Your Fruits and Veggies
are Safer than you Think
Safe Produce Calculator
- What is the purpose of the calculator?
- Farmers who grow fruits and vegetables and feed them to their own families, want to be sure their
products are safe. To demonstrate just how safe it is to eat any fruit or vegetable, even if a pesticide
residue is present, we reached out to an experienced toxicologist to provide us with information on
how much of 19 produce items a man, a woman or a child could eat and still not consume enough
pesticide residues to reach a level where any effect could be observed. The calculator is meant to
put the issue of pesticide residues in perspective by showing how small the residues found on
fruits and vegetables actually are.
- Who provided the scientific analysis used in developing this tool?
- The analysis was conducted by Dr. Robert Krieger, director of the Personal Chemical Exposure
Program at University of California, Riverside. The Alliance for Food and Farming, a non-profit
organization representing both conventional and organic farmers, provides unrestricted financial
assistance to support human chemical exposure and risk communication studies conducted by Dr.
Krieger through the Riverside program.
Dr. Krieger is an educator and a Fellow in The Academy of Toxicological Sciences who maintains an
active research program concerning the fate of chemicals, particularly pesticides, in plants, animals
and people. He holds a BS in chemistry from Pacific Lutheran University (1967) and a Ph. D from
Cornell University (1970) where he studied pesticide science, biochemistry, and physiology.
A full copy of Dr. Krieger's report can be found at
A report further examining this concept is
being reviewed for consideration for publication in a scientific journal.
- What is the size of the "servings" mentioned in this report?
- Serving sizes are based on two reports published by the United States Department of Food and
Agriculture. The reports are titled Foods Commonly Eaten in the U.S. and USDA National Nutrient
Database for Standard Reference. Serving sizes vary by product and are adjusted for specific age
ranges of consumers.
- What is meant by "the highest pesticide residue recorded by the USDA"?
- Dr. Krieger examined data from the United States Department of Agriculture's Pesticide Data
Program for 19 produce items. For purposes of creating a "worst case scenario," Dr. Krieger
calculated the numbers in his report using the highest pesticide residue found on each of these 19
produce items tested through the USDA's Pesticide Data Program between the years of 2008 and
The USDA's Pesticide Data Program has been in existence for nearly twenty years and is designed
to continually monitor pesticide residues on food to ensure they are safe to eat by any age group —
especially children -- over a long period of time.
- What exactly is the calculation used on your website to determine risk from pesticides?
- In his analysis, Dr. Krieger uses a calculation involving: the "No Observed Adverse Effect Level"
as established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the pesticide in question; the
average body weight for each consumer group; the amount of pesticide measured by the USDA
Pesticide Data program; and the serving size of the produce item adjusted for the age and size of the
The full report which explains the exact calculation can be found at: this link
According to an expert panel commissioned by the Alliance for Food and Farming to examine
the science behind the so-called "dirty" lists reported in the media, these kinds of lists are based
on the finding of a residue without regard for how much residue is present, nor do they take into
consideration available information on the toxicity of the pesticide. When assessing risk, it is
important to include both how much pesticide residue is present and whether or not it has a harmful
- What is meant by "no effect?"
- For every product there is a point, or a dose level, that will not produce a response in a living
organism. In the world of pesticide regulation, that point is called the No Observed Adverse Effect
In his report, Dr. Krieger cites the International Programme on Chemical Safety which defines an
adverse effect as "a change in morphology, physiology, growth, development, or lifespan of an
organism which results in impairment of functional capacity to compensate for additional stress or
increase in susceptibility to the harmful influences of other environmental influences."
- While your report lists the number of servings that can be eaten in one day, what about the
effect of eating produce every day for a long period of time?
- First of all, it is important to note that it may not be safe to eat the large amounts of produce
referenced in this calculating exercise for many reasons other than the effect from pesticide residue.
The estimates of consumption used in the calculator are based on well-designed animal studies
performed during rigorous pesticide safety evaluations and use scientific models to project
observations from animal studies on humans.
It is important to know that extensive testing is done on pesticides to determine safety tolerances
established by the EPA. These tests take into account acute and long-term exposure; aggregate
risk from other sources; cumulative risks from other pesticides; and include additional safety factors
to protect children, infants and fetuses.
It should also be noted that the USDA's Pesticide Data Program consistently shows over 98 percent
of the fruits and vegetables monitored do not exceed safety limits set by the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency and, in most cases, the residues found are only a fraction of the allowable safety
- Even if the pesticide residues on produce are very small, why would I choose to eat produce
that has any pesticides at all when I can buy organic?
- Consumers should know that it is safe to eat fruits and vegetables whether they are conventionally
or organically grown and health experts encourage increased consumption of all produce for good
health. Toxicologists around the world agree that the mere presence of pesticide residues does not
mean they pose a health risk. They also tell us that pesticide residues are currently measured by the
USDA in "parts per million" or "parts per billion" and technology is continually advancing to measure
pesticides in even smaller amounts -- to the point where there is no such thing as zero.
If consumers are still concerned, the Federal Food and Drug Administration states that residues,
if present at all, can be reduced or even eliminated by washing under running tap water.