I fear I’m starting to sound like a broken record. But in this case, that’s a really good thing!
This year marks the 30th anniversary of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service’s Pesticide Data Program (PDP). Throughout the year, the USDA randomly samples various commodities to monitor and measure pesticide residues. It then reports those results to the EPA, who makes ensures that any residue is within safe limits (in other words, it can’t hurt us). It’s important information that allows the EPA to assess dietary risks, especially for children, and take immediate action if something concerning is found.
At the end of the year, the USDA releases its annual summary of PDP results. It recently released the report for 2020. The USDA tested 9,600 samples of 18 fresh and processed fruits and vegetables that year. It found that 99 percent of samples were well within the safety tolerances set by the EPA. In other words, our food supply is safe from harmful levels of pesticide residues.
Why is this such a concern? Farmers use pesticides to protect growing crops from a wide array of pests, like insects, fungus, and disease. Pesticides are an important tool for agriculture. But some people worry that those chemicals may linger on our food, and could potentially hurt us when we consume that food.
In response, the EPA studies this potential issue before making pesticides commercially available. So it knows how much a human, including small humans, would need to digest to be affected. It then sets strict tolerances well below that amount. Each year, USDA’s PDP report demonstrates that our food supply is safe from pesticide residue and well within those tolerances. So there’s no reason to be concerned.
By the way, if you’re still concerned about pesticide residues, the FDA recommends that we all wash any fresh fruit or produce under running water for 20 seconds. The concern isn’t so much about pesticide residue. Rather food can become contaminated during packaging, shipping, and selling. So it’s always a best practice to wash your food no matter where you purchased it.
In the coming weeks you’ll hear from organizations trying to persuade you that our food supply is covered in pesticide residue. But that’s nothing more than propaganda meant to scare you. The USDA, FDA, and EPA all work to monitor pesticide use and make sure our food is safe. Farmers also take this responsibility seriously and only use pesticides when necessary, and only apply them in accordance with regulations.