KANSAS CITY — The International Food Information Council Foundation’s (IFIC) 2018 Food & Health survey identified carcinogens or cancer-causing chemicals in food as a leading consumer food safety concern. Such apprehension is at the heart of several trends swaying consumer purchasing patterns and is why the Food and Drug Administration’s recently issued Pesticide Residue Monitoring 2016 Report merits greater attention.
Respondents to the IFIC survey ranked the most important food safety issues today, and the majority listed foodborne illness first. The next three topics were similar and included “carcinogens or cancer-causing chemicals in food,” “chemicals in food,” and “pesticides/pesticide residues.”
When asked if they changed eating habits due to their top food safety concerns, those who said yes listed carcinogens or cancer-causing chemicals as the principal driver followed by foodborne illness, pesticides and pesticide residues, and chemicals in food.
The IFIC survey clearly shows some consumers have significant concerns about how raw materials are processed and food and beverage products are formulated. The F.D.A.’s Pesticide Residue Monitoring program clearly demonstrates some of those fears are unfounded.
The report shows the agency tested for 711 pesticides and industrial chemicals from 7,413 total samples, and the F.D.A. emphasized the results were consistent with the findings from previous years. Two groups of samples were taken — those from domestic foods and those from imported products.
Ninety-nine per cent of the samples from domestic products and 90 per cent of those from imported foods comply with federal standards. No detectable levels of pesticide residues were found in 52.9 per cent of domestic and 50.7 per cent of imported human food samples. Fewer than 1 per cent of domestic samples and under 10 per cent of imported samples were found to be in violation of regulations. Samples found to be in violation of established tolerance levels are addressed with an existing protocol.
The F.D.A.’s annual Pesticide Residue Monitoring statistics are not the type of information that will go viral.
In 2016, for the first time, the F.D.A. also tested four commodities — corn, soybeans, milk and eggs — for the presence of glyphosate and glufosinate. Of the 760 samples tested for glyphosate and glufosinate, 53.7 per cent had no detectable residues. None of the milk or egg samples had any detectable glyphosate or glufosinate residues, and all the residues detected in the corn and soybean samples were below tolerance levels set by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The IFIC 2018 Food & Health survey also asked consumers to rank who they trust in terms of recommending what foods to eat and avoid. Trust in government agencies, including the F.D.A. and E.P.A., increased significantly, going from 25% “highly trust” in 2017 to 38% in 2018. Nutrition and health care professionals were the key groups that ranked higher in 2018.
The F.D.A.’s annual Pesticide Residue Monitoring statistics are not the type of information that will go viral. Beyond a handful of industry-specific news outlets, the release of this year’s report was hardly noticed.
Yet it is just the type of science-based supporting information companies may use to counter the onslaught of misinformation about the safety of the nation’s food supply. It is available on the F.D.A.’s web site and, best of all, it’s free.