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Before a pesticide can be used on a food crop, the U.S. EPA must determine whether that pesticide can be used without posing an unreasonable risk to human health. After a risk assessment process, they determine the pesticide tolerance, which is the maximum amount of pesticide residue that can legally remain in or on a particular food.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) monitors and enforces pesticide tolerances in raw agricultural commodities and processed foods. Tolerances for meat, poultry and some egg products are monitored and enforced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Both domestic and imported food commodities are subject to these regulations.

What does this mean for consumers?

Pesticide residues on the food we eat are highly regulated. Although some residues may remain at the time of harvest, residues tend to decline as the pesticide breaks down over time. In addition, as the commodities are washed and processed prior to sale the residues often diminish further. There are several steps consumers can take to further reduce any pesticide residue that may remain on your food after purchase.

Consumers may also choose to purchase organic foods, which are grown and processed without synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.

Additional Resources:

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

Last updated May 13, 2024