Recently there have been growing concerns about the possible health problems caused by pesticide residue found on certain food products. Fresh fruits and vegetables may contain trace amounts of pesticide that has not been properly removed during the rinsing and production processes.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been working to develop methods in fruit and vegetable production to help minimize the issues associated with pesticides. The pesticides used on the foods you consume must past a safety standard set by the EPA before being distributed to consumers.
While you may suffer harmful effects from pesticide residue on your food, this is a rare occurrence. If a small amount of residue remains on your food products, then it is typically not an unsafe amount of residue. You can take precautions to prevent this from occurring, such as selecting organic products only as these are commonly free from pesticide residue since pesticides are not used during the growing or harvesting of organic items.
What are pesticides?
Pesticides are chemical or biological agents used during the growing process of certain foods and are most commonly used for fruits and vegetables. Many production companies opt to use pesticides on their products as it helps to protect the items from insects, infections and weeds. Without the use of pesticide, a crop of vegetables may become infested with insects and therefore cannot be harvested and distributed to the population. There are many companies throughout the United States opting to use pesticides to protect their crops from any potential issues.
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In addition to fruits and vegetables, pesticides may be used in the production of:
- Canola pressed into oil.
The amount of pesticide distribution and the type of pesticide used varies from one company to another. Each organization using pesticides must remain in compliance with the EPA safety standards to ensure they are not accidentally harming the consumers. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) works concurrently with the EPA to enforce these standards. The FDA directly oversees the overall safety of the food supply throughout the United States and closely monitors pesticide levels during production.
What foods contain the highest concentration of pesticide residue?
Those who study pesticide and the potentially harmful effects of these chemicals commonly advise people to purchase organic produce, as pesticides are not used in the production of these items. If you are unable to purchase organic fruits and vegetables, then you may want to exercise caution when purchasing certain food products, as some contain higher concentrations of pesticides than others. The Environmental Working Group suggests that when possible, consumers may want to purchase organic options for:
- Imported nectarines.
It is important to note while these products are more likely to be contaminated by pesticide residue than other products, the amount of residue is often insubstantial. Ingesting the pesticide residue on these products is not unsafe, as the production companies of these products must adhere to the EPA safety standards before distributing their products.
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If you want to be cautious about the products you consume, then you can opt for purchasing items with lower levels of pesticide residue. Food products with the lowest level of pesticides include onions, pineapples, avocados and mangoes. Other items such as kiwis, cantaloupes, sweet potatoes and cabbage are additionally low in pesticide residue.
Are there health risks associated with pesticide residue on food?
In some cases, there have been health problems occurring as the result of pesticide residue on food. Agricultural workers who are in direct contact with pesticides each day are more likely to display health issues than an average consumer. Those who are involved with the distribution of pesticides may develop acute organophosphate (OP) pesticide poisoning if he or she has been contaminated by the chemical accidentally. Common symptoms of acute OP pesticide poisoning include diarrhea, dizziness, confusion and abdominal cramps. If you are experiencing these symptoms after involved in the distribution of pesticides, then contact a health care professional right away. The effects of OP pesticide poisoning can be reversed when treated properly.
For those who consume foods with pesticide residue, developing a health issue because of this action is rare. Infants, children, pregnant women and nursing mothers are most at risk of developing health issues due to pesticide residue consumption.
You do not need to be paranoid when consuming fruits and vegetables if you or your child is within these target groups. Your system is more sensitive if you fall into these categories and therefore may leave you more susceptible to health issues, but it is not a common occurrence. If you want to remain cautious you can select organic fruits and vegetables to decrease the risk of ingesting pesticide residue.
Pesticide residue on fruits and vegetables is relegated to a negligible amount during the production and distribution process, as these products must undergo several stages before reaching the consumer. Fruits, vegetables and grains must each go through the harvest, transportation, and washing processes before entering a store. Light exposure additionally helps to remove any remaining pesticides during these processes. If there is a small amount of residue remaining on your products at the time of purchase, then a thorough cleaning of your fruits and vegetables before consumption can help reduce the amount of residue you ingest.
When you are consuming a product with pesticide residue it is occurring at a low level. The Pesticide Data Program has conducted thorough research to ensure consumers are not ingesting harmful levels of pesticides. There is a maximum legal residue limit strictly enforced by the EPA, and distribution companies are not allowed to sell products if they exceed this limit.
If you live close to an agricultural company that uses pesticides in its production, then you may run the risk of gaining exposure to the chemical due to drift caused during the aerosol spraying period. Production companies take precautions to ensure this does not happen as it is mandated by the EPA.
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