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Persistent toxic chemicals in the US food supply*
  1. K S Schafer,
  2. S E Kegley
  1. Pesticide Action Network North America, San Francisco, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Kristin S Schafer, Pesticide Action Network North America, 49 Powell Street, Suite 500, San Francisco, CA 94102, USA;


Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) have spread throughout the global environment to threaten human health and damage ecosystems, with evidence of POPs contamination in wildlife, human blood, and breast milk documented worldwide. Based on data from the US Food and Drug Administration, this article provides a brief overview of POPs residues in common foods in the United States food supply. The analysis focuses on 12 chemical compounds now targeted for an international phase out under the Stockholm Convention on POPs. The available information indicates that POPs residues are present in virtually all categories of foods, including baked goods, fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry, and dairy products. Residues of five or more persistent toxic chemicals in a single food item are not unusual, with the most commonly found POPs being the pesticides DDT (and its metabolites, such as DDE) and dieldrin. Estimated daily doses of dieldrin alone exceed US Environmental Protection Agency and US Agency for Toxic Substances Disease Control reference dose for children. Given the widespread occurrence of POPs in the food supply and the serious health risks associated with even extremely small levels of exposure, prevention of further food contamination must be a national health policy priority in every country. Implementation of the Stockholm Convention will prevent further accumulation of persistent toxic chemicals in food. Early ratification and rapid implementation of this treaty should be an urgent priority for all governments.

  • persistent organic pollutants
  • environmental endocrine disruptors
  • Stockholm Convention
  • anthropogenic toxicants
  • diet
  • POPs, persistent organic pollutants
  • PCBs, polychlorinated biphenyls

Statistics from


  • Guest Editor: M Porta; Assistant Editor: E Zumeta

  • *This paper is based on the report Nowhere to hide: persistent toxic chemicals in the US food supply. San Francisco: Pesticide Action Network, 2001, in which the full dataset used for the analysis can be found. Fully available at

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