Study: Some residual pesticides on produce unsafe to eat
Web posted at: 1:25 p.m. EST (1825 GMT)
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Some fruits and vegetables have residual pesticide levels too high for young children to consume safely, according to study findings announced Thursday.
The study by Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports magazine, is one of the largest ever to examine pesticide residues on produce.
Researchers looked at data gathered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on how much pesticide residue exists on 27,000 samples of domestic and imported fruits and vegetables.
In its announcement, Consumers Union said it didn't want to scare parents, but rather to help them make more informed decisions. The group said it also wanted to send a "simple message" to produce growers.
"Kids are entitled to safe fruits and vegetables," said Rhoda Karpatkin, president of Consumers Union. "Parents do their job when they tell (children) such foods are good for them .... Food growers should do their jobs by using only pesticides that are safe."
The study was based on the latest science available, rather than scientific models, officials said. The goal was to see if the government's accepted pesticide residue levels were safe for consumption by adults and children.
Officials said that contrary to what many people might believe, imported foods don't necessarily have higher pesticide levels.
"Two out of three times, the opposite was true," said Dr. Edward Groth, director of technical Policy and Public Service for Consumers Union.
Almost all pesticide residues were found to be within legal limits, Groth said, adding: "But does it mean they're safe? No."
"It's too easy for a child to get too much pesticide residue from their daily diet," he said.
Concerns about pesticide levels are not just limited to possible cancer links, said Nancy Metcalf, assistant editor of Consumer Reports. Rather, today's concerns are about the neurological damage that pesticides can cause, because many pesticides in use are designed to kill insects by attacking the nervous system.
This puts the nervous systems of children at particular risk, especially since they are smaller than adults, Metcalf said.
"Their nervous systems are changing and developing extremely rapidly," Metcalf said. "And ... they just don't eat what (adults) do" because they tend to eat more fruits and vegetables.
Officials said pregnant women should be especially careful of what they eat, because of the risk of harming a developing fetus.
Washing and peeling fruits and vegetables doesn't get rid of all pesticides, she added, because some pesticides permeate the product.
The Consumers Union study was conducted after President Bill Clinton signed the Food Quality Protection Act in 1996.
The act mandated a review of how the entire population -- from infants to adults -- tolerates pesticides used in growing produce.
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