says Elizabeth Pivonka, Ph.D, R.D. and president, Produce for Better Health Foundation. “This new study shows what we have been concerned about for some time, that safety fears may be another barrier to consumption of these healthy and nutritious foods. The impact of the fear-based messaging on low income consumers is especially troubling since many don’t have access or can’t afford non-Produce for Better Health, produce consumptionorganic produce.”

The findings are also concerning since the safety claims carried predominantly by groups like the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and Only Organic about pesticide residues have been repeatedly proven to be scientifically inaccurate. For the last 20 years, EWG annually releases a so-called “dirty dozen” list which urges consumers to eat only organic versions of popular produce items accompanied by misleading and unscientific claims regarding pesticide residue levels. A peer reviewed analysis of EWG’s list entitled, Dietary Exposure to Pesticide Residues from Commodities Alleged to Contain the Highest Contamination Levels and published by AFF showed that substitution of organic forms of produce for non-organic produce did not result in any decrease in risk because residue levels are so minute on these fruits and vegetables, if they are present at all.

“Their tactic clearly isn’t working and it’s actually backfiring since this research shows that consumers may react to their message by deciding not to buy any produce at all – organic or non-organic,” says Teresa Thorne of the AFF. “For the benefit of consumers, especially low income consumers, this study shows it is time for groups like EWG to rethink their strategy for promoting organics and move away from tactics intended to scare consumers from buying the more affordable and accessible produce items,” Thorne says.

john-hopkins-bloomberg-school-of-public-healthThis IIT research compliments the peer reviewed study by John Hopkins University’s Center for a Livable Future, They Just Say Organic Food Is Healthier”: Perceptions of Healthy Food among Supermarket Shoppers in Southwest Baltimore,” published in January 2015 [orig. Dec. 2014] in the journal, Culture, Agriculture, Food and Environment. Those researchers conducted interviews with study participants to learn more about the way organic food is understood within consumers’ definitions of healthy food. John Hopkins researchers also focused on low income consumers because “this group is particularly important demographically given the disparate burden of diet-related diseases they carry and the frequency of diet-related messages they receive.”

The study authors also found conflicting health and safety messages, including those about pesticide residues, were having a negative impact on consumers. Among their findings and recommendations: “The issue of organic can swamp or compete with other messages about nutrition, as evidenced by the data presented here. Perceiving that there is an overwhelming amount of sometimes contradictory information about healthy eating could make some consumers defeatist about trying to eat healthily. Given the potential implications of competing messages about healthy eating, it is important that those who want to improve food production techniques and those who want to improve nutrition cooperate to create consistent messaging about healthy eating.”

Dr. Burton-Freeman reached a similar conclusion. “Hearing that the majority of shoppers in this survey trust dietitians/nutritionists, scientists and physicians for health and safety information about fresh fruits and vegetables, this is an important opportunity for these professionals working in low-income populations. It is an opportunity to educate shoppers about organic and conventionally grown produce, particularly about best practices for washing, storing and preparing all fruits and vegetables to maximize their enjoyment and nutritional value and minimize their confusion and safety concerns.”

“Hopefully the peer-reviewed research from IIT and John Hopkins will have an impact on groups like EWG especially since the science clearly shows both organic and non-organic produce is very safe and can be eaten with confidence,” AFF’s Thorne says. “And, decades of nutritional research primarily conducted using non-organic produce shows that a plant rich diet leads to better health and a longer life. So choose either or both organic or non-organic produce, but choose to eat more every day.”


The Alliance for Food and Farming (AFF) is a non-profit organization formed in 1989 which represents organic and conventional farmers and farms of all sizes.  Alliance contributors are limited to farmers of fruits and vegetables, companies that sell, market or ship fruits and vegetables or organizations that represent produce farmers.  AFF’s mission is to deliver credible information to consumers about the safety of all fruits and vegetables.  AFF does not engage in lobbying nor does it accept any money or support from the pesticide industry.  In the interest of transparency, AFF’s entire 2011 tax return is posted on safefruitsandveggies.com.


See also:

Scared Fat: Are Consumers Being Scared Away from Healthy Foods?

Individuals May Consider Organic an Important Factor When Defining Healthy Food

University College of London: Eating 7 or More Servings Reduces Risk of Premature Death by 42%

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