Gerber Has Peach Suppliers Use LESS Organophoshates

Baby Food Company Reduces Use of Organophosphates on Peaches

Certain peach growers in the United States under contract with a leading US baby food company grew their 1998 crop without organophosphate pesticides, an environmental move that proved to save the growers money as well, according to a top-level official with the company.

Jan Relford, senior vice president for research, product development, and quality assurance at Fremont, Michigan-based Gerber division of the Novartis Group, said growing peaches organophosphate-free was "significantly less costly for growers."

Gerber has the largest share of the US baby food market, according to Relford. Speaking at a November 5 meeting of the US Envirnomental Protection Agency's Children's Health Protection Advisory Committed, Relford said that Gerber in 1998 worked with peach growers in the US state of Michigan to eliminate organophosphate insecticides.

Instead of using the pesticide against the oriental fruit moth, he said, growers used pheromones to disrupt mating by the insects.

Relford told WFRR the company's sources of peach crops in Michigan North Carolina, and about two other states make up 40 percent to 50 percent of the company's total peach crop.

Those sources were grown in 1998 without organophosphates, he said, as were the company's sources of peach crops in California, which make up about 25 percent of the company's total peach crop.

Sustainable Practices, Testing Growers selling crops to the company are told by Gerber what pesticides they may and may not use, Relford said. The company supplies pest management techniques to the growers, some of which are more economical than their current practices, and "very sustainable," he said.

Under an ongoing company program for its baby food, Relford said, testing shows that residues of all chemicals, used on crops or present in soil from previous uses, result in total residues of 10 parts per billion or less.

The majority of Gerber's products have total residues of one part per billion or less, he said. EPA sets pesticide residue limits in parts per million, and those limits are set for individual chemicals.

The company every year revises its program based on residues found in food in the past and use of newer, safer chemicals, Relford said. Already, "very few" organophosphates may be used by growers under contract with the company, and only when needed, he said.

News about pesticides in baby food, such as reports by public interest groups, can "easily" cost Gerber millions of dollars, he said.

The company is considering how to communicate its efforts to consumers, he said. Regulatory Action Planned Meanwhile, an EPA official told the same meeting that as the agency reviews the entire class of organophosphate pesticides, it will propose regulatory actions on many of them.

William Jordan, a special assistant to the director of the Office of Pesticide Programs, told the committee that in fiscal 1999, EPA will do as much work as possible in reassessing residue limits for organophosphates. He predicted that EPA will meet its August 1999 deadline for reassessing organophosphate uses on food under the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996.

EPA in August and September released for public comment what it called preliminary assessments of 16 organophosphates. Some organophosphate exposures may be unacceptable under FQPA, according to the assessments.

University professors familiar with organophosphates are split on whether infants and children in the general population are being overly exposed to the chemicals, and on whether such exposure has the potential to harm their developing nervous systems.

From: World Food Regulation Review, November, 1998

Integrated Crop Management - LESS PESTICIDES

J Food Additives & Contaminants, 7/04

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