California Agriculture, January-February 1994
Volume 48, Number 1
How safe is the food supply?
peer-reviewed research articles
Citizens, experts differ: What is “acceptable” risk?
by James M. Meyers , Arthur L. Craigmill
Environmental Health Specialist James Meyers and Environmental Toxicologist Arthur Craigmill examine the public's perception of food safety.
One in three suffers foodborne illness annually. Safeguarding food quality: a national priority
by Bennie I. Osburn
Foodborne illness is a relatively common occurrence. It is estimated that one third of the U.S. population suffers from foodborne illness each year and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 9,100 die. These illnesses have been attributed to contaminating microbes, plant toxins such as pyrrolizidine alkaloids in herbal tea and plants, pesticide and antibiotic residues and microbes that have become antibiotic-resistant.
One size does not fit all: Some thoughts on pesticides in the diets of infants and children
by Richard J. Jackson
Tolerances, the legal limits of pesticide residues in food, should be health-based standards with adequate safety margins for all consumers, including infants and children. The current pesticide regulatory system does not ensure this. Tolerances are set to reflect “good agricultural practice.” If health-based standards are to be developed, regulators must collect more adequate toxicological data, and data on children's food consumption patterns. While basic changes are needed in the current regulatory system, consuming a diet rich in fruits and vegetables confers great health benefits. The recommendations of the NAS committee sought to make our very good food supply even better.
Sidebar: Children are not “little adults” — NAS report
Emerging health concerns about pesticide residues
by William Pease
Abstract Not Available – First paragraph follows: For more than 30 years, most public and regulatory concern about pesticide residues in food has focused on whether life-long exposure to some chemicals in the diet could increase the incidence of cancer.
Sidebar: Pesticide regulation primer
Lawmakers should recognize uncertainties in risk assessment
by Curl Winter
Dietary pesticide risk assessment is an imprecise process requiring a series of judgments based on both scientific and philosophical grounds. At best, it is a crude quantitative tool to prioritize risks and allocate resources — a method involving a great deal of uncertainty. Where uncertainties exist, scientists make conservative assumptions designed to increase the risk estimate so that errors are made on the side of safety. While risk assessment plays a necessary and critical role in pesticide regulation, the uncertainty inherent in the process must be appreciated if appropriate science-based policies are to be developed. Scientific advances are needed to improve risk assessment accuracy, and policies must be flexible enough to allow such advances to be incorporated into the risk assessment process.
Sidebar: Risk assessment defined
Sidebar: How does cancer begin? A brief description of the multistage model of cancer
by Andy Salmon
Sidebar: Debate simmers: Should carcinogens be tested at maximum tolerated dose?
by Gail Charnley
Pest management alternatives needed: Delaney Clause ruling may trigger pesticide cancellations
by Michael W. Stirnrnanri , Rick Melnicoe
As a result of a court ruling that the Delaney Clause must be strictly enforced, tolerances for some pesticides on processed foods and raw agricultural commodities may be revoked. According to the clause, no residue tolerances for pesticides shown to induce cancer may remain in processed food. Unless there is a significant change in law or policy, as many as 35 pesticide/commodity registrations will be canceled because EPA's current policy prohibits establishing a raw commodity tolerance if a tolerance on processed food is prohibited. If alternatives are not available, production of specific commodities may suffer.
Based on recent developments, public health, agriculture can forge new partnerskips
by Kenneth W. Kizer
There has been a close relationship between food production and public health interests since antiquity. A colorful subchapter of human history involves the myriad epidemics and diseases transmitted via food. Today — despite marked improvements in food safety —food continues to be a significant source of ill health, and food safety continues to be a prominent public concern, although the reasons have changed. Current food-related health problems in the U.S. and other developed nations are mostly due to people eating too much fat and sugar, and too few fruits and vegetables. Recent developments in California, and nationally, provide opportunities for agriculture and public health entities to work together in new ways to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables and to increase the public's confidence in the safety of these products.
editorial, news, letters & science briefs
Ensuring food safety requires national effort
by James W. Glosser , Frederick A. Murphy , Bennle I. Osburn