USDA finds pesticide residues do not pose a safety concern

January 20, 2016

The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has posted data from the 2014 Pesticide Data Program (PDP) Annual Summary, which confirms that overall pesticide chemical residues found on the foods tested are at levels below the tolerances established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and do not pose a safety concern.

The 2014 PDP Annual Summary shows that more than 99% of the products sampled through PDP had residues below the EPA tolerances. Residues exceeding the tolerance were detected in 0.36% of the samples tested. In instances where a PDP finding may pose a safety risk, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and EPA are immediately notified. The EPA has determined the extremely low levels of those residues are not a food safety risk, and the presence of such residues does not pose a safety concern.

Each year, the USDA and EPA work together to identify foods to be tested on a rotating basis. In 2014, surveys were conducted on a variety of foods including fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, oats, rice, infant formula, and salmon. AMS partners with cooperating state agencies to collect and analyze pesticide chemical residue levels on selected foods. The EPA uses data from PDP to enhance its programs for food safety and help evaluate dietary exposure to pesticides.

In 2014, the USDA tested for pesticides in 10,619 samples of food, including 8,582 samples of fruits and vegetables; 314 samples of oats; 314 samples of rice; 1,055 samples of infant formula; and 354 samples of salmon. Domestic samples accounted for 75.5% the samples while 22.9% were imports, 0.7% were of mixed origin, and 0.9% were of unknown origin.

“The PDP plays an essential role in ensuring the safety of the U.S. food supply,” said Susan Mayne, director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “Under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, the FDA has authority to take enforcement action when a food bears or contains unlawful pesticide chemical residues. By providing an accurate assessment of pesticide levels in the most commonly consumed commodities in America, the PDP generally confirms the U.S. food supply is safe with respect to pesticide chemical residues.”

PDP report (pdf)