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Health risk low despite pesticides on fresh produce

December 7, 2012 04:30

Ministry report says level of pesticides in fruits and vegetables does not pose a health threat to consumers.

Cucumbers and Tomatoes.

produce vegetables cucumbers and tomatoes 390. (photo credit:Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)

The level of pesticides in fruits and vegetables does not pose a health threat to consumers, based on estimates of daily consumption, the Health Ministry said Thursday.

The report, prepared by the ministry’s National Food Service, said that there is “possible exposure to pesticides used in agriculture,” but the “quantifiable estimates of pesticides in fresh produce is minimal, if at all.”

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Thus, the ministry showed, the health benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables supersede the risk of what is sprayed on them.

The report, it said, is “based on estimates of theoretical exposure” that were collected by the Health and Agriculture Ministries. A total of 56.7 percent of samples show pesticide residue, and in 11.24% of those, excessive levels were found.

The residues from 133 active substances were detected. The risk from each of the 133 was calculated using the maximum national consumption of pesticides, the ministry said. The “vast majority of the substances do not cause danger to health,” the report said.

Taking the most careful assessment, it added, “one cannot rule out danger from seven substances that are still allowed for use,” the ministry said.

The fact that some of the produce eaten is processed through cooking or peeling of fruits and vegetables reduces the exposure and the health risk, it continued.

In sum, the National Food Service concluded that “there is possible exposure to agricultural pesticides, but estimates of the quantities [consumed] show that the risk is minimal if at all.”

At the same time, the ministry is continuing to work to reduce and eventually halt the use of risky pesticides. Some have already been taken out of use, while the rest will be stop being used in 2013, the ministry said.

In any case, consumers are urged to soak produce carefully in soap and water before eating or cooking to further minimize the risk (although some pesticides remain despite such cleaning).
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