Food: Cosmetic Standards

Authored by: David Pimentel , Kelsey Hart

Encyclopedia of Environmental Management

Print publication date:  December  2012
Online publication date:  December  2012

Print ISBN: 9781439829271
eBook ISBN: 9781351235860
Adobe ISBN:


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The American marketplace features nearly perfect fruits and vegetables. Gone are apples with an occasional blemish and fresh spinach with a leaf miner. This increase in the “cosmetic standards” of fruits and vegetables has resulted from the efforts of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to limit the levels of insects and mites in produce, and new standards established by food wholesalers, processors, and retailers. Meeting more stringent standards has led to significant increases in the amounts and toxicity of pesticides used in crops. Increased pesticide use has negative environmental and public health consequences. In comparison, the health risks from consuming herbivorous insects/insect parts in food do not exist and certainly do not justify the increase in pesticide use and the associated problems. Recent research indicates that pesticide use can be reduced by 35% to 50% without any substantial increase in food prices or loss of crop yields. Surveys suggest that the public would support relaxation of cosmetic standards if it decreases pesticide residues in their food.

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