[Enesta Jones] Hello, and welcome to EPA’s Green
Scene, an environmental podcast you cantake with you. I’m Enesta Jones of EPA’s Office of Public
Affairs. Have you ever wondered if it’s better to buy
organic fruit because it’s freeof pesticides? Because organic is usually more expensive, it
may not be in your budget. So as a parent, you may ask, “If I don’t buy
organic fruit, is there a way to limit my child’s exposure to pesticide residues?” Yes, according to EPA. Joining me today to talk about pesticides and
food is Toiya Goodlow, a chemist in EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs. Toiya, welcometo the show. [Toiya Goodlow] Thank you for having me. [Enesta Jones] So, Toiya, let’s start with the
good news. The United States has the safest food supply in
the world. What is EPA doing to ensure that food, even when
it has pesticide residues on it, is still safe to eat? [Toiya Goodlow] Well, before I let you know
about EPA’s specific role, I should note that we work collaboratively with
the Food and Drug Administration and the United
States Department of Agriculture to keep our food supply safe. Now, on to EPA’s work. It is important to note that before any
pesticide can be registered for use on food, EPA has to approve
the pesticide, or the chemical, for this use. Extensive tests are submitted to the agency, and
the results are considered, and we use that information to
make sure that no harm will result from the use of that
pesticide for people, wildlife, fish or plants. But we don’t stop at new pesticides. We also look back at pesticides registered
before November 1984, to make sure that they are up to date with
today’s current safety standards. [Enesta Jones] Let me make sure I’m
understanding this correctly. Even when pesticides are applied legally and in
accordance with label directions, there’s still some pesticide residue left over. Is that right? [Toiya Goodlow] Yes, that’s correct. There still may be some residual pesticide
residues left on foods, and this could be on fresh produce such
as apples and tomatoes, or on processed foods like ketchup and applesauce. But that’s why we at EPA, we set maximum residue
limits, or tolerances, as we like to call them. And these tolerances are based on the toxicity
of the pesticide, how and when it’s applied, and also
the residues that we expect to be present on treated foods. And we use all this information to set our
tolerance level values, which are legally enforceable standards. [Enesta Jones] As I understand it, children are
more susceptible to adverse health affects, more so than adults. Is this the case with pesticides? [Toiya Goodlow] Yes, this is true for some
cases. Children may be more susceptible to pesticide
exposure, and this is because their internal organs are
still developing and maturing. It’s also because, in relation to their body
weights, they consume more food and drink more water than
we do as adults, and that can lead to increased pesticide
exposure. And the last thing is just their common
behaviors. Children like to play in the yard or be on the
floor and put things in their mouth, and that could also
lead to increased exposure. But at the EPA, we make sure to consider all
these special considerations for children’s health. For example, we routinely look at commonly eaten
children’s foods, and this could be apple juice, orange
juice, potatoes and meats like chicken and beef and poultry,
everything. We look at — we consider the child’s entire
diet to make sure the pesticide is still safe. And in addition to children, we also look at
special subpopulations such as females of childbearing
age. [Enesta Jones] And are there special steps that
consumers like you and I can take to ensure that we are not exposing
ourselves to pesticides on our food? [Toiya Goodlow] Absolutely. There are some simple steps that we can all
take, and I’m sure many of us are doing them already. Let’s start with this fruit that we have here. You want to make sure that you wash all of your
fruits and vegetables, all your fresh fruits and
vegetables, so before we were to consume these apples or
these berries, we want to make sure we wash them under running
water. [Enesta Jones] Cold, hot, doesn’t matter? [Toiya Goodlow] I prefer cold but it doesn’t
really matter, as long as you wash and scrub the fruit to reduce that
pesticide exposure. [Enesta Jones] Any other tips? [Toiya Goodlow] Oh, yes. Of course, you could also peel and trim your
vegetables, and carrots and celery are examples of veggies
that we commonly trim, and this could also reduce the
amount of dirt that’s left on the food and reduce pesticide
exposure. Another tip would be to trim fat from meat and
also the skin from poultry and fish. And that is because some pesticides accumulate
in the fatty tissues of the animal. Another thing that you can do that we all do is
to just cook our foods, and this reduces the pesticide
exposure for some chemicals. And lastly, and maybe most importantly, just eat a variety of foods from a variety of sources because this could reduce your exposure to a
single pesticide on a single type of food. [Enesta Jones] Organic food — it’s becoming
very popular. Can you tell us more about how farmers grow
their crops organically? [Toiya Goodlow] Yes, organically grown food is
food that is grown and processed without the use of synthetic
pesticides. And these are the pesticides that we registered, ones that you can find anywhere in your hardware
stores or at Home Depot. And farmers that choose to grow organically use
natural fertilizers and pesticides. And this could include natural predators such as
insects that eat other insects, and so you’ll find at your
grocery stores and at your local farmer’s market that a lot of
people are increasingly providing organic foods to try to
reduce pesticide exposure. [Enesta Jones] While we’re on the topic of
grocery stores, I have a girlfriend — she’s decided that she’s going
to start buying her food from California versus Chile
because she’s hearing that there are different safety
standards domestically. Is that factor fiction? [Toiya Goodlow] That’s fiction. Basically, this probably derives from the
government’s recent ruling to publish the nation of origin on the produce so we’ll know as consumers where our
produce is grown, but it’s EPA’s job to regulate the
amount of pesticide residues on all foods that are sold in the
United States, and this is both domestic and imported food. And, like I mentioned earlier, our sister
agencies, the FDA and the USDA, also work with us to make
sure that these safety standardsare upheld. [Enesta Jones] I’m not a gardener, Toiya, but I
know many of our listeners are. Is gardening another way to ensure that our food
is safer? [Toiya Goodlow] Well, I’m not a gardener either,
but I know many do enjoy the hobby, and yes, it can be a way to
reduce pesticide exposure, but it’s important for the
gardeners out there to remember two things when planning
their garden. The first is to make sure that their garden is
located away from the neighbors, where pesticide drift could
occur. And this is because if they use pesticides,
synthetic pesticides, the exposure can, I guess, drift
over to your garden. And the second thing is to make sure if your
home is treated for pests regularly, you want to make sure that
your garden is also away fromthat location. [Enesta Jones] A lot of information, but Toiya,
what’s the take-away here? Go organic, not go organic? [Toiya Goodlow] Well, the take-away here is yes,
there are low levels of pesticides present on our foods but with a
few simple tips like we talked about, the washing and
peeling and cooking your foods and deriving them from a
variety of sources, you can reduce your pesticide
exposure. [Enesta Jones] Eating is something that we all
have to do, so thank you for being here today, Toiya, to share this
helpful information. And for more on pesticides and food, please
visit www.epa.gov/pesticides. See you next time on Green Scene.