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How safe are the pesticides on your produce?

pesticide November 27, 1997
Web posted at: 2:32 p.m. EST (1932 GMT)

ATLANTA (CNN) -- Most farmers in the United States use some sort of pesticide to treat their crops during the growing season. But how will the chemicals that remain on produce affect you and your family once you are ready to consume the items?

Strawberries, for example, reach the market with more residual chemicals than any other fruit or vegetable. But the government says the scrumptious berries are still safe to eat and that in many cases the residual levels are so low they are undetectable.

"I really think we do a pretty good job of working with pesticides in this country and that's one of the reasons I'm not particularly concerned," George Gray of the Harvard School of Public Health told CNN.

But the regulations governing pesticide levels in the U.S. food supply are 10 to 20 years old. Public health officials are concerned the safety levels may not accurately reflect the risk to children, who weigh less than adults. Plus, children are more sensitive to chemicals.


Last year, President Clinton signed the Food Quality Protection Act into law, and the Environmental Protection Agency is re-evaluating every pesticide used by food growers in the United States.

"It is said that each of the chemicals in use need to be thought about very carefully in terms of their human health risks," said Dr. Richard Jackson, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Especially the risks to children, and the amounts left on food should be as little as possible."

Health experts warn consumers not to let worries about chemicals upstage the benefits of eating conventionally grown fruits and vegetables. Studies repeatedly show that a diet rich in produce can lower the risk for diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and some types of cancer.

Correspondent Linda Ciampa contributed to this report.


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