University of California, Los Angeles, and University of California, Davis, researchers have published a study examining the health effects of foodborne toxin exposure in children and adults. Rainbow Vogt, et al., “Cancer and noncancer health effects from food contaminant exposures for children and adults in California: a risk assessment,” Environmental Health, November 2012. Based on self-reported food frequency data as well as food chemical levels obtained from publicly available databases, the study estimated exposure to multiple food contaminants for preschool age children (2-4 years), school-age children (5-7 years), parents of young children, and older adults.

The results allegedly showed that cancer benchmark levels “were exceeded by all children (100%) for arsenic, dieldrin, DDE, and dioxins,” while non-cancer benchmarks were exceeded by more than 95 percent of preschool-age children for acrylamide and by 10 percent of preschool-age children for mercury. The data also indicated that “the greatest exposure to pesticides from foods included in [the] analysis were tomatoes, peaches, apples, peppers, grapes, lettuce, broccoli, strawberries, spinach, dairy, pears, green beans, and celery.”

Although the study’s authors conceded that the food-frequency survey could have resulted in “under and over estimation,” they still recommended certain “dietary strategies to reduce exposure to toxic compounds for which cancer and non-cancer benchmarks are exceeded by children.” In particular, they have urged consumers to seek out “organically produced dairy and selected fruits and vegetables to reduce pesticide intake,” consume less animal foods “to reduce intake of persistent organic pollutants and metals,” and consume “lower quantities of chips, cereal, crackers, and other processed carbohydrate foods to reduce acrylamide intake.”