facilitated the use of data from different sources and permitted evaluation of total exposure to pesticides in different food commodities. For processed foods, the committee noted that effects of processing on residue concentrations should be considered, but that information on these effects is quite limited. Processing may decrease or increase pesticide residue concentrations. The limited data available suggest that pesticide residues are generally reduced by processing; however, more research is needed to define the direction and magnitude of the changes for specific pesticide-food combinations. The effect of processing is an important consideration in assessing the dietary exposures of infants and young children, who consume large quantities of processed foods, such as fruit juices, baby food, milk, and infant formula.
Although there are several sources of data on pesticide residues in the United States, the data are of variable quality, and there are wide variations in sample selection, reflecting criteria developed for different sampling purposes, and in analytical procedures, reflecting different laboratory capabilities and different levels of quantification between and within laboratories. These differences reflect variations in precision and in the accuracy of methods used and the different approaches to analytical issues, such as variations in limit of quantification. There also are substantial differences in data reporting. These differences are due in part to different record-keeping requirements, such as whether to identify samples with multiple residues, and differences in statistical treatment of laboratory results below the limit of quantification.
Both government and industry data on residue concentrations in foods reflect the current regulatory emphasis on average adult consumption patterns. The committee found that foods eaten by infants and children are underrepresented in surveys of commodity residues. Many of the available residue data were generated for targeted compliance purposes by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to find residue concentrations exceeding the legal tolerances established by the EPA under FFDCA.
Survey data on consumption of particular foods are conventionally grouped by broad age categories. The average consumption of a hypothetical "normal" person is then used to represent the age group. However, in relying solely on the average as a measure of consumption, important information on the distribution of consumption patterns is lost. For example, the high levels of consumption within a particular age group are especially relevant when considering foods that might contain residues capable of causing acute toxic effects. Also, geographic, ethnic, and other differences may be overlooked.
To overcome the problems inherent in the current reliance on "average" exposures, the committee used the technique of statistical convolution (i.e., combining various data bases) to merge distributions of food consumption