Benbrook and Davis, 2020

Benbrook, Charles M., & Davis, Donald R.; “The dietary risk index system: a tool to track pesticide dietary risks;” Environmental Health, 2020, 19(1); DOI: 10.1186/s12940-020-00657-z.


BACKGROUND: For years the United States Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Data Program and the United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency have published annual or quarterly data on pesticide residues in foods. Both programs report residues in conventionally grown, organic, and imported foods. The US program has tested about 288,000 food samples since 1992, primarily fruits and vegetables consumed by children. Since 1999 the UK has tested about 72,000 samples of a wider range of foods. These data are vital inputs in tracking trends in pesticide dietary risks.

METHODS: The Dietary Risk Index (DRI) system facilitates detailed analyses of US and UK pesticide residue data, trends, and chronic risk distributions. The DRI value for a pesticide is the dietary intake of that pesticide from a single serving of food divided by the pesticide’s acceptable daily intake as set by the US Environmental Protection Agency. It can be calculated based on average annual residue concentrations, and on residue levels in individual samples of food. DRI values can be aggregated over multiple pesticides in single foods, and over individual pesticides in multiple foods.

RESULTS: The DRI system provides insights into the levels, trends, and distribution of pesticide dietary risk across most widely consumed foods. By drawing on both US Pesticide Data Program and UK-Food Standards Agency residue data, the DRI is capable of assessing pesticide risks in a significant portion of the global food supply. Substantial reductions in pesticide dietary risks occurred in the early 2000s, primarily from replacement of organophosphate insecticides with seemingly lower-risk neonicotinoids. However, there remain several areas of concern and opportunities to reduce risks. Both herbicide and fungicide dietary risks are rising. Organically grown produce poses risks far lower than corresponding, conventionally grown produce. Risk differences are inconsistent between domestic and imported foods.

CONCLUSTIONS: The surest ways to markedly reduce pesticide dietary risks are to shift relatively high-risk fruits and vegetables to organic production. For other foods, reducing reliance on pesticides overall, and especially high-risk pesticides, will incrementally lower risks. The DRI system can help focus such efforts and track progress in reducing pesticide dietary risk. FULL TEXT