Methodology

Q: What data is shown here and where did it come from?

A: USDA’s Pesticide Data Program (PDP) cross-referenced with toxicology1 data from EPA and other authoritative listings.

We've compiled the information on this website because all pesticides are not equally toxic, and most people do not have degrees in chemistry or toxicology. But we all have an interest in knowing what we're eating.

What’s On My Food? is designed to allow you a deep look into the USDA PDP results, linked up with all the information on pesticides that we have compiled over many years of studying them. The data and search functionality here allow you to see what levels of pesticide residues are on your food, in what combinations, and with what associated health risks.

We begin with the tests on tens of thousands of samples that USDA has performed as part of the Pesticide Data Program. Between 1992 and 2008, 93 different foods have been tested for pesticide residues. USDA often tests the same foods in different years. Since older tests aren't as relevant for the food you eat today, this website contains data only for the test years 1999 to 2008.

The USDA test results in the database can be searched for three kinds of information:

  1. How often is a pesticide residue found in a food?
  2. On average, how much of a pesticide residue is found in a food?
  3. What is the maximum amount of a pesticide residue in a food?

Ideally, there would be hundreds of tests for every combination of food and residue, but in practice there are not always that many. When there are very few measurements, the queries become unreliable. To only show reliable results, when there are fewer than five measurements, the What’s On My Food? website puts "N/A" instead of a number.

What’s On My Food? also allows you to compare organic, conventional, domestic and imported test results. USDA has some other categories in addition to organic and conventional, but there are so few tests in those categories that we have not included them.

Toxicology: Making Sense of Pesticides

What’s On My Food? also contains toxicological information for most pesticides tested by USDA, and for many of the pesticide residues (chemicals found on foods that may be different from the actual pesticides used). The toxicological information here is pulled from www.PesticideInfo.org, a comprehensive database that we've developed and maintained for ten years. A wide spectrum of users — including regulators, researchers and activists — count on PesticideInfo for quick access to objective information. Four categories of toxicity are included in What’s On My Food? :

  1. Carcinogenicity
  2. Neurotoxicity
  3. Developmental or Reproductive Toxicity
  4. Endocrine Disruption
  5. Honey Bee Toxicity

These categories of toxicity are obtained by cross-referencing multiple, authoritative listings. Note that different authorities sometimes come to different conclusions, and also that in many cases an authority will have no conclusion, usually because they haven't analyzed the chemical. In these cases, we use the most health-protective conclusion.


1. Toxicology is the study of chemical poisoning effects on living things, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toxicology