Human Health & Pesticides

Pesticide residues on food are very low if present at all and they are not established causes of specific medical conditions.

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Pesticide residues on food are very low if present at all. Residues are measurable traces of pesticides on harvested food crops like apples, lettuce and corn. A typical residue could correspond to a few drops in an Olympic swimming pool or one kernel of maize in 3,000 kilograms of wheat.

Regulators set very strict limits on pesticide residues.

In the European Union, for example, about half of all samples are free of detectable residue traces. In the remaining half (45%), residues are within the legal limits. Only about 2 percent of items tested exceed these limits, which still do not pose a safety issue.1

Minimizing and Monitoring Residues

The crop protection industry helps minimize residues in crops by training farmers on the proper use and lowest possible application levels of pesticides.

Regulators set very strict limits on pesticide residues. Consumers are protected by existing government legislation pertaining to maximum allowable residue levels on foods. Independent experts have concluded that regulated residue levels do not pose a threat to human health.

Any pesticide residues that may be on supermarket foods are well within safety limits and therefore, do not pose a health risk.

Systems are in place to monitor that residues are within safety limits. Hundreds of thousands of samples worldwide are analyzed for residues year after year. Testing shows that virtually all foods meet safety standards in terms of pesticide residues. Both organic and conventional foods are inspected by government authorities to avoid health risks.

Any pesticide residues that may be on supermarket foods are well within safety limits and therefore, do not pose a health risk. Due to huge safety margins, these residues do not pose a risk to human health, even if the legal limit for residues is exceeded. Nor are consumers at risk with potential exposure to multiple residues in food.

Pesticides are only approved for use if their potential residue levels are deemed safe for all consumers. Safety limits are set by authorities for each pesticide based on the amount of potential residue that can be consumed in a lifetime without posing any risk to health.

Good Consumer Practice

Washing fresh fruits and vegetables reduces pesticide residues. Studies show that some or most pesticide residues, if present, can be removed by washing produce under clean, running water.

Whether organically or conventionally produced, it is a good idea to wash all fruits and vegetables as pesticide residues can come from synthetic or natural sources. Scientific evidence shows that organic food is no safer or healthier than conventional food.


1  The 2015 European Union report on pesticide residues in food. European Food Safety Authority. EFSA Journal. April 2017.https://efsa.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.2903/j.efsa.2017.4791

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