NEWARK, Del. -- The following is a statement by Kathy Means, vice president of government relations of the Produce Marketing Association:

Recent media reports have questioned the safety of conventionally grown fresh produce items. In "When it Pays to Buy Organic," in the Feb. 2006 issue of "Consumer Reports," the article implies that some produce items are
unsafe because of pesticide residues.

The article is unfair to consumers as it presents an incomplete, distorted picture of produce safety. The information may frighten consumers away from the foods they should enjoy more frequently. Fresh produce is safe for adults and children. Organic and conventionally grown produce are equally safe, nutritious, and tasty.

Those who argue that consumers are at risk from the minuscule pesticide residues on fresh produce ignore the facts and do consumers a grave disservice. They willfully dismiss the overwhelming evidence from government, scientific, and health authorities that produce is safe and that the health benefits of frequent and regular consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables
far outweigh any hypothetical risk.

Leading health authorities encourage Americans to eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day for
better health. These experts have taken pesticide residues into account when making these recommendations.

Protecting the U.S. produce supply from unsafe pesticide residues is the shared responsibility of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food anDrug Administration, and produce growers. When the EPA sets residue tolerances, it builds in a safety buffer of at least 100-fold. The EPA also takes into account the special diets of 22 sensitive groups, such as infants, children, and pregnant/nursing women. Pesticides are subjected to hundreds of tests before they are approved for use.

Consumers should rinse produce under clear drinking water (no detergent or bleach) before eating. Although minuscule amounts of pesticide residues may, in fact, remain, credible scientific evidence indicates they represent no risk. For more consumer produce tips, visit the Partnership for Food Safety Education's produce handling information.

The industry constantly strives to provide consumers with safe, nutritious, high-quality, affordable products. We take seriously -- and implement -- scientifically responsible recommendations that will make our industry better and safer. The produce industry believes in offering consumers a choice, and both organically grown and conventionally produced fresh fruits and vegetables give consumers nutritious options when they shop in the store
or dine out. The bottom line is that consumers should confidently enjoy all fresh produce -- whether grown conventionally or organically.

SOURCE: Produce Marketing Association via PR Newswire.