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CONSUMER REPORTS FINDS
PESTICIDE RESIDUES TOO HIGH

For a Young Child, Even One Serving of Some Fruits and Vegetables Can Exceed Safe Daily Limits

Consumer Reports, in one of the most comprehensive studies ever undertaken of pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables, has found that even a single daily serving of some produce can deliver unsafe levels of toxic pesticide residues for young children. Though virtually all the foods tested were within legal limits, those limits are often at odds with what the government deems safe for young children.

"Our findings certainly don't mean that parents should stop giving their children plenty of healthful produce," said Dr. Edward Groth, Technical Policy and Public Service Director at Consumers Union, "but these findings do suggest that parents might want to be careful about the amounts and types of fruits and vegetables they serve their children."

For the first-of-its kind analysis of government data on 27,000 samples of domestic and imported produce, Consumer Reports computed toxicity scores for 27 foods. The analysis found that seven popular fruits and vegetables - apples, grapes, green beans, peaches, pears, spinach, and winter squash - have toxicity scores up to hundreds of times higher than the rest of the foods analyzed. Each score is based on three factors: how many samples of a food contained individual pesticides and the average amount and toxicity of each pesticide. Highlights of the study's findings include:

The study is based on data collected by the US Department of Agriculture from thousands of samples of fruits and vegetables-domestic and imported, fresh and processed. Consumer Reports analyzed the results of the testing done between 1994 and 1997 on 27 food categories, covering some 27,000 samples (a sample is about five pounds of produce). Residue testing was done after samples were prepared just as they are at home: oranges and bananas were peeled, apples and peaches were rinsed, and so forth. The findings are especially pertinent to children, who eat far more produce per pound of body weight than adults and who are more sensitive to the effects of pesticides because their nervous systems are changing and developing so rapidly. Some pesticides are suspected of causing cancer and some may interfere with endocrine activity. In 1993, the National Academy of Sciences issued a major report on pesticides in children's diets, which recommended that U.S. pesticide laws be overhauled to make foods safer for children.

That report triggered unanimous passage in 1996 of the Food Quality Protection Act, which requires the Environmental Protection Agency review all pesticides and tighten exposure limits to make them safer for young children. Based on this analysis, Consumers Union will ask the EPA to restrict or ban specific pesticide uses that expose children to residues above safe limits.

What Parents Can Do

Consumers should NOT stop serving their children fresh produce, but should:

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Written by: Consumer Reports


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