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Pesticides and Food:
How the Government Regulates Pesticides

Before a company can sell or distribute any pesticide in the United States of America, EPA must review studies on the pesticide to determine that it will not pose unreasonable risks to human health or the environment. Once EPA has made that determination, it will license or register that pesticide for use in strict accordance with label directions.

Recognizing pesticides registered in the past may not meet today's current safety standards, EPA is reviewing and reregistering older pesticides, taking action to reduce risks where appropriate.

Before allowing a pesticide to be used on a food commodity, EPA sets limits on how much of a pesticide may be used on food during growing and processing, and how much can remain on the food you buy. Government inspectors monitor food in interstate commerce to ensure that these limits are not exceeded. EPA also sets standards to protect workers from exposure to pesticides on the job.

The Food Quality Protection Act of 1996 sets a tougher standard for pesticide use on food. EPA will consider the public's overall exposure to pesticides (through food, water, and in home environments) when making decisions to set standards for pesticide use on food.

Each pesticide decision must protect infants and children.

Most importantly, each of these decisions must protect infants and children, whose developing bodies may be especially sensitive to pesticide exposure.

In September 2007, upon concluding the N-methyl carbamate cumulative risk assessment, EPA completed the last of 9,721 required tolerance reassessment decisions. All tolerances that required reassessment have been evaluated and related risk management decisions are being implemented. Completing tolerance reassessment ensures that all pesticides used on food in the United States meet FQPA's more stringent safety standard. At the same time, the federal government is encouraging the innovation of safer pesticides that are less likely to cause health problems.

You and your family have a right to know under the law that in certain cases, such as economic loss to farmers, a pesticide not meeting the safety standard may be authorized. If this happens, EPA will work with grocery stores to inform you of such pesticides, foods that might contain them, and equally nutritious alternatives.

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