A child could eat more than 11,000 servings of lettuce in one day without any ill effect from pesticide residues, even if the lettuce has the highest pesticide residue recorded for lettuce by the USDA. That is just one fact shared on a new pesticide residue calculator produced by the Alliance for Food and Farming, a non-profit organization that provides a voice for farmers to communicate their commitment to food safety and care for the land.
UC Riverside toxicologist Robert Krieger analyzed data from USDA's Pesticide Data Program to create the online tool. The calculator allows users to select a consumer (man, woman, teen or child) and then choose from 14 types of fruits and vegetables. The tool then calculates the number of servings that consumer could eat in a day and still not see any effect from pesticide residues.
For example, a woman could eat 836 servings of cherries, 219 servings of blueberries, or 2,332 servings of kale in one day without any effect even if the produce had the highest pesticide residue recorded by USDA.
Earlier this year, the Environmental Working Group released a shopper's guide that lists produce it calls the "dirty dozen" and the "clean 15." The working group suggested that the shopper's guide could help consumers determine which fruits and vegetables have the most pesticide residues and so are the most important to buy organic.
However, an expert panel convened by the Alliance for Food and Farming determined such lists are misleading to consumers, a detriment to public health because they discourage produce consumption, and they lack scientific evidence that the pesticide levels found on fruits and vegetables pose any risk. UC Davis nutrition professor Carl Keen was a member of the expert panel.
"There is vast and overwhelming scientific evidence which shows the health benefits of eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables,” Keen said. "Just about everyone agrees that consumers should be eating more fruits and vegetables for good health."
Keen said that even some of the groups that publish these so-called 'dirty' lists tell consumers that the benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh any small risks from pesticide residues.
"So please enjoy the abundance of choices and eat more fruits and vegetables," Keen said.