The FDA recently released its annual Pesticide Residue Report. As pesticides are one of the things people worry most about, I thought we should take a look at what they found. Here to help us make sense of this very technical and complex data is Dr. Carl Winter of the UC Davis. Dr. Winter is a toxicologist who researches the detection of pesticides and naturally-occurring toxins in foods and how to assess their risks. Below are highlights from our conversation. Please click on the audio player to hear the entire interview.

Nutrition Diva: As part of their ongoing pesticide monitoring program, FDA tested 7,000 foods for residues of over 700 different pesticides and selected industrial compounds. Over half of all the samples analyzed contained no pesticide chemical residues at all. 94% of samples were compliant with federal standards. That means that 6% of the samples were NOT compliant. Does that mean that they were unsafe?

Dr. Carl Winter: When higher than expected (or “violative”) residues are found, it doesn’t mean that these foods are unsafe to consume or expose consumers to unsafe levels of chemicals. The vast majority of these violations aren’t due to levels of a pesticide being higher than expected. They usually indicate the presence of trace amounts of a compound that’s been approved, but not for this particular food.

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