National Pesticide Information Center



Minimizing Pesticide Residues in Food

The U.S. EPA and other agencies regulate pesticide residues in or on our food. These agencies ensure that residue levels remain below established limits to safeguard human health. Pesticide residues tend to decline as the pesticide breaks down over time, and diminish as the commodities are washed and processed prior to sale. By the time food reaches your grocery store, pesticide residues are generally far below the legal limits. However, low levels of pesticide residues may still remain on some foods, even organic foods.

These tips will help you reduce pesticide residues (as well as dirt and bacteria) on the food you eat:

  • First, eat a variety of fruits and vegetables to minimize the potential of increased exposure to a single pesticide.
  • Thoroughly wash all produce, even that which is labeled organic and that which you plan to peel.
  • Wash your produce under running water rather than soaking or dunking it.
  • Dry produce with a clean cloth towel or paper towel when possible.
  • Scrub firm fruits and vegetables, like melons and root vegetables.
  • Discard the outer layer of leafy vegetables, such as lettuce or cabbage.
  • Peel fruits and vegetables when possible.
  • Trim fat and skin from meat, poultry, and fish to minimize pesticide residue that may accumulate in the fat.

In addition, you may consider growing your own garden, or participating in a community garden! This will allow you to control which pesticides, if any, are used on the food you eat. You can choose Integrated Pest Management (IPM) options that allow you to control garden pests with the least possible hazard.

If growing your own food is not possible, another option is your local farmers market. This way, you can speak directly to the farmers about their pesticide use practices before buying their food.

If you have questions about this, or any pesticide-related topic, please call NPIC at 1-800-858-7378 (8:00am - 12:00pm PST), or email us at npic@ace.orst.edu.

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Last updated November 6, 2015