bee fruit

The European Union’s top food safety agency has announced plans to restrict two pesticides common on U.S. grown fruits and vegetables.

Citing that the pesticides may effect the nervous system of young children, the agency recommends tight restrictions on acetamiprid and imidacloprid, pesticides that hail from the neonicotinoid family, which are also linked to widespread bee deaths known as Colony Collapse Disorder. The EU made headlines earlier this year when it became the first continent to ban pesticides. The temporary ban on the popular neonicotinoids was approved in hopes of reducing the number of bee deaths. Manufacturers Bayer CropScience, which manufactures the chemicals, has stood by its position that the pesticides do not have developmental neurotoxicity potential in humans.

The pesticides are found on many conventional fruits and vegetables grown in the U.S. According to the Environmental Working Group, which publishes the annual “Dirty Dozen” list of fruits and vegetables most commonly sprayed with pesticides. On the list of produce routinely exposed to acetamiprid and imidacloprid are apples, pears, lettuce and bell peppers, the group reports.

In a statement released by the organization, the group notes that imidacloprid was detected “on roughly 22 percent of the conventionally grown produce samples it tested,” which included broccoli, cauliflower, grapes, spinach, lettuce, potatoes, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes and apples.

Acetamiprid was found in ten percent of all produce samples including zucchini and yellow squash, apples, pears, celery, collard greens and strawberries. Between 2010 and 2011, the USDA “detected acetamiprid on more than 25 percent of pears used to make baby food,” reports EWG.

“For parents who have been able to follow the old adage, ‘don’t panic, buy organic’, this news from European regulators and USDA laboratories is further reason to justify the value of their investment in their children’s health,” Cook said.

The New York Times reports that the EU’s decision could affect all neonicotinoids. James Ramsay, a spokesman for the European Food Safety Authority, which conducted the review, told the Times that the agency was recommending the pesticides be subject to mandatory submission of studies related to developmental neurotoxicity “as part of the authorization process in the E.U.”

Ramsay said “We’re advising that all neonicotinoid substances be evaluated as part of this testing strategy, providing that they show a similar toxicological profile to the two substances we’ve assessed in this opinion.”

While still approved in the U.S., “research by the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States has also raised concerns about the effect of the pesticides on honey bees, but the agency has not yet seen enough evidence to take action,” reports the Times.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

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Image: Albert Freeman