You may see click-bait stories on social media or in the news warning customers to avoid “dirty” produce that may contain pesticides.

In reality, all produce sold in the United States is strictly regulated and monitored to ensure that our food is safe from pesticides and other contaminants.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) pesticide monitoring program, considered the “gold standard” in the world, tests fresh produce for 700 different pesticide residues.

In its most recent report, the FDA found that 99% of domestic foods tested in fiscal year 2019 were well below the safe level for pesticides residues.

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

“(Federal agencies) set these pesticide tolerance levels to be very conservative, and any trace amounts (found) are extremely low or well below any limit that would exceed the safe limits,” explains Joel Coats, a professor of entomology and expert on toxicology at Iowa State University.

If a food product does test above FDA’s safe limit for pesticide residues, then the food is recalled and removed from the food supply.

All pesticides must be approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and are rigorously tested to prove their safety to human health and the environment.

“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 Smart” website.

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