New analytical procedures make it possible to detect pesticide residues in food at a fraction of the level previously detectable. The possibility exists that products formerly thought to have no residues will now be shown to have them. Fear has been voiced that pesticide residues may cause disease. If pesticide residues in food are shown to be more widespread than formerly believed, this fear of danger may be further stimulated. Investigations among the human population have failed to reveal any deleterious effects from pesticide residues in food. Nor is there any other positive evidence of effect on the human population resulting from pesticide residues. Analysis of mortality statistics tends to show many more likely reasons than the introduction of pesticides for changes in causes of death. There is no reliable evidence that the leading causes of death have been influenced by pesticide exposure in food or otherwise. Despite this absence of positive information there is no doubt that we need quantitative investigations to determine the actual exposure of the population to pesticide residues and long term, carefully controlled clinical investigations to determine whether or not injury actually occurs.
1Presented at the 48th annual meeting of the International Association of Milk and Food Sanitarians, Inc., in Des Moines, Iowa, August 14–17, 1961.