Facebook Twitter

THAT APPLE YOU EAT MAY HAVE PESTICIDE RESIDUE

SHARE THAT APPLE YOU EAT MAY HAVE PESTICIDE RESIDUE

Seven out of 10 produce samples tested by the Agriculture Department in 1993 had traces of pesticides, but the government says the amounts are too small to cause worry.

For apples the amount was even higher - 97 percent had pesticide residues.The department gathers the data so regulators can figure out what really turns up in food and limit pesticide use accordingly. The figures will become more important as the government looks for a way to set levels that consider the eating habits and growing bodies of infants and children.

The report noted that the residues in a dozen popular fresh fruits and vegetables were far below the legal limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency. It also noted that illegal residues were found in only 1.5 percent of the 7,328 samples. Fifty-eight different pesticides were detected.

Many samples of other fruits and vegetables showed no pesticide traces at all. Three-quarters of the broccoli samples and nearly half the lettuce had no detectable residues.

"These data reinforce the fact that the nation's food supply is one of the safest in the world," said Lon Hatamiya, administrator of the Agricultural Marketing Service, the USDA agency that did the study.

Critics, however, said it's wrong to make safety judgments based on current tolerances - the level of pesticide residues determined by the EPA to be safe. And, they said, the government's approach of regulating each pesticide individually fails to recognize the combined effect of different chemical compounds on one piece of produce.

"The important part is to look at preventing exposure to these things rather than figuring out what is the acceptable poison," Kert Davies, analyst for the Washington-based Environmental Working Group, said Monday.

The Agriculture Department began data collection in 1991.

In 1993, the department tested fresh apples, bananas, broccoli, celery, carrots, green beans, grapefruit, grapes, lettuce, oranges, peaches and potatoes.