Highlights of the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996

The Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) was signed into law in August of 1996 by Bill Clinton after it unanimously passed Congress. It was initially designed to standardize the way the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) managed pesticides when protecting the environment. The FQPA also establishes a slew of regulation on pesticides including a health-based standard for pesticides used in foods, special protections for babies and infants, a streamline approval process for safe pesticides, and incentives for the creation of safer pesticides.

The following are 10 major highlights of the Food Quality Protection Act:

  1. Health-Based Safety Standard for Pesticide Residues in Food: The FQPA establishes a strong, health-based safety standard for pesticide residues in all foods. It uses “a reasonable certainty of no harm” as the general safety standard. A single, health-based standard eliminates problems posed by multiple standards for pesticides in raw and processed foods. The Act also requires EPA to consider all non-occupational sources of exposure, including drinking water, and exposure to other pesticides with a common mechanism of toxicity when setting tolerances.
  2. Special Provisions for Infants and Children: In one of the more crucial sections of the FQPA, the Act follows key recommendations in the National Academy of Sciences report, “Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children.” Through these recommendations, the act requires an explicit determination that tolerances are safe for children and consideration of children’s special sensitivity and exposure to pesticide chemicals. This includes an additional safety factor of up to ten-fold, if necessary, to account for uncertainty in data relative to children.
  3. Limitations on Benefits Considerations: The FQPA places specific limits for consideration of pesticide benefits when setting tolerances. These apply only to non-threshold effects of pesticides (e.g., carcinogenic effects). In order to further limit this, three “backstops” on the level of risk that could be offset by benefits considerations. The first is a limit on the acceptable risk in any one year. The second limitation is on the lifetime risk, which would allow EPA to remove tolerances after specific phase-out periods. The third limitation is that benefits could not be used to override the health-based standard for children.
  4. Tolerance Reevaluation: The Act includes a section that requires that all existing tolerances be reviewed within 10 years to make sure they meet the requirements of the new health-based safety standard.
  5. Enforcement: As a way to punish those that fail to follow these regulations, the FQPA includes enhanced enforcement of pesticide residue standards by allowing the Food and Drug Administration to impose civil penalties for tolerance violations.
  6. Informing the Public: In order to inform the public about these new laws, the FQPA requires distribution of a brochure in grocery stores on the health effects of pesticides, how to avoid risks, and which foods have tolerances for pesticide residues based on benefits considerations.
  7. Uniformity: States may not set tolerance levels that differ from national levels unless the state petitions EPA for an exception, based on state-specific situations.
  8. Pesticide Registration, Renewal, and Review: This part of the Act requires EPA to periodically review pesticide registrations, with a goal of establishing a 15-year cycle, to ensure that all pesticides meet updated safety standards. The FQPA also expedites review of safer pesticides to help them reach the market sooner and replace older and potentially more risky chemicals.
  9. Minor Use Pesticides: The FQPA requires the EPA to give special consideration to pesticides used on products that have less than 300,000 acres of total U.S. production or products that do not have enough economic incentive to either support an initial registration or a continuing registration.
  10. Anti-microbial Pesticides: The FQPA mandates the EPA to expedite the review of applications that are requesting the registration of antimicrobial products.

If you have questions about the Food Quality Protection Act, contact the EPA for more information.

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