Cornell Response to NAS Report
Cornell Response to NAS Report
Cornell expert says NAS report on pesticides in children's diets should
prompt more research into what children eat
ITHACA, N.Y. -- A Cornell University expert on diet and cancer says that
"remarkably limited" knowledge about what children eat makes it difficult to
know how much pesticides they consume.
Commenting on a report released today (June 29) from the National Academy of
Sciences called "Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children, Joseph
Hotchkiss, Cornell professor of food science, said there is nevertheless "no
credible evidence that pesticide residues in the diets of children are
responsible for disease, either in childhood or later in life."
Hotchkiss, who served as a reviewer for the report, criticized calls for more
sampling of produce to test for pesticide residues. Extensive sampling already
is carried out at the national and state levels as well as in the food
processing industry, he pointed out, and less than 1 percent of samples are
found to be in violation of legal limits on residues. More sampling would be a
waste of time, he said . Instead, Hotchkiss recommends that the federal
government and scientists improve their knowledge of children's diets and devote
more time to examining residues in products as they are consumed not just in
the fields. Children eat large amounts of processed fruits and vegetables.
Canning, freezing, drying and home preparation most often decrease the pesticide
content of foods, he said. In a limited number of cases, processing can increase
pesticide content, particularly in the separation of crude oils or in
dehydration. Subsequent processing, however, can remove these residues.
Nonetheless, "we need to know more about what happens to pesticides in foods as
they are altered," he said.
"We focus almost all our attention on enforcing tolerances," he added. "But we
also need to know, for instance, how much of apple products a 3-year-old eats."
Hotchkiss predicts that the U.S. Enviromental Protection Agency will act on the
report by increasing the amount of toxicology data on young animals required for
a pesticide to be registered and improving its tolerance assessment system,
which provides information about how much people eat.
"These changes, though, will make very little difference in the health of
children's foods since pesticide residues are simply not a significant factor,"
"When the known tobacco-related cancers are excluded, our overall cancer
incidence or mortality is not increasing significantly," Hotchkiss wrote in a
1992 article published in "Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition."
"This is despite that fact that pesticide use went from essentially zero in the
late 1940s to 1.04 billion pounds of active ingredients in 1987."
Hotchkiss advocates that pesticide use be reduced through methods such as
integrated pest management, but not because he believes a reduction will
contribute to human health:
Far more detrimental to the health of youngsters, in his opinion, is improper
nutrition. "All you need to do is to visit a high school cafeteria and watch the
high-fat foods being gobbled down to be convinced that foods are used
improperly," he said.