University of Illinois

No. 7/May 9, 1997

EPA Plan to Safeguard Food Safety: 1996 Food Quality Protection Act

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued comprehensive plans for implementing the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act. This new legislation (passed in August 1996) provides for major changes in food safety protection guidelines and mandates a change in course regarding the regulation of pesticides. The goal of this new law is to enhance the protection of our environment and public health, especially for our children. Dr. Michael Fitzner, National IPM Coordinator, recently forwarded the following information to IPM Coordinators across the country.

The Food Quality Protection Act is centered on five key guidelines that govern any actions taken by the Agency: (1) "sound science; (2) a protective health-based approach to food safety; (3) promotion of safer, effective pest control methods; (4) an open, fair and consistent process that involves consultation with stakeholders and an informed public; and (5) public accountability of EPA's actions and resources to achieve the goals of the law."

Outlined are the major components of the new legislation.

"Establishing a single, health-based standard for all pesticide residues in food, whether raw or processed;

Providing for a more thorough assessment of potential risks, with special protections for sensitive populations, such as infants and children;

Requiring EPA to reassess roughly 9,000 existing tolerances (maximum legally permissible residue levels in food) to ensure they meet the new standard;

Requiring EPA to develop consumer information, to be displayed in grocery stores, on the risks and benefits of pesticides used in or on food, as well as recommendations to consumers for reducing dietary exposure to pesticides while maintaining a healthy diet:

Ensuring that all pesticides will be periodically re-evaluated to make sure they meet current testing and safety standards."

Some of the most significant requirements under the Food Quality Protection Act include major changes in how tolerances are established for pesticide residues in food. Because many of these new guidelines bring to the surface complex scientific issues, the EPA has convened expert review panels to consult as implementation of the act continues.

The Food Quality Protection Act requires the EPA to

"Use an extra safety factor in conducting risk assessments to assure the protection of infants and children;

Assess total pesticide exposure from all nonoccupational sources including through the diet, in drinking water, and as a result of household pesticide use;

Assess effects of exposure to multiple pesticides with a common mechanism of toxicity;

Assess effects of in utero exposure; and

Assess potential effects on the endocrine system."

For additional information on the Food Quality Protection Act and its implementation, contact the Office of Pesticide Programs Public Docket, 1921 Jefferson Davis Highway, Arlington, VA, (703)305-5805. Access to more information about this act may also be retrieved from the Internet:

Mike Gray, Extension Entomology, (217)333-6652