We are all exposed to chemicals every day in small doses, says Joel Coats, an Iowa State University distinguished professor emeritus of entomology and toxicology.

However, our bodies are naturally good at detoxifying and screening chem­icals out of our systems, Coats says.

“If you look at our diet, there are 100 different chemicals in coffee, or anything else, that we are exposed to every day. When we pump gas, we are exposed to small amounts of chemicals,” Coats says. “Some (chemical) at a very low level is not toxic at all, but at a high dose, it can be a serious concern.”

Federal agencies have strict restrictions and monitoring in place to ensure that our food is safe from chemicals, including pesticides and contaminants, Coats explains.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) pesticide monitoring program, which tests for 700 different pesticide residues, is considered the “gold standard” for testing by scientists worldwide.

The FDA tests for pesticide amounts at parts per billion, or roughly equal to 1 drop of water in an Olympic-size swimming pool.

In its most recent report, the FDA found that 99% of domestic foods tested in fiscal year 2022 were well below the safe level for pesticides residues.

In the very rare case that a food product tests above FDA’s safe limit for pesticide residues, the food is recalled and removed from the food supply.

“People can trust that the federal safeguards are there to make sure (pesticides) are safe for people working with them and for their families, communities and environment, as well as the end product to consumers,” Coats says.

Food safety also starts at home. You should always wash fresh produce (including organic or locally grown produce) under clean running water to remove any potential contaminants or food-borne bacteria.

You can watch a video demonstrating how to clean fresh fruits and vegetables at Iowa State University Extension’s “Spend Smart. Eat Smartwebsite.

Return to The Iowa Dish