Minimal pesticide residue violations listed by FDA

November 9, 2017

A new Food and Drug Administration report indicates 98 percent of domestic and 90 percent of imported foods tested in fiscal year 2015 met federal pesticide residue limits.

The 47-page report, available online, examined pesticide residues in domestic and imported food tested between Oct. 1, 2014 and Sept. 30, 2015.

The FDA report said that 18.3 percent of fruits and 38 percent of vegetables showed no detectable pesticide residues. The report said that 2.2 percent of fruit samples and 3.8 percent of vegetable samples contained violative residues.

The FDA found that 9.4 percent of the imported fruit samples were violative, compared with only 2.2 percent for domestic fruit samples. For vegetables, the report said 9.7 percent of imported vegetables were violative, compared with 3.8 percent for domestic vegetables tested.

“FDA reports that in fiscal year 2015 the levels of pesticide chemical residues in or on food generally remained well below established federal tolerances, or EPA limits,” the FDA said in a news release.

The agency said no pesticide chemical residues were found in 49.8 percent of the domestic and 56.8 percent of imported food samples.

Fresh and processed fruit and vegetables accounted for 96.9 percent of the total 10,187 samples collected in 2015. Other samples collected included peanut butter, 3.1 percent. Fresh and processed fruit and vegetables tested during 2015 were: apples, cherries (fresh and frozen), cucumbers, grapefruit, grapes, green beans, lettuce, nectarines, oranges, peaches, pears, potatoes, spinach, strawberries, sweet corn (fresh and frozen), tomatoes, and watermelon.

Domestic samples accounted for 76.1 percent of the samples while 23.0 percent were imports, and 0.9 percent were of unknown origin. Because PDP data are mainly used for risk assessments, PDP laboratory methods are geared to detect the lowest possible levels of pesticide residues, even when those levels are well below the tolerances established by EPA.

Prior to testing, PDP analysts washed samples for 15-20 seconds with gently running cold water as a consumer would do; no chemicals, soap, or any special wash was used. Results for more than 2 million analyses were reported by the laboratories in 2015 and are too numerous to be included in their entirety in this summary. The PDP database file for 2015 and annual summaries/database files for previous years are available on the PDP website at http://www. ams.usda.gov/pdp or by contacting MPD.

In 2015, over 99 percent of the samples tested had residues well below the tolerances established by the EPA with 15 percent having no detectable pesticide residue.

Residues exceeding the established tolerance were detected in 0.53 percent (54 samples) of the total samples tested (10,187 samples). Of these 54 samples, 18 were imported (33 percent) and 36 were domestic (67 percent). Residues with no established tolerance were found in 3.9 percent (394 samples) of the total samples tested (10,187 samples). Of these 394 samples, 259 were domestic (65.7 percent), 129 were imported (32.8 percent), and 6 were of unknown origin (1.5 percent).

Fruit and vegetable samples are collected at terminal markets and large chain store distribution centers from which food commodities are supplied to supermarkets and grocery stores. Sampling at these locations allows for residue measurements that include pesticides applied during crop production and those applied after harvest (such as fungicides, growth regulators, and sprouting inhibitors) and takes into account residue degradation while food commodities are in storage.

Participation as a PDP sampling site is voluntary, which sets it apart from State and Federal enforcement programs. In 2015, over 600 sites granted access and provided information, including site volume data, to sample collectors.

Voluntary cooperation is important to PDP and makes it possible to adjust sampling protocols in response to fluctuations in food distribution and production. Pesticides screened by PDP include those with current registered uses for the commodity being tested and compounds for which toxicity data and preliminary estimates of dietary exposure indicate the need for more extensive residue data.

The FDA listed a table of imported commodities that the agency said may warrant “special attention” in future tests. That group of commodities had at least 20 samples analyzed or with a minimum of three violations, and had a violation rate of 10 percent or higher.

Imported fruit and vegetable items on that list included:

  • Cabbage: 15 samples analyzed, violation rate of 26.7 percent
  • Cilantro: 22 samples analyzed, violation rate of 27.3 percent
  • Mushroom: 86 samples analyzed, violation rate of 26.7 percent
  • Nectarine fruit/juice: 47 samples analyzed, violation rate of 10.6 percent
  • Parsley: 18 samples analyzed, violation rate of 22.2 percent
  • Peas: 68 samples analyzed, violation rate of 13.2 percent
  • Peppers, hot: 293 samples analyzed, violation rate of 10.9 percent
  • Pineapple fruit/juice: 39 samples analyzed, violation rate of 15.4 percent
  • Radish: 21 samples analyzed, violation rate of 19.1 percent
  • Rambutan: 14 samples analyzed, violation rate of 21.4 percent
  • Scallions and shallots: 21 samples analyzed, violation rate of 19.1 percent
  • Squash (Mexico): 73 samples analyzed, violation rate of 15.1 percent
  • Strawberries fruit/juice: 89 samples analyzed, violation rate of 15.7 percent.