206182 Pesticide levels in imported produce: Policy and oversight gap

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Roni A. Neff, PhD, SM , Center for a Livable Future, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD
Keeve Nachman, PhD, MHS , Center for a Livable Future and Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD
Kathleen Dolan, MHS , Food and Water Watch, Washington, DC
Anne Rosenthal , Center for a Livable Future, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD
Jennifer C. Hartle, MPH , Center for a Livable Future, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD
Background: In 2007, imports represented approximately 1/5 of U.S.-consumed fresh fruits and vegetables and about half the fruit juice. While imports are expected to adhere to U.S. pesticide residue limits, in practice there is virtually no inspection or other incentive to comply. This paper makes use of newly available data to identify differences in pesticide tolerance levels across countries. Producers may have at least some incentive to comply with their own governments' directives.

Methods: Twenty produce items were chosen for examination based on import and U.S. consumption levels. For each food item, top markets sending to the U.S. were identified. The USDA's International Maximum Residue Limit database was searched to identify tolerances by food, country, and pesticide. Pesticides in that database were searched in the EPA's Integrated Risk Information System database, for potential human health effects at low doses.

Results: Top areas of concern for further investigation will be shared, in terms of produce items, country/market of origin, pesticide, and potentially affected organ system. Areas where US limits are substantially higher than those of other markets will also be noted.

Conclusions: The findings, while speculative, suggest the sorts of pesticide exposures that may be occurring. Indeed, given many countries' lack of incentives to comply with their own laws, the findings may understate the case. In sum, this paper identifies potential public health threats related to US produce import practices, suggesting priorities for further investigation, and highlighting a policy-making and oversight gap in U.S. trade policy.

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe produce import levels in the U.S. 2. Discuss at least three identified areas of concern by produce item, pesticide, country, or health effect, based on the cited international policy differences 3. Identify at least three ways the U.S. could address these policy and oversight gaps

Keywords: Pesticides, Policy/Policy Development

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I managed the research project. I have a history of work in this area and am on public health faculty.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.