THERE are lots of old saws about food: ''You are what you eat.'' ''You can never be too rich or too thin.'' ''You like what you eat, not eat what you like.'' And so on from salad days to just desserts.
Trouble is, too many of us have taken these jesting aphorisms too seriously. All too many modern Americans are ruining perfectly good meals worrying about the zinc content of some tasty vegetable. Or they're fretting their way through the produce counters of a supermarket suspicious of possible insecticide or herbicide spray on greens that are washed every few minutes by automatic spray jets.
Given this tendency, it's useful to have a panel related to the National Academy of Sciences say, in effect, ''quit worrying and enjoy your meal.'' The panel reviewed masses of studies related to chemical additives, possible natural toxins, insecticide and herbicide residues, and charred eats from over-exuberant barbecuers - and found, essentially, that too many people are too fearful for no reason.
The panel's only major warning smacks of ancient advice about gluttony: Don't stuff yourself.
But Mom already told us that.