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Pesticide Action Network

What’s on our food? Sometimes, it’s pesticides

We are all aware that fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet.  But, some of that produce carries pesticide residues that can be harmful to our health and the health of our children.

We’re all aware that fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet. But, some of that produce carries pesticide residues that can be harmful to our health and the health of our children. 

Recent analysis of US Department of Agriculture data by Consumer Reports shows that some of the produce we are eating carries a high risk of contamination. The August 27 article, “Stop Eating Pesticides,” shows conventionally-produced potatoes, green beans, cherries and peaches to be among those items most likely to carry harmful levels of pesticide residue. On the other hand, when certified organic produce data were available, the results showed lower risk for pesticide residue levels.

Consumer Reports rates the risks

Consumer Reports used five years of data taken from the USDA’s Pesticide Data Program (2014-2018) to calculate a safety rating based on health risks to an average 4-year-old child who is regularly exposed to produce contaminated with pesticides. This rating is a combined analysis of the number of pesticides detected for each food type, the frequency these pesticides were found, the average amount of residue, and the toxicity of the specific pesticide found in residues.  

Green beans, one of the vegetables given a “poor” rating for “non-organic” production, would pose a risk to a child given a half serving or less on a regular basis. For the record, a half serving is considered to be one-third cup. One-third of an average sized peach frequently served to a child would pose a similar risk.

Not a 4-year-old child? Research shows that long-term, low-dose exposure to some pesticides are correlated with health consequences — and there is so much we still do not know.

Consumer Reports has a history of being involved in food safety issues and it strengthened its commitment when it created its Food Safety and Sustainability Center in 2012. Their From Crop to Table Pesticide Report, released in 2015, is an excellent resource that provides extensive coverage of the topic.  

Pesticide Action Network reveals the contaminants

The What’s On My Food website provides a resource that pairs well with the Consumer Reports research. Do you want to know exactly what pesticides are on your green beans? It turns out that there are 44 different pesticide residues found by the USDA Pesticide Data Program and listed in earlier program reports.

Pesticide residue on green beans include chemicals known as probable carcinogens, neurotoxicants, developmental / reproductive toxicants, and suspected hormone disruptors. This dataset is the result of residue tests performed as a part of routine USDA regulation and oversight.  

We have the data that shows us that we have a problem. It’s time we do something about it.


We want our children to be healthy and we want them to eat their fruits and vegetables. We need to remove harmful pesticides from agriculture, off our food, and out of the places kids live, learn and play. We need to make major shifts in farming practice, food production and pest control across the country.

From kitchen tables to state capitals, from school districts to family farms, people must find ways to better protect children from health-harming pesticides. 

Here are three things you can do to move toward a healthier food and farm system:

  1. Select Certified Organic options to reduce your pesticide residue intake when you can.

  2. Encourage EPA to consistently and aggressively apply the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA)

  3. Be prepared to support the Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act (PACTPA)

It’s time to stop eating pesticides and move toward a time where we worry less about what’s on our food.

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Pesticide Action Network

Pesticide Action Network is dedicated to advancing alternatives to pesticides worldwide. Follow @pesticideaction

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