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Pesticides are commonly used on the food we eat to control pests that may damage the crops during production, storage or transport. Pesticides allow growers to increase the amount of usable food from each crop at the time of harvest. Pesticides may also improve the quality, safety, and shelf-life of certain foods. For consumers, this means access to a wide variety of affordable foods, grown locally or imported from other states or countries.

How much pesticide remains on the food we eat?

The amount of pesticide that remains in or on food is called the pesticide residue. The U.S. EPA determines the maximum amount of pesticide residue that can remain in or on a particular food. This legal limit is called the pesticide tolerance. To establish the tolerance, the EPA evaluates the potential health and environmental risks of the pesticide.

Are there things I can do to reduce any pesticide residues on my food?

By the time food reaches your grocery store, pesticide residues are generally well below the legal limit, or tolerance. However, there are several healthy, sensible food practices that will allow you to further reduce your exposure to any pesticide residues that may remain on your food.

Should I eat organic foods instead?

The term "organic" refers to food that is grown and processed without the use of synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. Learn more about the costs and benefits of going organic for you and your family.

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If you have questions about this, or any pesticide-related topic, please call NPIC at 800-858-7378 (8:00am - 12:00pm PST), or email us at npic@ace.orst.edu.

Last updated September 27, 2023