Pesticides in Baby Food
July 1, 1995

Pesticides in Baby Food: Introduction

Current pesticide safety standards are based on a one-size-fits-all theory of regulation. They are designed to protect an average person from an average pesticide in a mythical average diet. Infants and young children, however, are anything but average. They have boom and bust behavior and dietary patterns and rapidly changing bodies that make them more vulnerable to the toxic effects of pesticides, according to a five year review of pesticide safety standards by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) concluded in 1993. This same committee found that the allowable levels of pesticides in food do not adequately protect infants and children.

The EPA wholeheartedly embraced these findings, but has done nothing to actually reduce exposure to pesticides faced by the very young. In fact, since the watershed NAS report was issued, not a single food tolerance for a pesticide has been set or modified to specifically protect infants and children from pesticides. Meanwhile, as this report shows, pesticides are common in major baby food products.

Worse yet, the 104th Congress is moving aggressively to make already weak health standards for pesticides in food even weaker, and to repeal several longstanding pesticide safety standards, in particular the Delaney clause, which bans cancer causing pesticides that concentrate in processed food. This rollback of federal protections will allow more carcinogens and other pesticides in processed foods, and the raw foods that they are made from. Of particular concern are the pesticides that are currently in baby food, and the fact that levels of these pesticides are almost certain to increase if current protections are repealed.

As health standards are rolled back, one option for consumer protection is the right to know what contaminants are in the food they buy. This report, Pesticides in Baby Food, presents the results of 72 tests of baby food made by the three largest baby food producers who account for 96 percent of national baby food sales. The ubiquity of pesticides in these staple baby food products demonstrates the utility and appropriateness of a consumers right to know, particularly in the absence of strong public health protections for infants and children.

Chapter 1 presents a brief summary of the risks infants face from pesticides in food. Chapter 2 describes our sampling and testing protocols. Chapter 3 presents the results, and Chapter 4 contains our conclusions and recommendations.