251785 Pesticide Residues on Food: FDA's Flawed Monitoring Program

Tuesday, November 1, 2011: 9:00 AM

Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, MPH , Health and Environment Program, Natural Resources Defense Council, San Francisco, CA
Jennifer Sass , Natural Resources Defense Council, Washington, DC
Gina Solomon, MD, MPH , Health and Environment Program, Natural Resources Defense Council, San Francisco, CA
Over 5.2 billion pounds of pesticides are used in agriculture annually worldwide, including on food crops where they leave residues. Recent studies have identified residues on food as a major route of exposure for organophosphate pesticides which are neurotoxins particularly hazardous to children. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets health-based legal limits for pesticides on foods, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is charged with enforcing these limits by testing foods and removing foods with illegal residues from the market. An analysis of FDA's enforcement of pesticide tolerances on food reveals significant flaws: FDA tests for less than half of the pesticides registered for food use. Data collected from farmer surveys in Costa Rica found that farmers routinely use unapproved pesticides and concluded that the FDA monitoring would detect less than 40 percent of the pesticides that are actually used. Additionally, FDA monitoring only includes approximately 0.00002 percent of the produce sold in the United States. Analysis of ten years of FDA testing (1996-2006) reveals that up to two percent of domestic foods and six percent of imports contained illegal pesticide residues. Percentages for individual crops and countries are often higher. For example, 16% of apricots tested had illegal residues. Among vegetables, 13 percent from China, 18 percent from Guatemala, and 17 percent from Spain were found to contain illegal residues. With the globalization of the food supply, FDA's pesticide residue monitoring program must be improved to better protect consumers from chemical contaminants.

Learning Areas:
Environmental health sciences
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines

Learning Objectives:
Describe FDA's pesticide residue monitoring program Identify improvements in FDA's pesticide residue program to safeguard public health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to present because I conduct research on environmental and dietary exposures to pesticides
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.