Residues

Residues of chemicals occur in foods as a result of the use of pesticides, drugs in food-producing animals, and food packaging materials. To ensure a safe food supply, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates the safety of food by setting safety standards to limit the amount of pesticide residues that legally may remain in or on food or animal feed that is sold in the United States. The FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) ensure compliance with these safety standards by monitoring domestic and imported foods. Annual reports summarizing the findings of pesticide monitoring programs are available from the USDA. The regulation of pesticides in food production is currently undergoing major reform because of the passage of the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) in August 1996. Major changes in pesticide residue safety standards resulting from the FQPA include a new safety standard based on a "reasonable certainty of no harm"; consideration of aggregate exposure from all sources of pesticides (drinking water, residential, and dietary exposure); and consideration of all pesticides with a common mechanism of toxicity as a group to determine cumulative exposure. The EPA must consider children's special sensitivity and exposure to pesticides. Under the new law, the EPA is required to develop and use a screening and testing program for chemicals with the potential to disrupt the endocrine process (endocrine disruptors). The impact of this new law on the use of pesticides has yet to be determined because the regulations, which will enforce this law, are still under development.

Various drugs and antibiotics are used in the production of animal food products. The use of these drugs and the amount of residues allowed in the animal tissues are regulated by FDA. In most cases, tolerances range from 0 to

1 ppm. The unintentional transfer of compounds from packaging materials into foods is another source of food residues. Food residues from pesticides, drugs, and packaging materials are called unintentional food additives. Animal drug residues and food contact substances, which "may reasonably be expected to become a component of food," must be shown to be safe for humans under similar standards as food additives. Although public concern regarding food residues has always been the subject of the lay press, there is little evidence of health hazards from the small amount of residues present in foods produced in the United States (22). The use of pesticides in other countries may not be as well regulated, and therefore the safety of pesticide residues in imported foods continues to be a concern.

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