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IMPORTED FOODS MORE LIKELY TO CONTAIN DANGEROUS PESTICIDES

 IMPORTED FOODS MORE LIKELY TO CONTAIN DANGEROUS PESTICIDES
 COLUMBUS, Ohio, Feb. 7 /PRNewswire/ -- Imported food is more likely to contain illegal amounts of pesticides than food produced in the United States, according to recent government reports. Citizen Action, Ohio's largest consumer and environmental organization, said the information shows why consumers need the right to know when they are being exposed to chemicals that cause cancer or birth defects.
 "We are eating more imported foods, which are much more likely to contain illegal pesticides than foods produced in the United States," said Ed Hopkins, Environmental Policy director for Citizen Action. "Ohio consumers need the right to know about dangerous pesticides on food so we can make informed decisions to protect ourselves from cancer and birth defects."
 The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is repsonsible for protecting consumers from pesticide-contaminated food, tests less than one percent of the total food supply. Based on testing done in 1990, the FDA's 1991 annual report on pesticides in food found that:
 -- imported fruits were five times more likely to contain illegal levels of pesticides than domestic frutis;
 -- imported vegetables were more than twice as likely to contain illegal levels of pesticides than domestic vegetables, and;
 -- imported grains were more than twelve times more likely to contain illegal levels of pesticides than domestic grains.
 One-fourth of the fruits and vegetables eaten in the United States is grown in other countries, and in the winter half of the produce eaten in some regions is imported. Braz/l, Mexico and Chile were the top exporters of fruit to the United States in 1989; Mexico, Spain and Canada were the leading exporters of vegetables to the United States.
 The FDA report also noted that its routine methods could detect only "about half of the approximately 300 pesticides with EPA tolerances." EPA establishes "tolerances," the maximum amount of a pesticide residue that is legally permitted on food.
 Even after detecting illegal amounts of pesticides on imported foods, the FDA usually does not prevent it from being marketed, according to General Accounting Office (GAO) report. In 107 of 179 pesticide violations the GAO reviewed, FDA neither removed any of the food from the marketplace nor penalized any growers.
 Other countries may apply pesticides to food crops that the United States has banned or never allowed. Daminozide (Alar), ethylene dibromide and heptachlor are among the pesticides that can no longer be used in the United States but are still detected in food.
 The Right-to-Know Initiative, which Secretary of State Bob Taft transmitted to the leaders of the Ohio General Assembly on Jan. 6, would require warning labels on foods and other products that expose consumers to dangerous amounts of chemicals that cause cancer or birth defects.
 "Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is important for a healthy diet, but consumers can take steps to make our food safer," Hopkins said. He suggested that consumers ask their grocers to identify imported fruits and vegetables and the pesticides applied to them; buy domestic fruits and vegetables when possible: and work to enact the Right-to-Know Initiative so that they can choose safer foods.
 Citizen Action is Ohio's largest consumer and environmental organization with 500,000 dues-paying members. A non-profit, non-partisan group, Citizen Action was formed in 1976.
 -0- 2/7/92
 /CONTACT: Ed Hopkins of Citizen Action, 614-224-4111/ CO: Citizen Action ST: Ohio IN: SU:


LC -- CL006 -- 7721 02/07/92 11:10 EST
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Date:Feb 7, 1992
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