New Legislation on Pesticides and Food Safety Laws Introduced

Journal of Environmental Health, July-August 1994 | Go to article overview

New Legislation on Pesticides and Food Safety Laws Introduced


On April 26, 1994, the Clinton Administration, together with U.S. Senators and Representatives, unveiled proposed legislation to reform the nation's pesticide laws, particularly as they pertain to food safety.

The legislation not only changes the standard for pesticide residues on food, but also provides the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with additional tools necessary to provide increased protection to the American public and the environment.

The reform proposals will require amendments to both the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

The Administration's pesticide reform legislation incorporates a number of the recommendations made by a 1993 National Academy of Sciences report by calling for a specific finding that tolerances are safe for infants and children, and adding other safety factors for setting tolerances and documenting more scientific studies to assess children's dietary exposure.

The legislation also includes incentives for the development of new alternative pest management materials, focuses federal programs on the research into those alternatives, and rationalizes the registration process so that farmers have access to new tools which pose fewer risks to human health and the environment.

"We have an urgent need to protect public health by reducing the risks of pesticides," said Carol M. Browner, EPA Administrator, noting that the nation's use of pesticides has doubled in the past 30 years. "Today we have a sound, realistic proposal for ensuring a safe food supply for all Americans and especially our children."

Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy said, "With the introduction of this legislative proposal, the Administration is fulfilling its commitment to offer comprehensive reforms to the nation's pesticide laws that further protect the environment and human health while ensuring that farmers will have the pest control tools necessary to produce an abundant and affordable food supply."

"This legislative package will ensure a health-based standard for all pesticide residues in food," said David A. Kessler of FDA.

The proposed legislation recognizes that infants and children may receive greater exposure to pesticide residues because they consume more food for their size than adults. In order to assure food safety, the three agencies will be required to develop more comprehensive surveys of food consumed by children of all ages, races, and geographic areas before allowable residue levels or tolerances are established on food.

The Administration's bill also will provide for expedited cancellation procedures, which currently can take many years to complete before a pesticide is removed from the market place.

Summary Of Pesticide And Food Safety Reform Legislation

The Administration's pesticide/food safety legislative reform proposals require amendments to both the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). The laws would also be amended to recognize and require that changes under one statute be reconciled with appropriate complementary actions under the other statute.

The major elements of the proposals are summarized below.

Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) Proposals

* Tolerance-Setting

Tolerances for pesticide residues in all types of food would be based on a strong, health-based standard, defined as "a reasonable certainty of no harm" to consumers of the food. This new uniform safety standard would replace the current standards in Sections 408 and 409 of FFDCA and would be the basis for regulating pesticide residues in all types of foods, whether raw or processed.

The statute would specify factors EPA should consider in assessing pesticide risks as part of the tolerance setting process, including, for example, risks to potentially sensitive subpopulations, risks from multiple sources of exposure, and risks from pesticides that have a common mechanism of action. …

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