A group of physicians and scientists has written a letter to federal agencies calling for more pesticide testing on children’s favorite fruits and vegetables. Noting that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) typically releases latest data on pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables each January but has yet to do so this year, the May 6, 2011, letter urges officials from the USDA, EPA and FDA to “speed the release” of such data.

Signed by leaders of medical schools such as Columbia University, Harvard, Mount Sinai, and Stanford, the letter warns that growing evidence shows pesticide consumption can cause lasting harm to children’s brain development. “Children are uniquely sensitive to harmful effects from pesticides,” the letter states. “Yet they eat substantial quantities of certain fresh fruits and vegetables— apples, berries, peaches, for example—proven to contain multiple pesticide residues. We urge you to expand testing programs and share ample information with the public about pesticides in all produce, especially those that show up in children’s diets.”

The letter also specifically calls for the federal government to (i) “bolster FDA’s Total Diet Study and USDA’s Pesticide Data Program to make them even more informative and transparent”, (ii) “test annually all fresh produce commonly eaten by children, especially those likely to carry significant pesticide residues”; (iii) “conduct more extensive CDC and EPA dietary studies to assess varying risks to children who eat seasonal and local produce”; (iv) “expand monitoring of pesticide residues for imported foods”; (v) “tighten regulations governing pesticide residues on food crops to ensure ‘reasonable certainty of no harm’ for children and other people most sensitive to pesticide effects”; and (vi) “enhance efforts to promote organic fruits and vegetables as options for consumers concerned about pesticide exposure, especially for children.”